The Australian Cattle Dog is of moderate build, enabling this breed to combine great endurance with bursts of speed and extreme agility necessary in herding cattle. This dog is sturdy and compact, slightly longer than it is tall. The Australian Cattle Dog’s gait is supple and tireless, and must be capable of quick and sudden movement. The weather-resistant coat consists of a short, dense undercoat and moderately short, straight outer coat of medium texture.
In the early 1800s, vast land areas in Australia became available for grazing cattle. The cattle raised on these lands became so wild and intractable that the traditional European herding breeds that had proved satisfactory on tamer cattle were no longer suited for the job. A dog was needed that could withstand traveling long distances over rough terrain in hot weather and that could control cattle without barking (which only served to make wild cattle wilder).
In 1840, a man named Hall bred some smooth blue merle Highland Collies to Dingos, producing a strain known as Hall’s Heelers. One particularly influential dog was named Bentley’s Dog, and is credited with originating the white blaze found on the head of Australian Cattle Dogs today. Other breeders crossed their Hall’s Heelers with other breeds, including the Bull Terrier, Dalmatian, and, later, Black and Tan Kelpie, a sheepherding breed. The result was a dog with the herding instincts of the Collie and Kelpie, the endurance, ruggedness, and quiet style of the Dingo, and the horse sense and protectiveness of the Dalmatian, all with a distinctively patterned coat.
As the dogs became increasingly vital to the cattle industry of Queensland, they gained the name Queensland Blue Heeler. They later became known as Australian Heeler, and then Australian Cattle Dog. A standard for the breed, emphasizing the Dingo characteristics, was drawn up in 1897. The Australian Cattle Dog was slow to catch on in America, however, perhaps because the breed bore little resemblance to established herding breeds. When given a chance, they proved their merits and were welcomed as herders and pets. The AKC recognized the breed in 1980.
Smart, hardy, independent, stubborn, tenacious, energetic, and untiring— these are all traits essential to a driver of headstrong cattle, and all traits of the Australian Cattle Dog. Given challenging mental and hard physical exercise daily, this breed is among the most responsive and obedient of dogs. The Cattle Dog tends to nip at heels of running children, but is good with older children.
The Australian Cattle Dog is active and tireless. A good jog or long workout, coupled with obedience lessons or other intellectual challenges, is essential every day; a bored ACD can be destructive. They are happiest when they have a job to perform, and especially when that job is herding. This breed is unsuited for apartment life. The coat needs brushing or combing weekly to remove dead hairs.