The Australian Cattle Dog: The Drover’s Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog is a breed of dog developed in Australia in the 1800s by cross-breeding Dingos with Blue Merle collies, Dalmatians, and Kelpies. The result was a dog that has an identical build to a dingo but with a thicker body and speckled coat. By 1893, the Australian Cattle Dog was created and has been known by several other names such as Blue Heeler, Red Heeler, Queensland Heeler, and Australian Heeler.

Appearance and Characteristics:

The Australian Cattle Dog is sturdy, compact, agile, and strong. They are proportionately slightly longer than they are tall and their heads are broad with wide set ears that are triangular and erect. Their necks are long and become broader towards the body. Their mouth is often tight, clean, and their eyes are oval shaped.

When this breed moves, they are quick and sudden without making much sound. They are focused and intense in their actions which are important when herding. Their coat is a smooth double coat that helps protect them from the rain, sun, and keeps them warm during the winter and cool during the summer. The coloring should be speckled with blue or red throughout the body. The head often has black and tan or darker red markings and many have a diamond of white on the forehead.

Australian Cattle Dogs have high energy levels and active minds. They do best if they have space to run and romp. They need plenty of exercise and thrive when they have a job or an activity to participate in such as a sport, training sessions, or any activity that engages their mind and body. Just going for walks around the neighborhood aren’t enough for this breed. They will need to be engaged in games of fetch, frisbee, and if they are well-socialized, dog daycare to burn off energy and fight off boredom.

This breed is a great family dog and loves spending time with people. They are often protective of their “pack” and will bark and alert their family if a stranger approaches the door or if any foreign object comes within the realm of their home such as a bike, car, or another dog walking by. It’s important to train them well and to establish leadership so they know what is ok and isn’t. This breed can be stubborn but learns quickly.

Health:

The average lifespan for Cattle Dogs is 12 to 14 years. The Australian Cattle Dog is one of the breeds that can be affected by progressive retinal atrophy, which causes the cones and rods to deteriorate later in life and lead to blindness. Hip and knee problems are not that common but can develop as well as arthritis and cataracts.

Not sure if you’ve ever seen an Australian Cattle Dog? Mad Max 2 featured one as well as in Babe and Brokeback Mountain.

Photo courtesy of Eva Holderegger Walser

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