If you’ve ever seen a flyball or Frisbee competition, then you’ve probably seen an Australian cattle dog. Also known as blue heelers, Hall’s heelers and Queensland heelers, Australian cattle dogs are brilliant and beautiful creatures. To watch a cattle dog run and jump is a magnificent sight to behold.
History and Origin
As their name suggests, the Australian cattle dog is a product of Australia. Early settlers and stockmen needed an energetic, hearty dog that could survive the harsh environment as well as herd stock. It is speculated that these dogs are descended from the dingo, Dalmatian, bull terrier, Australian kelpie, and smooth haired Scotch merle collie.
When early Australian settlers began to settle in the Outback, they brought with them farm animals and the dogs they used to work the farm animals. The dogs that came, called Smithfields, were originally used to herd sheep in the British Isles. Smithfields were stocky, black, and bob-tailed. These dogs could not endure the severity of the environment in the Outback; they were also very loud and tended to bite the herds.
There are many people credited with the origins of the cattle dog. A man named Timmons was said to be the first to begin breeding a quiet, gentle herding dog. He bred the Smithfield with the dingo. From there, ranchers experimented with crossing the Smithfield with collies, Dalmatians, and many other types of dogs. This went on throughout the 1800s, eventually producing the Australian cattle dog that we know today.
Appearance and Size
Australian cattle dogs come in several variations of two colors, red and blue. Puppies are born white with facial and body markings that they will keep as adults. As they grow, the blue or red color replaces most of the white. They have a double coat. The undercoat is thick and coarse, while the outer coat is short and straight.
These dogs are sturdy and powerfully built with a deep, broad chest and wide feet. The body structure is stocky and well muscled. Their ears stand erect and are widely set. They have dark brown, intelligent eyes.
Most Australian cattle dogs reach 35 to 45 pounds and stand between 17 and 20 inches at the shoulder.
Australian cattle dogs are highly intelligent. They train very easily in just about any activity. They are independent and loyal. They develop a strong bond with their “pack” and will defend it forcefully.
These dogs are very shy and reserved with strangers. They can be aggressive when defending their territory. They have been known to bite intruders.
Cattle dogs are extremely active. They are always on the go. If you let an Australian cattle dog get bored you will have a destructive monster on your hands.
Home and Family Relations
The Australian cattle dog needs to be with his family. He forms a tight bond with family members and insists on being included in activities. These dogs are exceedingly loyal and dependable. They are good with children and other pets that are familiar, but need to be watched around strangers.
Cattle dogs excel in sports. Flyball and Frisbee competitions are besieged with Australian cattle dogs and they are hard to beat. Their exceptional intelligence make them easy to train in both obedience and sports.
Australian cattle dogs are incredibly high energy. They need consistent exercise.
Common Diseases and Disorders
In general, the Australian Cattle dog is a healthy dog with few medical concerns. However, the following diseases or disorders have been reported:
- Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that results in pain, lameness and arthritis.
- Progressive retinal atrophy( PRA) is a disease that causes nerve cells at the back of the eye to degenerate. The condition usually begins in older pets and can lead to blindness.
- Cataracts cause the lens of the eye to loose transparency and can result in blindness.
- Lens luxation is a dislocation or displacement of the lens within the eye.The Australian cattle dog is also prone to deafness.
The life span of the Australian cattle dog is approximately 12 to 15 years.
We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.