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Get to Know the Australian Cattle Dog: A Dingo Descendant From Down Under

The only dog with Dingo in his pedigree, this breed is an ace at herding cattle on rugged land.

Caroline Coile  |  Aug 18th 2014

This dog from Down Under is the only dog with Dingo in his background. Maybe that’s why the Australian Cattle Dog is a little on the wild side. Brains, bravery and brawn — he’s a dinki-di cattle controller as well as his human’s best bud.

More interesting things about Australian Cattle Dogs

  • Cattle ranching in Australia in the early 1800s was hard work, especially when it came to getting unruly cattle to a market that could be a thousand miles away over rugged, unfenced terrain. Most herding dogs from England and Scotland were developed to drive sheep and complacent cattle fairly short distances over pleasant terrain.
  • The Hall family imported blue-mottled dogs used by drovers in Northumberland, England, then bred them with Dingoes they had tamed. The resulting dogs, called Halls Heelers, combined herding abilities with ruggedness.
  • After Thomas Hall died in 1870, his line of dogs became available to others.

  • Other breeds may have been infused into the mix, including Dalmatians, Bull Terriers, and black and tan Kelpies.
  • They became known as Queensland Blue Heelers.
  • The ACD May be confused with the Canaan Dog, but the Canaan Dog is taller and more slender, and does not come in roan or speckled color patterns.

  • Don’t confuse the ACD’s color pattern with the merle pattern. The ACD is not a merle. They can be either red or blue mottled.
  • Puppies are born white and get their color within a few weeks.
  • The genes behind the ACD’s roan-like color pattern have not yet been identified. The color may be a case of extreme white spotting (in other words, a mostly white background) covered with tiny intermingled ticking. But nobody knows.

  • ACDs have a high rate of deafness (about seven percent deaf in one ear, and three percent deaf in both ears.) Those with facial masks or body patches have a lower incidence. This is characteristic of dogs with extreme white spotting.
  • The ACD is a member of the AKC Herding group.
  • The ACD is the 58th most popular AKC breed, up from 73rd a decade ago.

  • No ACD has even placed in the group at the Westminster dog show. That just doesn’t seem right. They’ve been competing there since 1981.
  • A dog named Wooleston Blue Jack is ancestral to most, if not all, Australian Cattle Dogs whelped since 1990 throughout the world.

  • The world’s oldest dog was an ACD named Bluey, who died in 1939 at the age of 29 years and five months.
  • Skidboot, known for his amazing intelligence, was half or more ACD.
  • ACDs played roles in Mad Max 2, Secret Window, Last of the Dogmen, The Silver Stallion movies and in the Fallout video games.
  • Owners include Matthew McConaughey, Steve Earle, Owen Wilson, Mark Harmon, Luke Wilson, Mark Salling, George Strait, Allison Janney and Kelley McGillis.

Do you own a Australian Cattle Dog? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too!

Interested in other breed profiles? Find dozens of them here.

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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughtySalukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.

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