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Kaleski, Robert Lucian (1877–1961)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published:

Robert Kaleski, Hood Collection, 1937

Robert Kaleski, Hood Collection, 1937

State Library of New South Wales, 20335

Robert Lucian Stanislaus Kaleski (1877-1961), dog expert, bushman and author, was born on 19 January 1877 at Burwood, Sydney, son of John Stanislaus Kaleski, insurance agent and native of Posen (Poznan), Prussia, and his English wife Isabel, née Falder. For health reasons, aged 9 to 12 and for other long periods, he lived with a relation at Holsworthy where he dodged school and gained much knowledge of the bush. With access to a good library and making up his education in Sydney, he began legal studies but at 21 went in for droving and general bush work. After working for a year on a station at Grenfell, two years timber-getting on the Dorrigo plateau and a year housebuilding at Mosman, he took up a small selection at Holsworthy in 1904. Henry Lord, an agriculturalist at Sydney Technical College, was an early and valued educational influence.

Beginning as a dog owner at 6 and coaxing dogs into school ('I'm sure there's a dog somewhere, Kaleski, do you know anything of this?'), Kaleski was a lifelong student of the dog and dingo (Canis familiaris dingo). In 1893 he and others began improving the blue heeler breed of cattle-dog and in 1903 he drew up and published the first standard for that breed in the Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales. In 1904 he published the first standards for the kelpie and also the barb 'variety' of sheepdog. These standards were approved by leading breeders and adopted by the Kennel Club of New South Wales and the Cattle and Sheep Dog Club of Australia (founded by Kaleski in September 1907) and became standard almost Australia-wide. An energetic breeder, worker, exhibitor and judge of dogs, Kaleski with Nugget (1908-12) founded the noted Nugget strain of blue heeler prizewinners which included such champions as Clovelly Mavis and Clovelly Biddy.

Under various pen names, including 'Falder', Kaleski wrote on a variety of practical subjects for the Sydney Mail, Sydney Morning Herald, Bulletin and Worker; his articles on dogs and other animals were featured in A. G. Stephens's Bookfellow. He prepared The Australian Settler's Complete Guide, published by Anthony Hordern & Sons Ltd in 1909, and in 1914 some of his articles and stories appeared as Australian Barkers and Biters. Kaleski also patented several improvements for farm implements and had devised a scheme to offset the effects of drought. A self-styled 'soil expert', in 1918 he bought a run-down 300-acre (121 ha) farm, Thorn Hill, at Moorebank, near Liverpool, which he restored by applying his theories. In 1926 he contributed the authoritative article on 'Sheep-and-Cattle Dogs' to the Australian Encyclopedia.

In 1933 Kaleski published a completely revised and expanded edition of Australian Barkers and Biters which embodied his theories on the origin of the dog. An admirer, breeder and champion of the dingo, Kaleski regarded it, probably erroneously, as the primal dog of the world. He was a fellow of the Linnean Society of New South Wales.

Kaleski, true bushman and environmentalist, was the first serious writer on Australia's working dogs; his powers of observation were likened by Sir Joseph Carruthers to those of the naturalist Jean Henri Fabre. An interesting conversationalist he wrote as he talked, with 'wit and brevity'. A bachelor, Kaleski spent most of his life on his farm at Moorebank. He died on 1 December 1961 at Hammondville and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • Agricultural Gazette (New South Wales), Aug 1903, p 752, Feb 1904, p 133
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Sept 1907, 15 Jan 1908, 1 Sept 1972
  • Australian Worker, 28 Jan 1909
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 1 Dec 1957.

Additional Resources

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Kaleski, Robert Lucian (1877–1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 27 March 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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