|76. DINGOES and DOGGERS.|
|"He laid his baits, and the natives tracked the stricken dogs".|
The Dingo is the Australian wild dog, it is not native, perhaps arriving on the continent as recently as 5000 years ago, on the other hand it is not feral having never been completely domesticated, a point too frequently overlooked with unfortunate results, especially for chickens. Botanically named Canis familiaris dingo, also Warrigal and the Pitjanjara know the animal as papa inura….or just dogs.
The Dingo is an omnivorous predator, just about anything edible is devoured, insects, birds and mammals, snakes, fruit and fast food. They are usually solitary nocturnal hunters although a pack may form to bring down larger prey, such as kangaroos, sheep or calves…or maybe a man, this thought was on Lasseter's mind when he wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald on 9/7/30, defending the Expeditions need for firearms, the men would be travelling through country where dingoes were common and had been, "very reliably reported to have killed two men when injured and helpless".
There was a time, perhaps to the mid 1930's when sheep were grazed unsuccessfully in central Australia, the predations of the Dingo were probably the main cause for the demise of the industry, but in a manner another arose in it's place, dingo scalping or dogging. In 1924 Central and Western Australia placed a bounty of 7/6 on a pair of dingo ears as a means of curbing the ravages of the dog.
Quite a few men made a reasonable living as doggers and Finlayson mentions the three mates who collected over 3000 scalps in less than five months, anything that worked was used to snare the cunning Dingo, trapping and shooting were opportunistic and could be hard work, baiting with strychnine was favoured and many white men became expert 'dog stiffeners', however the most lucrative method of acquiring scalps was to trade with the Aboriginals.
Many less than wholesome types set up seasonal camps on the eastern and southern boundaries of the Aboriginal Reserves during pupping season, a pups ears were worth seven and six too and the Aboriginals, expert hunters that they are, would trade scalps by the hundred for tobacco, tea and sugar and metal implements, unfortunately more than scalps and commodities were traded and the introduction of the dingo bounty may have had some unintended consequences that caused the Government real concern.
The men of the C.A.G.E. expedition had great sport at Taylor's expense with dingo tracks, expertly made by Sutherland who commented, "They say dingoes like English hams", Taylor remarked on the dogs good taste. Paul Johns passed himself as a dogger when he first met the men of the expedition at Illbila at the end of August 1930 although his arrival there was purely opportunistic, hoping to take advantage of the difficulties that the expedition would have when travelling south west from Illbila. Coote was openly suspicious of Johns presence at the camp, no dingoes had been seen in the vicinity and he demanded that Blakeley encourage him to hunt elsewhere.
The Dingo scalp almost achieved the status of currency in parts of the Centre, and was certainly more durable than the shin plasters issued by Wallis Fogarty and guaranteed by the Government. Some have reckoned the Dingo the second smartest animal in the land, others call it fifty fifty and only the Dingo knows the truth.
© R.Ross. 1999-2006
Coote E.H. Hell's Airport 149-151. Finlayson H.H. The Red Centre 142-144. Idriess Ion L Lasseter's Last Ride 26,27,82,83.