Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: 8 Key Differences (2023)

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(Video) Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) vs Australian Shepherd; Differences

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Key Points

  • These two breeds of herding dogs originate from different continents. Surprisingly, the Australian Shepherd is an American breed.
  • Australian Shepherds tend to be a little larger than Blue Heelers. Australian Shepherds come in different colors and have long, fluffy coats as opposed to the dense, water-resistant coat of the Blue Heeler.
  • Both dogs have generally pleasant temperaments. Blue Heelers’ job is to nip at the heels of cattle while herding, so they aren’t always great with kids. On the other hand, Australian Shepherds are laid back, even around kids and other animals.

Even though both breeds are medium-sized herding dogs, the Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd is an extremely distinct dog. One is an Australian breed related to the Dingo and originating in the 1800s. The other is a United States ranch dog.

Surprisingly, the Blue Heeler dog breed (aka Australian Cattle Dog) originated in Australia as a result of breeding Blue Merle Collies with Dingos. The Australian Shepherd is historically American, first gaining popularity in California.

Its name comes from the fact that the Basque people from northern Spain traveled to Australia with Pyrenean Shepherds, which they bred with Border Collies and other British breeds. Then they came to California, where ranchers widely adopted the breed they called Australian Shepherds to herd cattle.

Now, let’s highlight eight other key distinctions between these two breeds.

Comparing Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd

Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: 8 Key Differences (1)
Key DifferencesBlue HeelerAustralian Shepherd
Size17 to 20 inches tall
30 to 50 pounds
18 to 23 inches tall
40 to 65 pounds
Coat typeDense, Water ResistantLong, Wavy, Fluffy
ColorsRed, BlueBlue, Black, Merle, Red
TemperamentAlert, Amiable, DevotedActive, Friendly, Smart, Loving
Impulse to WanderHigher than AverageLower than Average
Life Expectancy10 to 13 Years12 to 15 Years
Health ProblemsRetinal Atrophy, Hip DysplasiaDegenerative Myelopathy

Evolution and Origins of Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd

The Blue Heeler, also known as the Australian Cattle Dog, and the Australian Shepherd are both herding dog breeds that were developed in the 19th century.

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(Video) Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd | Australian Cattle Dog vs Australian Shepherd

The Blue Heeler was developed in Australia in the early 1800s. It was bred by crossing the Dingo with various herding dog breeds, including the Smithfield, the Kelpie, and the Collie. The breed was developed to help with the herding of cattle in the harsh Australian outback.

The Australian Shepherd, on the other hand, is not actually from Australia but was developed in the western United States by Basque farmers who came to the United States. The breed was developed by crossing various herding dog breeds, such as the Collie, the Spanish Shepherd, and the Pyrenees Mountain Dog. The breed was used to herd sheep and cattle on ranches in the western United States.

Both breeds are known for their intelligence, trainability, and herding instincts, but there are some physical differences, Blue Heelers are smaller and more compact in structure, while Australian Shepherds are taller and leaner. Blue Heelers have a thick, short coat that is typically blue or blue-mottled with black, while Australian Shepherds have a longer, thicker coat that can be black, blue, red, or merle.

Both of these breeds have been used for herding and working on farms, ranches, and in the wild, but the Blue Heeler has been more successful in Australia, while the Australian Shepherd has gained popularity in the United States.

Key Differences Between Blue Heeler and Australian Shepherd

Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: 8 Key Differences (5)

The Blue Heeler and the Australian Shepherd differ in a multitude of aspects, including origin, disposition, trainability, and physical appearance. The Blue Heeler is smaller than an Australian Shepherd on average, both in height and weight. Australian Shepherds have fluffy coats, while Blue Heelers have dense and thick fur. Finally, Australian Shepherds have slightly longer lifespans than Blue Heelers.

Let’s explore these differences in more detail now!


Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: 8 Key Differences (6)

Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: Height

The Australian Shepherd is the largest of the two breeds. Males range in height from paw to shoulder between 18 and 23 inches, whereas Blue Heelers stand between 17 and 20 inches tall. Although it may not appear to be much because they are both in the same size group, a few inches can make a dramatic difference.

Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: Weight

Australian Shepherds are a bit larger than Blue Heelers in terms of size. Australian Shepherd males weigh an average of 58 pounds. The Blue Heeler, which is also referred to as the Australian Cattle Dog, is a smaller breed, weighing an average of 49 pounds.

Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: Coat Type

Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: 8 Key Differences (7)

The Australian Shepherd’s coat is long and wavy, with a dense undercoat and a coarse topcoat. Their facial hair is short, and their back legs are feathered. The breed’s coloration and coat patterns are unique, with no two dogs having the same pattern.

The Blue Heeler has a dense coat because of the Australian environment and outdoor lifestyle. The Australian Shepherd’s coat is much fluffier. In the rain, the Blue Heeler’s water-resistant double layer keeps them dry, with the upper layer acting as a wick.

Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: Colors

Only red and blue are coat colors for a “true” Blue Heeler, aka Australian Cattle Dog. You may see some with chocolate or cream colors, but these are considered flaws by many and may indicate dilution in their purity. The American Kennel Club (AKC) accepts four coat colors in purebred Australian Shepherds. The colors available are black, blue merle, crimson, and red merle.


Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: 8 Key Differences (8)

Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: Temperament

Recognized as Australian Cattle Dogs, the Blue Heeler breed is known for its alert, amiable temperament, and intense sense of devotion. Dogs like these aren’t naturally aggressive, so they could be a great fit for families with children.

However, when they do feel threatened, Blue Heelers have a notoriously bad reputation for biting people. Heelers are known for nibbling at cattle’s heels; therefore, they’ll target a person’s heel in the same way. Hence the name, “Heeler.” As a result, proper training and socialization must begin at an early age.

The Australian shepherd is a playful and easygoing dog that gets along well with children and other animals. Because of their herding skills, Australian shepherds are wonderful pets for families.

Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: Impulse to Wander

The Blue Heeler has a high degree of wanderlust, showing an ardent desire to see the world. Australian Shepherds, on the other hand, aren’t known for their adventurous nature. They are more at ease in their own home.

Health Factors

Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: 8 Key Differences (9)

Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: Health Problems

Progressive retinal atrophy, canine hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, deafness, and Osteochondrosis Dissecans are just a few of the health issues facing the Blue Heeler. Nasal dermatitis, hip dysplasia, and epilepsy are just a few of the ailments that plague Australian Shepherds. Regular eye and hip exams for your Australian Shepherd are usually a good idea.

Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: Life Expectancy

Blue healers live for 10 to 13 years. Australian Shepherds live an average of 12 to 14 years. One of the oldest Australian Cattle Dogs on record, a female named Bluey, lived to the ripe old age of 29, which is extremely uncommon.

Wrapping Up Blue Heeler and Australian Shepherd

Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: 8 Key Differences (10)

These two breeds can have similar temperaments on occasion because they are both normally nice with youngsters, loyal, and intelligent. However, there are so many distinctions between these two breeds, including their drive to roam and explore, their coats, colors, and place of origin as well. Hopefully, this article has “herded” sufficient information to illustrate the various distinctions between the Blue Heeler and the Australian Shepherd.

(Video) The Difference Between Australian Shepherds and Australian Cattle Dogs

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Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: 8 Key Differences (22)

Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: 8 Key Differences (23)

About the Author

Jennifer Gaeng Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: 8 Key Differences (24) Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: 8 Key Differences (25)

Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd: 8 Key Differences (26)

A substantial part of my life has been spent as a writer and artist, with great respect to observing nature with an analytical and metaphysical eye. Upon close investigation, the natural world exposes truths far beyond the obvious. For me, the source of all that we are is embodied in our planet; and the process of writing and creating art around this topic is an attempt to communicate its wonders.

(Video) 5 Reasons to NOT Get an Australian Cattle Dog: AVOID

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is the Blue Heeler the Same as the Australian Cattle Dog?

