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  • Temperament: Alert, Curious, Pleasant
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 54 of 194
  • Height: 18-20 inches (male), 17-19 inches (female)
  • Weight: 35-50 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12-16 years
  • Group: Herding Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Australian Cattle Dog standing, three-quarter view
Australian Cattle Dog head facing left
Australian Cattle Dog sitting facing forward
Australian Cattle Dog coat detail
Australian Cattle Dog

Find a Puppy: Australian Cattle Dog

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GENERAL APPEARANCE

The general appearance is that of a strong compact, symmetrically built working dog, with the ability and willingness to carry out his allotted task however arduous. Its combination of substance, power, balance and hard muscular condition must convey the impression of great agility, strength and endurance. Any tendency to grossness or weediness is a serious fault.

HEAD

The head is strong and must be in balance with other proportions of the dog and in keeping with its general conformation. The broad skull is slightly curved between the ears, flattening to a slight but definite stop. The cheeks muscular, neither coarse nor prominent with the underjaw strong, deep and well developed. The foreface is broad and well filled in under the eyes, tapering gradually to form a medium length, deep, powerful muzzle with the skull and muzzle on parallel planes. The lips are tight and clean. Nose black.

BODY

The length of the body from the point of the breast bone, in a straight line to the buttocks, is greater than the height at the withers, as 10 is to 9. The topline is level, back strong with ribs well sprung and carried well back not barrel ribbed. The chest is deep, muscular and moderately broad with the loins broad, strong and muscular and the flanks deep. The dog is strongly coupled.

FOREQUARTERS

The shoulders are strong, sloping, muscular and well angulated to the upper arm and should not be too closely set at the point of the withers. The forelegs have strong, round bone, extending to the feet and should be straight and parallel when viewed from the front, but the pasterns should show flexibility with a slight angle to the forearm when viewed from the side. Although the shoulders are muscular and the bone is strong, loaded shoulders and heavy fronts will hamper correct movement and limit working ability.

COAT

The coat is smooth, a double coat with a short dense undercoat. The outer-coat is close, each hair straight, hard, and lying flat, so that it is rain-resisting. Under the body, to behind the legs, the coat is longer and forms near the thigh a mild form of breeching. On the head (including the inside of the ears), to the front of the legs and feet, the hair is short. Along the neck it is longer and thicker. A coat either too long or too short is a fault. As an average, the hairs on the body should be from 2½ to 4 centimeters (approximately 1 to 1½ inches) in length.

FACIAL FEATURES

Eyes – The eyes should be of oval shape and medium size, neither prominent nor sunken and must express alertness and intelligence. A warning or suspicious glint is characteristic when approached by strangers. Eye color, dark brown. Ears – The ears should be of moderate size, preferably small rather than large, broad at the base, muscular, pricked and moderately pointed neither spoon nor bat eared. The ears are set wide apart on the skull, inclining outwards, sensitive in their use and pricked when alert, the leather should be thick in texture and the inside of the ear fairly well furnished with hair. Mouth – The teeth, sound, strong and evenly spaced, gripping with a scissor-bite, the lower incisors close behind and just touching the upper. As the dog is required to move difficult cattle by heeling or biting, teeth which are sound and strong are very important.

HINDQUARTERS

The hindquarters are broad, strong and muscular. The croup is rather long and sloping, thighs long, broad and well developed, the stifles well turned and the hocks strong and well let down. When viewed from behind, the hind legs, from the hocks to the feet, are straight and placed parallel, neither close nor too wide apart.

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australian cattle dog illustration

About the Australian Cattle Dog

Standing between 17 to 20 inches at the shoulder, the Australian Cattle Dog is a sturdy, hard-muscled herder of strength and agility. The ACD is born with a white coat that turns blue-gray or red. Both coat varieties feature distinctive mottling or specking patterns. ACDs have immense work drive and excel at hunting, chasing, and, of course, moving livestock. Their boundless energy and supple gait make them excellent running partners.
ACDs are true-blue loyal, famously smart, ever alert, and wary of strangers. If an ACD isn’t challenged, he easily becomes bored and gets into mischief. It is recommended that ACD owners participate with their dog in some work, sport, or regular exercise to keep him mentally and physically fit.

Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Australian Cattle Dog

Find a Puppy: Australian Cattle Dog

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find Australian Cattle Dog Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

The Australian Cattle Dog should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Australian Cattle Dogs are very athletic, active canines, so be mindful that your dog is getting good nutrition to meet his needs. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING

The Australian Cattle Dog was bred to work outdoors and has a smooth, double-layer coat that protects him from the elements. This coat has no odor or oily residue, so an Australian Cattle Dog generally needs just a quick brushing once a week and an occasional bath. Keep in mind, though, that the ACD sheds his undercoat twice a year. During shedding season, every few days he will need a thorough brushing-out to remove the dead hair, using a short-bristle brush and possibly a comb as well. As with all breeds, the Australian Cattle Dog‘s nails should be trimmed regularly.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Occasional Bath/Brush

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Regularly

EXERCISE

A very active, high-energy dog, the Australian Cattle Dog needs more than just a quick walk and playtime in the yard. ACDs really need a job in order to remain happy and healthy. On a working farm, this may not be an issue, especially if there are animals to herd. In other living situations, going with his owner on runs every day, or nearly every day, is a good outlet for his energy. An ideal choice is participation in dog sports, where the Australian Cattle Dog and owner take part in canine activities such as obedience or agility that channel the breed’s drive and abundant energy in a fun way.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Needs Lots of Activity

TRAINING

Early socialization and obedience training are a must for the Australian Cattle Dog. The ACD is a highly intelligent, energetic breed that is only really happy when on the job. Therefore, continuing training and participation in activities such as obedience, herding, or agility is highly recommended. This can represent a large time commitment on the part of the owner, but participation together fosters a bond between you and your dog, and it’s fun for both of you. Remember, an intelligent, energetic dog who is not kept occupied will become bored, and a bored, energetic dog can be destructive.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
May be Stubborn

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Reserved with Strangers

HEALTH

A responsible breeder will screen breeding stock for health conditions such as deafness; progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA, which causes vision loss; and hip dysplasia. An ACD’s ears should be checked regularly to remove foreign matter and avoid a buildup of wax, and his teeth should be brushed regularly.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • BAER Testing
  • PRA Optigen DNA Test
  • PLL DNA Test

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Australian Cattle Dog standing in a field in three-quarter view
Australian Cattle Dog
Australian Cattle Dog
Australian Cattle Dog

History

The Australian Cattle Dog made vital contributions to the growth of the continent’s beef industry, and important component of the Australian economy.

The long, complex, and sometimes troubling history of Britain’s settlement of the Australian continent is beyond the scope of our story. We can pick it up in the early 1800s, when Anglo-Australians began their migrations from the original coastal settlements to the vast grasslands of the western inland. This was prime territory for the raising of beef cattle. In re-creating these wild areas as cattle ranches, good herding dogs were essential.

Australia’s first cattle dogs were British imports of a breed known as the Smithfield, unsuited to the high temperature, rough terrain, and vast distances to market of their new home. Thus, stockmen began a long process of trial and to breed a herding dog that could meet the challenges of the Australian interior. Smithfields were crossed with Dingoes (a feral breed brought to the continent by its earliest human inhabitants) and such other breeds as the Scottish Highland Collie, as breeders worked toward the hardworking and durable herders they desired.

A key contributor to the effort was George Elliot, of Queensland, who bred Dingoes with Collies and sold the puppies to farmers. The result was a dog who was close to being the quintessential Aussie herder. True perfection came later when two brothers, Jack and Harry Bagust, bred Dalmatians with some of Elliott’s ACDs. The Dalmatian’s faithfulness, protectiveness, and ease with horses, mixed with the original breed’s working ability (which was also reinforced by the addition of a sheepdog known as the Black and Tan Kelpie into the line) was just the right combination to produce the ACD we know today.
The Australian Cattle Dog was admitted to the AKC in 1980 and became a charter member of the AKC Herding Group upon the founding of the group in 1983.

