A Dog for the Job - The Book

A Dog for the Job explores the early history of the Australian Cattle Dog, the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog and the Tasmanian Smithfield against the background of the growing New South Wales colony. The dogs’ ancestors came with the First Fleet in 1788, and with later convict fleets. They came as the pets of the early civilian and military arrivals who made up almost half the colony’s population. Nothing is known about the ancestors of the Tasmanian Smithfield but the ancestors of the Cattle Dogs came into the hands of the Hall family.

George Hall, his wife and four small children immigrated, as free settlers, to New South Wales in 1802. George was granted 100 acres (40 ha) in the Hawkesbury Valley, some 40 km north-west of Sydney. During the next fifty years the Hall family’s holdings grew to more than 40,000 km2 stretching in a discontinuous chain for over 1,000 km from the Hawkesbury Valley to southern Queensland. The Halls’ dogs, later known as Halls Heelers, were integral to the management of that vast area.

The first dog shows were held in England in the 1850s. They had a profound and permanent effect on the dog world and on the book publishing industry. For the first time dogs’ appearances became more important than the function they performed. Breed standards were needed to guide show judging and a new publishing genre, ‘books about dogs’, emerged. These included breed standards and, sometimes, breed histories.

Some twenty years after the first dog shows in England, Australia took up the sport. Classes for Cattle Dogs were scheduled at some shows but, in the absence of a breed standard, judging was according to Rafferty's rules. Feeling disadvantaged, a young Cattle Dog enthusiast, Robert Kaleski, published the first breed standard for Cattle Dogs in 1903 – for Cattle Dogs with Halls Heeler origins. Kaleski also proposed a speculative (but incorrect) ancestry for his Cattle Dogs, based on his study of the late nineteenth century ‘books about dogs’. The requirements of show judging eventually brought about the separation of long-tailed and short-tailed Cattle Dogs as two separate breeds: the Australian Cattle Dog and the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog as they are now known. The Tasmanian Smithfield remains an unofficial breed with a strong following in its home state.


Connie Redhead (Landmaster Australian Cattle Dogs) in her Foreword to A Dog for the Job.

Nearly 20 years on from the release of A Dog Called Blue, Noreen Clark has again demonstrated why she is the premier historian of Australia’s cattle dogs and their forebears. A Dog for the Job picks up where A Dog Called Blue left off in 2003. Noreen humbly acknowledges the misguided deductions of both herself and others in earlier publications.

Noreen’s depth of breed knowledge as a former long time breeder of Australian Cattle Dogs, alongside her professionally developed skills both as scientist and librarian, has allowed her to access, interpret and verify information with a thoroughness not previously achieved. She has dispelled some entrenched myths and provided a much clearer overall picture of the development of Australian Cattle Dogs and Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs. Further, by considering the societal structure and lifestyle of the colonial period, Noreen has been able to give insight into the evolution of the ancestors of the modern Australian Cattle Dog and Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog.

Noreen’s analysis of the writings of Robert Kaleski and the comparison of his earlier works to those of his latter years (post 1920s) is overdue. She disproves unlikely assertions, such as the Dalmatian infusion in the breed foundation, along with the mistaken belief that the Australian Cattle Dog and Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog do not share a common ancestry. Her summation chapter Gathering the threads is essential reading.

I remain in awe of the effort that Noreen has devoted to rectifying the questionable and out of date. When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. A Dog for the Job proves this.

Jeri Omlo (Goolara Australian Cattle Dogs) in ACD Club of Great Britain Newsletter

A Dog for the Job examines how the early convict and settler fleets landed and made their mark both socially and economically in the new and raw land of Australia. For the Cattle Dogs, the book brings together their history and development and importantly tackles the fabrications that surround the breeds even to this day. From all perspectives, A Dog for the Job, leaves us with a better understanding of the remarkable dogs that they are today.

A Dog for the Job continues on from Clark’s book A Dog Called Blue, enlightening the reader with new wisdom and facts while breaking down what we now know were myths in the history of the Cattle Dog.

Forefront in this informative book is the discussion of Robert Kaleski’s contributions to the history of the Cattle Dog which remained unchallenged since first published in 1903. Clark’s ability to root out and provide the reader with new and supportive evidence of the Cattle Dog’s development in itself makes the book so enjoyable for Cattle Dog lovers.

