Australia's livestock guardian dogs at work
Farmers in Australia are using "guardian dogs" to protect their livestock from large predators in the country. Researchers from the University of Tasmania have assessed their effectiveness at protecting cattle, sheep and even chickens from threats from animals such as dingoes, wild dogs and foxes.
The most commonly used guard dogs are Maremma sheepdogs; a domestic breed originally from Italy. After they have been trained, these dogs run free over the farmland, mixing with the livestock herd and rarely come into contact with humans.
An important part of the guardian dogs' training is to bond with the livestock they will protect. It can take up to three years for a Maremma to mature and become an effective guardian of livestock.
The study found that smaller livestock, such as chickens, can also benefit from a Maremma’s protection, particularly in places where birds of prey and cats can also be a threat.
The number of free ranging dogs needed to provide effective protection depends on the amount of livestock and the type of local predator. Maremma dogs will often find a high spot to keep watch over their wards.
Source: BBC Nature