Kaleski's Cattle Dogs - A Second Look

By Mr.R.Randall.

Reprinted from RASKC Journal, December,1980.

When Robert Kaleski began breeding Australian Cattle Dogs (Blue Heelers) in 1893, the breed had been in Sydney for 18 years and had been establishd for some 30 years altogether, originating in the Muswellbrook area of N.S.W. It seems there were a variety of types, all loosely classified under the name of "Heeler" at that time, and as well, some breeders were experimenting with infusions of other breeds, while generally, evidence of the Blue Merle Highland Collie (sometimes known as the Welsh Heeler) was still strong. It is notable, that when a dog of pure Hall strain(Mr Hall was the originator of the breed using Blue Merle/Dingo crosses) appeared in Sydney in the late 1800's, it was instantly recognised and highly praised.

All these heelers were carrying out their job in a similar fashion. However, to a discerning few, including Kaleski,it became inperative that type be fixed, and indeed, his records show that about 1890, "breeders...had started breeding for special colours and markings so as to ensure purity and "fix" the type." Thus it seems, from its first evolution in the mid 1800's, the Blue Heeler, although widely recognised as an adroit handler of cattle in the open,was identifiable primarily only by his working ability and similar colouration. To be sure, various infusions of other unknown breeds must have also been made, depending on which trait stockmen of the day were seeking to enhance in their dogs(as is still the same today amongst unregistered farm dogs),and were it not for a small nucleus of men mentioned by Kaleski, namely G.W. & H.Bagust, C.Pettitt, J.Brennan and A.Davis (a son of Fred Davis, who bought the first pair of Hall's Heelers to Sydney) and others such as J.Rose, who were actively breeding at the time. The breed as we know it today, might not have survived due to indiscrimate crossing.

Kalseki began with a diog of pure Hall strain called "Bently's Dog", owned by Mr Bently, a butcher on Glebe Island, and used him over various selected bitches. whether these bitches carried the blood of other breeds is not clear. While the above men are recognized along side Kaleski for the re-establisment of the breed's foundation, Kaleski must be recognised apart for bringing due recognition to their efforts, as well as having the distinction of being the originator of the breed Standard, basing it on the Dingo. On reading through his works, his dedication to his dogs is most apparent, and he seemed to be possessed of remarkable powers of insight into the various breeds with which he was dealing. He drew up the original Standard for the Kelpie and the BarbDog as well, as he saw their need just as great as the cattle dog.

Kaleski's Standard For The Australian cattle Dog was first published in August, 1903, though we are given the impression that it may have taken some six years to perfect, as he first became disappointed in the standard of judging the breed as early as 1897. He shows that, even then, breeding was not without it's problems(even more so)for,when writting then text to accompany his newly-published Standard, he says,"the strain is beginning to run out alittle in shape and head. We are now crossing with a pet Dingo of mine to get these points back again...", indicating that genetic type wa snot yet strongly established after some 40 years. His interpretation of the standard describes a dog of rugged build, with hindquarters of "Greyhound shape" and with muscling essential only to hard, constant work and long distances...in effect, the supreme athlete (not built to carry any spare weight). He was very adamant in correlating type to working ability and vice versa, and was a severe critic as is shown in his forthrighty crtique of two young bitches owned by his partner Alex davis, and also J Brennan respectively, in 1911.