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12 Amazing Australian Dog Breeds From Down Under – Complete Guide to Australian Dogs

& Amazing Australian Dog Breeds from Down Under
Written by Richard Jeng

There is a huge diversity of animals in Australia, from the deadliest snakes in the world to the eucalyptus loving koala. It’s a fascinating country with all types of indigenous animals, including dogs.

The saying, “everything in Australia can kill you” is far from the truth. Rather, native Australian dogs may actually kill you with cuteness and kindness.

The numbers don’t lie. Australians have an addiction to their pets, particularly dogs. And it shows with an estimated 4.8 million dogs, which equates to 1 dog for every 5 people.

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Dog Breeds from Australia

With that said, Australia has developed and embraced several amazing dog breeds to suit the harsh conditions of the country.

Australian dog breeds include the Australian Cattle Dog, Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog, Kelpie, Koolie, Silkie Terrier, Australian Terrier, Tenterfield Terrier, Australian Staghound, Dingo, Kangaroo Dog, Bull Arab and the Mini Fox Terrier.

1. Australian Cattle Dog

Highlights: Vigilant, Curious, Friendly.

The Australian Cattle Dog is the most famous dog breed to originate from Australia.

Farmers developed the Australian Cattle Dog in the early 1800s from the Smithfield-type working dog of England. The aim was to produce a good working dog suitable for Australian conditions that was also silent.

It took many attempts and iterations before the Australian Cattle Dog was born. After crossing with the Australian Dingo, Rough Collie and Bull Terrier, the Australian Cattle Dog was finally developed.

Also called the Blue Heeler, these dogs are identical in type and build to the Dingo but have a thicker set. They have black patches around the eyes, black ears and brown eyes. The body is a very dark blue with coat evenly speckled light blue.

It has the same tan markings as the black and tan Kelpie on its head, legs and chest. The Red Heelers have red markings instead of black and their coat has a red speckle.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Australian Cattle Dogs are also called “Heelers” due to their unique method of herding cattle. They’ll nip at the heels of cattle to get them to move.
  • Heelers are born with a completely white coat. In fact, their coats don’t start developing color until weeks later.
  • Prior to 2016, a Blue Heeler named Bluey held the record for longest living dog at 29 years 5 months. 

Australian Cattle Dog Temperament

These dogs are arguably the best cattle herders in the world. And while Australian Cattle Dogs are still used for herding, they made wonderful pets and companion dogs too.

They are very trainable and obedient if their owners put the time in starting from puppyhood. These dogs love being with their owners and need a lot of exercise to keep them happy.

Australian Cattle Dogs are a hardy breed and live up to 15 years. However, some of them have health issues that can arise if they’re working as herders.

These include hip and elbow dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, hereditary deafness, and osteochondritis dissecans.

2. Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog

Highlights: Alert, Obedient, Playful

The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog has similar origins to the Australian Cattle Dog. The stumpy tails were often preferred by the stockmen of northern New South Wales and in Queensland.

In 1918, the Queensland Kennel Club created a separate standard for these dogs because they are natural bobtails and have a different temperament.

They come in two colors:

Red stumpy tails – The coat color is a red speckle or mottle. They can have red markings on the body and head, and there should be no sign of blue in its undercoat, coat or on the head.

Blue stumpy tails – The coat color is a blue speckle or mottle. It can have black markings on its body and head, and there should be no sign of red in its undercoat, coat or on the head.

No matter the color of the stumpy tail, they should not have any tan markings at all.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • There are some Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs that actually develop a tail. However, they’re quite rare and don’t grow past 4 inches long.
  • These dogs were developed by crossbreeding European herding dogs and the Australian Dingo.
  • Australian Stumpy Tails are prone to deafness – and not just at old age.  

Stumpy Tail Temperament

The stumpy tail temperament is a loyal, alert, courageous and obedient dog. But they can be reserved around strangers. Early socialization is needed with this dog for a more social and relaxed dog.

They are also fantastic workers and excel at dog sport. These dogs make good loyal companions and live up to 15 years. They have the same type of health issues as the Australian Cattle Dog.

