How do the Australian Cattle Dog, Blue Heeler, and Red Heeler differ?
There is no difference between these three dog names. They are all the same breed of dog. The official name of the breed is the Australian Cattle Dog. Blue Heeler and Red Heeler refer to Australian Cattle Dogs that are either Blueish or Redish in color. These are simply nicknames.
Temperament and personality can differ between individual dogs whether they are Blue or Red. Regardless of the coat color, they are the same breed of dog. I have heard people say things like “Red Heelers are more aggressive than Blue Heelers”. This is simply not true. They may have had an experience with an individual Red Heeler than was aggressive but this has nothing to do with the dog’s color. For more on Australian Cattle Dog aggression see here.
Other names that the breed is referred to include the Queensland Heeler relating to the Australian state the breed originated from and the Halls Heeler. The latter is an old name that is not used a lot nowadays. Thomas Hall was one of the founders and creators of the breed.
In around 1825 he first crossbred his dogs that were being used as drovers from Northumberland with tamed Dingos. It is not really known what these English dogs he used were but is thought that they were possibly bob-tailed drover dogs with a blue coat.
For a full history and origins of the Australian Cattle Dog see here.
What color variations does the Australian Cattle Dog come in?
There are four main color variations of the Australian Cattle Dog. They are
|Blue Mottle||Red Speckle|
Blue Speckle is the result of black hair with clusters of small and irregular groups of white hair. They look like they have more black than white.
Blue Mottle has very small black spots throughout the white background. This gives the appearance of them having more white than black.
Red Speckle is when brown hair has grown into the white hair. This is obviously called a Red Heeler
In addition to the colors above, there can be other markings. A Blue Heeler will have black spots and a Red Heeler will have brown spots. These patches can be around the eyes, on their back, and sometimes the tail. The patches on the face can be on one eye or two and this is known as the mask.
Tan-colored hair can be seen under the chest, around the lower neck and jaw, and on the lower legs.
You may have seen Australian Cattle Dogs in other colors such as blue merle, being predominately white or having cream or chocolate coloring. These colors are considered a fault by kennel clubs and they would not meet the show standard. However, they can be beautiful-looking dogs and make great pets. They can just not enter into shows.
Australian Cattle Dog color genetics
Whether an Australian Cattle Dog is Blue or Red is obviously the result of genetics. It is not the color of the parents that determine the color of the offspring. It is not unusual for two Blue parents to produce Red offspring. The color is determined by the genes they pass on.
Without getting too deep into the science there are three genes that determine the color of the offspring. They are –
Agouti (A) – determine whether patches are black (blue) or brown (red)
Spotting (S) – determine where the spots appear on the body
Ticking (T) – Dogs with this gene are born white as is the case with Australian Cattle Dogs
If you want a deeper understanding of dog coat color genetics see here.
What color are Heelers born?
All Australian Cattle Dogs, both Blue, and Red are born white except for any solid colored body or face markings. These markings will be around the eyes, ears, or sometimes on the back and tail. From around 4 weeks old black or red hairs begin to show. The resulting colorization is due to black or red hairs closely interspersed throughout a white coat. On a Blue Heeler, the black hair will make them appear either lighter or darker Blue.
What is a Bentley mark on a Blue Heeler and Red Heelers?
This is also referred to as the Bentley Star and is a group of white hairs on the forehead of an Australian Cattle Dog. The mark can range from just a few white hairs to a large patch and is a well-known breed characteristic.
Not all BLue or Red Heelers have the Bentley Star and the lack of the mark is not penalized in the show ring. It is thought that an Australian Cattle Dog with the Bentley Star is an indication that the dog comes from a legendary dog owned byTom Bentley.
This particular dog was used extensively as a stud dog. As well as the white mark on the forehead, descendants of this dog have on occasion a black tail-root spot but only on Blue Heelers, not Red.
Is there such a thing as a mini Blue Heeler?
A mini Blue Heeler is not a distinctly different breed from the Australian Cattle Dog. They are just a smaller version of the same breed. They are the result of breeders selectively breeding from small breeding parents to produce a smaller version.
They have the same coloring and temperament as a normal-size Australian Cattle Dog but can be significantly smaller. They can be 3 to 5 inches (5 to 13cm) shorter and weigh 12lbs (5.5 kg) less.
|Normal size Blue Heeler||Weight: F 14 – 16kg (30 – 35lbs) M 15 – 16kg(33 – 35lbs) |
Height: F 17 to 19 inches (43 to48 cm) M 18 to 20 inches (46 to 51cm)
|Mini Blue Heeler||Weight: 9 – 11 kg(20 – 24lbs) Height: 12 to 15 inches (30cm to 38cm)|
Summary – Blue Heeler vs Red Heeler differences
There is no difference between a Blue Heeler and a Red Heeler except for color. They are both names referring to the Australian Cattle Dog depending on their color.
They both have the same traits, temperament, and personality regardless of whether they are a Blue or Red Heeler. The temperament and personality of an individual dog may differ, but it has nothing to do with what color their coat is.