The Australian Cattle Dog
    A Typical Blue Australian Cattle Dog Pup

When Thomas Hall first bred Hall's Heelers, circa 1840, it was not the custom to record breed standards for others to follow. Breed Standards started in England in 1873. It is a shame that all the recognized breeders of Australian Cattle Dogs in the late1800's, e.g., F.Davis, GW.and H.Bagust, C.Pettitt, J.Brennan, A Davis and J.Rose, and others that were instrumental in the development of the breed, did not put pen to paper and record for history their endeavours to breed true. Had they done this, it would mean we would have a much better understanding of the breed as we know it today.


A Typical Blue Australian Cattle Dog with double face mask and very good symetrical Tan markings
Of the settlers arriving before 1830, there is no evidence of them bringing their stock with them. There were very few cattle in the colony before the early 1820's. The same can be said of working dogs - there was little need of working dogs because stock were kept in timbered enclosures near the settler's homes. The early dogs mostly originated from near the ship departure ports of southern England - and this is not where most early settlers originated



When the first settlers established holdings they began importing stock. Along with the stock came the dogs they used to work that stock in their country of origin.

Everything was bearable until explorers opened up the country west of the Great Dividing Range and people moved their stock into these better pastures.

The dogs that accompanied the settlers stock were used to different climates and different conditions. The long haired, mostly bob tailed "Smithfield " type of dog that were basically a mix of breeds that used to work stock of any sort at the Smithfield Markets in England, were a disaster in Australia's rugged type of country and climate and quickly died out.


early settlers

The early "Squatters" (pastoral property owners) and drovers realised the need to improve on the dogs they had and it wasn't until about 1830 that a Mr Thomas Hall, studmaster for the Hall family's pastoral holdings,which was the first large cattle empire in the colony, imported his dogs which were called Northumberland Drover's Dogs, not the Scotch or Highland Collies, as suggested by Robert Kaleski.

"This animal is larger than the Shepherds Dog; the hair is generally shorter and the tail, even when not cut purposely, often appears as if had been so. Bewick, who was well acquainted with these animals, speaking of the former, says:- 'Many are whelped with short tails, which seems as if they were cut, and these are called in the north, self tailed dogs.' The same writer is disposed to consider this breed as a true , or permanent kind; and he states that great attention is paid to it. It seems however, that the Drovers Dog is, in reality, a cross between the Shepherd's Dog and some other race - perhaps the terrier. It often partakes largely of the character of the Shepherd's Dog, but is taller in the limbs. These dogs bite severely, and always attack at the heels of cattle, so that a fierce bull is easily driven by them. They are singularly quick and prompt in their actions and they are both courageous and intelligent to their masters, who frequently ill-treat them. They are faithful and attached.

This description of the working ability and style of the Drover's Dogs could almost be fitted to the original Hall's Heelers. This must surely squash for all times the commonly held theory that the dogs imported by Thomas Hall were sheep dog type workers that "headed stock".These dogs. the Drover's Dogs, were crossed with Australia's own fully acclimatized and genetically evolved dog, the Dingo, reputed for his silent approach and endurance to heat.

This cross resulted with a successful type of dog known then as Hall's Heelers. These dogs were also known at that time as Merlins or Blue Heelers.

It has been recorded that the Dalmatian was introduced to give the breed "a love of horses", the Dalmatian being a coach dog that worked close to the heels of horses. There has been speculation as to the use and the availability of the Dalmatian at that time. However, it is recorded that the cross did happen and the resultant loss of herding ability was put down to this infusion.

To rectify this situation Black and Tan Kelpies were introduced to provide heading instinct. There is also speculation on this point as it has been suggested that the only black and tan dogs in the colony at that time were Black and Tan Terriers, with development of the Kelpie occurring at a later date. Robert Kaleski's recorded history dictates that the Kelpie was used and that the resulting progeny threw true to type and had distinctive markings indicative of the strain and the resultant abilities from each strain. To support this claim it is now recognised that that Black and tan Kelpies existed in the colony well before the Kelpie was crossed into the Cattle Dog. Gleeson's Kelpie, bred by George Robertson, was a Black and Tan and born in Australia in 1867 from imported Black and Tan parents.