3. Australian Kelpie

Highlights: Devoted, Vigilant, Energetic

The Australian Kelpie is most known for the unusual behavior of jumping on sheeps' backs.

The Australian Kelpie breed comes from the imported Scottish collie breeds used for stock work in the early 19th Century. There is much mystery surrounding how the breed developed over the years.

They were partly developed from the Australian Dingo but not much else is clear about the other breeds used to develop this amazing working dog.

There are two types of Kelpies in Australia: working and show lines. The Kelpies shown in the conformation ring are generally shorter and stockier than the working line kelpies.

Kelpies are a medium-sized dog with three different coat types: smooth, rough, and short. It comes in a variety of colors including chocolate, red and tan, black and tan, smoke blue, fawn and black.  

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The name for an Australian Kelpie with an all-black coat is “Barb.”
  • Kelpies are some of the most versatile task dogs, frequently trained for search & rescue, drug detection, therapy, service and more.
  • In 2016, a Kelpie named Maggie set the world record for longest living dog. She was 30 years old (for perspective: 200 human years). 

Australian Kelpie Temperament

The working kelpies are easy to train and efficient for working all types of domestic stock. They are well known for jumping on the backs of sheep when working them in the yards to keep them moving.

They are versatile dogs and can work all day on the farm if you let them. You can then take them to a sheepdog trial to compete and work all types of animals including ducks.

Show Kelpies excel in dog sport such as agility, jumping, and dog obedience. They make excellent companions but have a lot of energy so need plenty of exercise.

Kelpies are not dogs that can be happy kept in a suburban backyard. They are loyal, very intelligent, and eager to please – as long as their needs are met.

Kelpies have very few genetic health problems but there are a few to watch out for. These include hip dysplasia, luxating patella, cryptorchidism, and cerebellar abiotrophy.

4. Australian Silky Terrier

Highlights: Friendly, Alert, Agile

The Australian Silky Terrier is one of the best companion lap dogs to originate from Australia.

The Australian Silky Terrier was purpose bred for catching vermin and as a companion dog. It only grows to about 10 inches high.

This was a breed created in Australia in the late 1800s by crossing the Australian Terrier with a Yorkshire Terrier. It’s no wonder they look so similar to Yorkies!

The aim was to breed a more robust dog with the quality and coat color of the Yorkshire Terrier. In only a few generations they began to breed true to type.

Silky Terriers have a long, silky hypoallergenic coat that is blue and tan. They need grooming on a regular basis if the coat grows to its full length. Otherwise it will tangle and cause knots that will need cutting out.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Prior to 1955, the Australian Silky Terrier was actually called the Sydney Silky Terrier.
  • These dogs are a cross between the native Australian Terrier and the Yorkshire Terrier.
  • Despite being a full-on terrier, the Silky Terrier is classified in the Toy Group and not the Terrier Group. 

Silky Terrier Temperament

Australian Silky Terriers are mischievous rascals and make excellent companions. They are intelligent, quick to learn, and are alert and playful.

If you’re looking for an Australian lap dog, the Silky Terrier may be perfect. They love to cuddle up to their family and are an easy-going dog breed that lives up to 14 years.

These are robust dogs that can have some minor health issues. These can include diabetes, epilepsy, patellar luxation, Cushing’s disease, allergies, tracheal collapse, and Legg-Perthes disease.

5. Australian Terrier

Highlights: Friendly, Brave, Spirited.

The australian terrier was originally called the rough coated terrier.

The Australian Terrier was first developed in 1820 and first called the Rough-coated Terrier. This feisty little dog was purposely bred for ratting and as a companion dog.

The breed’s ancestors include Yorkshire Terriers, Shorthaired Skye Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Dandie Dinmont Terrier, and Irish Terriers over the years.

The Australian Terrier is a small breed, growing to only 10 inches in height. It has a coarse wiry coat that grows about 2 inches in length. Plus, they come in three colors: red, tan, and blue and tan.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Early on, the Australian Terriers were used to fight off pesty snakes, foxes and rodents found in gold mines.
  • Despite their name, the Australian Terriers originated from Tasmania and were developed using European dog breeds.
  • The Australian Terrier is known for its clever sense of humor. 

