Breed Spotlight: the Australian Cattle Dog

Sixty years in the making, the Australian Cattle Dog has lived up to his name. The cattle industry of Australia faced a number of challenges during its early years in the 1800s. Rugged, dry, wild, and barren land, harsh conditions, extreme elements, and violent rivers all stood as obstacles for cattlemen to drive their herds through. To push reluctant cattle through these conditions required a gritty biting dog with great endurance, stamina, persistence, strength. This was a tall order that the first imported shepherd’s dogs, used to herding sheep and cattle through far less rugged conditions, simply could not fulfill. To address the issue, some cattlemen decided to create their own strain possessing all the traits they needed in a tenacious cattle dog. In 1840, a cattleman by the name of Thomas Hall crossed his blue smooth Collies to the feral Australian Dingo. This gave him a dog that could withstand some of the harshest elements of Australia. He was happy to find that the resulting cross produced mostly silent dogs, reluctant to bark, that worked the heels of the cattle and were quick to avoid being kicked. These initial crosses were known as Hall’s Heelers. The breed was further developed into the Australian Cattle Dog. 

The majority of ACDs in the United States are actually the result of a later cross not recognized by the Australian Royal Agricultural Society Kennel Club. In the 1940s the ACD was crossed to the German Shepherd breed and the Kangaroo Hound type dogs (a type of sight hound), and again to the Kelpie and Dingo by a Sidney veterinarian by the name of Alan McNiven. McNiven exported several of these crossed dogs to a man by the name of Greg Lougher in California, where they originally called them Queensland Heelers. These dogs were bred back to purebred ACD imports, and both the crosses and the purebred imports were eventually recognized as the Australian Cattle Dog by most officiating registries.

Want to know more about the Australian Cattle Dog? Click here for the full standard.

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