To be honest, there is no difference except for color. The Australian Cattle Dog and the Blue Heeler are identical dogs. The phrase “Blue Heeler” refers to blue Australian Cattle Dogs. Red Heelers are Australian Cattle Dogs that are red in color.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.


Are Australian Cattle Dogs different than Australian Shepherds? ›

The Australian Shepherd is taller and heavier than the Australian Cattle Dog, while the latter has a more specific coat color and a longer life expectancy. Both are herding dog breeds, so their temperament and trainability are similar. However, we can still highlight some differences between the two.

Are Australian Shepherds and Blue Heelers related? ›

Its parentage comes from two common Australian breeds, the Australian Shepherd and the Australian Cattle Dog. The latter breed is also more commonly known as the Blue Heeler. Texas Heelers are a friendly bunch, all while being protective of its family.

What is the difference between a heeler and an Australian Cattle Dog? ›

The Blue Heeler is one color of Australian Cattle Dog, while Australian Cattle Dogs come in a few other colors. 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.

What's the difference between an Australian Shepherd and an Aussie? ›

Australian Cattle dogs are more territorial than Australian Shepherds. The Australian Shepherd is larger. The Shepherd weighs 40 to 65 pounds fully grown and stands 18 to 23 inches from paw to shoulder. The Cattle dog weighs 35 to 50 pounds and is smaller, standing between 17 and 20 inches tall.

What's the difference between Blue Heelers and Australian shepherds? ›

The Blue Heeler is smaller than an Australian Shepherd on average, both in height and weight. Australian Shepherds have fluffy coats, while Blue Heelers have dense and thick fur. Finally, Australian Shepherds have slightly longer lifespans than Blue Heelers.

Which is better Australian Shepherd or Blue Heeler? ›

So, which breed is right for you? If you're looking for a smaller herding dog with a short coat, the Blue Heeler might be the better choice. However, if size doesn't matter to you and you prefer a longer-coated dog, the Australian Shepherd might be a better option.

What two breeds make a Blue Heeler? ›

What Is a Blue Heeler? As you might have guessed, Australian Cattle dogs originated Down Under in the 1840s, when a native Queenslander started breeding blue merle collies with Dingoes. The pups proved to be such good working dogs that their fame spread—and litters were snapped up by nearby cattle farmers.

What two dogs make a Australian Shepherd? ›

In the 1800s, the Basques began migrating to Australia to keep sheep. Their Pyrenean Shepherds crossbred with other working dogs, including Collies and Border Collies, creating the modern version of the Australian Shepherd.

Which dog breed is the smartest? ›

  • Border collie. According to The Intelligence of Dogs, which ranks 131 dog breeds in terms of their relative intelligence, the border collie is the smartest dog breed known to man. ...
  • Poodle. ...
  • German shepherd. ...
  • Golden retriever. ...
  • Doberman pinscher. ...
  • Shetland sheepdog. ...
  • Labrador retriever. ...
  • Papillon.
5 days ago

What kind of dog was in Mad Max? ›

The filmmakers auditioned over 100 dogs to no avail until visiting the dog pound at Yagoona. There they found a two year old Australian Cattle Dog (according to Miller, a half-breed of wild dingo and sheep collie) scheduled to be put down.

Why do Blue Heelers have webbed feet? ›

The webbed feet give great assistance when paddling through the water. There are also some examples of breeds that were bred to walk on snow having webbed feet. Blue Heelers have no history of being bred to swim even though they are often excellent swimmers. They were bred to herd and drove cattle.

What are the behavior issues of Australian cattle dogs? ›

Cattle dogs are suspicious and often outright aggressive towards unfamiliar people and things, and treat everything as a potential threat. They bite people they don't like, they also bite people they do like. They bite out of affection. They bite when overstimulated.

