History of the Australian Cattle Dog Breed
The Australian cattle dog was developed out of need. During the early 1800s large areas of land in Australia became available for raising cattle. The traditional European herding breeds could no longer handle the job of herding the almost-wild cattle that roamed there. The Australian cattle dog filled the need for a dog that could not only travel long distances over rough terrain, but also that could control wild cattle without barking. Some research suggests that in 1840, some blue-merle Highland collies were crossed with dingoes by a man named Hall. This crossing produced a breed named Hall's heelers. It is said that one of these specimens, named Bentley's dog, is responsible for the white blaze that is found on the head of Australian cattle dogs today. Other research credits a man named George Elliott from Queensland with crossing the dingo to the blue merle Collie. It is said that Mr. Elliott's dogs were known as excellent workers, and brothers named Jack and Harry Bagust set out to improve on Elliott's breed. It is believed that the Bagust brothers first crossed a female with an imported Dalmatian. After that, they crossed the dog with the Black and Tan Kelpie (a sheepdog) because they admired the Kelpie's working ability. Eventually, the result from these crossings was a compact type of dog, which closely resembled a dingo, and which was the ancestor of today's Australian Cattle Dog. This breed became important to the cattle industry of Queensland, and as such, it was called the Queensland blue heeler at one time. Later the breed was known as Australian heeler, and then finally, the Australian cattle dog. The breed standard for the Blue Heeler was first drawn up in 1897, but it was in 1893 that a gentleman named Robert Kaleski first took up the breeding of the dogs, and he began to show them in 1897. Other sources suggest that Kaleski drew up his standard for the cattle dog in 1902. The American Kennel Club recognized the Australian cattle dog in 1980.
Size and Appearance of the Australian Cattle Dog Breed
Slightly longer than it is tall, the Australian cattle dog is described as a sturdy and compact canine. The shoulders are strong and muscular, while the straight front legs consist of strong, round bone. The broad, muscular hindquarters feature strong back legs. The round feet have hard pads, strong nails, and short, strong toes. The sturdy head features oval-shaped eyes, which are usually dark brown in color and convey an expression of intelligence and alertness. The nose of this breed is black. The medium-size ears are broad at the base and quite pointed. The teeth of the Australian cattle dog are evenly spaced and meet in a scissors-bite. The long neck is strong and muscular, and it blends nicely into the body of the dog. The tail is set on moderately low, and it hangs with a slight curve when the dog is at rest. The tail is usually raised when the dog is active. The double coat of this breed consists of a short, dense undercoat and a straight, hard, flat-lying outer-coat that offers resistance to precipitation. At the neck, the coat is longer and thicker. The coat of the Australian cattle dog comes in the following colors: blue (which includes blue-mottled or blue speckled) and red speckle (which usually consists of good even red speckle all over.) The gait of this breed is often described as free, supple, and tireless.
Australian Cattle Dog Temperament
Tenacious and energetic, the Australian cattle dog is an independent and stubborn breed. It is important to provide this type of dog with a job in order to keep it mentally and physically challenged. With the right training and attention, this breed is known to be obedient and responsive. This dog will do fine with children who are family members if the dog was raised with them since puppyhood. It is not recommended for play with children outside the family. This breed has been known to nip at the heels of running children. The Australian cattle dog also has a tendency to be aggressive with other dogs. While independent, this breed should not be relegated to the back yard with no companionship. It can be a loyal and protective part of the family, but it does tend to bond with just one person. This breed is often suspicious of strangers. Firm training from the start is a must in order to produce a happy, well-adjusted dog.
Australian Cattle Dog Recommended Maintenance
Coat care for this breed is minimal. Simply comb and brush the weather-resistant coat with a firm bristle brush on a weekly basis to remove dead hairs. This dog only needs to be bathed when necessary. The Australian cattle dog usually sheds once or twice per year. Daily physical and mental activity is a must for this intelligent, hard-working breed. Owners must provide more than a daily walk for this dog. Obedience lessons or other challenges are strongly suggested to keep this breed from becoming bored. This dog is not recommended for apartment dwelling, and a large, fenced-in yard should be provided.
Australian Cattle Dog Health
Life span: 10 - 13 years
Major concerns: CHD, OCD, deafness, PRA
Minor concerns: none
Occasionally seen: cataract, lens luxation, PPM, vWD
Suggested tests: hip, hearing, eye