A breed profile of the Australian Cattle Dog

Tne Australian Cattle Dog has its origins in the British herding dogs early settlers brought with them to Australia.

The bob-tailed Smithfield and the Smooth Collie were two of the herding breeds used by early cattlemen, but, having been developed to cope with cold climates, they were unsuitable in the Australian heat. It was also thought they barked too much and upset the cattle. It became obvious that a cattle dog bred to suit the harsh Australian conditions was needed. The dogs would have to be able to work in a hot and dusty climate over large distances.

In the 1830's Australian stockmen developed a tough working breed. This breed was developed from a cross between the smooth Collie and the native Dingo (for their hardiness and silence). Known as Hall's heelers they were either blue or mottled red in colour and were excellent heelers which did not bark, but were uncontrollable. They "bit like an alligator and barked like a consumptive". An attempt was made to improve the Hall's heeler by crossing them with the Dalmation. This changed the colour to red and blue speckles and added a sense of responsibility for guarding possessions. This cross also contributed to a percentage of Australian Cattle Dogs being born with hearing defects. Further development of the breed was achieved by a cross with the Kelpie, which advanced their working ability but kept the vital silent heeling ability. Other breeds involved in the development of the Australian Cattle Dog included the Smithfield and the Old English Sheepdog.

Formerly called the Queensland heeler, the breed has also been known as the Timmins Biter and is now often called the Blue Heeler, Bluey or just plain Heeler, although the official name is the Australian Cattle Dog. "Heeler" refers to its herding skill of snapping and biting cattle's heels.

The Australian Cattle Dog is an alert intelligent animal, courageous, reliable and very hard working. It is watchful, has a natural suspicion of strangers and has strong protective instincts. Loyalty is another of its attributes. This dog learns almost any task very quickly and can be a very detemiined character. However it is also very bidable, having been selected for its ability to control cattle and its willingness to obey man's commands, and is well suited to guard dog duties.

Having been bred to work all day, every day in often harsh conditions they are happiest when they have some work to do. They are easily bored when left alone for long periods in suburban back yards. They love to chase things and are often fanatical about retrieving balls and sticks. (Editors note. It can be quite dangerous to throw sticks for your dog. It can cause a lot of damage when the end of a stick gets lodged in a dog's mouth or throat.)

The Australian Cattle Dog should have a broad strong head with the top of the skull parallel to the top of the muzzle. The nose is always black and it should have a powerful lower jaw. The ears are thick-leathered with hair inside and are triangular, set wide apart and pricked when alert. Eyes are medium sized, dark brown and oval shaped, and the expression is warning and suspicious with strangers.

The body should be strong, with a level back and a deep fairly broad chest whilst the coat is dense, with a smooth undercoat and straight coarse, weather resistant outer coat. Colours are blue or red, sometimes with markings. The forelegs are straight, the hind legs have broad, muscular thighs and the feet are rounded with short well arched, close set toes. The tail should be well furred, forming a brush, and set low. It is raised when working and carried hanging with a slight curve when the dog is at rest.

Size: Dogs 46-51cm tall, Bitches 43-48cm

Some additional Australian Cattle Dog sites:

This page 1999, Paul Myers Consulting Pty Ltd and Queanbeyan & District Dog Training Club

Original document Queanbeyan & District Dog Training Club

This page has been accessed by Access counter visitors since Tuesday, 05 December 2000.