There is a huge diversity of animals in Australia, ranging from the deadliest snakes in the world to the eucalyptus loving koala. It’s a fascinating country with all types of indigenous animals that inhabit the unique terrain. Australian dog breeds are no exception.
The saying, “everything in Australia can kill you” is far from the truth. Rather, native Australian dogs may actually kill you with their overwhelming cuteness. And believe it or not, the diverse Australia is home to 12 unique and beautiful dog breeds.
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Native Australian Dog Breeds
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. And while foreign dog breeds are popular in Australia, it’s worth highlighting these native dogs from “down under.”
All Australian dog breeds include the:
- Australian Cattle Dog
- Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog
- Silkie Terrier
- Australian Terrier
- Tenterfield Terrier
- Australian Staghound
- Kangaroo Dog
- Bull Arab
- Mini Fox Terrier
Read on to learn more about the temperament, personality, unique physical traits, and interesting facts about each Australian dog breed.
1. Australian Cattle Dog
Highlights: Vigilant, Curious, Friendly
Also known as the “Blue Heeler,” Australian Cattle Dogs were developed by farmers in the early 1800s from the Smithfield-type working dog of England. The aim was to produce a hard working dog breed suitable for Australian conditions, but while also retaining a quiet nature.
After crossbreeding the Dingo, Rough Collie and Bull Terrier, Australian Cattle Dogs were ultimately the result. Needless to say, it took many attempts and several iterations before the modern Australian Cattle Dog we know and love today was born.
These herding dogs are identical to the Dingo in type and build, though having a thicker set. They have black patches around the eyes, black ears, and brown eyes. The body is a elegant dark blue with a coat evenly speckled in light blue.
Blue Heelers have the same tan markings as the black and tan Kelpie on its head, legs and chest. On the other hand, the “Red Heelers” have red markings instead of black and their coat has a red speckle. It’s what differentiates the two.
- 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
Australian cattle dogs are arguably the best cattle herders in the world, hence the name. And while that may seem like a great natural ability, it may lead to traits not ideal for most families. For example, these dogs tend to be active and have high energy.
On the bright side, they are very trainable and obedient if their owners are patient and consistent with training from puppy-hood. And although these dogs are extremely smart (in fact, one of the top 10 most intelligent), they’ll need a lot of exercise to keep them happy and healthy.
Australian Cattle Dogs are a hardy breed and live up to 15 years. Even so, some of them may develop health issues if they’re used for herding. These can be hip or elbow dysplasia, steochondritis dissecans, retinal atrophy, and deafness. Other than that, they just shed a lot.
2. Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog
Highlights: Alert, Obedient, Playful
The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog has similar origins to the Australian Cattle Dog. In fact, the stumpy tails were often preferred by the stockmen of northern New South Wales and Queensland. As a result, they were only developed for herding.
In 1918, the Queensland Kennel Club created a separate standard for these dogs since they had natural bobtails and a different temperament. However, they look very much like the Blue Heeler – aside from the tail. Plenty of people get them confused all the time.
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.
- 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 Cattle Dog Temperament
The Stumpy Tail’s temperament is a loyal, alert, courageous and obedient dog. Much like Blue Heelers, they’re very smart and take training very seriously. However, they can be a little reserved when around strangers. It’ll take a while for them to warm up to a stranger.
Early socialization is needed with this dog for a more social and relaxed dog. And when it comes to kids, they’ll need extra work as they can get overly excited and knock a small child over. You’ll want to make sure the kids are old enough to play with these dogs too.
Australian Stumpy Tails are also fantastic workers and excel at dog sport. These dogs make good loyal companions and live up to 15 years. But what makes them the happiest is a large living space with plenty of room to run around. We recommend homes with large backyards.
3. Australian Kelpie
Highlights: Devoted, Vigilant, Energetic
The Australian Kelpie breed comes from a line of imported Scottish collie breeds used for stock work in the early 19th Century. But even so, there is still much mystery surrounding how this breed developed in Australia over the years.
They were partly developed from the native Australian Dingos but not much else is clear about some of the other breeds used to develop this amazing workaholic. Today, they’re some of the top herding dogs that’s been exported all over the world to herd sheep, cattle and goats.
However, herding isn’t all they do. There are two types of Kelpies in Australia: working and show lines. The Kelpies shown in the conformation ring are generally a bit shorter and stockier than the working-line Kelpies. A leaner frame is typically better for work.
