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australian cattle dogThe Australian Cattle Dog Breed History

The Australian Cattle Dog (ACD), also known as the Queensland Heeler, Blue Heeler, and Red Heeler, is a herding dog developed in Australia for controlling cattle. It is a medium-sized dog with a lot of energy, intelligence and an independent streak.

The Australian Cattle Dog Breed

The precise origins of the Australian Cattle Dog are not known, but they appear to have been a distinct breed as early as 1897. It began when Smithfields were originally used in Australia for herding cattle, but these Australian Cattle Dog breeds were noisy and bit too hard, so they were bred with the Dingo, or wild dog prevalent in Australia, and were then called “Timmins Biters,” which were quieter, but still bit hard. Border Collies and Smooth-coated Collies, used for herding sheep, and the dingo were then bred with each other. In 1840, Thomas Hall bred a couple of Blue Smooth Highland Collies with dingoes and got the “Hall’s Heeler”. Then, in the 1870’s Fred Davis bred some Bull Terrier into them to make the Australian Cattle dogs more aggressive. These were relatively common as sporting and guard dogs in the late 19th and early 20th century. The resulting Australian Cattle Dog was of a slightly heavier and more muscular build than the Border Collie and of less temperamental nature, with good herding ability, the stamina to withstand extremes of temperature and the resourcefulness to forage and to feed itself on an omnivorous diet like a wild dog. Physically the "Heeler" has inherited a big broad head, strong jaws, and rather large pricked ears from the Bull Terrier. From the Dingo comes the distinctive sandy colour of the legs, and the tendency to regard a kennel as something to be sat on like a rock, or burrowed under, but almost never lived in, unless the rain is pouring down.

Like the Welsh Corgi, the Australian Cattle Dog is fearless with cattle and has a tendency to nip their heels to keep them moving, when herding. This trait is undesirable when the dog applies to humans, and also to horses. In order to create a breed that had a strong natural affiliation with horses, the Cattle Dog was crossed with the Dalmatian, which although not a working dog, was popular during the 19th and early 20th century as a carriage dog, running beside the horses. The resultant Australian Cattle Dog was one which was friendly to horses and would work cooperatively with a horse, in a herding situation.

This breeding with the Dalmatian led to the spotted colouration valued in "Blue Heelers", the dark colour being the somewhat bluish black of the collie. For many years "Blue Heelers" commonly had large black patches on the body, as well as the Collie's mask. It was also common for them to have ears that lay back against the head like some Collies. The flat ears of the Australian Cattle Dog are now considered undesirable for showing.

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