While known more for its vast array of lethal snakes, man-eating sea creatures, poisonous spiders, and other deadly creepy crawlies, Australia has developed a surprising number of dog breeds over the years. Most were bred as working dogs, many are still used in that way today, and some have since gone on to be beloved family pets in Australia, the United States, and across the globe.
It’s a fair bet that you’ll have come across many of these Aussie dogs in the past, but there may be a few on this list that you’ve never heard of before.
11 Dog Breeds That Originated in Australia
1. Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Cattle Dog, also known as the Blue Heeler or Red Heeler, depending upon the color of their coat, is an Australian working dog that was developed in the mid-1800s. A cattle farmer in the Australian state of New South Wales named Thomas Hall crossed the working dogs that the stockmen working on his family’s farm were using with native Dingoes that he’d tamed.
After Thomas Hall died in 1870, the dogs became known as Halls Heelers. Then were later developed into two separate modern breeds, the Australian Cattle Dog and the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog. The term Heeler relates to the way Australian Cattle Dogs nip at the heels of cattle as they are herding them.
While still used extensively as working dogs throughout rural Australia, the Australian Cattle dog has become a popular family pet and companion dog. As you might expect from a dog bred to herd cattle, the Australian Cattle Dog is extremely hardy and energetic. Yet, they’re also fiercely loyal and protective dogs that have a mind of their own and can be quite manipulative if allowed to be. As such, these dogs do best when they have a confident owner who can provide them with strong and consistent leadership.
2. Australian Kelpie
The Kelpie is an Australian working dog that was developed to muster and drive sheep. Bred from Scotch Collies, a shepherding dog that had been brought into Australia to help work sheep, and a variety of other dogs, the breed was long thought to have partly descended from the native Australian Dingo; however, a 2019 genomic study revealed they have no Dingo ancestry.
Kelpies are highly intelligent dogs that have mischievous personalities, which together with their endless supply of energy, has led many people to liken the Kelpie to a naughty child, always getting into things they shouldn’t. The breed needs a great deal of attention and miles of daily exercise, and as such, they need a home with a large amount of space to run around and are not at all suited for apartment living.
Like many dogs, over the years, the Kelpie has become a popular family pet and companion dog. In this regard, they are best suited to families or individuals that have the time to spend with their pet and can give them the attention and exercise that they need to keep their minds and bodies active.
3. Australian Silky Terrier
The Australian Silky Terrier, or simply Silky Terrier, is a toy breed that was developed in the 19th century. They are closely related to both the Australian Terrier and Yorkshire Terrier and are considered to be truly Australian, despite descending from breeds that originate in Great Britain.
These compact little dogs are highly alert and full of energy. They are popular pets suitable for either a house or an apartment. Australian Silky Terriers have long straight coats that when well maintained, give the breed a rather glamourous look, which is somewhat in contrast to their role first role as rodent catchers. The breed is extremely loyal and loves spending time with their owners. They are also quite intelligent dogs that train easily. However, they are prone to barking, and this may quickly become a problem if not addressed early.
Silky Terriers are low-shedding dogs, which may make them a good choice for people with allergies. However, their long coats tangle easily, and they require regular shampooing and daily brushing to keep them looking their best.
4. Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog
The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is closely related to the Australian Cattle Dog, with the two breeds sharing the same ancestry.
Despite the common misconception, Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs are naturally bobtailed or tail-less and are not simply Australian Cattle Dogs with docked tails. The bobtail trait was developed through selective breeding and for a time, was favored by many stockmen.
Immediately following the Second World War, the breed’s popularity declined, and by the 1960s, the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs almost became extinct, with just one breeder remaining. However, thanks to a redevelopment program by the Australian National Kennel Club in the late 1980s, the breed was preserved.
Like their Australian Cattle Dog cousins, the Stumpy Tailed Cattle Dog is a hardworking, highly energetic, and loyal dog. As with many working dog breeds, they have strong herding instincts, do to be good family pets, they need early socialization to people, obedience training, and plenty of exercise throughout their lives.
