This compact, medium-sized, muscular dog stands at 46-51cm (males) and 43-48cm (females) when fully grown and weighs from 17 to 23kg. The coat comes in blue; blue and tan; blue, black and tan; blue speckled; red; red and tan; or red speckled. For full details, see the breed standard.
Collies accompanied English stockmen to Australia in the 1800s but a tougher dog was needed for the harsh conditions and difficult cattle, so various dogs with specific abilities were crossbred over 60 years, including the Dingo, various collies and sheepdogs, the Kelpie, Dalmatian and Bull Terrier. Finally, by the end of the 19th century, a dog was produced that could herd cattle (by nipping their heels), work with people, use his own initiative and endure all the elements – whether it be extreme rain, cold or heat.
The Australian Cattle Dog is naturally wary of strangers and has strong guarding instincts, so early, thorough socialisation is particularly important. Early work on bite inhibition is advisable, too, as some might nip when overexcited. Although devoted to his family, he can be a handful and is not an ideal first-time breed, requiring more experienced owners.
The Australian Cattle Dog is generally an extremely hardy breed with few health problems. As with many breeds, occasionally hereditary eye disorders, and hip dysplasia (a condition that can lead to mobility problems) can arise. Eye testing and hip scoring of dogs prior to breeding is therefore advised.
The Australian Cattle dog needs about two hour's exercise a day including mental stimulation, though he will happily accept more and has great stamina and endurance. Be warned that he is very agile and can jump quite high – enabling him to steal food from counters or jump inadequate garden fences. Don't let him become bored, or he'll provide his own entertainment!
Your dog's diet needs to have the right balance of all the main nutrient groups including a constant supply of fresh water. It's important to conduct regular body condition scores to ensure you keep your dog in ideal shape and remember to feed him at least twice daily and in accordance with the feeding guidelines of his particular food.
The smooth, double-coat is low-maintenance, requiring a brush through once a week. The top coat is harsh and straight; the undercoat, short and dense. The breed's hair is around 2.5 to 4cm long, short on the head and longer on the tummy and behind the legs.