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Australian Cattle Dog

 

In the early days of colonization in Australia, the first settlers, having limited availability of labour to control the large herds of cattle that grazed on unfenced properties and rugged bushlands, set about to create a breed of dog to assist in mustering an 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 color, with white markings around its neck extending down its front, and big hanging ears. It had an awkward, cumbersome gait, was unable to cope with the hat, and barked too much. This dog was commonly know as the Smitfield.


In 1830, a cattleman by the name of Timmins of the Bathurst area of New South Wales crossed the Smitfield with the Native Australian dog, the Dingo.


The progency 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. They proved to be reasonably satisfactory cattle dogs but barked and headed, both of which are undesirable traits for dogs that work cattle. 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, color being either red or blue merle. Hall continued his experimental breeding until his death in 1870.


Around this time there were other landowners who experimented with this 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.
Around the 1870s a butcher named Alex Davis proudly displayed the ability of a pair of Hall's Heelers at the cattle saleyard 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 improving them. First, they crossed a bitch with a fine imported Dalmatian dog. This cross changed the merle color to red of blue speckle. As with Dalmatians, the pups were born white, developing their color gradually from approximately three weeks of age. The main purpose of this cross was to instill 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 thickset dingoes and with peculiar marking 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 stabilizing it, and drawing up a standard of the breed. This standard was endorsed initially oby the Cattle and Sheepdog Club of Australia, then by the Kennel Club of New South Wales in 1903. Robert 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.

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