These dogs are a medium-sized dog breed with 3 different types of coats: smooth, rough, and short. In addition, Kelpies can come in a variety of colors including chocolate, red and tan, black and tan, smoke blue, fawn and black.
- 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. Oddly enough, Kelpies are well known for jumping on the backs of sheep when working them on the field. In fact, it’s the Kelpie’s unique method of keeping them moving.
Show Kelpies excel in dog sport such as agility, jumping, and dog obedience. So while they can be a top choice for a dog companion, they’ll have a lot of energy and require plenty of exercise on a daily basis. And don’t forget to have mental activities included!
Kelpies are not dogs that can be happy kept in a suburban backyard. And don’t even try to keep one in a cramped apartment. As long as their needs are sufficiently met, Kelpies will be loyal, very trainable, and eager to please their humans.
4. Australian Silky Terrier
Highlights: Friendly, Alert, Agile
The Australian Silky Terrier was developed for catching vermin, but also as a companion dog. So while they may be petite (only grows to about 10 inches high), they can do some serious damage on the field while hunting rats.
The Australian Silky Terrier is a dog breed created in Australia in the late 1800s by crossing the Australian Terrier with a Yorkshire Terrier. The aim was to breed a more robust dog with the quality and coat color of the Yorkshire Terrier.
The two look so similar that there is often confusion. However, there are few key physical traits that set them apart. For example, the Silky has a wedge-shaped head (vs a round head of a Yorkie). Plus, Silkies have larger teeth intended for catching bigger prey.
Australian Silky Terriers have a long, silky hypoallergenic coat that is blue and tan. That said, they’ll need grooming on a regular basis if the coat grows to its full length. Otherwise, the coat will tangle and cause knots that require trimming.
- 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
The Australian Silky Terriers are mischievous rascals but make excellent companions despite their ability to get themselves in trouble. They have all the best traits of a companion: intelligent, quick to learn, and are alert and playful.
If you’re looking for an Australian lap dog, the Silky Terrier may be ideal. They love to cuddle up to their family and are an easy-going dog breed that lives up to 14 years. However, they’re still active at times and demand exercise.
For some reason, they’re quite fond of digging holes. And without physical exercise, you may very well see holes in your backyard. In addition, they have a habit of chasing small animals. This is likely due to their prey drive, which needs to be kept in check.
5. Australian Terrier
Highlights: Friendly, Brave, Spirited
The Australian Terrier was first developed in 1820 and first called the “Rough-coated Terrier.” This feisty little dog was purposely bred for hunting down rats and snakes, but have since transitioned into a top Australian companion dog.
The breed’s ancestors include Yorkshire Terriers, Shorthaired Skye Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Irish Terrier and the Dandie Dinmont Terrier over the years. It’s why they have similar traits that match the Silky Terrier and Yorkshire terrier.
The Australian Terrier is a small dog breed, growing to only 10 inches in height. They have a coarse wiry coat that grows about 2 inches in length. While it may seem long, it’s much shorter than their cousins: the Yorkie and Silky. Plus, they come in red, tan, or blue and tan.
- 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 that thrive with obedience. They are easy to train and love to work, but can be a bossy boots with other pets, especially smaller ones. They will need to be socialized at an early age to get along with other pets.
The Australian Terrier loves spending time with its people and makes a fantastic companion dog, all while living up to 14 years. They’re generally very lively and energetic dogs that get along with all people of your home, including kids.
However, the Australian Terrier can be a little mischievous, especially when they are bored or need more exercise. In fact, they’re happiest when they’re involved with family activities. Keep them entertained and they’ll shower you with love for many years.
6. Tenterfield Terrier
Highlights: Social, Adaptable, Bold
The Tenterfield Terriers were derived from the Old English White Terrier, which unfortunately no longer exists. This dog breed is exceptional at killing rats, but are also fantastic family pets. They’re perfect for a family living on a vermin-infested farm.
They were originally called the “Mini Fox Terrier” but many felt this name was misleading since they don’t really hunt fox. After a voting, 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. After all, they needed quick speeds to catch their smaller prey. The Tenterfield terriers have a short, smooth white coat that has markings of black, tan, liver and blue.
But that’s not all to the unique appearance of the Tenterfield. These Australian dogs can also come in tri colors as well. Their coats are easy to care for with little grooming required, making them a good choice for owners with busy lifestyles.
