Breed History

Robert Kaleski

Robert Kaleski
Robert Kaleski (1877-1961)
Robert Kaleski, a younger breeding associate of Harry Bagust, compiled the first standard for the Cattle Dog breed in 1897 and had it published, with photographs, by the New South Wales Department of Agriculture in 1903 and 1910.

His standard was adopted by breed clubs in Queensland and New South Wales and re-issued as their own, with local changes. Local changes did not always reflect Kaleski's prejudice against red coat colour and taillessness.

Nipper, bred by Harry Bagust, approaches the breed type that Kaleski described and is probably close to Halls Heeler in type and conformation.

Kaleski's later publications, from the 1920s, lack the authority of the standard and become increasingly fanciful with time. The most enduring of Kaleski's myths relate to alleged early Dalmatian and Kelpie infusions, said to have been introduced by the Bagusts into the early Cattle Dog breed. These infusions are not referred to in Kaleski's writings until the 1920s and there is no evidence that they occurred in the mainstream early development of the Cattle Dog.

Nipper
Nipper, bred by Harry Bagust in 1899.

Kaleski was preoccupied by similarities. For example, for him a red Cattle Dog looked more like a Dingo than a blue Cattle Dog did; therefore there was more Dingo in its total make-up. It seems likely that Kaleski sought to explain the Cattle Dogs mottled colouration and tan on legs by similarity to the Dalmatian and Kelpie, respectively.

Having done so, he had then to produce reasons for introducing these breeds, and particularly the strange choice of Dalmatian. The genetics of coat colour, alone, make the Dalmatian an extremely unlikely mainstream ancestor of the Australian Cattle Dog.

The Dalmatian and Kelpie myths became increasingly elaborate with time and eventually Kaleski was able to tell us which Dalmatian (he belonged to "one of the Stephens, a very old Sydney legal family") and which Kelpies (black-and-tan dogs, "Maidens dogs, if I remember aright").