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Origin of the Breed

"The history of the Australian Cattle Dog is as long and varied as the history of Australia itself and controversy that surrounds this history will be subject to debate for years to come as there were few written records." Narelle Robertson - 'Judging the Australian Cattle Dog'.

As large unfenced grazing lands were opened up in the early days of the Australian Colony, there was a great need for a dog with stamina and force, yet quiet in his method of working, to assist drovers in getting wild cattle to the sale yards.

Many breeds were tried, but all were found to be unsatisfactory in the harsh Australian climate and over the rugged terrain.

Robert Kaleski, the earliest historian for the 'Australian Cattle Dog', believed that the breed is descended from a pair of smooth haired Blue Merle Highland Collies that were imported by Thomas Simpson Hall of 'Dartbrook' in 1840. Recent research, however indicates that Hall imported Northumberland Blue Merle Drovers Dogs, probably in the 1830's. Hall then crossed his Drovers Dogs with the Dingo. By 1840 he was satisfied with the type of working dog he had produced. These were red or blue mottled and became known as Hall's Heelers.

ancestors of the Australian Cattle Dog
Some of the Australian Cattle Dogs

Two brothers set about improving these dogs by introducing the Dalmatian, and thereby changing the mottles to speckles. Later the Black & Tan Kelpie was introduced, and this left the tan marking and black head of the blue dog. It is generally believed that this completed the infusion of breeds, although some believe that the Bull Terrier was also used.

The Australian Cattle Dog ("ACD") of today retains a recognisable contribution from each of the founding breeds. The Northumberland Blue Merle Drovers Dogs were accustomed to work from the 'tail' or 'wings' of a mob of cattle. The Dingo brought in stamina and cunning, and silent working. The Dalmatian was introduced to enhance quality of loyalty  to master and possessions and to improve dog/horse partnership. The Kelpie was added to regain the working ability lost by the Dalmatian infusion and to bring in 'heading' and 'turning' traits.

The early breeders were selective in breeding for working ability, type and colour, and the dog became known as a Queensland Heeler. In 1897, Robert Kaleski started showing his Heelers, and is considered primarily responsible for setting down the original standard of the Australian Cattle Dog. This standard was approved by the Kennel Club of NSW in 1903.

In the past, these dogs were known as Hall's or Queensland Heelers and then in subsequent years as Blue Heelers and Red Heelers, depending upon colour. The formal, modern name for the breed is the Australian Cattle Dog, although they are still often colloquially referred to as heelers.