- 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.
The Tenterfield is very intelligent and independent, and because of this, can be hard to train. They are strong, active dogs with a temperament that’s both confident and fearless. These are the traits most useful in “hunting dogs.”
Tenterfield Terriers are some of the most adaptable dogs to originate from Australia. Although small in size, the Tenterfield is always optimistic and sociable. In other words, they’ll enjoy the company of their humans and love being the center of attention.
Because they’re always alert, the Tenterfield Terrier can make an excellent watchdog. They’ll alert you if strangers are on your property. However, don’t expect them to do much outside of some loud barking and running around.
7. Australian Staghound
Highlights: Gentle, Affectionate, Calm
The Australian Staghound is one of the few hunting dog breeds to come from Australia. They tend to hunt boar, kangaroos and sometimes larger hare. That said, consider the Australian Staghounds to be distant cousins of the American Staghound.
This Australian dog breed was developed by crossbreeding a Greyhound with a Scottish Deerhound. Both of which, were brought into the country by early European settlers. The goal was to find a breed combination for the perfect small game hunting dog.
And after years of trying, they finally found that with the Australian Staghound. However, some of the bloodlines today may be crossed with Bloodhounds, Foxhounds and other foreign dog breeds. So, a staghound may vary greatly.
Australian Staghounds are the most expensive dogs to originate from Australia, costing upwards of a thousand dollars USD. In addition, they’re not very common outside of their home country. If you’re looking for a reputable breeder, expect to pay a premium price.
- 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. They can be as loyal as any other dog breed. And although they’re 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 it’s a good idea to not expect them to protect your house, although they probably can. It really depends on your individual dog and his or her temperament.
As expected, the Australian Staghounds are wonderful with small children if properly trained. 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.
8. Australian Dingo
Highlights: Agile, Energetic, Confident
The Australian Dingo is the most ancient dog breed native to the country. They are what some may call, the landrace breed of Australia. According to IFL Science, recently discovered Dingo bones are believed to be at least 3,000 years old!
They are medium sized dogs with a hardy body and lean frame. Because they were developed with little to no human intervention, they experience few health issues. And as expected, Dingos have amazing endurance and run with high speed.
Dingoes have an undeniably unique appearance. Unlike most dogs, they have unusual proportions with the widest part of their body being the head. The body center is relatively thin and lean, giving them better agility to hunt.
For the most part, they’re wild dogs. Though some owners have domesticated Dingoes and have a lot of good things to say. Still, domesticating these dogs have been controversial. Not everyone will agree they’re meant for a family environment.
- 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. In other words, they aren’t meant for a family life in domestication. As a result, there’s very little information on their temperaments in this situation or environment.
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. And despite being 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. And much like the term “Pit bull,” these kangaroo dog refers to a type of dog breed. These dogs are Australian sighthounds primarily used as hunting companions in the Australian outback.
As given by the name, these dogs use their amazing sight to spot, locate and track down game. In some cases, they’ll be able to spot the prey much quicker than a hunter with equipment. It’s why the dog is so useful in Australia.
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 colonial settlers in the early to mid 1800s.
Unfortunately, Kangaroo Dogs are pretty rare in Australia today. They’re even more rare outside of the country. Though they still exist in rural parts of the country, they’re not being actively bred. Plus, a lack of recognition means there was no official effort to standardize the breed.
- 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. They love to play and have the endurance and stamina to keep up with even the most active kids in the home.
With a high prey-drive, these dogs love to chase. For example, if they see a squirrel running by, you can expect them to take off after it. With quick speeds, they’ll be gone before you even know. Sometimes it’s better to let them go.
Needless to say, they need a lot of physical activity, so keeping a Kangaroo Dog enclosed in your small yard is not the best idea. With that said, a large backyard with daily activities is best. So while they are loyal dogs, they’re also high maintenance dogs as well.
10. Bull Arab
Highlights: Loyal, Obedient, Calm
The Bull Arab is the only Australian dog to specialize in hunting wild pigs. Developed in the 1970s, these dogs were derived from a mix of the Bull Terrier, German Shorthaired Pointer and Greyhound to produce a special and intelligent hunter.
