Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

History Revisited - cattle dog legacy born in our own backyard

NEW ENGLAND UPBRINGING: Many people are unaware of the blue heeler's origins in Northern NSW
I wonder how many people know that the Australian Cattle Dog was developed in Northern NSW?

The breed owes its existence to George Hall who arrived in Sydney in 1802. By 1825, the Halls had established two cattle stations in the Upper Hunter Valley, and had begun a northward expansion into the Liverpool Plains, the New England and what would become Queensland.

Frustrated at cattle losses on long droves through unfenced and often rugged country, Hall needed a better dog to help control the cattle. He therefore imported several of the dogs used by drovers in Northumberland and crossed them with dingoes that he had tamed to create what became known as Halls Heelers.

There were an effective stock dog giving Hall an advantage and he guarded them. It was not until Hall’s death in 1870 that the dogs became available, forming the core of what would become the Australian Cattle Dog also known as the Blue Heeler.

The development and recognition of the Australian Cattle Dog as a distinct recognised breed did not occur immediately. However, by the 1890s, the dogs had attracted the attention of the Cattle Dog Club of Sydney, a group of men with a recreational interest in the new practice of showing dogs competitively who began a breeding program centred on Halls Heelers.

Central to the program was Robert Kaleski, a remarkable young man.

Robert Lucian Stanislaus Kaleski was the son of a Polish mining engineer, John Kaleski, and his English wife Isabel, née Falder. Political pressures in Poland led John Kaleski to move to Germany where he held academic appointments and from there to Australia where he re-built a career as a mining engineer and assayer.

Born at Burwood in 1877, Robert Kaleski’s initial ill health led to him spending much time with a relative at Holsworthy near Sydney where he acquired a love of the bush. He began studying law, but then at the age of 21 he abandoned his studies to go droving. After a series of bush jobs, including timber getting on the Dorrigo Plateau, he took up a small selection at Holsworthy in 1904.

I said that Kaleski was a remarkable young man. That’s the only way I can describe it. In 1903, he was only 26, his breeding work led to the recognition of the Australian Cattle Dog as a distinct breed, followed by the Kelpie in 1904.

Kaleski founded the Cattle and Sheepdog Club of Australia. He also worked his dogs with stock, and both exhibited and judged dogs in the show ring. However, that’s only part of the Kaleski story.

Drawing from his experiences during the great Federation drought, Kakeski turned the small run down farm that he bought at Moorebank in 1907 into an experimental farm. There he trialled new land management processes, patenting some of the results.

In his spare time, he wrote extensively on bush, breeding and agricultural issues. He also tried his hand at fiction, writing for the Bulletin magazine under the pen name Falder, his mother’s maiden name.

Robert Kaleski died on his farm in 1961. At the age of 84, he was still experimenting. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 15 July 2015. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015.

No comments: