The "canine capital" of New Zealand

By: Jill Malcolm


Former Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations editor Jill Malcolm visits Hunterville, the self-described “canine capital” of New Zealand.

Many places around New Zealand have developed slogans that indicate their most alluring qualities. To single out a few: Ohakune – the Mountain Town; Gore – the Brown Trout Capital; Kawakawa – Train Town; Hastings – The Fruit Bowl.

Then there’s Hunterville, the small service town in the Rangitikei District that has boldly dubbed itself ‘The Hunterway Capital of the World’. The reason’s not obvious but one local gave me his take on it. " Y’see, it’s real rough country round here and it was those dogs that helped break it in."

Hunterville was named for the merchant George Hunter who founded the town in 1884. I couldn’t find a statue of George. The most prominent icon is the statue of a capering bronze Hunterway.

To further underline the slogan, a Hunterway Festival – The Shepherds’ Shermozzle – is held every October. Shepherds and dogs come down from the hills and a riotous performance of outlandish events takes over the drowsy streets. The signature competition is a gruelling obstacle race, part of which requires each shepherd to run with a bull’s testicle clamped between his teeth. That’s a shade too rural for my taste. I turned my attention instead to the new cafe called Relish where I found genuine home-made cakes and sandwiches and very decent coffee.

Hunterville’s a pleasant town to wander around. I found three attractive churches; a nicely presented school; a gift shop called Vinegar Hill; Ramshak, a collectible’s den; Biddie Lawrence’s furniture boutique; and an old fashioned trading store. On the main street is the third version of the Argyle Hotel originally built in the 1800s, but apparently the place to meet local folk is the revamped Station Hotel built in 1885. It has a convincing reputation for its friendliness and food.

Hunterville welcomes RVs and to that end there is free parking in the shady grounds of Queens Park in the centre of town. But it’s close to SH1 and the traffic noise is trying.

We parked instead at the Rangatira Golf Club ($10 a night) where there are spectacular views over the clear-cut cliffs of the Rangitikei River.

It wasn’t, however, a quiet night. It was the roaring season and on several deer farms across the river, numerous stags were in full voice. Their echoing moans lasted the whole night. Compared to that ruckus, a few barking Hunterways would have been nothing.

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