Breed of the Week: Australian Cattle Dog 08/15/16

Australian Cattle Dog 4

Breed Stats

Country of Origin: Australia

Average Height: Male 46-51 cm (18-20 in), Female 43-48 cm (17-19 in)

Average Lifespan: 12-15 years

Coat: A rather dense double coat with long, straight outer hairs that protect the dog from the elements and a short, soft and very dense undercoat.

Colour: Blue, blue mottled, blue speckled, red mottled, red speckled


            The Australian Cattle Dog, also known as the Blue (or red) Heeler, is a very hard-working breed of dog that played a key role in the establishment of the beef industry in Australia.  It all started in 1802, when a man named George Hall moved his family to the New South Wales Colony.  By 1825 he had established two cattle stations with plans to expand further.  The biggest issue was getting the cattle to Sydney, as thousands of cows would have to be moved for thousands of kilometers along unfenced trade routes that went through rough wilderness and mountainous terrain.

A cattle driving dog was needed, but the working dogs used at the time were only good for short distances and for yard work with domesticated cattle.  George’s son, Thomas, wanted to address this problem so he imported some dogs from his home country, Northumberland and the dogs were known as the Northumberland Blue Merle Drovers Dog.  He crossed these dogs with Dingoes that he had tamed, and by 1840 he was satisfied with the dog he had produced.  They were known as Hall’s Heelers and for the next 30 years, they were only used by the Hall family.  However Thomas Hall passed away in 1870 and his land, and by extension the dogs, were auctioned off. From then on the Hall’s Heelers were freely available to the public.

By the 1890’s, the Hall’s Heelers began gaining the attention of the Cattle Dog Club of Sydney. They ultimately adopted the name Australian Cattle Dog to refer to the dogs that were being bred from the Hall’s Heelers stock.  One member in particular, Robert Kaleski, played an important role in the development of the breed.  He even wrote the first breed standard which was published in 1903.  The standard served as the basis for most of the other local clubs’ breed standards.

The Australian Cattle Dog has been recognized by the AKC since the 1930s, however they were classified in the miscellaneous category, meaning that the breed was not fully recognized by the club.  The AKC required that the breed have its own parent club.  In 1969 12 people came together to try and form a parent club, so they applied to the AKC for further instruction.  The AKC required them to keep their own registry and all dogs on the registry had have its ancestry traced back to Australia.  This proved to be very tough, and only a few managed to trace their dogs all the way back to Australia.  In 1979 the AKC took over registry for the club and the breed was officially fully recognized.  The Australian Cattle Dog Club of America is still active in the promotion of the breed and the management of the breed standards.


FCI: Group 1, Section 2 #287

AKC: Herding

UKC: Herding dog

CKC: Group 7 – Pastoral

KC (UK): Pastoral


            A working dog to the core, the Australian Cattle Dog is a very active companion that requires a lot of work and the correct owner.  They have very high activity levels, intelligence and level of independence and as such they need plenty of exercise, companionship and a job to do, so dog sports can be a great choice for these dogs.  At home, the Australian Cattle Dog is affectionate and playful, however they tend to be rather reserved around strangers or in new situations. These traits can make them an excellent guard dog.  They are generally good with older children; however they may try and herd by nipping at the heels, especially with younger children that are likely to run and make noise. Early socialization and training is very important in raising a well-adjusted, polite companion.

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