History of the Breed

The Australian Cattle Dog officially arrived in the UK as a Kennel Club recognised breed in 1979.  John Holmes (experienced dog trainer and author of a number of books including “The Farmer’s Dog” and “The Obedient Dog”) with his wife Mary, met and were impressed with the breed on a visit to Australia. They spent time with Connie Redhead of the Landmaster Kennels and from her they imported a red bitch, Australian Champion Landmaster Darling Red (Honey). She was in whelp to Australian Champion Landmaster Eureka and her pups were born in quarantine, the first litter in the UK. Coincidentally Malcolm Dudding in Kent had already imported two blue pups, Lenthel Flinton and Lenthel Darlot. They produced the first litter for his Swordstone Kennel in 1980, the first litter in the UK born out of quarantine.  Also in 1980 John and Mary imported Pwca Blue Boomerang from Holland to join Honey in their Formakin Kennel. Over the next few years progeny from these two kennels, Swordstone and Formakin, were bred together to form the base of Australian Cattle Dogs in the UK.  In time further imports added to the gene pool.


Australia’s Cattle Dogs: a short history.

Today (2018) there are two distinct Australian cattle dog breeds recognised by kennel clubs:  The Australian Cattle Dog and The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog.

Both originate from a single breed, the Hall’s Heeler, developed by Thomas Simpson Hall (1808-1870) at Dartbrook station, in the Upper Hunter valley of New South Wales.

George Hall, and his sons William and Thomas, were pioneering cattlemen who established a string of cattle runs from the Hawkesbury valley, west of Sydney New South Wales, to the Darling Downs in southern Queensland. They grazed some 60,000 head of cattle on over a million acres (405,000 ha)of land. Thomas was also a notable breeder of horses and cattle.


The needs of cattle management on large, unfenced runs, and long-distance droving urged Thomas to breed a stock dog suited to the job. The Hall’s Heeler was the result of a colonial dog (many arrived with the First, and later, Fleets that brought the convicts and their minders to the New South Wales colony) crossed between the Australian Dingo. Hall’s Heeler litters would have included both long- and short-tailed pups. The colonial dog was probably blue speckled.

In the late 1870s the show ring began to attract Cattle Dog fanciers. Robert Kaleski (1877-1961), a member of the Sydney coterie, produced a breed standard in 1903 and initiated a breed standard war that persisted for decades. Kaleski was the author of enduring myths about Cattle Dog origins and may also have advanced discrimination against short-tailed animals. Whereas both long- and short- tailed Cattle Dogs were exhibited in Queensland, there is no record of short-tailed exhibits at Sydney shows. The short-tailed Cattle Dog almost became an extinct breed until the Stumpy Tail Redevelopment Scheme was put in place in 1988.

Setting aside Kaleski’s Dalmatian and other myths, it is fanciful to assume breed purity – in Thomas Hall’s time or at any other time up to the recent past when DNA parentage testing became available. Dogs will be dogs. Even as late as the 1950s some breeders have reintroduced Dingo, or Dingo hybrid, and recent introduction of Staffordshire Bull Terrier is not disputed. As to the Dalmatian, the gene contributing to its spots is absent from the genetic make up of Cattle Dogs.

The changing characteristics of cattle, cessation of long-distance droving, the expectations of pet owners and of breeding to show standard have inevitably had impact on the temperament of both Cattle Dog breeds.

– A.B. (Bert) Howard and Noreen R. Clark 2018.


Interested in finding out more?

  • R.L.Kaleski (1914) Australian Barkers and Biters, revised and enlarged in 1922, 2nd edition revised in 1933, facsimile edition 1987
  • Connie Redhead (1979) The Good Looking Australian
  • Angela Sanderson (1981) The Complete Book of Australian Dogs
  • Mari Schaffer (1984) Heeler Power; A Guide to Training the Working Australian Cattle Dog
  • Donn & Deborah Harling (1986) Australian Cattle Dogs: The First Five Years
  • Kristine Kay Toft (1992) The Complete Australian Cattle Dog Sourcebook: 1980-1991
  • John & Mary Holmes (1993) The Complete Australian Cattle Dog
  • Narelle Robertson (1994) Australian Cattle Dogs
  • Cheryl Ann Edwards (1995) Australian Cattle Dogs: Old Timers
  • Katherine Buetow (1998) The Australian Cattle Dog:An Owner’s Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet
  • Noreen R.Clark (2003) A Dog Called Blue: The Australian Cattle Dog and The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog 1840 – 2000
  • Guy Hull (2018) The Dogs That Made Australia
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