Blue Heelers - Australian Cattle Dogs: Breed History of the Cattle Dog

March 13, 2019
As a dog owner with over 25 years of experience, I can attest that having a dog is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life. The companionship and joy they bring is incomparable.

In 1840, Thomas Hall of Muswellbrook, New South Wales imported two Blue Smooth Highland Collies and crossbred their offspring with the wild Australian Dingo. This produced either red or blue speckled puppies. Satisfied with this breed, Hall kept them exclusively on his cattle ranch until his death in 1870.

Thomas Bentley obtained one of Hall’s Heelers, as the breed had become known, and widely used the animal as a stud because of its outstanding attributes and because it was an outstanding worker. The dog possessed a white blaze on the forehead, now referred to as a Bentley Mark, and a black tail root spot. This marking set seen on animals of today is believed to have come from Bentley’s dog.

New Blood in the Cattle Dog

Later in the 1870s, a butcher named Alexander Davis bought a pair of Hall’s dogs and bred some Bull Terrier into the breed. It was said this strain was eventually phased out, but some evidence of Bull terrier is occasionally seen today.

A pair of brothers, Jack and Harry Bagast, bred one of Hall’s females to a Dalmatian. All Austrialian cattle dogs today, whether they are red or blue are born solid white, just as Dalmatians and begin developing their color after six weeks of age.

The Bagasts also added some Black and Tan Kelpie to the mix. This final new blood set the breed type, giving the blue dogs the occasional tan markings and gave the red dogs deep red spots. These dogs became known as Queensland Heelers or Queensland Blue Heelers.

Breed Setting of the Cattle Dog

In 1902, Dr. Robert Kaleski drew up the first breed standard for the Cattle Dog. The breed became know as Australian Heelers and eventually, Australian Cattle Dogs.

Dr. Alan McNiven, an Australian veterinarian, infused more Dingo blood back into the breed and his dogs were imported heavily into the United States. Upon discovering McNiven was crossing purebreds with the Dingo, the Royal Agricultural Society Kennel Council banned him from showing and removed all his animals from registry.

When the American Kennel Club took over the registry in 1979, the breed was officially recognized in 1980 as the Australian Cattle Dog.

Cattle Dog Behavior

Blue Heelers or Cattle Dogs are extremely loyal animals and can sometimes be known as “a one man dog.” Extremely intelligent and with high problem solving skills, these animals are highly pleasurable to own. They are medium sized, ranging from 30 to 45 pounds and are easy to care for. They require a lot of room to run and are happiest when given a task to accomplish.

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