Australian Terrier Temperament

Australian Terriers are very intelligent dogs. They are easy to train and love to work but can be a bossy boots with other pets. They need socialization early on to be able to get along with other pets.

The Australian Terrier loves spending time with its people and makes a fantastic companion dog and live up to 14 years. They’re generally very lively and energetic dogs that get along with all people.

However, the Australian Terrier can have a few potential health issues including cruciate ligament rupture, Legg-Perthes disease, and seizures.

6. Tenterfield Terrier

Highlights: Social, Adaptable, Bold

The Tenterfield Terrier is the perfect Australian breed for getting rid of pests such as rats.

Tenterfield Terriers were derived from the Old English White Terrier which no longer exists. They were terrific at killing rats but are also fantastic family pets.

They were originally called the “Mini Fox Terrier” but many felt this name was misleading. After a vote, they became the Tenterfield Terrier instead. It’s a much more unique and memorable name, in my opinion. 

They grow up to 12 inches high and are and lightning fast. The Tenterfield terriers have a short, smooth white coat that has markings of black, tan, liver and blue.

They also come in tri colors. Their coats are easy to care for with little grooming required, making them a good choice for owners with busy lifestyles.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The idea of the name came from the song ‘Tenterfield Saddler” by Peter Allen. Allen wrote the song about the late George Woolnough, who was well known for keeping these dogs around Tenterfield in New South Wales. 
  • The name Tenterfield Terrier was suggested by Australian TV personality Don Burke.
  • British sailors and settlers were the first to bring the ancestors of the Tenterfield Terrier into Australia. 

Tenterfield Temperament

The Tenterfield is very intelligent and independent, and because of this, can be a little hard to train. They are a strong, active dog and are confident and fearless.

They’re some of the most adaptable dogs to originate from Australia. Although small, the Tenterfield is always optimistic and sociable by nature.

These Australian dogs can live up to 14 years and have very few health issues. Health issues can include patellar luxation, seizures, possible teeth and gum problems, and hypothyroidism.

7. Australian Staghound

Highlights: Gentle, Affectionate, Calm

The staghound of Australia is able to take down Kangaroos.

The Australian Staghound is one of the few hunting dog breed to originate from Australia. They generally hunt boar, kangaroos and sometimes larger hare.

Consider the Australian Staghounds to be distant relatives of the American Staghound. However, they are not an official recognized breed (yet).

This dog breed was derived from a cross between a Greyhound and Scottish Deerhound, which were brought into Australia by European settlers.

The goal was to find a breed combination for the perfect small game hunting dog. They found that with the Australian Staghound. However, some bloodlines today may be crossed with Bloodhounds, Foxhounds and other foreign dog breeds.

Australian Staghounds are the most expensive dogs to originate from Australia, costing upwards of $1000 USD. In you’re looking for a reputable breeder, expect to pay a premium price.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The Australian Staghound is a distinct cousin of the American Staghound.
  • There is no distinct bloodline for the Australian Staghound. Many of these dogs may be infused with Bloodhounds, Foxhounds and other various breeds.
  • Australian Staghounds were bred for hunting dangerous Australian game, such as kangaroos and boars.  

Australian Staghound Temperament

The Staghounds are gentle and calm dogs, with a strong affection towards their family. Although they are top-notch hunting dogs, they don’t make great guard or watch dogs.

These dogs don’t have the territorial instincts that are commonly seen in Indian dog breeds. So don’t expect them to protect your house, although they probably can.

As expected, the Australian Staghounds are wonderful with small children. They also tend to get along with other dogs if socialized. Because of their hunting instincts, it is possible they may prey on small pets like cats.

The Australian Staghound generally lives between 10 to 12 years. They can be susceptible to bloating, hypothyroidism, and osteosarcoma.

8. Australian Dingo

Highlights: Agile, Energetic, Confident

The Australian Dingo is the most ancient dog breed native to the country. According to IFL Science, recently discovered Dingo bones are estimated to be at least 3,000 years old!

They are medium sized dogs with a hardy body and lean frame. As you can guess, these dogs have amazing stamina and can run with great speeds.

