Robert F. Stirling studied at the Royal Veterinary College, Dublin, and qualified as a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS) in 1907. In October that year he came to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) as a government veterinary surgeon to combat east coast fever. He left the country in 1911 and the next year submitted a thesis entitled East Coast Fever in Rhodesia and its control for admission as a Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (FRCVS).
Subsequently Stirling had a brilliant career in India, where he became director of veterinary services of the central provinces and attained the rank of major in the Indian Army reserve. Some of his research was reported in "Trypanblue and certain dithio-aniline derivatives: their efficacy in the treatment of piroplasmosis and other affections in the Central Provinces" (Memoir, Veterinary Series, 1928, Vol. 4(1), pp. 129-137) published in Calcutta by the Indian Department of Agriculture. He remained in India until his death at the age of 48.