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The Development of the Australian Cattle Dog
Belle thinks she owns the place and we let her. She is 8 and a very fine girl.
Despite her appearance, she is no "Frizbee Dog"
I tried! I got her a frizbee, took her out to play. She was curious and excited. I threw the frizbee and she immediately fetched it back to me. I thought "How easy" I threw it again and she just looked at me as if to say "I got that for you already, if you are just going to throw it away, I am not going after it"! To this day, she has never paid any attention to frizbees,
In the early days of colonisation in Australia,
the first settlers, having limited availability of labour
to control the large herds of cattle that grazed on unfenced properties and rugged bushland, set
about to create a breed of dog to assist in mustering and moving wild cattle.
The principal requirement of this breed of dog was that it be strong, possess great stamina, and be
able to bite. Initially, the cattlemen used a bob-tailed dog with a heavy coat, black in colour, with
white markings around the neck extending down the front, and big hanging ears. It had an
awkward cumbersome gait, was unable to cope with the heat, and barked too much. This dog was
commonly known as the Smithfield.
In 1830, a cattleman by the name of Timmins of the Bathurst area of New South Wales crossed the
Smithfield with the native dog , the Dingo. The progeny were red bob-tailed dogs known as
Timmins biters. They were silent workers though very severe heelers. These dogs were the early
ancestors of the Stumpy-Tailed Cattle Dog,which is an entirely separate breed and not just an
Australian Cattle Dog with its tail cut off.
In 1840, a landowner by the name of Thomas Hall of Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley of New
South Wales imported two smooth-haired blue merle Scotch Collies called at that time by the
ignorant people Welsh Heelers. These were considerably better than the common collie, but still
had some of the heading traits that were undesirable. Hall crossed the progeny of this pair with
the Dingo; the resulting litters became known as Hall's Heelers.
As the Dingo trait is to creep silently from behind and bite, the pups followed this style of heeling
and were welcomed by grazier and drover alike for their ability to handle wild cattle, their stamina
to travel great distances over all types of terrain, and their endurance in extremes of temperature.
The progeny were generally of Dingo type, colour being either red or blue merle. Hall continued
his experimental breeding until his death in 1870.
Around this time there were landowners who experimented with the crossing of the Dingo and
Collie. George Elliot of Queensland produced some excellent workers, entering into his diary on
the 12th of February 1873 that his two month old quarter Dingo worked so silently on cattle, he
called her "Munya", which is aboriginal for silent.
In the early 1870's a butcher named Alex Davis proudly displayed the ability of a pair of Hall's
Heelers at the cattle saleyards in Sydney. Two brothers, Jack and Harry Bagust of Canterbury in
Sydney, were among several cattlemen to purchase pups from Davis. They then set about to
improve them. Firstly, they crossed a bitch with a fine imported Dalmatian dog. This cross changed
the merle colour to red or blue speckle. As with Dalmatians, the pups are born white, developing
their colour gradually from approximately three weeks of age. The main purpose of this cross was
to instil in the dogs a love of horses and protectiveness toward master and property. Unfortunately,
some of the working ability was lost with this cross, so, after admiring this ability in the Black and
Tan Kelpie, the Bagust brothers crossed the Kelpie with their speckled dogs. This produced highly
intelligent, controllable workers, built like thick set Dingoes and with peculiar markings known to
no other dog. Through selective breeding, these dogs became the forebears of the present day
Australian Cattle Dog.
In 1893, Mr. Robert Kaleski took particular interest in this breed, developing and stabilising it,
and drawing up a standard of the breed. This standard was endorsed initially by the Cattle and
Sheepdog Club of Australia, then the Kennel Club of New South Wales in 1903. Kaleski's standard
has been expanded over the years, but the essence of it is still very much a part of the official
standard approved and adopted by the Australian National Kennel Council in 1963. Coincidental
with the writing of Kaleski's standard, the breed's name became official as the Australian Cattle
Dog, commonly known and the Blue Heeler, the Australian Heeler, or the Queensland Blue. From
these unique beginnings the Australian Cattle Dog has developed into one of the most popular
breeds of dog in Australia today.
The Australian Cattle Dog is a courageous, tough, intelligent working dog with strength and
endurance unlike any other dog of its size. They are very athletic, portraying the ability to work
more than their fair share when required. Capable of quick and sudden movement, excelling both
in the wide open spaces and in close quarters of yards. Renowned for their protectiveness and
loyalty to master and property, they are very selective as to who are friend or foe. Curious but
suspicious of strangers, and although gentle creatures by nature, they will show aggression if their
master, family belongings or property is threatened.
Their devotion is unquestioned, and they will lay down their lives to protect what is theirs.
Australian Cattle Dogs are one of the most versatile breeds of dog in existence today. Not only are
they one of the greatest working dog breeds, but they also make excellent family pets. They are
loving, playful, and willing to please. Even so, it is most important to stress the Australian cattle
Dog must be treated with respect; in turn they will give you the same courtesy. In disciplining
them they must be treated firmly but gently.