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The Australian Cattle Dog was originally born in Australia. It was bred to help outback ranchers round up their cattle and to withstand the harsh outback conditions. The breed is loyal and devoted to its owner. The joy of owning an Australian Cattle Dog directly relates to the breed origin, why it was bred, the general appearance, its unique traits, simple diet and easy health care. According to Katherine Buetow in “ The History of the Australian Cattle Dog” she states, “There is continuing controversy over which breeds were actually used in its development. One of the difficulties in researching the history of this breed is that there was a lot of experimentation going on in trying to find the perfect combination of dogs to make up the ultimate heeler that could live and work in the Australian outback ”( 1).
The Australian Cattle Dog was thoughtfully blended with several different dogs including the dingo, which is native to Australia, to heard cattle for ranchers on the Australian outback. Originally, ranchers let their cattle roam the outback for months or even years to fatten up before rounding them up and taking them to the market for sell. Since this round up could consist of hundreds of miles, they needed a dog that could go with them and survive the round up. This is when the Australian Cattle Dog was born (Sunset 1).
The “Australian Cattle Dog” describes the breed as a unique blend of five different dogs. The breeds are the smooth-coated collie, Dalmatian, kelpie, dingo, and the bull terrier. This diversified blend that makes up the Australian Cattle Dog was obtained by many years of trial and error. There are the blue and red varieties called the Heeler or the Queensland Heeler. The heeler breed is designed to work with cattle, sheep, hogs, and fowl (Beauchamp 10).
The trainability of the Australian Cattle Dog is a reflection of its intelligence and strong desire to please their owner. The breed can be taught to work without their owner’s supervision. They can also evaluate and solve complex situations on their own. The Australian Cattle Dog owner knows the breed for its incredible stamina, intelligence, and loyalty. This is why the Australian Cattle Dog naturally takes upon itself to be not only a protector but also a companion (Beauchamp 30).
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The basic foundation in the first heelers was the need to create a dog that could with stand the most brutal outback conditions. The first attempt came from a man known as Timmins. He wanted to breed the collie with the Australian dingo. This dog was untrustworthy out of the owners’ sight. The next dog he bred with the dingo was the purebred rough collie; however this dog worked the cattle into frenzy by barking all the time. As the need grew to create a working herding dog for Australia, a man named Thomas Hall accepted the challenge (Buetow 1).
Thomas Hall, an outback rancher, first imported a pair of merle smooth-coated highland collies to help around the ranch. After a while, he realized that the breed was willing and capable, but lacked the ability to handle cattle and deal with the outback’s harsh environment. Around 1850, he then crossbred the merle smooth-coated collie and the Australian dingo. This combination of breed turned out to have great promise. Instead of herding from the front, as previous herding dogs had done, it came in low and from behind nipping at the cattle’s heals. This technique made the cattle move forward and reduced the risk of the dog being challenged, as was the case when herding from the front. The word spread around Australia very quickly, and this is when the breed of the Australian Cattle Dog first came into existence. There are many men who continued, “Fine tuning” the breed. One was a man named Thomas Bentley (Buetow 2).
Thomas Bentley laid the basic foundation for the heeler’s color and appearance. His breed had an incredible work ethic and was gloriously built. Bentley’s breed had everything today’s heelers have. One distinct characteristic is the Bentley Mark, a white spot on the forehead that signifies that the dog is of purebred. Also a common mark on heelers is the black tail spot that can be traced back to Bentley’s breed. With the heeler’s genes stable, many people wanted the breed to be a show dog along with being a work dog (Buetow 2).
The two people responsible for getting the Australian Cattle Dog its own club were Esther Ekman and Christina Smith-Risk. Their love for the breed prompted them to start the Australian Cattle Dog Club of America. Their intentions for starting the club were to get the Australian Cattle Dog out of the miscellaneous group and get the breed recognized by the American Kennel Club. Since the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1980, its popularity has risen dramatically around the world (Buetow 3).
Caring for an Australian Cattle Dog is a give and take relationship. The breed is a very curious breed. They tend to stick their noses into anything and everything. When they are left alone, even for a short period of time, they can investigate a variety of things such as, closets, garbage cans, and counter tops. Having previous knowledge of this curiosity can cut down on the stress involved with owning an Australian Cattle Dog.
Australian Cattle Dogs are free roaming by nature and need an overabundance of exercise. Loyalty and attachment to their owner can become a big problem because they want to be with their owner at all times. The Australian Cattle Dog is widely known to be one of the most intelligent and trainable breeds of dogs in the world. When they are left alone, they can become creative in taking revenge on their owner for not taking them along for the ride or walk.
The major characteristic that makes the Australian Cattle Dog stand out is their personality. Each Australian Cattle Dog has its own personality. For instance, my Australian Cattle Dog will try to “talk” by snapping his jaws together. Whenever he wants something, he will let me know by “talking” to me. This shows the intelligence of the breed. He also sits, shakes, rolls over, speaks, and shuts the doors, just to name a few. The Australian Cattle dog is bred to be active mentally and physically. If you exercise their mind and body, you will be amazed at the capability the Australian Cattle Dog.
The owner of an Australian Cattle Dog should have plenty of chew toys around the house. An Australian Cattle Dog likes to chew on just about anything. Toys such as ropes, tennis balls, and anything made of rubber will be sufficient. They have some of the strongest jaws of any breed of dog. It is not good to give them any kind of bones because they can splinter them. The splintered bone could get lodged in their throat or digestive system.
The easiest aspect of owning an Australian Cattle Dog is their nutritional needs. The Australian Cattle Dog needs to be fed two to three times daily. They need a diet high in nutrients and protein for their highly active personalities. With vitamin rich dog foods and vitamin supplements, it is very easy to give a heeler a proper diet.
The most challenging part about owning a heeler is taking them to the vet. Australian Cattle Dogs do not like going to the vet. They are smart enough to figure out what is in store when they go to the vet. Taking a heeler to the vet is always an adventure.
Their health care needs are the some as other dogs. They need all the shots and pills other dogs must have in order to stay healthy. Other than this small flaw of fearing the vet, owning an Australian Cattle Dog complete happiness.
The intelligence of the Australian Cattle Dog along with its loyalty to their owner makes them a life long companion that will be cherished and loved. It is not necessary to own a ranch or work around cattle to appreciate owning an Australian Cattle Dog. With the ability to survive in the most demanding environments coupled with tireless work ethic and desire to please its owner, makes the Australian Cattle Dog a joy to own.
Buetow, Katherine. The History of the Australian Cattle Dog. 15