AUSTRALIAN CATTLEDOG QUEENSLAND HEELER
By Al Walker, ARF Genealogist & Registrar
FOR THOSE WHO SEE AND FALL IN LOVE WITH AN AUSTRALIAN CATTLEDOG QUEENSLAND HEELER: An Australian Cattle Dog and an Australian Cattledog Queensland Heeler are the same breed of dog; and, "Red Heelers" and "Blue Heelers" are just nicknames for the breed. (See Breed Standard here)
The first cattle dogs brought to Australia were the British Smithfields, a name derived from the Smithfield meat markets of London. Early books depict the Smithfield as a heavy black dog with a white ring around its neck, and sometimes at the feet or tip of the tail, floppy ears, a wedge-shaped head, and a square body with long hair. The name Smithfield embraced many big working dogs, e.g., early Old English Sheepdogs or Sussex Sheepdogs were also known as Smithfields, though these early versions of that breed should not be compared with the more refined breed we see today.
Because the Smithfield lacked the stamina to work huge acreages in the extreme heat of the "Outback" [up to 140 degrees F.], the Smithfield was bred into Australia’s native dog, the Dingo. This was done in 1830 by a man named Timmins. This cross became known as the "Red Bobtail", or "Timmins’ Biters". In the 1840’s, Thomas Hall imported two Highland Collies from Scotland, which he added into the mix of the Smithfield and Dingo cross; his dogs became known as "Hall’s Heelers". In the 1870’s, two brothers, Jack and Harry Bagust, purchased two of the "Hall’s Heelers" and added the Dalmatian bloodline into the "Gene Pool". However, with this cross came the loss of some of the working ability, but, to counter this, the brothers added the bloodline of the Black and Tan Kelpie, an Australian Sheep Dog.
As you can see, the Australian Cattle Dog is a mixture of various breeds, and no one really knows as an absolute fact what all the crosses were. However, we do know that the bloodline carries the "genes" of the Smithfield, revealed by pups being born with natural bob-tails, the red coat from the Dingo, being born white from the Dalmatian, and erect ears from the Dingo and Kelpie.
In 1897, Robert Kaleski drew up the first breed standard for the "Australian Cattle Dog", and it was not revised until 1963. Two years later, 1965, the ARF recognized the Cattle Dog for it’s intelligence and working abilities.
Blue Heelers, Red Heelers, and Queensland Heelers are registered in Australia as AUSTRALIAN CATTLE DOGS. Blue Heeler, Red Heeler, and Queensland Heeler are "nicknames" here in the USA for the Australian Cattledog Queensland Heeler, or Australian Cattle Dog. [Please note, ARF combines "Cattle" & "Dog" into one word, "Cattledog", classifying this marvelous breed as the "AUSTRALIAN CATTLEDOG QUEENSLAND HEELER".]
The Animal Research Foundation [ARF] was the first to register the "Cattledog" in 1965; the American Kennel Club [AKC] followed in 1980; now the United Kennel Club [UKC] and the National Stock Dog Registry [NSDR] also recognize the Cattle Dog. If your "Cattle Dog" is AKC, UKC, NSDR, etc. registered, you also can register your "Cattle Dog" with the ARF. Further, if your "Cattle Dog" is not registered, and it is a pure bred "Heeler", you can register your "Heeler" by applying for an ARF Application for Merit Pedigree.
In an article published in the "Western Horseman", March issue, 1993, by Ms. Vikki Auten, she states:
"They first crossed a blue merle Highland Collie with a Dingo from the Australian desert. A bit of Dalmatian was added to instill loyalty, and the black-and-tan Kelpie was added to ensure the dog’s working ability."
ARF differs with Ms. Auten regarding the blue merle Highland Collie as being the first to be crossed with the Dingo. The following is ARF’s accepted account of the "AUSTRALIAN CATTLEDOG QUEENSLAND HEELER’S" development.
The first breed used was the "Black Bobtail" or "Smithfield", also known as a "Smithfield Stubby". This was an English breed whose name derived from the Smithfield meat markets of London. A few years ago, some were of the opinion that the "Smithfield" is non-existent today [See Dog World Magazine, December 1990, article on "Australian Cattle Dogs" by Sharon Pflaumer].
Early books depict the Smithfield as a heavy black dog with a white ring around it’s neck, and sometimes at the feet or tip of the tail, floppy ears, a wedge-shaped head, and a square body with long hair. The name Smithfiels embraced many big working dogs, e.g., early Old English Sheepdogs or Sussex Sheepdogs were also known as Smithfields, though these early versions of that breed should not be compared with the more refined breed we see today.