Dingoes have a unique look. Unlike most dogs, they have unusual proportions with the widest part of their body being the head.

For the most part, they’re wild dogs. Though some owners have domesticated Dingoes and experienced good results, domesticating these dogs have been controversial. Not everyone agrees they’re meant for a family environment.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Australian Dingoes are very vocal dogs. But instead of barking, they mostly howl and growl to communicate.
  • Dingoes living in warmer climate tend to be more nocturnal dogs compared to those living in colder climate.
  • DNA analysis suggest that Dingoes were derived from Asian dog breeds over 18,000 years ago.  

Australian Dingo Temperament

The Australian Dingo is not your typical Australian dog breed. They weren’t meant for family life so there’s very little information on their temperaments in that situation.

On the other hand, wild Dingoes are known to be a little territorial with high prey instincts. They are very much pack dogs and should remain as such. It’s why there’s so much controversy surrounding the domestication of Dingoes.

They typically aren’t very aggressive towards humans. For the most part, they try to avoid humans and few human attacks ever occur.

Though they’re vocal dogs, they don’t really bark. At least with the pack, they’ll communicate with a deep low growl.

9. Australian Kangaroo Dog

Highlights: Loyal, Courageous, Active

Technically, the Australian Kangaroo dog isn’t a purebred dog. Like the “Pit Bull,” the Kangaroo Dog refers to a type of dog instead.

These dogs are Australian sighthounds primarily used as hunting companions in the wild Australian outback. As given by the name, these dogs use their amazing sight to spot, locate and track down game.

The origin of the Kangaroo Dog is unclear. However, scientists speculate that they were bred from a combination of sighthounds, such as Greyhounds or Scottish Deerhounds, which were brought by settlers.

Unfortunately, Kangaroo Dogs are pretty rare in Australia today. Though they still exist in rural parts of the country, they’re not being actively bred.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • These dogs protected early pioneer and settlers’ livestock from wild Australian Dingoes.
  • Depending on the bloodline, some Roo Dogs can have an amazing sense of smell, in addition to powerful sight.
  • Some researchers believe these dogs descended from a mix of Borzoi, Whippet, Saluki and Irish Wolfhounds.  

Kangaroo Dog Temperament

Australian Kangaroo Dogs are sighthounds, And like with most sighthounds, they’re naturally playful and energetic dogs.

With a high prey-instincts, these dogs love to chase. If they see a squirrel running by, expect them to take off after it. Sometimes it’s better to let them go than to try to contain them.

They need a lot of physical activity, so keeping a Roo Dog enclosed in your small yard is not the best idea. They are loyal dogs, but require a lot of maintenance and unique care.

10. Bull Arab

Highlights: Loyal, Obedient, Calm

via Instagram: @amelias_dog_walking

The Bull Arab is the only Australian dog to specialize in hunting pig. Developed in the 1970s, these dogs were derived from a mix of the Bull Terrier, German Shorthaired Pointer and Greyhound.

These dogs are excellent at locating and tracking pigs, then pinning them to the ground by the ears. Their great hunting ability is largely because of their athletic build and incredible sense of smell.

Though originally bred for hunting feral pigs, the Bull Arab is a versatile breed that developed into hunting other game.

However, when they’re not on the field, they make excellent companions for active families and hunters. They do need a lot of socialization should you choose to bring one home.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The Bull Arab is capable of sniffing out pigs nearly 4 miles away.
  • These dogs have the reputation of being “aggressive” and “dangerous” dogs. But according to the RSPCA, there is no statistical proof of this claim.
  • New laws in Queensland prohibited the ownership of large dogs for renters. Thus, leading to many Bull Arabs being abandoned in the state.  

Bull Arab Temperament

Though many people in Australia believe the Bull Arab is an aggressive dog, they are actually quite calm and docile in the right setting.

Highly intelligent, Bull Arabs are some of the most obedient and trainable dogs Australia has to offer. This characteristic is primarily because of their love for people, especially the owners.

They do require a good amount of socialization, and early on! Although they’re not aggressive, they can have aggressive tendencies.

