Page 1: Biography
McIntyre, William Victor
Shepherd, farmer, dog breeder and handler
This biography, written by John V. MacIntyre, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996.
William Victor McIntyre (better known as Victor or Mac) was born on 24 May 1887 at Pleasant Point, South Canterbury, New Zealand. He was the son of Robert McIntyre, a labourer, and his wife, Eliza Ann Cochrane. McIntyre was educated at Pleasant Point School, where he was dux in 1900. He then worked for three years at the vast Levels station, where his skills were fostered by the managers, C. N. Orbell and Johnny Crawford. This was followed by several years' mustering at the headwaters of the Ashburton, Rakaia and Waimakariri rivers, and a season in the Wairau Valley, Marlborough.
Around 1907 he moved to the East Coast of the North Island, and worked on large sheep runs before becoming head shepherd on the Mokomoko station. McIntyre and his dogs Bruce, Boss, and Darkie formed a highly effective mustering team, and on leaving a station two men were often needed to replace him – testimony to his stock work and dog-handling skills. He introduced the then radical innovation of early morning mustering and the use of scrim for shepherding ewes and lambs into yards.
During the First World War McIntyre managed stations in Hawke's Bay, including Te Mungahuia station near Akitio. On 18 December 1918 at Waiau, North Canterbury, he married Ivy Edith Sunckell; they were to have three daughters and a son. In 1923 the family shifted to Waitui, near Inglewood in Taranaki, and McIntyre managed a station in partnership with J. R. and A. J. Corrigan before buying his own farm, which he named Avalon.
It was as a dog handler and breeder that McIntyre made his greatest impact on New Zealand's agricultural and pastoral industry. Convinced that the handy huntaway and heading strains of working dogs were best for mustering, he obtained these distinct breeds from Otago, Southland and Marlborough in 1905. Despite opinion to the contrary, he never crossed the two strains. However, he did work them together: the handy huntaway to gather with or without noise, the heading dog to bring the sheep in silently.
McIntyre's approach paid off. In 1913, in Poverty Bay, he won the first of many dog trial competitions. For over 50 years he and his dogs won prizes, trophies and money, and his success remains unparalleled. In all cases the dogs were bred and trained by McIntyre. His huntaway Bruce recorded a remarkable two firsts and a second in consecutive annual North Island championships, which included one full-point (100 per cent) huntaway run. His heading dog Cruachan started at 150 trial competitions, won 45, came second in 45, and came third in 18. In one yarding trial, Cruachan achieved a full-point run, which is very rare in this event. Many sheepdog trial clubs honoured McIntyre with life membership in recognition of his remarkable efforts as competitor, judge and administrator.
Victor McIntyre assisted in the preparation of an A. H. & A. W. Reed publication, A practical guide to handling dogs and stock (1964). He was described by the publishers as New Zealand's most outstanding dog handler and praised for his invaluable personal contribution to New Zealand's economy. Another Reed publication, Huntaway (1966), includes much personal material supplied by McIntyre. He also wrote articles on high-country mustering for rural magazines.
In addition to his farming, dog handling, and writing, McIntyre was deeply involved in the Waitui community. He was one of the trustees of Waitui Hall, chairman of the Waitui School Committee, and secretary of the Waitui branches of the New Zealand Farmers' Union (later Federated Farmers of New Zealand) and the New Zealand National Party. He lectured and demonstrated dog-handling skills to Young Farmers' Clubs and to the many visitors to his farm.
Victor McIntyre became a legendary figure in farming circles, immortalised in such poems as 'Mac's high country farewell'. But he was also affectionately remembered for his well-informed and practical advice, his story-telling and whistling skills, and his love of literature, especially the poems of Robert Burns and Duncan McIntyre. He died at Inglewood on 11 March 1964, survived by his wife and children.