The Australian Cattle Dog is a medium-sized, short-coated dog which appears in two principal colour types. They have either brown or black hair dispersed relatively uniformly through a white coat, that gives the look of a “red” or “blue” dog. It is often nicknamed a “Red Heeler” or “Blue Heeler” based on this colouring and its particular practice of moving unwilling cattle by way of nipping at their heels. The earliest registered Australian Cattle Dogs to appear in the United Kingdom were two blue puppies, Lenthal Flinton and Lenthal Darlot, followed in 1980 by Landmaster Darling Red in whelp. Landmaster Darling Red was imported by John and Mary Holmes, and turned out to be an exceptional brood bitch. Over the years to come more Cattle Dogs arrived in the UK from Holland, Kenya, Germany and Australia, although previous to relaxation of regulations with regards to artificial insemination, the UK gene pool was minimal. In 1985 an Australian Cattle Dog Society was established and officially recognised by the Kennel Club.
The Australian Cattle Dog is compact and well muscled. His body is somewhat longer than it is high; his broad skull is lightly curved between the moderately sized, wide-set, pricked ears. His teeth are regular and meet in a scissor bite. The tail is fairly low set with a slight curve. The eyes are dark brown, oval shaped and of medium size. He has a double coat, the outer coat is short and harsh to the touch and the undercoat is quite fine and dense. The Australian Cattle Dog comes in either Blue mottled, Blue speckled with or without other blue markings, Red speckled with, or without, red markings.
Australian Cattle Dogs generally age well and seem to live on average almost a year longer than most dogs of other breeds in the same weight class.Many members of the breed are still well and active at 12 or 14 years of age, and some keep up their sight, hearing and even their teeth until their last days.
The Australian Cattle Dog carries recessive piebald alleles that produce white in the coat and skin and are linked to congenital hereditary deafness, though it is possible that there is a multi-gene cause for deafness in a dog with the piebald pigment genes. Around 2.4% of Cattle Dogs in one study were found to be deaf in both ears and 14.5% were deaf in at least one ear.
The Australian Cattle Dog is one of the dog breeds affected by progressive retinal atrophy. It has the most common form, Progressive Rod/Cone Degeneration (PRCD), a condition that causes the rods and cones in the retina of the eye to deteriorate later in life, resulting in blindness. PRCD is an autosomal recessive trait and a dog can be a carrier of the affected gene without developing the condition
Hip dysplasia is not common in the breed, although it occurs sufficiently often for many breeders to have their breeding stock tested.