11. Miniature Fox Terrier

Highlights: Spirited, Loyal, Agile

Also known as the “Mini Foxie,” the Miniature Fox Terrier is an Australian terrier breed developed for hunting vermin.

They’re small dogs, but balanced with attractive physical features. Mini Foxies have a small head with pointed ears that usually fold at the tip. Plus, they have oval-shaped feet which is rarely seen in small dogs.

The tail can be docked or undocked, depending on the laws of the state. However, seeing a natural bobtail (tail-less) Foxie is possibility.

Mini Foxies are generally hardy dogs despite being a small dog breed. Furthermore, they require very little maintenance. They’re great dogs if you can keep up with their lively energy!

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Miniature Fox Terriers can live between 18 and 20 years – even longer with good health.
  • These dogs originated from the Fox Terrier, which were bred in England to hunt Foxes. Hence, the name.
  • It’s believed that Mini Foxes were developed from crossing the Smooth Fox Terrier with the Whippet, Italian Greyhound and other various terriers.  

Miniature Foxie Temperament

Mini Foxies are known for their quick speed and agility. It’s hard to keep up with one as they were bred to ruthlessly take down vermin in tight spaces on farms.

Though fierce and brave at work, these dogs love their owners. Because they’re always eager to please, they make great family dogs. In other words, they’re very “biddable” dogs.

They thrive on positive reinforcement and need to be regularly praised and rewarded for good behavior. Plus, they’re known to be great with children.

12. Koolie

Highlights: Patient, Strong-willed, Loyal

The Koolie is a working and/or herding dog from Australia. Though they were developed by the Australians, British imported breeds were used to for the Koolie in the early 19th century.

There is currently no set standard for the Koolie. They are as diverse as the various animals found in Australia. In other words, there’s a lot of variation with the Koolie population.

They vary in size and shape, depending on which region of Australia the Koolie is from. For example, in Northern Australia, Koolies are taller and more muscular because they were bred to herd cattle in that region.

Because they have a fairly diverse genetic pool, these dogs don’t have many health issues. They’re hardy dogs that can live around to 18 years if properly cared for.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Koolies have an unique herding tactic, in which they circle around the sheep and draw them back to the owner.
  • The first Koolie arrived in the United States in 2002, according to the Koolie Club of Australia.
  • They were once called the “German Koolie” because the predecessors were brought to Australia from Germany.  

Koolie Temperament

Koolies are both intelligent and hard-working dogs. It’s why they thrive as herding dog breeds. In fact, they’re the happiest when they have a job or task to do.

They’re great with kids because they’re patient dogs with a balanced temperament. When needed, they can fully devote to their work with enthusiasm.

When they’re at home, they can be loyal and as a result, great companions for families. These dogs aren’t naturally aggressive, but they tend to try to establish dominance in the household.

For that reason, you must approach obedience training with consistency and firmness. Positive reinforcement always works best with a Koolie.

Australian Shepherd Misconception

Most people, including myself, have erroneously believed that the Australian Shepherd was a dog originating from Australia. This is far from the truth. But with a nickname like the “Aussie,” it’s no wonder why this misconception is so prevalent.

Despite popular belief, the Australian Shepherd was actually bred in the United States on ranches and farms in California. Breeders wanted to breed an all-in-one herding dog capable of effectively herding sheep.

As a result, the Aussie was born. Australian Shepherds were given their name because they herd Australian Sheep, not because they’re from Australia.

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Finding an Australian Breed Puppy

The most important thing is to get your Australian breed puppy from a reputable breeder who is a member of the Australian National Kennel Council that does health testing.

This will ensure you get a puppy that is well bred and the breeder cares about breeding dogs that are clear of health issues. Always ask a breeder for the copies of any health testing they claim to do.

Talk to the breeder about temperament and let them know the type of dog that will fit into your lifestyle. Spend time getting to know the breeder of the breed of your choice.

You can expect to pay from a minimum of $800 upwards for a well-bred puppy (depending on the breed) that has health testing done of the parents.

You will rarely find these dogs in rescue or a shelter. Breeders will take them back or help to re-home them, if their owners find they can no longer keep their dogs.

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About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd.

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