If you’ve ever wondered whether there’s a difference between the Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler, let us tell you that these two are the same dog breed. The Blue Heeler is, in fact, just a variation of the Australian Cattle Dog, and its key characteristic is its blue color.
But why are they called Heelers? What are the color variations? And is the Australian Cattle Dog exactly the same as the Blue Heeler? Are they really blue? Let’s find out!
|Key Features||Australian Cattle Dog||Blue Heeler|
|Size||17-20 inches tall||17-20 inches tall|
|Weight||40-55 pounds||40-55 pounds|
|Colors||Grey, red, black||Blue-grey speckled, blue mottled|
|Temperament||Independent, extremely intelligent, loyal, active, affectionate||Independent, extremely intelligent, loyal, active, affectionate|
|Trainability||Very trainable; requires a training routine and rewarding techniques||Very trainable; requires a training routine and rewarding techniques|
|Life Expectancy||13-15 years||13-15 years|
Key Differences Between Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler
There are only a few key differences between the Australian Cattle Dog and the Blue Heeler. The Blue Heeler is one color of Australian Cattle Dog, while Australian Cattle Dogs come in a few other colors. Otherwise, these dogs are identical and capable herding dogs.
Let’s discuss these dogs in more detail now!
Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler: Appearance
The Australian Cattle Dog and the Blue Heeler are muscular, compact dogs that seem to be very strong and agile. The female measures around 17-19 inches, and the male measures around 18-20 inches. The length of this dog breed is usually longer than the height, while the weight should vary between 40 and 55 pounds.
Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler: Color
The Blue Heeler is the same breed as the Australian Cattle Dog. The only thing that can help you tell them apart is their color; the Blue Heeler has a blue coat. But how do they really get a blue-colored coat?
When they are born, Australian Cattle Dogs are completely white. Only the eyes and ears, sometimes also the tail and the back, are dark.
A Blue Heeler is born with some black spots; this is where everything begins. In time, when the puppy is around 4 weeks old, more and more black hair will start to blend with the white hair. Some of them can have more black hair; some can have more white hair. The amount of black hair influences the nuance of blue a Blue Heeler has as it grows older.
Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler vs Red Heeler: Color Variations
Depending on how and where the black hair spreads, the coat of a Blue Heeler can have several variations. It can be blue speckled or blue mottled.
The Blue Heeler that is blue speckled has a predominantly black color on its coat. The white color is spread in small and uneven groups, looking like white stains.
The blue-mottled variation has more white than black on the coat. This time, the coat appears white, with small black spots.
To help you differentiate the Australian Cattle Dogs further, let us tell you that there’s also a Red Heeler variation. As a puppy, the Red Heeler variation has brown hair growing on its coat, as opposed to the blue one, whose hair turns black.
There are also dogs that are a combination of the two. Some Red Heelers can have back hairs on their coat, and some Blue Heelers can have tan-colored hair on the face.
Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler vs Red Heeler: Distinct Features
Both the Blue Heeler and the Red Heeler can have tan-colored hair around their lips and the lower neck, under their chest, and on their legs. The coat can also have patches of solid color, including a white tip at the tail, solid spots on the body, and one at the base of the tail. Another distinctive characteristic is the “Bentley Mark” a term used to describe the white spot on their forehead shaped like a star.
When they are born, both the Blue Heeler and the Red Heeler seem to have a mask around their eyes. Some may have it on both eyes, some only around one eye. The Blue Heeler’s mask is black, while the Red Heeler’s mask is brown or red. There may be puppies born without this mask, but these cases are extremely rare.
As for the coat type, both variations of the Australian Cattle Dog have a double coat. The undercoat is short, dense, and fine. The outer coat’s hairs are short, straight, and protect the skin from harmful elements.
Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler: Temperament
We’ve already mentioned that the Blue Heeler is a variation of the Australian Cattle Dog, so their temperament is the same. But let us tell you what makes them so unique. The Australian Cattle Dog and, implicitly, the Blue Heeler is the 10th on Stanley Coren’s list of the most intelligent dogs based on how obedient they are when trained.
This dog breed is extremely independent, active, and energetic. This might be important if you’re thinking of buying or adopting one. An Australian Cattle Dog needs lots of exercise and attention, and other activities like running that will prevent them from getting bored. They are not the best dog breed to be kept in an apartment. If they don’t have an open space to run and play in, they will become destructive.
Other than that, the Australian Cattle Dog is very affectionate and playful, even with older people and children. They might be cautious around strangers. If trained from an early age to socialize with people, Australian Cattle Dogs can quickly become familiar with people outside the household. But when it comes to their owners, these dogs develop a very strong bond with them, and they do not want to be left alone for a long time.
Bonus: Are Blue Heelers Aggressive?
You may have been wondering where the blue “heeler” got its name. Obviously, its blue fur answers part of that question. “Heeler” was a label ascribed to this breed because of its behavior of nipping at the heels of the cattle it herds.
Unfortunately, these dogs are capable of exhibiting the same actions toward humans they are unfamiliar with. In fact, they have a reputation for biting people. There are many tales to support the fact that they will resist allowing a guest to leave their home, aggressively attacking their heels. This behavior may be sparked by a desire to cause harm, but could also be instinctual, based on the fact that blue heelers do this on a regular basis as part of their job.
It’s important to remember that Australian cattle dogs in general are instinctively aggressive in terms of being confident, able herders, so some of their behavior can be misconstrued. It’s also true that a dog of any breed can be aggressive based on how it’s treated by humans. A dog that has been kicked or hit regularly is more likely to show aggression as a form of retaliation towards people than one that is treated with love and kindness.
Blue heelers are extremely loyal and protective of their owners and make good family pets. If treated well, they can make wonderful companions.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Carmelka
Ready to discover the top 10 cutest dog breeds in the entire world?
How about the fastest dogs, the largest dogs and those that are -- quite frankly -- just the kindest dogs on the planet? Each day, AZ Animals sends out lists just like this to our thousands of email subscribers. And the best part? It's FREE. Join today by entering your email below.
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.