The Australian Cattle Dog dates back to the early 1800s when large amounts of land became available in Australia for raising cattle. The traditional herding breeds could not handle the cattle that were being raised in Australia and the need of a hardy, energetic and smart herding dog arose. The Australian Cattle Dog, while small in stature, is fearless when herding cattle and is well-suited for Australia’s rough terrain. This medium sized dog is high energy and loyal. They make a good family companion as long as their exercise requirements are met and they have a job to occupy their time.
The Australian Cattle Dog originated when a cattle farmer named Thomas Hall from New South Wales cross bred dogs that were being used as drovers in Northumberland, possibly smooth coated collies, with tamed dingoes. The dogs that resulted from this cross breeding were named Halls Heelers. When Thomas Hall died in 1970, these dogs became available to other people besides the Hall family and their associates. These Halls Heelers have developed into two distinct breeds: the Australian Cattle Dog and the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog. Robert Kaleski wrote the first published breed standard for the Australian Cattle Dog and greatly influenced the acceptable appearance and temperament of the breed. The standard has since been altered as the breed gained popularity and come into the United States in the mid-1900s.
The Australian Cattle Dog is many times nicknamed as the Blue Heeler or the Red Heeler depending on the color of their coat. Dogs that were being bred in Queensland, Australia in the 1940s were shown to be successful as stud dogs and in conformation competitions. These dogs were called Queensland Heelers to differentiate them from the Australian Cattle Dogs that were being bred in New South Wales as many people thought the Queensland Heelers were better quality and produced better offspring. Today, the Australian Cattle Dog is still sometimes referred to as the Queensland Heeler.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Australian Cattle Dog in 1980 as a member of the working group. It was not until 1983 that the Australian Cattle Dog was recognized as a herding breed by the American Kennel Club and moved into the herding group for competitive events.
The Australian Cattle Dog is a compact, muscular dog that is both strong and agile. They have alert ears that stand up straight and a keen expression. These dogs must be well-conditioned and should never look delicate or cumbersome. They need to be able to perform the job of drover and have the ability to quickly move out of the way of the cattle. The Australian Cattle Dog comes in only two accepted coat colors: red or blue. From time to time a chocolate and cream coat color does occur. The blue Australian Cattle Dogs can be blue, blue speckled, or blue mottled with or without black, tan or white markings. The red Australian Cattle Dog should be evenly speckled with solid red markings. The Australian Cattle Dog is born white and their coloration becomes apparent as they grow, although any solid color on the face or body is present at birth. A mask must be present and can consist of a black patch over one or both eyes for the blue color or a red patch over one or both eyes for the red color. One eye patch is called a half or single mask and two eye patches is called a full or double mask. Dogs that do not have a mask are called plain faced.
Many people call the Australian Cattle Dog a wash and wear dog since he requires very little grooming. They should be brushed once every 2-3 weeks with a natural bristle brush. When they come in from working with the cattle, a bath using a mild shampoo may be needed to remove caked on mud. Otherwise, wiping down with a moist cloth is acceptable. The Australian Cattle Dog does not shed his coat year round. For males and altered dogs they will shed their coat once a year. Intact females will blow their coat twice a year, usually following their heat cycles. When the Australian Cattle Dog is shedding, frequent brushing is recommended along with warm baths to help remove the loose hair. Regular nail trimmings should be done. Nail grinding can be done instead of cutting the nail to avoid cutting the nail too short and causing pain. Ears should be cleaned every 2-3 weeks to prevent infections.