Breed History

Halls Heeler

Halls Heeler born c1890.
Halls Heeler born c1890 from Allen
Family photograph.
Photo courtesy A.J.Howard.

The reminiscences of James Butler (protégé of William Hall, George Hall’s eldest son) make it clear that the Halls were dependent on their dogs, particularly after transportation (and hence, convict labour) ceased in 1850 and rushes to the goldfields of New South Wales and Victoria further contributed to labour shortage.

It was, however, Robert Kaleski who made the connection between the Halls and the Cattle Dogs that turned up in Sydney towards the end of the nineteenth century. "The breed was made, as far as I can ascertain, by a Mr Hall or Wall of Muswellbrook", wrote Kaleski,"about forty years ago. He imported the blue-gray Welsh merle for working cattle but finding they were unsuitable on account of barking too much, crossed them with the dingo and founded the present variety which by selection and careful breeding, became a distinct breed and throws true to type."

The breed was made, as far as I can ascertain, by a Mr Hall or Wall of Muswellbrook...

The New South Wales colony was overrun by dogs of every description, from ladies’ lap dogs to the gentlemen’s hounds. In between, were assorted working dogs and some of these found their way on to George Hall’s farm in the Hawkesbury Valley. Those that were useful, as stock dogs or vermin hunters, survived; those that weren’t, didn’t.

Neither George nor Thomas Hall imported working dogs from Britain. The British ancestor of the Halls Heeler was one of the working dogs that found their way to the New South Wales colony.

Kaleski’s identification of the "blue-gray Welsh merle" was probably his attempt to match Cattle Dogs, such as Nipper, bred by G. W. Bagust in 1899, to descriptions he found in nineteenth century books on dogs.

Nipper
Nipper bred by G.W. Bagust in 1899.

The mating of Dingo to British dog was more likely to have been coincidental than planned. Dingoes raided the colonists’ poultry yards and weren’t opposed to lamb in their diet, but Dingo interest undoubtedly included colonial bitches as well.

Thomas Hall was unlikely to have practised "careful breeding and selection", as Kaleski understood it. Hall’s selection would have been entirely practical: keep and breed only from the dogs that were good workers; an effective selection strategy that eventually did result in dogs that bred true to type.