Dogster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Red Heeler (Red Australian Cattle Dog): Facts, Traits & History

Written by: Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Dogster Team

red heeler dog lying on the grass

Red Heeler (Red Australian Cattle Dog): Facts, Traits & History

Also called the Red Australian Cattle Dog, the Red Heeler is a robust breed that is of medium size. They were originally developed to herd livestock across long distances. There are both red and blue Australian Cattle Dogs, or Heelers, but they’re the same breed—the only difference is the color of their coats. Here, we focus on the Red Heeler and what exactly should be expected when owning such a hardy animal.

Breed Overview


17–20 inches


30–50 pounds


13–15 years



Suitable for:

Active families, singles, apartments, houses


Smart, loving, independent, protective, curious, energetic

The Red Heeler has a short coat that is actually white overall, but since red hair is distributed throughout the coat, the entire body looks red (or at least, reddish) in color. Intelligent and energetic, this breed thrives on a structured yet adventurous lifestyle. These dogs tend to form strong attachments to their human companions and can be territorial when it comes to their beds, toys, and other perceived belongings.

Red Heeler Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

dogster paw divider

The Earliest Records of the Red Heeler in History

This beautiful dog breed was first bred in Australia sometime in the 1800s. A man named Thomas Hall is credited with having developed the Red Heeler by breeding the Collie and the Australian Dingo together. Back then, the breed was called the Halls Heeler but was eventually transformed into the Red Heeler that we know today.

These dogs played a big role in helping humans herd cattle, sheep, and other livestock for long distances in hot weather conditions. These dogs had hardy physiques that could traverse harsh terrains without stopping for rest often. It was the 1940s when an Australian veterinarian by the name of Alan McNiven decided to export the first Red Heelers to the United States.

A veterinarian named Jack Woolsey based out of California purchased and received these dogs for breeding purposes. In the 1980s, the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Red heeler dog running in the field
Image Credit: Anna- Pozzi Zoophotos, Shutterstock

How the Red Heeler Gained Popularity

Red Australian Cattle Dogs gained popularity soon after their inception due to their usefulness in managing livestock, and they are still popular today. Their hardiness, independence, and loyalty are all reasons for their popularity. Many people in the United States acquire Red Heelers as farmhands, but many families adopt them as beloved pets, so they are relatively popular throughout the country.

Formal Recognition of Red Heeler

Over the years, the Red Heeler has been formally recognized by kennel clubs and other organizations. The American Kennel Club formally recognized the breed in 1980, and currently, the Australian Cattle Dog Club of America strives to represent and protect the breed. Here are other organizations to be aware of:

red heeler puppy playing with toys outdoor
Image Credit: OlgaOvcharenko, Shutterstock

dogster face divider

Top 3 Unique Facts About the Red Heeler

1. They Have Dense Coats

These dogs have thick, dense coats to help protect their bodies from harsh elements while herding livestock long distances, no matter what the weather outside happens to be like at the time. Their coats are also short, so while they do shed throughout the year, shedding is considered moderate by most owners.

2. They’re Born With White Coats

At birth, the Red Heeler has a completely white coat, and they typically develop their red or blue coloring by the time that they are 6 weeks old. Basically, the white coloring always stays there, but it gets camouflaged by the darker coloring as it develops.

3. An Australian Cattle Dog Used to Be a World Record Holder

Until recently, an Australian Cattle Dog named Bluey held the Guinness World Record as the oldest dog ever, as he lived to be 29 years and 5 months old!

Red Heeler dog walking in the snow
Image Credit: AlexisM, Shutterstock

Does the Red Heeler Make a Good Pet?

The Red Heeler, or Australian Cattle Dog, can make a good pet for some families and households but not all. They need a place to run around and expel energy during the day, so a home with a fenced yard is ideal. They can be a bit rough with children and are even known for nipping at kids when they run by due to their herding instincts.

However, they can be trained to get along with older children in the household who can maintain control of their interactions. They also are not always good with other animals, so they may or may not get along with any pets that are already living in a household.

dogster face divider


The Red Heeler is a hardy dog breed that was bred to have a job and loves every minute of the work that they’re charged with. This type of dog isn’t for everyone, though, as they are highly energetic and require plenty of opportunities to blow off steam. They do best on farms and ranches but can do well in active family situations too.

Featured Image Credit: Tanya Consaul Photography, Shutterstock

Get Dogster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Dogster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart


© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.