What are the pros and cons of Australian Shepherds? ›

3 Pros and Cons of Owning an Australian Shepherd
Fiercely loyal The Australian Shepherd develops a strong bond with its owner that won't easily break.Destructive behavior If this breed doesn't have an outlet for its bundled up energy, then it may start destroying objects around the home.
2 more rows
Jan 26, 2023

What is unique about Australian Shepherds? ›

The Australian Shepherd is one of a few dog breeds that commonly have two different colored eyes, called heterochromia. Aussies might have any combination of brown, blue, hazel, amber, or green eyes. Some Aussies even display more than one color within the same eye.

Why are Australian Shepherds so special? ›

The breed is considered highly intelligent and easy to train. Aussies are known for being especially eager to please their owners. True to their herding instincts, Aussies are very protective of their families and territory and will let you know if strangers approach, but they are not considered aggressive.

Why are Blue Heelers so special? ›

Australian Cattle Dogs, also called Blue Heelers, are extremely alert, pleasant pups with keen intelligence and a fierce sense of loyalty. These faithful friends are not considered aggressive and can be an excellent fit for families with kids.

Are Blue Heelers the smartest dog? ›

Temperament. Like many working dogs, the Australian Cattle Dog has high energy levels, an active mind, and a level of independence. The breed ranks 10th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, rated as one of the most intelligent dogs ranked by obedience command trainability.

What are the traits of an Aussie Blue Heeler? ›

Bred to perform demanding tasks, the Australian cattle dog is extremely alert, intelligent, watchful and courageous. Highly trustworthy and reliable, they have a tenacious sense of duty. Loyal to their owners and wary of strangers, they are fiercely protective when used as a watch dog, although they are not barkers.

Is Australian Shepherd the most intelligent dog? ›

Australian Shepherds are known to be one of the most intelligent dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, and are renown for their obedience, agility, and excellence in herding and other active sports.

Are Australian Shepherds one of the smartest breeds? ›

The list of the world's smartest dog breeds, according to a survey of 122 veterinary professionals conducted by Vetstreet, probably comes as no surprise. Border collies, German shepherds, poodles, Australian shepherds and golden retrievers all have a reputation for being intelligent dogs.

Are Australian Shepherds the smartest dogs? ›

According to Coren's standards, the Australian Shepherd ranked (drumroll, please) 42nd among 138 breeds. This ranking may feel lower than expected if you know Australian Shepherds well. However, their intelligence remains above average for dog breeds as a whole.

Why does my Blue Heeler follow me everywhere? ›

But there may be days when we wonder, “Why does my dog follow me everywhere?” The answer has to do with your dog's animal instinct, pack mentality, and a few other variables. Canine companions that follow their humans everywhere are often referred to as “velcro dogs” because of their desire to be attached to your side.

Are Blue Heelers good guard dogs? ›

ACDs make exceptional guard dogs and watchdogs. They will naturally patrol their property and alert their pack when danger approaches, and become aggressive if they perceive a threat.

Do Blue Heelers bite? ›

Nipping and biting are fairly common practices for Australian blue heelers. They are herding dogs, which means they nip and bite the flanks of other animals to “herd” them in a particular direction. Even so, you can't have a dog who nips and bites people, so there are things your family can do to limit this behavior.

Are Australian Shepherds part wolf? ›

Dogs evolved from wolves. German shepherds, Australian shepherds, French poodles, even Mexican chihuahuas all trace their lineage to Canis lupus.

Do Australian Shepherds bark a lot? ›

Keep in mind the average Australian Shepherd tends to bark a lot, making it a little more challenging to get him to stop barking unless you give him the 'speak' command or there is a situation in which he needs to bark to alert you.

Do Australian Shepherds like water? ›

If your puppy is properly introduced to the water, many of them do end up liking to swim. This breed wasn't particularly bred to be around water, however. They are herding dogs, which means that they traditionally spent much of their life on land. They don't have the innate love of water that some other breeds have.

What is the No 1 dog in the world? ›

The Labrador Retriever holds the top spot, and this friendly favorite has been No. 1 since 1991. Below, find ranked annual lists of AKC-recognized breeds.

