Many of the dog breeds that originated in Australia serve as working dogs, particularly as herders. These Australian dog breeds are generally popular not only in their native country but also throughout the world; however, many of the breeds are not recognized by either the American Kennel Club (AKC) or the United Kennel Club (UKC).
Australian Cattle Dog
One Australian breed that is recognized by both organizations is this determined, diligent and dedicated herding dog. As the name implies, the Australian Cattle Dog was bred to drive and herd cattle. Their fortitude, agility, strength and courage make this dog an excellent partner for a farmer or rancher caring for livestock, particularly those with large herds.
Originally known as the Blue or Australian Heeler, the Australian Cattle Dog (ACD) resulted during the 1800s when Australians began crossing blue merle Collies with Dalmatians and Black and Tan Kelpies (see Kelpies below). The result was a dog that excelled as working breed; they still serve as excellent herding dogs.
ACDs are most happy in wide, open spaces. They exhibit great endurance and are extremely high-energy dogs with incredible intelligence. Therefore, they, like their Australian canine herding counterparts, need a job to do – if not herding, then obedience or agility trials in which they perform quite well. Because of their stamina and high level of intelligence, ACDs need a great amount of physical activity.
Though wary of strangers, an ACD bonds closely to its family. It is also protective, loyal and obedient to its owner and makes an excellent watchdog.
Its smooth, short coat is weather-resistant and requires minimal upkeep, only the occasional brushing and bath. Coat color comes in blue or red with or without black, blue or tan markings.
The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1980 and is part of the organization’s Herding Group. It is also part of the Herding Dog Group within the UKC and was recognized by that organization in 1985.
These medium-sized, compact working dogs stand 17 to 20 inches tall (43 to 51 cm) and weigh 30 to 35 pounds (14 to 16 kg).
These well-muscled and powerful dogs are also known as Australian Heelers, Queensland Heelers and Blue Heelers.
This small, sturdy, determined Australian dog breed was used for ratting and hunting another vermin, including snakes. Due to their spirited nature, they can become aggressive with other male dogs if living in a multi-pet home.
This is one of the smallest terrier breeds, standing only 9 to 11 inches tall (23 to 28 cm) and weighing merely 9 to 14 pounds (4 to 6 kg). It was the first breed to be recognized as native to Australia, and that transpired in 1868. The AKC recognized the breed in 1960 as part of the organization’s Terrier Group; the UKC recognized the breed as part of its Terrier Group in 1969.
A harsh-textured outer coat comes in blue and tan, sandy or red. A short, soft undercoat is also present. The coat is easy to care for, with routine brushing. Clipping is not required and only the occasional bath is needed. These dogs possess a soft topknot, which is usually silver or a lighter shade of the body coat, erect ears, and sometimes a docked tail.
These confident little dogs are alert and courageous in nature. They are also considered friendly and affectionate toward humans and quite adaptable. Therefore, Australian Terriers can live in either rural or urban settings, and they do well with either a family or someone living alone.
Another Australian herding dog, the Kelpie is a popular breed throughout Australia, in fact, throughout much of the world. It is recognized by the UKC but not the AKC.
These amazing herding dogs are easy to train and display an eagerness to please. They work in unison with their owners, much like the Border Collie of Scotland, responding to their master’s signal, even from a distance. Kelpies oftentimes work unsupervised to find and gather livestock. These active dogs possess a strong work drive and ethic. In addition to herding, they do well at obedience and agility trials. They have also been used as seeing-eye dogs.
This compact, robust breed stands 17 to 20 inches (43 to 51 cm) and weighs 25 to 45 pounds (11 to 20 kg).
Although generally mild-mannered and good-natured, a Kelpie is protective, and therefore makes a good watchdog. Because of its working dog heritage and high degree of intelligence, a Kelpie needs tremendous physical exercise and mental stimulation; this breed does not do well in the city.
Kelpies possess a double coat, with the undercoat short and dense and the outer coat hard, straight and water repellant. Coat color varies and includes black and red, with or without tan markings, and fawn, chocolate or blue. The coat is easy to maintain, with the occasional brush and bath.
