Australian Cattle Dog

AKC Herding Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The Australian Cattle Dog was developed by pioneer settlers in nineteenth-century Australia to herd cattle on large ranches. Dogs the settlers brought with them from Europe were not able to handle the long distances and inhospitable climate of the new continent, so ranchers began experimenting with new crosses. The Australian Cattle Dog was primarily derived from a mix of blue merle Collie imports from Scotland and wild Australian Dingoes. Australian Kelpie, Dalmatian, and Bull Terrier were also added. The result was an excellent herding dog who worked the stock quietly yet forcefully, and had superior stamina well suited to Australia’s harsh conditions. The breed became known as the Queensland Blue Heeler because it was used so extensively in Queensland. Robert Kaleski drew up a standard for the breed in 1893, which was finally approved in Australia in 1903. The Australian Cattle Dog was fully recognized by the AKC in 1980.


The Australian Cattle Dog is a sturdy, compact working dog that is well-muscled, powerful, yet very agile. The body is a bit longer than high with a slightly curved tail reaching approximately to the hock. The front legs should be perfectly straight when viewed from the front. The head is broad and slightly rounded, with a slight, but definite stop. The prick ears are widely set, and moderately pointed. The oval eyes are dark brown. The teeth should meet in a scissors bite. The weather-resistant, smooth double coat consists of a short, dense undercoat and a short, straight outer coat. Comes in blue or in red speckle. Blue color is either blue, blue-mottled, or blue-speckled with or without black, blue, or tan markings on the head, with tan points. Black markings on the body are not desirable. The red speckle variety should be evenly speckled all over, even the undercoat.

Key Facts

  • Height: 18 to 20 in. (male); 17 to 19 in. (female)
  • Size: Medium
  • Weight: 40 to 65 lbs
  • Availability: Might take some effort to find
  • Talents: Retrieving, herding, guarding, agility, competitive obedience, and performing tricks


Very good in the obedience ring, and in herding and agility. Firm training from the start and lots of daily attention will produce a fine and happy pet. Some tend to nip at people’s heels in an attempt to herd them. Beware of hip dysplasia, PRA, and deafness. Buy only from stock with OFA, PennHIP, or another national hip-dysplasia clearance and with current CERF or OFA eye clearance. DNA tests for PRA and primary lens luxation are available and recommended for breeding stock. Select a puppy that has had its hearing BAER tested after 2 weeks of age.
If you are buying a pet, avoid strictly working lines as these dogs might be too active and intense for home life. Contrary to popular belief, the coat is neither merle nor roan, but heavily ticked over a mostly white background. Puppies are born white and the color gradually comes in as a form of extreme ticking (inherited from early Dalmatian crosses). The adult color can be seen in the paw pads.


A working, herding breed, the Australian Cattle Dog is not suited to life alone in the backyard. One of the most intelligent breeds, the Australian Cattle Dog can become easily bored, leading to serious behavior problems. This dog needs to be part of the action! Loyal, protective, alert. An excellent guard dog. Brave and trustworthy.


  • Children: Best with older, considerate children
  • Friendliness: Moderately protective
  • Trainability: Very easy to train
  • Independence: Needs people a lot
  • Dominance: High
  • Other Pets: Might be aggressive with dogs of the same sex; do not trust with non-canine pets.
  • Noise: Not a barker
  • Indoors: Moderately active indoors
  • Owner: Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming: Very little grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping: No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat: Short coat
  • Shedding: Average shedder
  • Exercise: Needs lots of exercise
  • Jogging: An excellent jogging companion
  • Apartments: Not recommended for apartments
  • Outdoor Space: Best with a large yard
  • Climate: Does well in most climates
  • Longevity: Moderately long lived (12 to 15 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Australian Cattle Dog Breed Standard

Australian Cattle Dog Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle Dog Gifts