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Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Recently I came upon an article about Australian Working dog breeds which mentioned the three breeds which have specially been developed in Australia as well as the wonderful Border Collie which is so popular both as a working dog and a pet here.

In our family our first dog was an Airedale terrier - a wonderful pet who grew up with our kids and bounced her way into everyone's heart. She lived for 12 years and survived an epic battle with a King Brown snake by biting its mouth closed so it couldn't bite her !!

Our next two dogs ( and we had decided "no more dogs ! " ) were Sally's two, Dash and Baker.

Both from working dog breeds and both from the outback but neither were working dogs. A Border Collie and a Cattle Dog X ( who lucky for her had been dumped in Sally's front yard !).

We minded these dogs for five years while Sally worked and travelled overseas then kept them ( for another 5 or 6 years ) when she returned as they she didn't have space for them in her city lodgings so they became our dogs.

Given the choice at the time I seriously doubt we would ever have chosen these breeds as our preferred breed for a pet although Border Collies have always been popular as pets and there are more and more Cattle Dogs as city dogs too.

So when I read this article about our unique breeds I was surprised to learn of a new one to me - the Koollie - and thought I'd write a post (or two, or even three !) about Australian Working Dogs.

Australia has produced three wonderful working dog breeds that are quite unique to us -
The Australian Cattle Dog, The Kelpie and the Koollie.

The Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog is a sturdy, muscular, compact dog that gives the impression of agility and strength and comes in two colours - blue and red.

Both red dogs and blue dogs are born white (except for any solid-coloured body or face markings) and the red or black hairs grow in as they mature. The distinctive adult colouration is the result of black or red hairs closely interspersed through a predominantly white coat.

In the 19th century, New South Wales cattle farmer Thomas Hall crossed the dogs used by drovers in his parents' home county, Northumberland, with dingoes he had tamed. The resulting dogs were known as Halls Heelers.
 After Hall's death in 1870, the dogs became available beyond the Hall family and their associates. They were subsequently developed into the modern breed: the Australian Cattle Dog. -
From Wikipedia
The Australian Cattle Dog is energetic and intelligent with an independent streak. It responds well to structured training and was originally bred to herd by biting ( or heeling.) 
Thus the common name Blue or Red Heeler

They form a strong attachment to their owners, and can be protective of them and their possessions.
Woe betide the reckless person who dares to touch anything left in the back of a workman's "ute" when a Cattle Dog is left waiting in the back of the vehicle!

Although originally bred to work cattle these days many are kept as pets. They are affectionate and playful with their owners but can be reserved with people they don't know and are cautious in new situations.
They are wonderful at keeping out intruders as they are inclined to let intruders inside their owners' property but not out !! The sight of one usually makes a robber look for another house to rob !
Many of a Cattle Dog's natural behaviours are undesirable in a pet: barking, chewing, chasing, digging, defending territory, and nipping heels ( especially of running children ! ) so puppies from a working dog line are not ideal. It is better to choose a puppy from a suburban line which has been socialised to exhibit more acceptable behaviours. They live for 12 to 14 years and need plenty of exercise, companionship and to be kept busy in both mind and body.

Our Dash was a Cattle Dog X and a wonderful pet. The herding instinct was still there and on a walk she would bump the straggler along by hitting the back of your leg with her nose ( usually me !). She would play and interact for a while then take herself off a little way where she liked to sit and observe a little way out of the action.
Cattle Dogs form strong bonds with their owners and can be very protective and in tune with their owner's emotions, often springing to their defence without waiting for a command. On two occasions Dash saved me from an attacking dog, freeing herself from her lead by ducking her head out of her collar in one quick movement ( they have strong, thick necks ) and launching herself bodily at the attacking dog - on one occasion a large German Shepherd which she sent packing !!

It's been nice looking at these old photos and remembering Dash.
More on Australian Working Dogs tomorrow.


  1. All such wonderful dogs, too, each one of them.

    Like a fool I watched the movie "Red Dog"...I should've known better! I howled my eyes out...of course!!

  2. I love reading about these breeds! Nice photos!

  3. We've had a few working dogs as pets over the years. Our blue healer cross was the most loyal and affectionate pup and really sad when he died of old age. There is a story in my family that the kelpie we had when I was a littlie "busted all the bantams" and had to be sent out on to a property. Great topic Helen.

  4. Though not a dog lover, I enjoyed this post Helen and am already looking forward to the next dog post.

  5. Very interesting post Helsie. I didn't know about the origin of the Australia cattle dog and it being part dingo. Thanks for sharing.
    Anne xx

  6. Really interesting post Helen. All are beautiful dog breeds! Ros

  7. I've had both red and blue Heelers and a Kelpie, and they were all great dogs. I'll be interested to read about a Koolie.

  8. Dash was my best mate, I miss her a lot.

  9. I really enjoyed reading this article! I have just launched a book on Popular Dog Breeds, here is the link http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00S4SUJZQ