Which dog is the easiest to train? ›

Top 9 easiest dogs to train
  • #1: Border collie. No couch potatoes, border collies are athletes bred to work. ...
  • #2: German shepherd. ...
  • #3: Labrador retriever. ...
  • #4: Golden retriever. ...
  • #5: Australian shepherd. ...
  • #6: Standard poodle. ...
  • #7: Doberman pinscher. ...
  • #8: Papillon.

What are the top 3 smartest dogs? ›

Simply Ingenious - 10 Smartest Dog Breeds
  • #8 Papillon. ...
  • #7 Labrador Retriever. ...
  • #6 Shetland Sheepdog. ...
  • #5 Doberman Pinscher. ...
  • #4 Golden Retriever. ...
  • #3 German Shepherd. ...
  • #2 Poodle. Easily trainable, steadfast, and sharp-minded, Poodles flourish in human company. ...
  • #1 Border Collie. The Border Collie comes in at number one.
Feb 23, 2009

What dog breed is in Prey? ›

Coco, the adorable animal actor who portrays Sarii, was chosen for her specific rare breed, the American Dingo.

What movie has a killer dog? ›

Cujo, a friendly St. Bernard, contracts rabies and conducts a reign of terror on a small American town. Cujo, a friendly St. Bernard, contracts rabies and conducts a reign of terror on a small American town.

What is a mad dog called? ›

mad dog (plural mad dogs) A rabid dog. (figuratively, by extension) Someone who is aggressive and fanatical; an aggressor who cannot be reasoned with.

Why are heelers so clingy? ›

These dogs no longer feel safe in their environment so stick close to their owner to help calm their nerves. Separation anxiety: Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety are clingy by nature.

Why do Blue Heelers lean on you? ›

They Lean on You

When you're sitting on the couch and your dog leans his body weight against your legs, he's showing his affection. Of all the cozy spots for your dog in the house, there's no place more comforting than right next to you. Pressing his weight against you reassures him as he rests or takes a nap.

Do heelers attach to one person? ›

Blue Heelers are fiercely independent dogs, who are usually devoted to one person. This characteristic stems from the types of canines Australian George Elliott used to develop the breed in 1840, a mix of native dingos with Collies and other herding dogs.

Do Australian Cattle Dogs like being alone? ›

Australian Cattle Dogs bond closely with their owners, once the owners have earned it, and become remarkably loyal companions. For this reason, they do not like to be left alone for hours at a time. They are protective of their family and property.

Are Australian Cattle Dogs loyal to one person? ›

With fierce devotion to their owners, Australian Cattle Dogs often bond strongly to one person and will object to being separated from them.

Are Australian Cattle Dogs hard to own? ›

ACDs are well known for their intelligence and desire to work, and prized for their athleticism and decision making skills. What makes them so special can also make them quite challenging since their "smarts" and independent streak also demand that their owners be consistent, strong and positive leaders.

What is negative about Australian Shepherds? ›

A potential con is that they are known to be a high energy breed. If you're not an active person, I would not recommend this breed for you as they do require daily walks and training to have a well-balanced dog.

Can Australian Shepherds be left alone all day? ›

They require plenty of attention. Being left alone for too long may cause the intelligent, energetic Australian Shepherd to create her own fun—often through destructive behaviors or barking. While an Aussie may be left home alone for four to six hours at a time, crate training may be necessary for the dog's safety.

Do Australian Shepherds like to be left alone? ›

Aussies are very sociable dogs. They can feel lonely when they're left alone often and are prone to suffering from separation anxiety. This is when dogs feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety over being apart from their owners.

Do Australian Shepherds like to cuddle? ›

While Australian Shepherds can be very affectionate, loving, and cuddly dogs with their family members, they may not act the same way at all with someone they don't know. This dog will enjoy snuggling with the people he trusts.

