History of Queensland Heeler Dogs

The Queensland Heeler is also called Australian Cattle dog (blue heeler and red heeler) has a long and fascinating history to say the least.

If you are interested in getting one of these dogs, you’ll certainly want to learn about its past. They make excellent pets, and their origins are worth looking into.

Skilled Herders

There is no question that the Queensland Heeler is a very skilled herder. In fact, that is precisely what it was bred to do. It is also why these dogs are so loyal and fiercely protective of their owners, which is definitely a positive trait in any pet.

Settlers came from the British Isles in the late 1700s to Australia. The expansive new land was ample and perfect for grazing, which is why they kept lots of sheep and cows. These settlers were no longer limited by the land restrictions of their former home. They brought with them their sheepdogs to protect the livestock.

It quickly became clear to the settlers that they needed a different sort of dog to herd and protect their new, much larger groups of cattle and sheep. This is the beginning of the Queensland Heeler’s origin story.

red heeler

An Interesting Crossbreeding Endeavor

The Queensland Heeler was bred from the Australian dingo and the sheepdogs that the settlers brought with them. When searching for the right dog to breed their sheepdogs with, it didn’t take them long to notice the native dingo. 

The fearlessness of the dingo was a huge factor in their decision. They needed a dog that would be able to handle a massive amount of livestock without being intimidated in the slightest.

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While it took some experimenting to get the breeding just right, it was ultimately a success. The very first Heelers looked a lot more like dingoes than what we have today. They were a bit stockier than ordinary dingoes with a red and black colored coat. It didn’t take long for word about this fierce new dog to sweep the entire area.

George Elliot played a crucial role in developing this breed into what it is today. He bred the original collies that the settlers brought over with the local dingoes. While this breed still had a ways to go, it was definitely a step in the right direction.

Introduction of Dalmatian Genes

While the first iteration of the new sheepdog yielded some success, it still needed quite a bit of fine tuning. These dogs would herd horses instead of cattle, which was of course a big problem. This is when the blood of Dalmatians was used to create the ideal herding dog.

It is very likely that the first people to create this new breed resided in the area surrounding Sydney. These dogs were born with only white coats and developed either red or blue spots within a few weeks. This was a far more successful endeavor than the first attempt.

Settlers then attempted to introduce genes from the Bull Terrier, which was a huge step backward. They quickly abandoned this idea when it was clear that they had made a massive mistake.

Queensland Heeler in city

The Kelpie

In an effort to correct some of the problems from the previous cross-breed, blood from the Kelpie was used. This dog has a black and light colored coat, and it has a long reputation for being a very skilled herder. It was exactly what they needed to create the perfect animal to herd and protect large groups of cattle.

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The result of this cross-breed was a very strong and muscular dog that was able to handle its herding responsibilities with great skill. These dogs had light colored legs and areas of crimson red on their bodies.

There were many ideal herding characteristics in this iteration, including fierce loyalty and protectiveness. It also has an amazing level of intelligence that rose to the level of problem solving. It quickly learned and responded to commands from its owners as well. This was a huge turning point in the history of the Queensland Heeler.

The New Herding Dog

This new sheepdog was touted as the perfect breed for herding cattle by Robert Kaleski, who worked as a journalist in Australia at the time. By the early 1900s, this breed’s standard became accepted by the Cattle and Sheep Dog Club of Australia. It was dubbed the Australian Cattle Dog, which is still its name today.

The Queensland Heeler has retained its remarkable intelligence and herding abilities since the last cross-breeding endeavor many years ago. It has also been used in dog shows since the 1950s, and with amazing results. In fact, this dog has proven itself to be one of the best in show.

blue heeler

American Kennel Club

The Australian Cattle Dog was not immediately recognized by the American Kennel Club. The problem was that the registered dogs’ origin couldn’t be traced to Australia. This led to a significant dip in the population, as breeding became less common. It wasn’t until 1978 that this dog’s popularity really picked up. This was mostly due to its appearances in various shows.

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When it became clear that this dog could consistently perform so well, the AKC was forced to take notice. It was officially recognized by this prestigious organization in 1980.

This dog was entered into its first American Kennel Club show in January of 1983. Its overall performance blew everyone away, including those who already knew what it was capable of. This cemented the reputation of the Queensland Heeler as a smart, capable, and obedient breed.

Final Thoughts

The Queensland Heeler is considered to be one of the most loyal, hard-working and intelligent dogs in the world today. It is still extremely sought after by livestock workers and individual owners alike. If you are interested in getting a new dog, this one has a lot to offer. This dog was carefully and selectively bred. It remains one of the best dogs for herding cattle due to its unique history. Despite the intimidation abilities of this breed, it is very social and friendly, making for a great pet.

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