As is clear from the name, the Australian Cattle Dog has a long history of being employed for managing livestock. This moderate-sized breed belongs to the herding group. They are agile and fast, capable of controlling cattle more than double their size. In Australia, as well as in other cattle countries, they are still used as a herding dog.
Australian Cattle Dog was developed in the 1800s to fill a definite need in the cattle industry of Australia. The vast area available for cattle grazing meant that the herds had become too difficult to control. When it was found that the herding dogs in use were not capable of managing the herds, effort was made to develop a better breed of dog.
One problem they were facing was the excessive barking of those herding dogs that only served to make the cattle wilder. The wild dogs of Australia called Dingoes were known for their non-barking nature. They were crossed with several Highland Collies to produce a breed known as Hall’s Heeler’s, named after their breeder.
Further crossing of this breed with Black and Tan Kelpie, Bull Terrier and Dalmatian produced the Queensland Blue Terrier which later began to be called the Australian Cattle Dog. This breed became popular for its ability to work silently while it drove cattle over difficult terrain. Official recognition by AKC came in 1980.
Measuring 20 inches or less at the withers and weighing under 50 pounds, this herding dog is not one to discharge its duties by virtue of its size or stature. The females are slightly smaller. The Australian Cattle Dog breed has a compact but elongated body with muscular neck and shoulders.
Two major color variations are red and blue, but there are Australian Cattle Dogs with lighter coats also. All the puppies are born similar, with only solid color patches distinguishing them, but as they grow, their coats acquire different colors and become irregularly mottled, except for the solid patches. The blue-coated ones may have a solid black patch and the red-coated ones a solid red patch around one or both the eyes. This distinguishes them as single masked or double masked.
They usually have long tails that help them keep balance and add to their agility; hence they are not usually docked in Australia.
Australian Cattle Dog breed is characterized by its high energy level. They need to be kept constantly busy and engaged with some task or other. They are playful dogs and can be good with children. They are known to get along with other dogs too, but may not be friendly to other household pets. Very protective of the family to which they belong, they are wary of strangers and do not socialize easily.
This dog can be an excellent companion dog as it always stays close to the owner. Its highly protective attitude towards the owner means it will act on its own when danger is perceived, without waiting for any commands or even disregarding them. Obedience training is essential as this breed is naturally independent. Being intelligent, they learn fast. A well-trained Australian Cattle Dog is both loyal and obedient, which makes it an excellent companion dog and family guardian.
They have a tendency to nip at the heels because that’s how they were meant to control cattle. This tendency has to be curbed early on.
Grooming and exercise
They have a double coat, but they are not particularly difficult to groom. A weekly brushing down should keep their short coats in good condition.
Daily workouts are necessary as this dog were bred for almost continuous work. Mere walks cannot expend the boundless energy reserve of this active breed. They need vigorous games and activities that are physically and mentally stimulating. These dogs are ideal for families regularly indulging in outdoor activities.
Australian Cattle Dogs love the outdoors and can live outside in any season as long as there are no extremes in temperature. But they are happier sleeping indoors with its family.
Common health issues of Australian Cattle Dog breed
These dogs are energetic and full of life, and have a long lifespan averaging around thirteen years. But they are prone to several disorders, some of them breed-related. Hereditary congenital deafness is relatively common in this breed. Another genetic condition causes Progressive retinal atrophy that may render the dog blind later in life. They are prone to several musculoskeletal problems such as cruciate ligament tears, elbow dysplasia, spondylosis and arthritis. Regular eye testing and checks for potential skeletal disorders may help detect and remedy some of these issues.