Because the Smithfield lacked the stamina to work huge acreage in extreme heat, the Smithfield was bred into Australia’s native dog, the "Dingo". A man named Timmins, New South Wales, Australia, did this in c. 1830. This created the "Red Bobtail" strain, or "Timmins’ Biters".
Later, in c. 1840, a man named Thomas Hall imported Two Highland Collies from Scotland. One was a smooth-haired, blue merle. The other was blue merle plus the Italian Greyhound and the Walleyed* Scottish Collie. This mix [Smithfield, Dingo, Highland Collie, etc.] produced dogs with red or blue mottled coats with Dingo-shaped heads. These became known as "Hall’s Heelers". [*a white or blue eye; cf. with the German Coolie/Collie mentioned later in this article.]
Also, later, the Scottish Collie [listed above], which was a result of the Italian Greyhound bred to the Walleyed Scottish Collie, was eliminated because of the Greyhound look and blue eyes. These characteristics were eliminated from the Australian Cattle Dog Standard.
In the 1870’s, two brothers, Jack and Harry Bagust, purchased two of the "Hall’s Heelers" and introduced the Dalmatian bloodline with the aim to instill a love of horses. This cross resulted in canines having a red or blue speckled coat rather than mottled coats. However, with this cross came a loss of some of the working ability. To counter the loss, the Bagusts added the bloodline of the Black and Tan "Kelpie [Australian Sheep Dog].
This combination of "Smithfield", "Dingo", "Highland Collie", "Dalmatian", "Kelpie", and possible other breeds, eventually led to what is known as the Australian Cattledog Queensland Heeler [Australian Cattle Dog]. Others believe that the Scottish Highland Collie was actually a German Coolie/Coulie [or German Collie] that was imported in c. 1840, and used to develop both the "Australian Cattledog Queensland Heeler" and "Australian Stumpy Tailed Cattle Dog". However, the Scottish Highland Collie was discontinued in the development of the Cattledog, and other breeds were used. If this breed had not been discontinued, we would see a large number of "walleyed" Cattledogs in Australia, America, and other countries.
In conclusion, the foregoing indicates that the Cattledog is a mixture of all the first crosses, and no one really knows as an absolute fact what all the crosses were. We do know that the bloodline carries the genes of the Smithfield, revealed by pups being born with natural bob-tails, the red coat from the Dingo, being born white and becoming speckled from the Dalmatian, and the erect ears from the Dingo and Kelpie.
Again, no one knows exactly how much Dingo is in a Cattledog. All they do know is that there are a lot of Dingo crosses, and no one knows what the crosses are. Remember that the first cross was the Dingo with the Smithfield from England. It was said this cross was not a success, but, the fact is, first crosses often are not all that one wants. Over the years, these crosses were further developed until they finally came up with a good working dog, an Australian Cattledog Queensland Heeler.
Regardless of all the crosses that were made, the ARF recognizes the four predominate breeds, which make up the modern day Australian Cattledog Queensland Heeler, as follows:
Smithfield Stubby [A
Collie-type, natural bob-tail, canine.]
Regardless of other breeds, which may be bred into this dog, the breed must conform to the breed standard, as outlined in the Australian National Kennel Council. However, we [ARF] will allow you to register your Cattledog if you "dock" the dog’s tail, and if your Cattledog has red or black patches on it’s back. Not all Cattledogs are "show" quality dogs; however, we would rather see a good working dog with a "docked" tail, and/or "patches" on its body than a "pretty" [conformation] dog that won’t work.
In regards to faults: The predominate faults that will disqualify the registering of an Australian Cattledog Queensland Heeler with the ARF are as follows:
Long feathered coat, on body
A silky or shiny coat
Extra long legs
Extra thin body like a Greyhound
Extra heavy/bulky body
As of interest, I came across an old letter written by Rosealie Miller, Salton City, California. She talks about a copy of a letter received from Ms. Cecily Teskera, Victoria, Australia. In Ms. Teskera’s letter, she writes about a book entitled "Dogs from Australia". In this book, there is listed a breed with blue eyes, a GERMAN COOLIE. The book describes the dog as –
"The original blue merle smooth coated Collie, which was imported from Scotland in 1840, and used to develop both the Australian Cattle Dog and the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog, sometimes called ‘The German Coolie’. It is not known how this name originated, but it still exists as a name for this type of dog."
The letter continues…
"The purebred Coolie is of medium build, fine boned, white front and collar, prick eared, speckled body…at times nearly ‘smokey blue eyes’."
In doing further research, I found that the Australian Encyclopedia refers to the Smithfield as a "natural bob black dog sometimes having a patch of white on the chest".
