Alternatively named the Australian, Blue or Queensland Heeler, the Australian Cattle Dog was the result of intensive selective breeding over a number of years, with pioneer settlers trying to derive a dog suited to working the vast acreages of their ranches, adapted to the heat and dusty landscape. The Australian Cattle Dog arose in the 1800s in Queensland, where it was utilised in herding, guarding and retrieving. Believed to be the progeny of up to five different breeds selected for their respective traits, including the Dingo, the English Smithfield, the Blue Merle Collie, the Black and Tan Kelpie and the Dalmatian. The breed falls within the 'pastoral' branch of canines and was officially recognised by the Australian Kennel Club in 1980.
Highly distinctive in appearance, the breed reflects its numerous forebears. Characterised by a medium-sized, proportionate build, low-set tail, dark, ovular eyes, wide-spaced ears and a smooth double coat in colour variations of mottled or speckled blue or red, usually with other tan or blue markings, although not often black. Its unique, symmetrical patterning makes this an attractive breed and one that is often born white due to a gene inherited from the early Dalmatian crosses. Modern-day employments include herding, guarding, retrieving, agility, performance and competitive obedience.
Retaining its original in-bred characteristics today, the modern breed is intelligent, obedient and agile, suiting it to a variety of working fulfillments. The breed's inherent working temperament inclines it to round up and retrieve smaller animals, whilst making it highly trainable. A dog that is loyal, affectionate and devoted to children and its master, the Australian Cattle Dog is the ideal breed choice for families or the dedicated sole owner, providing its exercise needs are met. On average, a healthy Cattle Dog will weigh between 14-28 kg, with a life expectancy of 12-15 years. It is not uncommon for the breed to outlive this expectancy when shown the appropriate care.
Typically healthy and robust, the Australian Cattle Dog is not known to suffer with any genetic or breed-specific diseases. As with most breeds, incidences of hip and elbow dysplasia occur often and the merle variations are prone to early-onset deafness.