Australian Cattle Dog vs Australian Shepherd: What’s the Difference?

Although they’re both medium-sized herding breeds, the Australian Cattle Dog and the Australian Shepherd are very different dogs. One is native to Australia and related to the Dingo, and the other is a breed developed on ranches in the U.S.

So, what are the differences between these two breeds? Which one is better for family life? What about a working dog?

We’ll review the similarities and differences between these two breeds so you can find the best herding dog for your lifestyle.

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At A Glance

australian cattle dog vs australian shepherd
Image credit: Pixabay
Australian Cattle Dog
  • Average Height (adult): 17-20 inches
  • Average Weight (adult): 35-50 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12-16 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours/day
  • Grooming needs: Weekly brushing/Occasional bath
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Dog-friendly: Yes
  • Trainability: Good
Australian Shepherd
  • Average Height (adult): 18-23 inches
  • Average Weight (adult): 40-65 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12-15 years
  • Exercise: 1-2+ hours/day
  • Grooming needs: Weekly brushing/Occasional bath
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Dog-friendly: Yes
  • Trainability: Excellent

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Australian Cattle Dog

If you like your dog to be nearly as intelligent as you are, then you might be interested in owning an Australian Cattle Dog. These clever dogs are known to routinely outsmart their owners and be accomplished escape-artists.

The Australian Cattle Dog came from British herding dogs crossed with Dingoes to form a compact, muscular dog who is resilient and hard-working. The Australian Cattle Dog is also known as the Blue Heeler or Queensland Heeler.

Australian Cattle Dog
Image: Peakpx

Characteristics 

The Australian Cattle Dog isn’t that large, but it can get the job done — even when herding much larger animals like cattle!

Height and Weight 

  • Males: 18-20 inches
  • Females: 17-19 inches
  • Both males and females: 35-50 pounds

Life Expectancy 

12-16 years

Coat Colors

The Australian Cattle Dog is born with a white coat that later turns blue-gray or red. Both coat varieties feature distinctive mottled or speckled patterns.

Temperament

The Australian Cattle Dog loves to work. This is a breed that does well when it has a job like herding, hunting, or other high-energy activities. If you enjoy running, the Australian Cattle Dog has the boundless energy to make an ideal running partner. These are loyal dogs who are intelligent, alert, and wary of strangers. If they don’t have something constructive to do, they get into mischief easily.

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Australian Cattle Dog Care

When it comes to training and exercise, Australian Cattle Dogs can be considered high maintenance. They need a great deal of daily activity! But you’re in luck if you’re not big on dogs that require excessive grooming.

Grooming

The Australian Cattle Dog has a smooth, double-layer coat that only needs a quick brushing once a week and the occasional bath. These dogs do shed their undercoat twice a year, but they don’t shed much daily.

Exercise

For a happy and healthy Australian Cattle Dog, your pup needs to have a job. This breed is ideally suited for a working farm where the dog can use its intelligence to herd other animals all day. If you’re a runner, biker, or hiker and can bring your dog with you every day, then the exercise will provide a great outlet for the dog’s energy. Dog sports like agility or obedience are another way to keep your Australian Cattle Dog active and engaged.

Australian Cattle Dog
Featured Image Credit: sally9258, Flickr

Training

Because Australian Cattle Dogs are so intelligent and energetic, they must learn obedience and have early socialization. If they’re not well-trained and kept busy, they can easily become bored. Bored, intelligent, energetic dogs often become destructive!

Special Considerations

Because Australian Cattle Dogs are highly intelligent and energetic, there are special considerations to think about before you welcome one of these pups into your home.

Small Pets

If you raise your Australian Cattle Dog alongside cats, rabbits, hamsters, or other small pets, then your dog will likely learn that the small animal is a part of the family. This breed does have a strong prey drive, however. If you bring a small animal into the house, the dog is likely to give chase and hunt.

Australian Cattle Dog
Image: Wikimedia

Apartment Living

The Australian Cattle Dog does best in wide-open spaces. If you have an active lifestyle where you run, bike, or hike for long distances daily, then this breed might tolerate living in a smaller space. In general, though, these dogs can be destructive if kept in an apartment.

