We love a good story surrounding our breeds, and there is no shortage of myths, urban legends, or folklore associated with certain colors or markings in some breeds. Sometimes, one marking might have several explanations, and we need no go further than the Bentley Mark (also called the Bentley Star) found in many Australian Cattle Dogs.
The most basic description of this mark is that it consists of a group of white hairs on an ACD’s skull or forehead. It can be big or small, and of any shape.
As the facts go, one of the figures in the history of the Australian Cattle Dog was Tom Bentley, alternately described as a butcher from Glebe Island or a cattle farmer from New South Wales. He owned a dog from the pure strain developed by Thomas Hall (blue or red speckled pups known as “Hall’s Heelers”) that totally impressed those who saw the dog work. Bentley’s Dog, as he came to be known, became a highly popular stud, and it was believed that the presence of a Bentley Star in a puppy was indicative of the puppy having been sired by Tom Bentley’s legendary dog. Some say Thomas Bentley selectively bred his dogs for this distinctive mark, but we find this hard to believe because what stockmen really wanted in their dog was a good worker. As an aside, some also believed that the presence of a black tail-root spot seen occasionally in blue dogs was another attribute passed on from Tom Bentley’s dog.
As we alluded to earlier, there is often more than one explanation behind the unique attribute of a dog, and sometimes it can be quite fanciful. We came across this one regarding the Bentley Mark: It is a sign of a dog born of a rebellious spirit, a dog with attitude who, if he could speak, would say to any dog within earshot: “I double dog dare you to cross this line.” We can speculate how this legend was probably born, and it might have had something to do with an ill mannered dog with a Bentley star being rude to another dog who didn’t have one, but that’s just a guess.
In the end, we prefer the explanation offered in a poem about the origin of the Bentley Mark:
A little dingo stayed up late one night to watch his friend, the Moon, pass by
Please don’t leave me, he cried as She lit up the sky I can’t stay with you, was her sad reply.
But I’ll miss you, he said as the sky turned black and She stopped and smiled and then She came back
Little dingo, She said, as She paused overhead, I will always be here, in this mark on your head.
She gently bent over and kissed ‘tween his ears and a small piece of moonlight started to appear
*To this day, this glow of moonlight can still be seen on Cattle Dogs (“the Bentley star”)
We thank “David” for passing the poem along.
Image: by Eva holderegger walser – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5999028