5 Things to Know About Australian Cattle Dogs

If you want a very intelligent, energetic dog with a fun personality, the Australian Cattle Dog may be a great choice. But not if you live in an apartment.

australian cattle dog breed profile
Australian Cattle Dogs are also known as Blue Heelers. Photo: Petful

1. Key Characteristics of Australian Cattle Dogs

  • AKC Group: Herding
  • Height: 17–20 inches
  • Weight: 35–40 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10–13 years

This medium-sized dog is strong and highly agile with amazing endurance.

These hardworking dogs come in a blue or red mottled or speckled pattern with or without black and tan markings. Their body is slightly longer than the tail, and they also have a longish snout and inquisitive ears.

2. Where Australian Cattle Dogs Came From

In 19th-century Australia, George Elliot crossed a blue merle Collie with a local Australian wild dog, the dingo to create a working dog with attitude who could handle the rigors of outdoor life in the bush.

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Cattle farmers Jack and Harry Bagust of Caterbury in Sydney, Australia, later crossed the Elliot dogs with a Dalmatian, looking to breed in some loyalty and a better ability to work with horses. Unfortunately, the working ability was lost with this mix. To restore it, they bred Kelpie into the dog, and the Australian Cattle Dog was born.

In 1903, the breed was adopted by the Cattle and Sheepdog Club of Australia. It was not accepted into the American Kennel Club for almost 100 years, finally being inducted on May 1, 1980.

Fun fact: These dogs were originally known as Queensland Blue Heelers, or Blue Heelers, because they often controlled cattle by nipping at their heels.

australian cattle dog breed profile
The AKC didn’t accept Australian Cattle Dogs for nearly a century after the dogs’ breed standard was created. Photo: Petful

3. How Friendly Are Australian Cattle Dogs?

The Australian Cattle Dog bonds closely with their family and is suspicious of strangers, although not aggressive.

These dogs require strong leadership. They are, however, very obedient when they know what is expected of them and are eager to please. Know that due to their energetic personalities, these dogs do not do well in apartments.

They tend to nip at the heels of running children. Some experts say that this trait rules them out for families with young children, while others claim that the dog’s attachment and loyalty to its family makes it an ideal pet.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs

VERY HIGH: This dog must have at least 2–3 hours of good, solid exercise and obedience or agility work every day. They need wide-open spaces to run, and they need a job of some sort to keep them mentally alert. They would make good agility dogs if not being used on a farm.

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Grooming Needs

LOW: The Australian Cattle Dog has a smooth, light coat and thus minimal grooming requirements — just the occasional brush and bath, along with all the other regular dog maintenance: ears cleaned, nails clipped, teeth brushed.

Health Problems

MEDIUM: Ailments that pop up in this breed include:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Osteochondritis dissecans
  • Deafness
  • Progressive retinal atrophy

Check out this video on Australian Cattle Dogs from Animal Planet:

5. How to Adopt an Australian Cattle Dog

Please consult rescues and adoption resources first. Check out Petful’s adoptable pet finder. You can filter results by ZIP code and breed.

Additional Resources

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