These dogs are excellent at locating and tracking pigs, then pinning them to the ground by the ears. From there, the hunters approach to secure the prey. 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 was developed into a hunting dog for various other game. However, when they’re not on the field, they make excellent dogs for active families that spend a lot of time outdoors or hunters.
- 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 or environment. Sure, hunting may require the aggression to come out, but they are the opposite with people they love.
Highly intelligent, Bull Arabs are some of the most obedient and trainable dogs that Australia has to offer. This characteristic is primarily due to their love for people, especially their owners and pack. They tend to be eager to please.
However, Bull Arabs do require a good amount of socialization, and early on! This is especially true for homes with kids or other smaller pets. Bull Arabs may not be aggressive, but they can still develop some 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 to hunt vermin. They’re very much like the Tenterfield Terriers in physical looks, but have a few traits that set them apart from their close cousins.
They’re small dogs, but balanced with attractive physical features. Mini Foxies will 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 dog breeds.
The tail can be docked or undocked, depending on the laws of the state. But when they’re asked to work on the field and hunt game, the docking is almost always present. Even so, seeing a natural bobtail (tail-less) Foxie is a possibility.
Mini Foxies are generally hardy dogs despite being a small dog breed. They have a sturdy frame that made them serviceable hunters. Furthermore, they require very little maintenance. They’re great dogs if you can keep up with their lively energy!
- 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. If you love to play, these dogs will love you by taking every chance to interact.
Though fierce and brave on the field, these dogs may be soft and loving in the home. Because they’re always eager to please, they make great family dogs that are highly trainable. In other words, they’re very “biddable” dogs.
They thrive on positive reinforcement and need to be regularly praised and rewarded for any good or favorable behaviors. If they receive a lot of attention and love from their humans, they’ll thrive. Plus, the Mini Fox is known to be great with children.
Highlights: Patient, Strong-willed, Loyal
The Koolie is a working and herding dog originating from Australia. Though they were first developed by the Aussies, British imported breeds were used to for the Koolie in the early 19th century. That said, there is currently no standard for the Koolie.
Koolies are as diverse as the various animals found in Australia. In other words, there can be a lot of variation with the Koolie population. Not all Koolies will have the same temperament. In fact, not all will even look the same!
For example, 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 a bit 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. But even so, I would look out for problems of the joints and hip dysplasia.
- 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.
Koolies are intelligent dogs with a strong work ethic. It’s why they thrive as herding dog breeds. The breed is the happiest when he or she has an assigned job or task to do. They will take their jobs very seriously, thus being very reliable dogs.
In the home, 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. But when they’re with loved ones, they’ll flip the switch quickly.
Koolies can be loyal and as a result, great companions for families of all types. The Koolie will not be naturally aggressive, but they tend to try to establish dominance in the household. For that reason, you must approach training with a bit of consistency and firmness.
So let us know in the comments section below. What is your favorite Australian dog breed? And if you own one of these amazing breeds, tell us about your dog!
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Monday 8th of August 2022
Thank you for a very informative item; has made me look at the Bull Arab a little differently. I currently have a Blue Heeler X and she is fabulous; dare anyone to hurt my wife! A friend has a Mini Fox Terrier and it is an absolute ball of energy. Thanks again.
Thursday 3rd of February 2022
I own a 10 year old rescue Blue Heeler. He has become my best friend and constant companion.( Bubby)
Saturday 22nd of May 2021
Not terrific images of the Kangaroo Dog or Bull Arab , The description are pretty good, Family members bred Kangaroo Dog in Victoria late 19th century ( using them to gain bush meat - pull down kangaroo and save the expense of ammunition , The story passed on was that they used available UK breeds, primarily English greyhound Cross, Irish wolfhound, Lurcher and any long legged proven hunting dog ( for better toughness in legs and feet ) , longhair pup called Stagehound , shorthair Kangaroo Dog , I saw fabulous old sepia photo taken around the turn of the century of a grand uncle with his prized kangaroo dog in a family album . The female was clearly bigger than a contemporary racing greyhound ( taller and thicker ) , white coat with dark brindle face mask , some patches on back, Just FYI, feed back as I enjoyed the site , thanks
Sunday 8th of November 2020
Great article, very informative - well done, but I was wondering about the Cavoodle, isn't that an Australian breed?
Tuesday 10th of December 2019
I own an aussie cattle dog, Stewart. Very smart and very affective. And very friendly with my kids. So sweet!