The breed has been known about since 1870. Some believe it originated by crossing a Dingo with a Border Collie, while others believe it derived from English Collies.
This herding dog breed is not recognized by either the AKC or the UKC. The breed is also not easily recognized by the general public due to the immense diversity within the breed itself. For example, in the northern part of Australia, Koolies are taller and more agile; in the south, they are stockier and shorter.
Like many herding dogs, the Koolie is focused, patient, and tireless in its occupation, and it is devoted and eager-to-please toward its owner.
This breed possesses great intelligence and drive, and therefore, needs physical as well as mental stimulation. If not used as a herding dog, Koolies do well in other jobs, such as search and rescue and pet therapy. They also excel at canine tracking, agility, obedience and herding events.
An average size breed, the Koolie stands 15 to 22 inches (38 to 56 cm) and weighs 21 to 44 pounds (12 to 20 kg). It can be a long-lived breed, averaging 15 to 18 years, some even more.
Its smooth coat comes in various lengths, although long-haired is rare. It’s easy to maintain with the occasional brushing. Coat color can be solid or merle. A Koolie may have two different eye colors, blue and brown.
The breed’s ancestry includes German and Scotland working and herding dogs brought to Australia.
Though not recognized by either the AKC or UKC, this breed is probably the most popular and widely known Australian dog breed. Even though it is closely associated with Australia’s wilderness, the Dingo is not exclusive to that country. Dingo populations are found throughout Southeast Asia, where it is believed they developed thousands of years ago. They have features common with both wolves and several contemporary dogs; they are considered a vulnerable species as a result of crossbreeding with other wild canine breeds and domestic dogs.
Also called the Australian Native Dog, the Dingo is a breed that’s never been fully domesticated, and therefore, it not generally suitable as a family canine companion. Many believe the Dingo dates back 4,000 years. Some people have taken them from the wild as very young pups and reared them, and they are said to then make suitable pets, even performing at obedience and agility trials.
However, in some areas of Australia, the Dingo is still considered a wild predator, even vermin, while other areas view it as a vanishing native breed. In some parts of Australia, it is illegal to own a Dingo. Like wolves and coyotes, Dingoes can be heard howling in the night, and they often hunt in family packs.
Dingoes are similar to other wild dogs, such as the New Guinea Singing Dog. They are unique from the standpoint that they can climb trees.
A medium-built breed, the Dingo ranges in size from 19 to 23 inches and weighs between 50 and 70 pounds (23 to 32 kg), although larger Dingoes have been documented.
Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog
This descendant of the Dingo was recognized by the Australian National Kennel Club in 1988. When a Dingo was crossed with a dense-coated, bob-tailed dog, the result became the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog. Created in the 19th century as a drover dog, the breed is not recognized by either the AKC or UKC.
A dog of incredible stamina, it is considered energetic, free-spirited and alert. It also bonds closely with its human companion. This intelligent, active breed, like many of its working dog breed cousins, needs lots of physical and mental stimulation. It performs well in obedience, agility and herding events.
Although affectionate towards its special person, this breed is naturally aloof with strangers and makes a good watchdog.
Like several of its Australian dog breed cousins, the Stumpy is a medium-sized, compact dog, standing 17 to 20 inches tall (43 to 51 cm) and weighing 35 to 50 pounds (16 to 23 kg).
Possessing a short, dense outer coat, this dog is easy to groom, requiring only the occasional brush and bath. Coat colors come in red with same colored markings on the head or blue speckled with a black head.
This breed is sometimes referred to as a Heeler.
Australian dog breeds have a long, strong history as working dogs and watchdogs, herding, driving and protecting flocks as well as serving as companion animals to people. Their work ethic and loyalty to their humans make them active, devoted dogs, ones that require intense mental and physical stimulation. Most of these breeds make excellent canine event dogs, excelling not only at herding but also in agility and obedience trials. They are great dogs for people with an active lifestyle, and though many of the Australian dog breeds are not recognized by the AKC and some not recognized by the UKC, they are popular as pets throughout the world.