These incredibly intelligent, sturdy dogs were, as you might imagine, initially developed in Australia to help herd cattle on large ranches. Their size and energy levels have proven useful for herding livestock and they excel at activities and sports like agility, obedience, and fly disc competitions. Australian Cattle dogs are also known as the Australian Heeler and Blue or Red Heeler, in part because of their coat colors and ability.
In 1840, an Australian named George Elliott developed the Australian Cattle dog by mixing breed like Collies and native Dingos. Eventually, two brothers, Jack and Harry Bagust, breed Elliott’s dogs with Dalmations and the Australian Cattle dog we know today was born! The breed proved to be hardworking, muscular dogs that were able to work hard in the hot, dusty conditions and tough terrians in Australia and were both faithful and protective of their people. Because of their work ethic and muscular frame, this breed became really popular with ranchers and many have worked on ranches over the last 180 years. The breed eventually joined the American Kennel Club in 1980.
Like many herding breeds, these dogs thrive with a job to do and aren’t generally suited for apartment living. Australian Cattle Dogs are active, curious dogs that love to run and roam. Without proper training and exercise, these dogs can get into quite a bit of mischief and can start destroying things. They will not be content to be couch potatoes so these dogs will do well with folks willing to give them the active lifestyle they need. The good news is that they are smart dogs and easy to train.
Australian Cattle Dogs are medium-sized dogs, usually weighing 30-50 pounds and standing 17-20 inches at the shoulder. Most ACDs will live to be 12-16 years old but there are some common health problems that the breed might face. Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a family of eye diseases that results in the slow deterioration of the retina; eventually, dogs with PRA will lose their sight. Other issues hip or elbow dysplasia and deafness.
This breed has a weather-resistant double coat that comes in a blue or red speckle. Red speckle Australian Cattle dogs are red all over and might even have dark red markings on their heads. Blue speckle ACDs have black, blue, and tan markings all over; their forelegs, chest, throat, and jaw tend to be tan while the rest of their coat is a mix of blue, black, and tan. They tend to blow their coats once or twice a year, which means you should really only need to brush these dogs once a week for most of the year but a few times a week while they blow their coats. Baths are only really necessary when they are super dirty or smelly.
Ultimately, Australian Cattle Dogs are incredibly active and intelligent dogs that will often deeply bond with one or two people. They’re protective of their home and are excellent working dogs! If you’re looking for a couch potato companion, this breed will generally not be the best fit, as they love to run, hike, and be active. They generally thrive with a job to do but will do well in dog sports like agility or fly disc competitions.