Queensland Heeler a dog of many colors.

3:31 PM Posted by rockrunner


Often times I have told people I have a Red Heeler for a dog. I get asked "Wow, is that like a Blue Heeler?" Yes, Yes it is. I have one of those too and they are the exact same breed. As a matter of fact these dogs have several names; Red Heeler, Blue Heeler, Halls Heeler. The American Kennel Club would refer to them as Australian Cattle Dogs. A more generic name is Queensland Heeler. The term Red Heeler or Blue Heeler are a reference to the color of the dog, not a different breed. Queensland Heelers that are brown, are referred to as Red Heelers and Queensland Heelers that are grey or black are called Blue Heelers. Two Red Heelers can have a Blue Heeler and two Blue Heelers can have a Red Heeler. A Blue Heeler and a Red Heeler do not produce a purple dog. There is one difference between a Queensland Heeler and an Australian Cattle Dog. To be American Kennel Club certified they cannot have a docked tail. In other words the Blue Heeler, Red Heeler, Queensland Heeler are unwanted dogs by the American Kennel Club, because they don't have tails.

Queensland Heelers came about in Australia in the 1800's. When the ranching of cattle started to move further west, ranchers started to notice that the dogs they had been using couldn't keep up or get the job done in the deserts harsh environment. Years of experimentation yielded what we have now, the Queensland Heeler. I have read numerous books and sources about the creation of the cattle dog. There is numerous speculation about what type of dogs went in to the creation of the Red Heelers and the Blue Heelers. I don't think anyone really knows. One expert claims to know one theory and another expert claims a completely different theory. The most common combination that comes up more than any other is: Blue Merle Collie, Australian Kelpie, Dalmation, Dingo, and Staffordshire Terrier.

The Blue Merle Collie apparently has the smallest influence on Red Heelers. Their only noticeable contribution is the grey color in the Blue Heelers. Red Heelers get their coloring from one of the other breeds.

The Australian Kelpie was chosen for its innate ability to work cattle. Heelers are natural herding dogs. Queensland Heelers will nip the heels of cattle to get them to start moving, a trait that non-working dogs still carry and has given many dogs an aggressive reputation. This is why they have the name heeler, a trait they most likely inherited from the Kelpie.


The Dalmation was chosen for its natural love and affinity for horses. If you ever see a picture of an old horse drawn fire engine and a Dalmation on the seat, now you know why. Dalmations can naturally tell the difference between a horse and a cow. Nothing could be a bigger annoyance than having your dog heel your mount. The Dalmation's DNA is why Queensland Heelers are born white.

The Dingo was chosen for its endurance, stamina and ability to withstand and survive in Australias western desert. A Red Heeler unlike the Blue Heeler gets its coloring from the Dingo. Dingos were too wild and aggressive to work cattle so they had to mix it with others to make it trainable. Don't underestimate your heeler though. One animal biologist has suggested that the Queensland Heeler is as close as you can get to owning a wild animal without a special permit.

Lastly is the Staffordshire Terrier. Did I mention that the Queensland Heeler nips at the heels of the cattle to get them to move? Well if you are going to be working with your teeth all day, you are going to need a strong bite.


Now that you know that Blue Heelers, Red Heelers, Queensland Heelers, Halls Heelers and Australian Cattle Dogs are all the same dog, you can watch these movies which have featured a heeler. "Last of the Dogmen", "The Road Warrior", "Secret Window" and more recently "The Incredible Hulk".

15 comments:

leslie said...

so are the heelers really Heinz 57?

redrockrunner said...

Yes. They just kept mixing them until they got the traits they wanted and then started interbreeding the ones that had those traits with each other.

Rheanna said...

Komet's definitely got the nipping down. I actually learned something from this I didn't know before.

James said...

Hi – Will you please post a link to your Blog at The Australian Cattle Dog Community? Our members will love it.
Members include: ACD Owners, Breeders, Trainers, Rescues and Lovers.
It's easy to do, just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website...
You can also add Photos, Videos, Rescues and Classifieds if you like.
Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you.
The Australian Cattle Dog Community: http://www.vorts.com/australian_cattle_dogs/
Thanks,
James Kaufman, Editor

Unknown said...

We have a blue healer, probably one of the smartest dogs I have ever seen, and protective.

cowabunga said...

