Australian Cattle Dog / Australian Heeler / Hall's Heeler/ Queensland Heeler / Blue Heeler / Red Heeler
The Australian Cattle Dog is really a relatively new breed and as such, numerous records were kept on its development. The writings of Mr. Robert Kaleski are invaluable for researching the history of the development of the ACD in its native Australia. Robert Kaleski fell in love with the breed at the age of sixteen and spent his entire life breeding and studying the Australian Cattle Dog.
The Australian Cattle Dog was bred to herd cattle in Australia's inhospitable environment. Everything about the breed today - temperament, coat, physical structure, etc - reflects this original purpose.
The precise origins of the Blue Heeler 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. They were noisy and bit too hard, so they were bred with the Dingo, a wild dog prevalent in Australia. The resulting crosses were known as “Timmins Biters,” which were quieter, but still bit hard.
Obviously, the breed originated with the ancestral herding collies from England. The breed also finds its blood origins in the Dingo, the Kelpie, and Highland Collie.
A primitive stage of Collie unlike that of today's Border Collies and Smooth Collies, used for herding sheep, were then bred to the Dingo. 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 dogs more aggressive. These were relatively common as sporting and guard dogs in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The Australian Cattle Dog should be muscular, athletic and substantial in appearance, without any trace of weakness or fragility. However, excessively heavy or cumbersome build is also undesirable as it limits agility, a necessity for any good cattle herder. Along with athleticism, symmetry and balance are also essential, and no individual part of the dog should be exaggerated or draw excessive attention. Even when bred for companion or show purposes, it should have well-conditioned, hard muscles.
The general appearance is that of a strong compact, symmetrically built working dog, with the ability and willingness to carry out his allotted task however arduous. Its combination of substance, power, balance and hard muscular condition must convey the impression of great agility, strength and endurance. Any tendency to grossness or weediness is a serious fault.
The Australian Cattle Dog is a relatively hearty, healthy breed that has an average lifespan of twelve to fifteen years. They are a medium sized muscular dog that stands 17 to 20 inches (43 to 51 cm.) at the withers (shoulders). Their weight range is variant around their general build but on average falls between 30 and 50 pounds (14 to 23 kg). The Australian Cattle Dog comes in two colors: Blue or Red. Their life expectancy is about 12-15 years.
Australian Cattle Dogs are born white with whatever face and/or body patches they will have in later life. As ACD pups age, their blue or red coloring gradually emerges. The correct Australian Cattle Dog coat is what is known as a "double coat". The short, straight outer coat is protective in nature, keeping the elements from the ACDs skin while the undercoat is short, kinky and dense. Australian Cattle Dogs are not year-round shedders, instead they "blow" their coat once a year (sometimes twice in the case of intact females) just before the summer months. While the week or two an ACD is blowing his or her coat can lead to hair everywhere, many people find it preferable to constant shedding.
The Australian Cattle Dog personality is often reserved with strangers and even fiercely protective when they perceive that their property and/or persons are being threatened. The ACD is intelligent, but can certainly often be described as hard-headed and stubborn. Once an ACD has befriended you, they are a friend for life....but that friendship must often be earned. Australian Cattle Dog are often refered to by their owners as "velcro" or "shadow" dogs...because wherever you go, there they are!! Like many herding dogs, Cattle Dogs have high energy levels and active minds. They need plenty of exercise and a job to do, such as participating in dog sports, learning tricks, or other activities that engage their minds. Some individuals find repetitive training frustrating and dull, so owners should aim to make training sessions varied and more exciting in order to keep their dog interested.
The Australian Cattle Dog is an extremely active breed, with mental stimulation being of paramount importance. A bored Cattle Dog is a destructive Cattle Dog !! The Australian Cattle Dog is a social breed that NEEDS to be with "its people". This is NOT a breed to leave chained or penned in the back yard....such isolation will lead to SERIOUS personality problems !! Because the Australian Cattle Dog is an active breed, a firm commitment must be made to exercise. ACDs make excellent running or biking companions although care must be taken not to over exert the young dog. Because of their intelligence, ACDs make WONDERFUL obedience prospects (although their intelligence can actually be a hinderance in this ring also). Australian Cattle Dogs are also known to excell at Dog Sports such as Flyball, Agility and Frisbee competition.
A working, herding breed, the Australian Cattle Dog is not suited to life alone in the backyard. One of the most intelligent breeds, it can become easily bored, leading to serious behavior problems. These dogs need to be part of the action! They are loyal, protective and alert. An excellent guard dog. Brave and trustworthy. Very good in the obedience ring and in herding and agility. Firm training from the start and lot of daily attention will produce a fine and happy pet. It is absolutely loyal and obedient to its master, but it is something of a one-person dog. They are sometimes suspicious of people and dogs they don't know. It can be very dog aggressive, for its dominance level is high. Not good with children except for family members it has known since puppyhood. Some tend to nip at people's heels in an attempt to herd them. If you are buying a pet, avoid strictly working lines, as these dogs may be too active and intense for home life. Australian Cattle Dogs are very easy to train. Puppies are born white (inherited from the early Dalmatian crosses), but the adult color can be seen in the paw pads.
The most common health issues noted by owners were musculoskeletal (spondylosis, elbow dysplasia, and arthritis) and reproductive (pyometra, infertility, and false pregnancy), and blindness. ACD's are also prone to hip dysplasia, PRA, and deafness.