Families

The Australian Cattle Dog can be a great family dog, but it does best if it’s been raised alongside children from the beginning. In these cases, this breed is quite playful and protective. One thing to note is that this breed tends to nip or even bite, which is a herding method and not necessarily because of aggression. Either way, though, it can be a problem with children.

Other Dogs

This breed also tends to become devoted to one member of the family, and then the dog might feel jealous of other dogs in the home or children. In general, though, the Australian Cattle Dog gets along well with other dogs if it’s been raised alongside them from the beginning.

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Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd is another highly intelligent breed of dog that has boundless energy and a strong work-drive. Despite its name, however, the breed was developed in the U.S. on California ranches. They are descended from a herding breed of dog used by the Basques in Australia before they immigrated to California in the 1800s.

Australian Shepherd
Featured Image Credit: PickPik

Characteristics 

The Australian Shepherd is a little bigger than an Australian Cattle Dog in height and weight, and it has a fuller, thicker coat. Its tail is usually docked. This began as a way to help them avoid injury when working on farms and ranches and has remained part of their breed standard, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Height and Weight 

  • Males: 20-23 inches; 50-65 pounds
  • Females: 18-21 inches; 40-55 pounds

Life Expectancy 

12-15 years

Coat Colors

The Australian Shepherd has four coat colors, including black, blue merle, red, and red merle. The blue merle coloring is a marbling of gray and black, which creates a more bluish tone to the coat. Red can be any color from cinnamon to liver. Red merle is a marbling of red and gray.

Temperament

Australian Shepherds are loyal, affectionate, and hard workers. Like Australian Cattle Dogs, they’re highly intelligent and energetic, so they need to be kept busy. They become quite dedicated to their family and will follow you all over the house to stay by your side. They make great family dogs and do well working on farms and ranches.

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Australian Shepherd Care

Australian Shepherds have similar exercise needs to Australian Cattle Dogs. Both are high-energy dogs who are intelligent and crave having a job to do, even if it’s just going on a daily hike or run. The Australian Shepherd requires more care as far as grooming, however, because of its thick coat.

Grooming

The Australian Shepherd has a waterproof, double-layer coat that requires at least weekly brushing. During the shedding season, daily brushing is recommended.

Exercise

Like the Australian Cattle Dog, the Australian Shepherd is a high-energy, athletic dog who appreciates having a job. These dogs need a great deal of exercise every day. Australian Shepherds love to be with their people, so if you enjoy running and hiking, they will gladly accompany you! The happiest Australian Shepherds are ones with a job, whether that’s working on a farm or ranch, watching over children, or participating in doggie sports such as obedience or agility.

Australian Shepherd
Featured Image Credit: Torstensimon, Pixabay

Training

Australian Shepherds do best with early socialization and obedience training. Many of these dogs end up in rescue groups because their owners couldn’t give them a healthy outlet for their boundless energy. Australian Shepherds bond strongly to their families, and they can be territorial and overprotective if they aren’t properly trained. They can also become destructive if left alone for too long. On the positive side, though, they are eager to please, alert, and responsive.

Special Considerations

Australian Shepherds are intelligent and energetic and love being with their humans. Because of this, there are special considerations to think about before you welcome one of these pups into your home.

Australian Shepherd Blue Merle
Image: Wikimedia

Apartment Living

This breed does best with plenty of room to run. Therefore, it’s not the best fit for apartment living.

Families

The Australian Shepherd is an active, easy-going dog who loves their family and children. This breed is kid-friendly and playful.

Other Dogs and Pets

The Australian Shepherd gets along well with other pets, especially if they are raised alongside them from the beginning. But even if the pet is a new addition, this dog is so eager to please their humans that they will happily tolerate other animals.

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Final Thoughts

Both the Australian Shepherd and the Australian Cattle Dog are highly intelligent, energetic, and hard workers. They love to have an important job to do, such as working on a farm or ranch. Both breeds are also of a similar height and weight, though Australian Shepherds are slightly bigger.

When it comes to the best family dog, Australian Shepherds have an advantage in that they are friendlier with children and other pets. They also are less likely to become escape artists because they are devoted and loyal to their families.

If you’re looking for the best working dog, then the Australian Cattle Dog might be a better fit because of its high intelligence and need for a job.

Featured Images: Wikimedia and Pexels