The herding dog apparently used was a North Umberland Drover's dog, imported from the Scotland/Yorkshire area where Thomas Hall's family lived. He crossed those with Dingoes and kept all the pups himself. After he died. others may have experimented. I read one place where Robert Kaleski in the early part of the last century wrote up his ideas of what went into to the breed and it's possible it's supposition. There is no merle gene in the breed...it's a ticking gene that gives them their speckling. The solid color spots are what color they'd be without that ticking gene. It's also not the same gene that give Dalmatians their spots! AKC Cattle Dogs must be able to trace their pedigree back to the late 1800s Hall's Heelers. Many dogs that came to the US after WW2 were bred back to Dingoes, and were removed from the AKC breeding programs. All the names are used informally with the breed, regardless of tails or no tails. But the ones whose tailed are docked cannot be shown. To add to the confusion, there IS a Stumpy-Tail Cattle Dog that is born with a short tail and is its own breed. Docking tails on cattle dogs is a fad, and I wish it would stop. Please don't request a breeder or vet to do it, and quit buying pups that have been docked. Dogs use their tails for balance, for turning, and for communication. It doesn't get in their way when they are working. I see more and more heelers with blue eyes, and I am not sure why. Must be a recessive gene or maybe they come from a line where some other breed carrying the blue-eyed gene was infused into some past breeding program. I also don't think there was any Kelpie originally infused into the breed. I believe these are all suppositions of Robert Kaleski to explain why (he figured) the dog looked as it does. Their noses should be black...I am now seeing other colors, such as chocolate, with amber eyes and brown noses...don't know if they can be registered or not. Again it might be a recessive gene and breeding for traits from recessive genes can bring on problems...read about Dalmatians and the serious health and temperament problems they're having now. Anyway, it would be fun to get comprehensive DNA tests done by several AKC breeders to see what it shows. Not trying to argue with anyone...just love the breed and research of its origins. Regardless of what's in them, I love, love. love these dogs!!!

Jazzymouse said...

I think from what I've read we have a kelpie. Very aggressive when company is a concern. Any help in that respect. He's very intelligent and curious.

Unknown said...

Your comment was fantastic! My Cattle Dog which was given to me runs all day. I use to think my Border Collies were athletic, but this little guy is really athletic! Great dogs!

Unknown said...

Fascinating! We recently took in a stray red heeler mix. When we couldn't find his home we considered rehoming him, but he is so smart and has a wonderfully calm disposition. He loved being outside, [which makes my husband happy. He was raised on a farm & doesn't like dogs inside much. Unfortunately I like dogs inside] so we've decided to keep him. His coloring is interesting - he has a brown nose & green eyes, but the traditional red heeler coat.

Aaryn Knapp said...

I would love to get advice on this as well. My girl is 4 years old. I haven't been very successful in keeping her from herding people. She only does it with strangers and people she has only met a few times. Once she knows you and give her attention she stops. Also, which is a big concern is small children under about 12 years of age. No matter how many times she has met them, she'll run up behind them as they walk by and start nipping at their ankles. Obviously that's unsettling but even more so for the kid.
I HATE it because people always say "your dog tried to bite me!". I have to hold on to her around strangers and kids like she's a threat. People also think she's a pitbull sometimes and think she's going to maul them. It's a little annoying that I have to explain the breed to people all the time. I feel like I'm making excuses for her behavior constantly. Other than that she's a fabulous dog and I wouldn't trade her for the world.
She loves her family with complete devotion. She comes when we call her, even from a distance. She's very submissive to her family at home. My cat even has her in check, but she loves chasing feral cats and bunnies that roam around our property in the country.
She's so sweet and loveable and very smart. It's just the nipping. When I tell her no after she nips, she's knows exactly what she did and gives me puppy dog eyes like she is sorry but then do it again 2 minutes later. Ugh! Occasionally she even growls at other dogs when they get mad at her for nipping them. A couple fights have almost broke out because of it. I hope she's not a ticking time bomb. I'm scared she might actually hurt someone or another animal and I'll be charged and ordered to put her down. I would be devastated if that happened.

Unknown said...

Yes. Yess they are.

Suzanne said...

Bummer but nipping is their job. Just for anyone thinking of having a heeler you might try this. My heeler is 3 now and the very first interactions for socialization I used were to friends and family with babies(infants)! and young children. I always introduced them and used the termonology “it’s a baby” . He has never once tried to nip anyone. Any new intro human cat dog chicken is introduced as a baby. He cannot get enough love from any one person and only herds cattle on the ranch. BUT he knows his job is to protect my cats chickens etc. and any interloper who may make the mistake of getting through to his property may not leave alive. He protects to the death,literally. They have no fear which is in itself a bit unnearving due to their small stature. Quick agile and proud of their achievments. Fun with frisbees balls swimming jumping etc. These dogs are amazingly smart and will keep you laughing and busy! Headstrong so you must be the boss. They always try to outsmart you!

Suzanne said...

P.S. I keep a small container(like fishermen have plastic with screw on lid for hooks etc) and have pea gravel in it. Anything that makes noise. Beans etc. when I shake it he stops cold from whatever he needs correction on.Has worked like a charm on all my dogs. Gets their attention instantly.

Just jp said...

Our red and blue HERDED U & sometimes friends that with us. Especially if in acrowd, they herd us away from large # of "strangers".

They are Uber smart and very alpha oriented and protective

Aaryn said...

That's a great idea! Thanks!

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