By Gary Walker
Blessed with speed, agility and plenty of courage the Australian Cattle Dog is a supreme cattle herder. These dogs are incredibly adaptable and are just as good at working cattle in small spaces as they are in open country. They absolutely love to work, and will run non-stop if you ask them to.
The Australian Cattle Dog was created specifically to fill a need in the Australian cattle industry. Back in the early 1800′s, there were literally thousands of small cattle farmers in Queensland. These farmers needed a dog to work their herds, a dog that could work all day in searing heat and blinding dust. As no existing breed matched up to their needs, they started breeding their own.
No definitive breed history exists for the time, but most accept that the main progenitors were the Smooth Collie, the Kelpie, and the Dalmatian. There is also a suspicion that wild Dingos may have been thrown into the mix. The end result was a rugged, hardy breed known as the Australian Blue Heeler.
The earliest Blue Heelers were bred with courage, speed and agility in mind and proved to be exceptional cattle dogs. But the breed we know today was refined and standardized mainly thanks to a man named Robert Kaleski, who drew up the first standard in 1902.
In 1903, New South Wales Kennel Club status was granted under the name Australian Cattle Dog, although Blue Heeler is still commonly used in Australia.
The Australian Cattle Dog is an intelligent, loyal and pliant dog that is eager to please and very easy to train. They are tireless and extremely focused workers who are protective and somewhat wary of strangers.
Their style of herding cattle involves nipping at the heels and they are equipped with strong jaws and a powerful bite for this purpose. For this reason it is important to address any sign of aggression at an early age.
This is a hardy, robust breed with few congenital disorders. Due to the work it does, the ACD is more likely to suffer injury than illness.
These are medium sized dogs, standing about 18-20 inches at the withers. They have a broad skull and deep muzzle in order to deliver that powerful bite. The body is sturdy, and the coat is short, harsh and weather resistant. All puppies are born white and the coat later takes on the patchwork appearance that is characteristic of the breed.
Coat colors are primarily merle or red. The merle coat features blue mottling, while the red coat has red speckling. Both variants feature a spray of white on the tail.
Aside from being a herding dog, the Australian Cattle Dog makes an excellent pet for the right owner. The proviso though is that the owner needs to be an active, outdoor type who is prepared to meet the dog’s considerable exercise needs.
Remember that these are, first and foremost, working dogs, so they need lots of activity and, preferably, a job to do.