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BaxterBoo Blog
January 22, 2013

Meet the Breed: The Australian Cattle Dog

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  • Height: 17”-20” (Male), 17”-19” (Female)
  • Weight: 32-35 pounds (Male), 30-35 pounds (Female)
  • Historical function: Herding, guarding
  • Modern function: Herding, guarding, and agility
  • AKC classification: Herding

Physical Characteristics

The Australian Cattle Dog is a sturdy, medium-sized, short-yet-thick coated dog that occurs in two main color forms. It has either brown or black hair distributed fairly evenly through a white coat, which gives the appearance of a "red" or "blue" dog. It has been nicknamed a "Red Heeler" or "Blue Heeler" based on the fact that they tend to herd animals by nipping at their heels. Their wide-set ears are triangular and upright when the dog is alert. Often one or both of the eyes are covered with a mask. Puppies are born white due to the Dalmatian heritage in the breed, though some claim this is a myth.

History of the Breed

Colonial dogs were ineffective at adjusting to the climate and work load required for driving cattle in the arid temperatures of Australia, so a new cattle dog was created by pioneers in the 1800s that combined tame Dingoes with smooth-coated Blue Merle Collies. Kelpies and Dalmatians are also thought to be part of the Australian cattle dog, though there are some discrepancies as to whether this can be verified. These working dogs were admired by soldiers stationed in Australia during the world wars and were exported throughout the world with returning soldiers.


The Australian Cattle Dog is not one for lounging about the house. As highly intelligent, active dogs, they need to have a job and plenty of mental and physical exercise. If they do not get sufficient activity, they may become destructive. They prefer at least a large yard and are not suitable for apartment life. Can be stubborn.

  • Best suited for: Families with active lifestyles. Can adjust to suburban life given adequate exercise and mental stimulation. Great for agility training. Would not thrive in an apartment.
  • Preferred living conditions: Ideal ranch/farm companions. The more activities and exercise, the better. Needs a firm human leader who leads with kindness but is no-nonsense. Socialize early to train them not to nip at the heels of young children, who they may feel obligated to herd. Prefers having a job.

Care and Health

  • Grooming requirements: Easy-care coat that requires brushing particularly through the shedding seasons. Moderate shedder.
  • Exercise needs: Daily, extensive mental and physical exercise.
  • Life expectancy: 12-16 years.
  • Health concerns: This dog is hardy and is more likely to be injured from activity than to be sick. May be prone to hip dysplasia.

Breed Club Links: Australian Cattle Dog Club of America, Inc. Perfect Pairings: Dog Agility Starter Kit

Photo courtesy of Sally9258.

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This entry was posted by Mary.

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