Known by a variety of names, the heeler is recognized by the American Kennel Club as the Australian cattle dog. This feisty herding breed may go by the name blue heeler, although you can also find red heelers. Developed in Australia to help ranchers maintain cattle herds, they trace back to dingoes.
Australian Cattle Dog
In Australia, a herding breed -- the Smithfield -- was cross-bred with dingoes, creating a breed that lasted for a short time. Highland collies were imported and mixed with dingoes, as well. Eventually these and other mixed breeds led to the development of the Australian cattle dog. They joined the AKC in 1980 utilizing a standard that was created in 1902 based on the dingo.
Also called the Queensland heeler, the Australian cattle dog is compact, strong and agile. The heeler is protective of family and wary of strangers. While smooth-coated, a blue heeler has a relatively rain-resistant double coat. The two major colors are red speckle, with or without darker red markings on the head, and blue, with mottling or speckling and black, tan or blue markings.
Elizabeth Muirhead is a practicing veterinarian with an undergraduate degree in biological sciences. She has real-world experience with the husbandry, grooming, training and feeding a variety of household pets.