Mr. R. E. (Rod) Berry of New South Wales, stated,
"The Smithfield dogs found in Australia today are a natural bob blue merle with glass eyes or brown eyes, just like the Australian Shepherds there in America."
Keep in mind, the Australian Encyclopedia was describing the Smithfield dog back before 1840, and Mr. Berry is speaking of the Smithfield of today.
Mr. Berry continues…
"I have done a great deal of gathering of information regarding the dog you call the Australian Shepherd. I have come up with this: the Smithfield is not quite the same dog that you have, but he figures strongly in the breeding of the so-called Australian Shepherd [The Australian Shepherd name originated in America, not Australia, in the 1840’s.]. Many years ago, one family who lived and pioneered some of our best mountain cattle country known as the Upper Hunter River in New South Wales brought with them from Scotland some black bob tails. These dogs were fairly strong built, and, as well as a black hard coat, they had a white ring around their necks.
"This family possessed some merle type long haired and long tailed dogs for sheep work – ‘Collie-type’, and it was decided to cross these two. The blue merle dogs had white or blue eyes, sometimes broken-coloured eyes.
"The bob tail black was the original Smithfield, and the other merle dog was a breed that exists here today and is known as the ‘Coulie or German Collie’.
"To carry on with the story, some of the men-folk of this aforementioned family, Simpson by name, went to California back before or during the early Gold Rush days and took some of these bob-tailed dogs with them, and these were the old ‘Smithfield-Coulie’ cross. This also explains why there are very few or perhaps none in this country today, as only one family ever bred such a dog, and only a few at that.
"This is apparently how the Australian Shepherd got its name; it was named in America, and not here. This, I would think, is the true history of this dog, as it is not known elsewhere but the Hunter River region.
"The bob tail Smithfield as he is today in Australia: He is blue speckled and not black as he was originally, although he has no ‘Coulie’ blood today. He gets his blue colour from an old cross of the old blue merle smooth ‘Scotch Collie’."
As you can see from the collected information, the Smithfield [originally used in the development of the Australian Cattle Dog] is no longer the original black coat dog with a white chest and collar ring, but, rather, he is a blue speckled dog. Also, remember the Australian family who possessed some merle-type long haired and long tailed Collie types and crossed these two types. It resulted in blue merle dogs with white or blue eyes, sometimes broken-colored eyes [walleyed]. Keep in mind, the Black Bob Tail was the original Smithfield, and the Smithfied today is blue speckled and not black. When today’s Smithfield is bred to the German Coolie [or Coulie/Collie], that is known to have blue eyes, you have a dog that is identical to our American, present day "Australian Shepherd".
"Australian Shepherds" can be black, red, blue merle, red merle, with or without bob tails, and with or without blue eyes.
Today’s "Australian Cattledog Queensland Heelers" [Australian Cattle Dogs] are pepper red or pepper blue, red speckled, etc. Some have natural bob tails. The eye color for this breed is dark brown, never blue. If blue eyes turn up in a litter of pups, we can assume that the gene came from the Dalmatian, or the present day Smithfield, or present day German Coolie, both of which are bred into the present day Australian Shepherd.
What should you do if you have a "blue eyed" Cattledog? To prevent the perpetuation of this gene, we ask that you either spay or neuter the dog, or put the dog down. If you own a kennel, and you have a "blue eyed" dog kenneled there, you can destroy your reputation as a breeder by having him on display. Remember, not all Australian Cattledog devotees are novices; some know what the breed standard should be, and, if word gets out that you are not following the standard, your hard work will suffer.
ARF Comment: The crossing of an Australian Cattledog Queensland Heeler with an Australian Shepherd creates a third breed which we classify and register as a "TEXAS HEELER". The Texas Heeler is not as aggressive as the Australian Cattledog Queensland Heeler, but is more aggressive than the Australian Shepherd. This is the medium temperament that some cattlemen are looking for in working with their more domesticated livestock.
For more educational information on Australian Cattledogs and Australian Shepherds, I invite you to look at our books and video page. Whether you use your dog for ranch/farm work, companionship, sport, etc., you will want to learn as much as possible about your breed. The ARF has recognized the Australian Cattledog for its intelligence and working abilities. Since then, the Cattledog has been in the movies – "Mad Max", starring Mel Gibson, and on the Jan Leno Show, starring "Skidboot", from Quinlan, Texas. Whatever you use your pet for, you have a four-footed friend with a sweet disposition, with a lot of tenacity, agility, and speed. I am certain you will receive many positive comments from owning this marvelous breed.
A.W. – ARF
Without Prejudice, UCC 1-207
ARF / Common Law Copyright – 2002