The Australian cattle dog is the American Kennel Club's 54th most popular breed and was first recognized in 1980. This breed was first briefly categorized as part of the miscellaneous class before being considered a working group breed. The cattle dog is a highly intelligent, alert, and agile breed that greatly aided in the development of the Australian beef cattle industry.
In 1840 in Queensland, Australia, the breed started as a cross between a dingo and a blue-merle collie mix. The breed was then crossed with a Dalmatian in Sydney, Australia, and this is when the red and blue speckles became more apparent.
Also known as the "Queensland heeler" or "Blue heeler," this breed is very high-energy and these dogs typically need a job to ensure that they are mentally and physically working. They are also good with children, other pets, and are usually easy to train.
The acceptable colors for this breed are blue, blue mottled, blue speckled, red mottled, and red speckled. The acceptable markings include black and tan, red, and tan. The breed standards are very specific and require the cattle dog to generally convey a strong and sturdy appearance.
A heeler must have a black nose and a broad, muscular head. The coat must be of acceptable colors and the hairs should be straight, flat, and appear water resistant. The hairs near the neck should be longer and thicker than the hairs on the rest of the body. If the length of the hairs is too short or too long, this can be a fault.
The eyes should always be dark brown, and large ears are undesirable for this breed.
The legs of the cattle dog should be parallel and muscular.
Even the bite of the dog should aligned properly with the bottom incisors right behind the front. This is specifically for the job they were bred for – to heel the cattle in a herd.
Overall, these medium-sized dogs have a lifespan of about 12-16 years and shed their coat twice yearly. It is imperative to have their ears checked regularly to prevent infections as well as checking their teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Breeders will typically radiograph the dam and sire to ensure good hips and elbows. These are all important things to consider when adopting or purchasing an Australian cattle dog.
A good breeder will also have a BAER test performed on the puppies to make sure the puppy is not deaf. Cattle dog breeders and owners usually do DNA testing to see if the dog is predisposed to developing a disease that can cause blindness later on. These types of genetic testing can detect early progressive retinal atrophy than can lead to blindness.
Like any other breed, when adopting an Australian cattle dog, it is vital to research this breed's needs and the responsibilities that come with owning one. It is so important to keep these dogs busy and give them a job to mentally and physically work them.