Clark, while keen to validate the work of Kaleski, presents us with some inconsistencies and contradictions in his work post 1930s, for examples, being convinced that the “nip-drop” of the Cattle Dog was inherited from the Dingo (which it was not) and that Dingo hybrids were excellent workers, but other crosses led to vicious and unmanageable dogs. These inconsistencies and contradictions in his work, are described as possibly coming from cognitive or health issues, although this isn’t substantiated by his family history or the author herself. However, articles written by Kaleski are included in the book giving the reader the opportunity to critically evaluate these inconsistencies for themselves.

A Job for the Dog should be on the bookshelf of every Australian Cattle Dog fancier whether breeder, show exhibitor, or someone who works these resplendent dogs. Take your time in reading, savour all that it has to offer and absorb yourself in its history.

Kath Williamson (Austrax ADCs) in Willing Worker: Newsletter of the Cattle Dog & Kelpie Club, Qld.

For the astute Australian Cattle Dog and Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog enthusiast, A Dog For The Job is the publication you have been waiting for. It addresses the illusions and anomalies that appear in both breed histories and current and past ANKC standards.

To do this, the author Noreen Clark has taken her readers right back to the start. Firstly, by discovering that the Hall’s sending a letter back to family in the UK would be implausible and no dogs were sent specifically to Australia at their request. Instead, she suggests the Hall family made use of what dogs came with the colonial settlers and accurately outlines a far more logical progression. She soundly reasons the Dingo infusion was more likely accidental, and deliberate additions of Dingo came at a later time. Further, she resolves that the Northumberland Drovers Dog was non existant and that Dalmatian was not included in breed development but was a flight of fancy that came to light from an aging Robert Kaleski most likely struggling with cognitive issues. She has ascertained the common ancestry of the Australian Cattle Dog and the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog and traced the separate development of the Tasmanian Smithfield, (unrecognised by the ANKC).

The précis chapter, cleverly titled Gathering the Threads, brings together the logical deductions from the historical records, the writings of Kaleski pre and post 1930s and the understanding of how life was conducted at that time, with particular note of the colossal difficulty in travelling any great distances in Australia in the 1800s and the impact this had on both the development of separate strains of cattle dogs and the lifestyles of the time.

This is probably the most important reference book on the history and development of the Australian Cattle Dog and the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog and the Tasmanian Smithfield, to a lesser extent. I would expect in time that this work will, and should, bring about slight amendments to current ANKC breed standards for the ACD and ASTCD.
Kath Williamson ©Austrax ACDs July 2022

Stephanie Govin - Matzat in ACDCA Newsletter

This book has established residency in my mind and is very welcome to stay. When I started reading, it was because of the Australian Cattle Dog and the many variations of its history that I have been told and have read in my years in the breed. I dug out my dog library and checked Esther Ekman’s writings and so on, and I read and remembered conversations with other mentors, too. But this book is so much more than about the dogs. It would be at home in a history class reading list. So I showed it to friends who have degrees in history, but are not dog people, and they are very impressed. They looked at how it is organized and the extensive use of primary sources and were impressed, including how obviously and carefully it is vetted.

I know the author well enough to know that she has a relentless curiosity, she loves the Australian Cattle Dog and that she worked as a professional scientist. What I hadn’t known, until reading Connie Redhead’s forward, was that she also trained as a librarian. She knows how to find and evaluate information. Earlier this year I read an article about how historical research has changed with the digitalization of records. The article specifically mentioned that England kept the most thorough records of the nations they colonized. A Dog for the Job uses the records, with care and compassion, especially the later in life writings of Robert Kaleski.

There are 17 chapters. One of those chapters is about the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog. Originally the short tailed and long tailed were considered variations the same breed, having been descended from the same Hall’s Heelers. Eventually, they were separated out. During the 1980’s, the ANKC established an “ongoing program to ensure the preservation of the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog.” There is a chapter on the standards and when and how they were written which includes a discussion on the change in the wording on stifles from moderate to well-turned. I remember when the ACDCA membership voted to accept that change to conform with the Australian wording. I would have liked to have sen that discussion before I voted, but this book also taught me the important role the country of origin continues to have in protecting breeds. Chapter 17 is entitled Gathering the Threads and that is what it does. There are a lot of threads to gather!

If you are interested in Australia, you’ll want this book, but if Australian Cattle Dogs are your purpose, then you need this book. My paperback copy is 260 pages. Every time I open it, there is interesting and relevant information, beautifully presented. Noreen Clark has a voice as an author and she is wonderful to read. This is a short review, and I know that, but this book needs to speak for itself. You can probably get one thru your local library, but then you will have to give it back and you won’t want to do that.

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