A recollection from John Wilson’s ‘Reminiscences of the Early Settlement of Dunedin and South Otago‘.
The following account is given by Mr. Matthew Marshall, a passenger by the "Philip Laing" in 1848, and relates to the time 1852) when he was shepherding for Edwin Meredith on the Popotunoa Run. In those early days there were, in the Popotunoa Bush, a few wild dogs, which were a source of never- ending trouble to the shepherds., who had to gather the sheep together every night, and tie their dogs at suitable places round them, not only to keep them together, but to give the alarm when the wild dogs attacked. One night the wild dogs got in before being seen. and. while some attacked the sheep dogs, others went after the sheep. Hearing the noise, the shepherds rushed out, but had great difficulty in driving off the wild dogs. Meanwhile the sheep had scattered in all directions. For many hours the work of collecting them proceeded, and. although ulti- mately successful, it was found that many had been killed, while others were so badly maimed that they soon died. It was a strange thing that, if a sheep were bitten by a wild dog, it never recovered. No matter how small the mark made by the teeth, blood poisoning set in. and the animal was sure to die. It was also a strange thing that the dogs would never make a meal of a sheep, and the shepherds never saw the remains of one that had been eaten. They seemed to be content with worrying the poor brutes to death. In the following year the sheep were taken to Fuller's place at Hilly Park for the shearing, the whole flock being shorn in the stockyard, and the wool taken to Port Moly- neux, where it was shipped to Dunedin. After shearing, the sheep, which were divided into two flocks, were camped in two separate places, one being in the valley between the Awakiki Bush and the hill, the other on the Clinton side of the bush. Dent's time being now up, and he refusing to re- engage, Hobbs went to Dunedin for another man. while Marshall was left in charge of the sheep. In about a week Hobbs returned, bringing a tall, strapping man. in the prime of life, named Sandy Gordon. The sheep were then taken to Popotunoa. Some time afterwards Meredith arrived from Tasmania, but was greatly disgusted with the small returns. He ordered the mob to be divided into two flocks again, and Marshall was sent with the ewes and lambs to Moa Hill, Kaihiku, while Gordon remained at Bedding Hill with the wethers and dry sheep. Sandy Gordon was a very conscientious man and exceedingly careful with the sheep, but was terribly harassed by the wild dogs, often having hardly a night's rest for weeks at a time. One day Hobbs. on his. return to Moa Hill, after a visit to him, told Marshall that Gordon was in a terrible rage, and that his ultimatum was: "Just you look here. now. Mr. Hobbs. if you will not send me up another man, I shall just leave the sheep, and vou can do whatever vou like with them." It was then decided to shift the sheep to Wharepa to try to get rid of the dogs, so they were all mustered, and the trip started. However, the dogs seemed to think something was up. and actually followed them for some distance. The first night they reached Albert's Cap, where they camped on the banks of the Piawhata Creek. Hobbs and Gordon then came on to Marshall's hut at Moa Hill, where they stayed the night. On their return next morning what was their disgust and rage to find that the wild dogs had been among the sheep, which were scattered in all directions, some fifty being either dead or badly damaged. The remainder were collected and arrived safely at the Wharepa Bush, where Gordon built the first white man's hut in the district. It was built on the site of the present house, in front of which is still to be seen the stump of the first tree cut in the bush by a White man. It may here be said that Gordon afterwards purchased the section, and lived for many years in the original hut. For some time both flocks of sheep were not troubled by the dogs, and the shepherds thought they had now got rid of them. However, one clear frosty night in the winter time, when Hobbs and Marshall were in bed at Moa Hill, they heard the sheep running about. There was no barking of dogs or any other noise, so they did not suspect wild dogs. Getting up. they had a look round, when, to their amazement, they saw some dogs rounding up the sheep. The leader of the mob was a white bitch -a perfect devil and there were three other dogs, a black one and two reddish-coloured ones. This mob had originally consisted of seven dogs, but three had been killed at Bedding Hill. Hobbs had a grand collie bitch which had already accounted for two of the mob, and this night she led the chase. She managed to bail them up on the banks of the Kaihiku. and when the men reached her the white bitch was sitting on the ground, fighting viciously. On seeing them she dashed into the water, but the men were deter- mined she should not escape. Whenever she came out of the water their dogs tackled her and drove her in again. Hobbs' dog followed her, while Hobbs himself took one side of the stream and Marshall the other. Up and down the bank she dashed, but every time she was checkmated in her attempts to escape. At last she was played out and caught in the water. Marshall had a pocket knife with which Hobbs stabbed her to the heart, both men with grim satisfaction then watching her bleed to death. Owing to the excitement of the chase they had not felt the intense cold, but on returning to the hut. when they took off their trousers they found them so frozen that they stood up by themselves in the middle of the floor. Next morning being Sunday. Marshall went to pay Gordon a visit. When he told him the story, Sandy replied : "I'll not believe a word till I see her," so both set off for the Kaihiku. On reaching the spot where the body lay. Sandy stood looking at it for a few minutes with a grim look on his weather-beaten countenance. Then he jumped on the body, dancing about till there was not a whole bone left in it. He then skinned it and took the skin to his hut. where he cured it, keeping it for several years as a relic of the early days of shep- herding in the Clutha.