Did You Know?

The Australian Cattle Dog has been a huge help to the beef industry of Australia.
The Australian Cattle Dog was first known as the Australian Heeler, although it is still called the Blue or Queensland Heeler today.
The Australian Cattle Dog was accepted by the AKC in 1980 and was shown in the Working Group after a brief period in the Miscellaneous class

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The general appearance is that of a strong compact, symmetrically built working dog, with the ability and willingness to carry out his allotted task however arduous. Its combination of substance, power, balance and hard muscular condition must convey the impression of great agility, strength and endurance. Any tendency to grossness or weediness is a serious fault.

HEAD

The head is strong and must be in balance with other proportions of the dog and in keeping with its general conformation. The broad skull is slightly curved between the ears, flattening to a slight but definite stop. The cheeks muscular, neither coarse nor prominent with the underjaw strong, deep and well developed. The foreface is broad and well filled in under the eyes, tapering gradually to form a medium length, deep, powerful muzzle with the skull and muzzle on parallel planes. The lips are tight and clean. Nose black.

BODY

The length of the body from the point of the breast bone, in a straight line to the buttocks, is greater than the height at the withers, as 10 is to 9. The topline is level, back strong with ribs well sprung and carried well back not barrel ribbed. The chest is deep, muscular and moderately broad with the loins broad, strong and muscular and the flanks deep. The dog is strongly coupled.

FOREQUARTERS

The shoulders are strong, sloping, muscular and well angulated to the upper arm and should not be too closely set at the point of the withers. The forelegs have strong, round bone, extending to the feet and should be straight and parallel when viewed from the front, but the pasterns should show flexibility with a slight angle to the forearm when viewed from the side. Although the shoulders are muscular and the bone is strong, loaded shoulders and heavy fronts will hamper correct movement and limit working ability.

COAT

The coat is smooth, a double coat with a short dense undercoat. The outer-coat is close, each hair straight, hard, and lying flat, so that it is rain-resisting. Under the body, to behind the legs, the coat is longer and forms near the thigh a mild form of breeching. On the head (including the inside of the ears), to the front of the legs and feet, the hair is short. Along the neck it is longer and thicker. A coat either too long or too short is a fault. As an average, the hairs on the body should be from 2½ to 4 centimeters (approximately 1 to 1½ inches) in length.

FACIAL FEATURES

Eyes – The eyes should be of oval shape and medium size, neither prominent nor sunken and must express alertness and intelligence. A warning or suspicious glint is characteristic when approached by strangers. Eye color, dark brown. Ears – The ears should be of moderate size, preferably small rather than large, broad at the base, muscular, pricked and moderately pointed neither spoon nor bat eared. The ears are set wide apart on the skull, inclining outwards, sensitive in their use and pricked when alert, the leather should be thick in texture and the inside of the ear fairly well furnished with hair. Mouth – The teeth, sound, strong and evenly spaced, gripping with a scissor-bite, the lower incisors close behind and just touching the upper. As the dog is required to move difficult cattle by heeling or biting, teeth which are sound and strong are very important.

HINDQUARTERS

The hindquarters are broad, strong and muscular. The croup is rather long and sloping, thighs long, broad and well developed, the stifles well turned and the hocks strong and well let down. When viewed from behind, the hind legs, from the hocks to the feet, are straight and placed parallel, neither close nor too wide apart.

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australian cattle dog illustration

Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
BLUE Check Mark For Standard Color 037
BLUE MOTTLED Check Mark For Standard Color 438
BLUE SPECKLED Check Mark For Standard Color 439
RED MOTTLED Check Mark For Standard Color 455
RED SPECKLED Check Mark For Standard Color 440

Markings

Description Standard Markings Registration Code
BLACK & TAN MARKINGS Check Mark For Standard Mark 039
RED MARKINGS Check Mark For Standard Mark 023
TAN MARKINGS Check Mark For Standard Mark 012

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