Why do Aussies tails get docked? ›

In the case of the Australian Shepherd pup, tail docking is a procedure that benefits the life of the dog. A shorter tail prevents potential breaking later in life and ensures a cleaner and more sanitary lifestyle for the dog and its owner.

Why don't Aussies have tails? ›

The Australian Shepherd tail and mini Australian Shepherd tail both often undergo tail docking for the following reasons: It's considered a standard of the breed. An undocked tail is long, messy, and could get matted. To prevent damage from tall grass, weeds, and other outdoor dangers.

Why do Australian Shepherds stare at you? ›

Just as humans stare into the eyes of someone they adore, dogs will stare at their owners to express affection. In fact, mutual staring between humans and dogs releases oxytocin, known as the love hormone.

Why do Australian Shepherds follow you everywhere? ›

If your dog follows you everywhere then it's a sign that they trust and love you and that you make them feel safe. Following you very closely can be a sign that they're bored, they want something, they're feeling scared or are just being nosy.

Why do Australian Shepherds run in circles? ›

Zoomies often feature frantic, repetitive behavior such as running in circles or spinning around. A frequent cause of zoomies is an excess buildup of energy that dogs hold on to, which is then released in one big burst.

What two breeds make an Australian Cattle Dog? ›

Australian Cattle Dogs are the culmination of cross-breeding the Blue Merle and the Australian Dingo by British settlers in Australia in the late 1800s. These working dogs have plenty of energy and love to run. They're devoted to their people and can be good for families—as long they have an outlet for all that energy.

How do you tell if a dog is an Australian Cattle Dog? ›

Recognize the color of the coat.

Australian Cattle Dogs have two coat colors: blue and red speckle. Blue coats may be solid, mottled, or speckled with or without markings. Markings include black, blue, or tan on the face and tan on the legs, chest, throat, and jaw.

What is another name for an Australian Cattle Dog? ›

The compact but muscular Australian Cattle Dog, also called Blue or Red Heeler or Queensland Heeler, is related to Australia's famous wild dog, the Dingo.

What is the smartest dog breed? ›

According to their findings, the Belgian Malinois is the smartest pup, with 35 points out of 39. In second place came Border Collies with 26 points, followed closely by the German breed Hovawart, with 25 points. Other clever dogs include Labrador Retrievers, Border Collies and Golden Retrievers.

Do Blue Heelers have Dingo in them? ›

As you might have guessed, Australian Cattle dogs originated Down Under in the 1840s, when a native Queenslander started breeding blue merle collies with Dingoes. The pups proved to be such good working dogs that their fame spread—and litters were snapped up by nearby cattle farmers.

Where do Australian Shepherds rank in intelligence? ›

According to Coren's standards, the Australian Shepherd ranked (drumroll, please) 42nd among 138 breeds. This ranking may feel lower than expected if you know Australian Shepherds well. However, their intelligence remains above average for dog breeds as a whole.

Do Australian Cattle Dogs pick one person? ›

While their first love is any kind of activity, the Australian Cattle Dog is equally devoted to family, sometimes choosing one family member as her person and following that person everywhere, a trait that has earned ACDs the nickname "velcro dogs." ACDs cherish spending time with people and should not be left alone ...

Are Australian Cattle Dogs clingy? ›

Breeds like German Shepherds and Australian cattle dogs also become clingy because of their selective breeding to work closely with their owners. Sick or old dogs: When dogs become sick or old they become clingier.

Do Blue Heelers have anxiety? ›

Like many other intelligent dog breeds, Australian cattle dogs can become bored or get separation anxiety when left alone. They are always active and will start looking for trouble when they get bored.

What is a cowboy Aussie dog? ›

The cowboy corgi is a mix between an Australian cattle dog and a Pembroke Welsh corgi.

What is the longest living dog breed? ›

Australian Cattle Dog

An Australian Cattle Dog called Bluey holds the record for the longest-lived dog - reaching an incredible 29 years of age. The breed normally lives for around 15 years.


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