Herding breeds: Australian Cattle Dog
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The Australian Cattle Dog was developed to control wild cattle in groups of several hundred on drives through the inhospitable wilderness of Australia. By crossing smooth-coated blue merle Scottish highland collies to selected dingoes in the 1840’s; a drover named Thomas Hall developed a cattle dog that combined the hardiness of the dingo type, and the herding abilities of the highland collie. Today this sturdy, alert and watchful dog is a valuable asset to farmers and ranchers around the world. The breed became known as the Australian Heeler, then later the Australian Cattle Dog, which is now accepted throughout Australia as the official name for this breed. However, even today, some people can be heard calling them Blue Heelers or Queensland Heelers.
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Did You Know – The Australian Cattle Dog was accepted by the AKC in 1980 and was shown in the Working Group after a brief period in the Miscellaneous class. When the Herding Group was formed in 1983, the breed was moved. (From AKC – Did You Know?)
Original Breed Standard
Written By Robert Kaleski in 1902
Head: Broad between ears, tapering to a point at muzzle, full under the eye, strong and muscular in the jaws. 15 Pts.
Ears: Short and pricked, running to a point at tip; thick and set wide apart on the skull with plenty of muscle at the butts. Should be as decidedly pricked as a cat’s. 10 Pts.
Eyes: Brown, quick and sly looking. 7 Pts.
Shoulders: Strong, with good slope for free action. 7 Pts.
Chest: Deep, but not out of proportion to body. 7 Pts.
Legs: Clean, and fair amount of bone; great muscular development. 7 Pts.
Feet: Small and cat shaped. 7 Pts.
Back: Straight, with ribs well sprung, ribbed up, and good loins; should arch slightly at the loins. 7 Pts.
Hindquarters: Strong and muscular, with back thighs well let down for speed; no dew claws on feet; tail, fair length. “Dingo” or “bottle” shaped. 12 Pts.
Height: About 20 inches; bitches a little smaller. 7 Pts.
Coat: Short, smooth and very dense. 7 pts.
Colour: Head, black or red; body, dark blue on back (sometimes with black saddle and black spot on tail butt.) Lighter blue sometimes mottled with white hairs on underpart of body; legs, bluish with red spots mottled over them. Tail light blue, sometimes with white tip. 7 Pts.
Total: 100 Pts.
General Appearance: That of a small, thickset blue Dingo.
Faults: Over/or under size, legginess, half pricked or lopping ears, overshot or undershot jaws; anything likely to diminish speed and endurance.
- Height: 17-20 inches
- Weight: 40-45 pounds
- Blue – The color should be blue or blue-mottled with or without other markings. The permissible markings are black, blue or tan markings on the head. The forelegs, tan midway up the legs and extending up the front to the breast and throat, with tan on jaws; the hindquarters, tan on inside of hind legs and inside of thighs, showing down from the front of the stifles and broadening out to the outside of the hind legs from hock to toes.
- Red Speckle – The color should be a good even red speckle all over including the undercoat (not white or cream) with or without darker red markings on the head.
The coat is easy to care for; a good bathing and brushing will keep the coat clean and healthy. In the show ring, they are called the “wash and wear” dog.
This breed is prone to hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and deafness.
Breed characteristics and personality
The most important thing to know about an Australian Cattle Dog is that you will be the center of his universe. Australian Cattle Dogs bond so closely with their humans that it can be scary. Some pick one person in the household who is their special person and virtually attach themselves at the hip while some bond closely to everyone in the household. Either way, the attachment is intense. This is definitely not a dog who can live in the back yard and get occasional attention. They need to have your presence on a regular basis.
Australian Cattle Dogs have been bred to herd and to do so with force, i.e. biting. This can range from cute to annoying to outright dangerous. Biting at the ankle or hind leg is instinctive and this will come out whenever they chase or herd something else. While this is sometimes cute, it also means they have a strong tendency to bite people, even just in play. This has to be strongly curtailed from day one or you will end up with a problem dog. You need to find acceptable outlets for this herding behavior to keep your dog out of serious trouble.
While many ACDs are friendly with everyone they meet, most are also protective of their house and family. An absolute must is careful and early socialization.
Australian Cattle Dogs are high energy, intently focused dogs. Most will want to be active and busy most, if not all, of the time. When young they have two modes, 90 miles per hour and comatose.
This energy has to be directed somewhere or you will quickly end up with problems. A bored Australian Cattle Dog will find ways to entertain himself, usually doing something you won’t like, such as redecorating your house, rearranging your yard, etc. Thus, the cattle dog requires daily exercise.
A fenced in yard is also highly recommended. This dog has intense herding instincts and will chase and herd kids on bikes, runners, cars, basically anything that moves.
The Australian Cattle Dog was originally used for herding cattle and still is today. The Australian Cattle Dog needs a job to do and will excel in agility, flyball, obedience, search and rescue, and tracking.
- AKC Australian Cattle Dog page
- Australian Cattle Dog Club of America
- Australian National Kennel Council
- The History of the Australian Cattle Dog