Black and Tan Kelpies were in New South Wales by 1870 - the year Thomas Hall died. He never saw the "need" to use the Kelpie cross in his dogs. The cross was "needed" after 1880, when barbed wire became available in good supply and fences shot up everywhere. This meant the cattle became quieter and so the "need" changed. Drovers and Stockmen "needed" less aggressive working dogs, with a less powerful bite. The Kelpie cross satisfied that "need".


Australian Cattle Dogs


In 1930, Kaleski wrote in an article to the AKC Gazette, titled "Whence Came Australian Dogs", where he wrote,  ... "rigid adherence to these markings is necessary, since they are "utility" points. The black head shows Kelpie strain, and hence keen working qualities; the red head the Dingo strain and hence great hardiness; the brown eyes show keen sight; the white stripe dopwn the forehead and the black spot on the tail butt show descent from "Tom Bently's Dog" - one of the most perfect workers ever known".

There have been 'discussions` over the years that the Bull Terrier was used in the initial setting of the type. There is probably food for argument here as there are often dogs today with obvious Bull Terrier fronts,hardly any "stop",heavy jaws and rabbit ears appearing from well-established lines.

The Barb, a black sheepdog, was another infusion that was not successful, mainly because the Barb, a good header, could not handle wild cattle. Early attempts to produce cattle dogs included a Russian Poodle - Collie cross; a Bull Terrier - Collie cross; and the Kangaroo Dog - Bull Terrier cross, none of which proved successful for one reason or another.

Robert Kaleski wrote the Standard for the Australian Cattle Dog, the Kelpie and the Barb and it has been through his efforts that we do have a recorded history of our breed. The Standard that Kaleski wrote for the ACD back in 1903 is basically the standard that applies today. Little has changed.He was situated in Sydney and was well known amongst the Sydney dog fanciers. In the country he was not well know, or his opinion sought or highly regarded, as some may expect. It was in the country where early working dogs were bred. His book,Barkers and Biters" is very informative but does draw controversy, especially the section on the Barb and the Kelpie.


Vic Page with his Australian Cattle Dogs


The Australian Cattle Dog has been, and is known world wide under quite a few different names:- Queensland Heelers, Queensland Blue Heelers, Queensland Blues (which we find quite amusing as that is a type of pumpkin grown here in Queensland), Blueys, Queenslands and even 'Healers'. All these names refer to the same breed,   The AUSTRALIAN CATTLE DOG.

Regardless of what name is attached to him, or what you may call him, whether good or bad, he is still the same loyal, honest and reliable mate you could every wish to have.

There are basically two accepted "histories" of the breed and it is left to the reader to decide which is correct. We have the recorded history as presented by Robert Kaleski, who was only one of many breeders during the evolution of the breed in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Unfortunately none of the other breeders at that time kept breeding programs or records to support Kaleski's writings.

The other theory is that the Hall family, which at that time owned pastoral holdings from Surat in Queensland to Sydney in New South Wales, of which Thomas Hall was the Studmaster, also owned property in Scotland. The Hall family claim that the Drover's Dog or "Cur", a bob tailed dog was brought out from their properties in Scotland, not the blue merled Collies.

The main controversy stems from the early history of the breed from 1830 to 1870, and the use or non-use of blue merle Highlamd Collies and their ability or non-ability as 'heelers' or 'headers'.

It has been established that the Australian Cattle Dog does not carry the merling gene of the blue merle collie. It carries a ticking gene, which may or may not add weight to the Hall theory. Also, the fact that in those early years, to import dogs from England or Scotland, would require quite a substantial amount of money.

The dogs would have to be accompanied by a handler, who would have to ensure the wellbeing of the dogs during the months at sea. Also, food for the dogs would also have to be slaughtered on board during the sea passage. No dry dog food back then.

Hall's dogs would not have to be purchased but supplied by the Hall families pastoral interests in Scotland. Ticket of leave drovers of those times may well have been wealthy enough to bring out dogs, either collies or any other breed. I do not know, nor can I find evidence of such imports happening.

Both theories accept that the Dingo was used, regardless of what other breed it was crossed with. The url's listed below will link you to information supporting both theories, some even add to the main theories.

You may note the discrepancies, chronologically and otherwise between many listed theories of the breed history. It is up to you to decide which theory you wish to support.


In The Beginning A Second Look The Australian Cattle Dog Breed Profile
Thomas Simpson Hall and the Hall's Heelers Origin of the Breed


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