There is a huge diversity of animals in Australia, from the deadliest snakes in the world to the eucalyptus loving koala. 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.
Australians have an addiction to their pets, particularly dogs. And it shows with an estimated 4.8 million dogs, which equates to 20 dogs for every 100 people.
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Table of Contents
Dog Breeds from Australia
With that said, Australia has developed several amazing dog breeds to suit the harsh conditions of the country. From intelligent working dogs to terriers, we examine these recognized Australian dog breeds.
1. Australian Cattle Dog
Highlights: Vigilant, Curious, Friendly.
Farmers developed the Australian Cattle Dog in the early 1800s from the Smithfield type working dog from England. The aim was to produce a good working dog suitable for Australian conditions that was silent.
The Smithfield found the harsh conditions of working cattle in Australia difficult. So farmers crossed it with the wild dingo which is a silent hunter. This resulted in red bob-tailed dogs named Timmins Biters. While they were silent workers, they were too headstrong and severe biters so the new breed died out.
Farmers tried other crosses such as the rough collie and bull terrier cross but they were not suitable for working cattle. In 1840, two smooth-coated, blue merle collies came out from Scotland. While they were good workers, they were incessant barkers as they worked stock.
The owner, Thomas Hall, crossed the progeny of this pair with the dingo and this produced dogs that worked silently. These dogs became known as Hall’s Heelers. The colors of these dogs’ coats came in blue or red merle. Hall’s Heelers became much sought after by cattlemen across the country.
Birth of the Australian Cattle Dog
The bothers Jack and Harry Bagust bought a pair of the dingo/blue merle collie cross pups and decided to improve the breed. They crossed these dogs with an imported Dalmatian to improve the dogs’ social skills around horses and to protect their owner’s property.
This cross turned the merle coats into a speckle in color but they lost some of the working ability. So, they crossed these with a black and tan kelpie. The result of this cross became the foundation of the breed in Australia. They called these dogs blue heelers and, of course, there are the red heelers as well.
In 1893, there was a breed standard created for showing these dogs in the conformation ring. In 1903 they became known as the Australian Heeler and then the Australian Cattle Dog. This name has stuck and is there official name now in Australia.
Australian Cattle Dogs are identical in type and build to the dingo but 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.
Australian Cattle Dog Temperament
While the Australian Cattle dog is still used for herding, it is a wonderful pet and companion dog. 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. Some of them have health issues that can arise throughout their lives. 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.
Stumpy Tail Temperament
The stumpy tail temperament is a loyal, alert, courageous and obedient dog. But is reserved around strangers. They are also good 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 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 are partly developed from the 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.
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 a versatile dog and can work all day on the farm. You can then take them to a sheepdog trial to compete and work all types of animals including ducks.
Show kelpies are easy to train and 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 a dog that can be happy kept in a suburban backyard. They are loyal, very intelligent, and eager to please.
Kelpies have 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 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 Yorkshire Terriers.
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.
Silky Terrier Temperament
Australian Silky Terriers are mischievous rascals and make excellent companions. They are intelligent, quick to learn, and are alert and playful. They love to cuddle up to their family and are an easy-going dog breed that lives up to 14 years.
These are a robust dog 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 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 toy breed growing to only 10 inches in height. It has a coarse wiry coat that grows about 2 inches in length. It comes in three colors: red, tan, and blue and tan.
Australian Terrier Temperament
Australian Terriers are very intelligent little dogs. They are easy to train and love to work but can be a bossy boots with other pets. It loves spending time with its people and makes a fantastic companion dog and live up to 14 years.
The Australian Terrier can have a few issues including cruciate ligament rupture, Legg-Perthes disease, and seizures.
6. Tenterfield Terrier
Highlights: Social, Adaptable, Bold
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.
It was first 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 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.
This little dog is very intelligent and independent, and because of this can be hard to train. They are a strong, active dog, and are confident and fearless.
The Tenterfield Terrier lives up to 14 years and has 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 Australian Staghound is a hunting dog breed that originated from Australia. They generally hunt boar, kangaroos and sometimes hare. Consider the Australian Staghounds to be distant relatives of the American Staghound. However, they are not an official recognized breed.
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. 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.
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.
As expected, the Australian Staghounds are wonderful with small children. They also tend to get along with other dogs if socialized properly as a puppy. 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.
The Australian Shepherd Misconception
Most people, including myself at one point, 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. Breeders wanted to breed an all-in-one herding dog capable of effectively herding sheep.
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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