My young house-mate is an expert in all things ‘dogs.’ The two of us were discussing variation in the size and shape of Australian Cattle Dogs (ACD) (in part because my cross-breed is quite slender). We concluded that the variation was perhaps evidence of different breeding lineages.
After a quick search on the internet it seems that a man named Thomas Hall was a key figure in the history of the ACD. He was ‘studmaster’ *achoo* for the Hall family’s pastoral business, which was the first large cattle empire in the colony.² By 1825 the Hall family had established two cattle stations in the Upper Hunter Valley, Gundebri and Dartbrook. Thomas Hall also imported ‘Drover’s Dogs’ from Northumberland in the North East of England. At the time he began importing them they were apparently becoming scarce and being ‘bred-out’ back in England. As can still be seen in some contemporary English breeds the Drover’s Dog had distinctive blue colour – blue merle. They were known as the Northumberland Blue Merle Drover’s Dog.
As the picture above suggests, however, this breed wasn’t exactly suited to the climatic and vegetation condition of Australia. The dog in this image – ‘Jack’ – was photographed in 1898 at the Metropolitan Intercolonial Exhibition, Sydney, where he was exhibited as a Cattle Dog.¹Hall also kept Dingoes on the family property and bred them with the Drover’s Dogs over time. (I can’t imagine he kept them in the best of conditions, poor dingoes.) By the time 1840 rolled around Thomas Hall and family had all but settled with a particular cross-breed between the Dingo and the Drover’s Dog and decided to give it a new ‘breed’ name – Hall’s Heelers.
Most sources suggest that Dalmations were introduced into the blood lines around mid 1800s. Some sources suggest that the Kelpie, which was itself a developing breed (from black and tan terriers) at the time, was then introduced into the stock-lines some time after 1870. Who knows. Perhaps someone. Anyhow, Thomas Hall died in 1870 after which ‘Hall’s Heelers’ became more generally known as Cattle Dogs.
There are various other contentious issues and twists and turns but that is generally the very general history of the Australian cattle dog for a Sunday morning!