5. Australian Terrier
The Australian Terrier is a small and sturdy dog with a medium-length shaggy double coat. Like the Australian Silky Terrier, the Australian Terrier was developed in Australia from several different dog breeds imported into the country from Great Britain.
The breed was first developed in the early 1820s and was recognized as an individual breed in 1850 under the name, Rough Coated Terrier, and renamed the Australian Terrier in 1892.
Australian Terriers are confident little dogs that are alert and relatively easy to train. In true Terrier form, these dogs love to dig and have a strong prey drive that will see them actively chase mice and other small animals. They make great family pets and provided that they get enough exercise, are suitable for apartment living. However, they don’t always get on with other pets, so are best living in single pet households.
6. Bull Arab
The Bull Arab, also known as the Australian Pig Dog, was developed in Australia during the 1970s by crossing a Bull Terrier, German Short Haired Pointer, and Greyhound. The breed is exceptionally strong for their size and was originally developed to hunt and hold feral pigs by pinning them to the ground by their ear.
The Bull Arab has a reputation as an aggressive dog and has been known to attack and maul humans. Fans of the breed claim that they are loyal and stable dogs; however, due to their reputation, they are often purchased by people looking to exploit their aggressive tendencies, a fact that does the breed no favors.
Bull Arabs are not at all suited to life in an apartment, and due to their aggressive tendencies, they do not make good pets for families with young children or other pets. Firm and consistent training is required to get the best out of these dogs, and they need to be socialized to people and other animals from a young age. The breed is not suitable for novice owners.
The Dingo is a native Australian dog with a lean, hearty body that has adapted over time for speed, agility, and stamina. Closely related to the New Guinea Singing Dog, Dingoes are known to have lived in Australia for thousands of years, with recent genome sequencing revealing that they share a similar ancient ancestry to the Grey Wolf.
Like Wolves, the Dingo is a wild dog and apex predator in their natural environment. The breed is not a domesticated dog and not generally suitable as a pet. Over the years, however, some dingoes have been tamed and breed with domestic dogs. Before European settlement, Australian Aboriginals were known to take Dingo pups from the den and raise them until sexual maturity. At that time, the dogs usually ran off and returned to the wild.
Due to their appearance, early European settles likened the Dingo to a domestic dog. However, this changed when Dingoes started to see settler’s sheep as easy prey. Ever since, Dingoes have been much maligned by livestock farmers and graziers and in some parts of Australia, are considered pests and shot on sight. In other parts of the country, though, Australia Dingoes are important for tourism.
Dingoes usually avoid direct contact with humans, but they are big enough to be dangerous, and there have been several well-known cases of dingoes attacking humans and even snatching babies and young children sleeping in tents or campervans.
8. Kangaroo Dog
The Kangaroo Dog is an Australian sighthound that was developed in the early 1830s. The breed is a result of crossbreeding several other sighthounds to produce a robust hunting dog.
As their name suggests, the Kangaroo Dog was bred to hunt kangaroo, a difficult task that required a dog capable of outrunning their quarry and being able to catch and hold them without being severely injured or killed by the kangaroo’s powerful clawed hind legs.
In recent years, the breed has declined in popularity and is now rarely seen. However, in some rural areas, they are still bred and used for hunting feral pigs and foxes.
The Koolie is an Australian working dog that is thought to have been developed in the early to mid-1800s, during the same period as the Australian Cattle Dog and the Kelpie. The breed is also known as the German Koolie, which is deceptive because they were bred in Australia, not Germany. The reference most likely is related to the fact that it was immigrant German and European farmers who helped develop the breed.
In appearance, the Koolie resembles a cross between the Collie and the Border Collie. However, they stand taller and have legs that are noticeably longer than these dogs. Unfortunately, as no records were kept, the exact make-up of the breed has been lost to time.
Koolies are robust and active dogs that have a great deal of energy and a natural desire to herd. They are still used as working dogs and can be found on sheep and cattle stations throughout many parts of Australia.
In the United States, the Koolie is virtually unknown, with the first Koolie having been imported to the US in 2002.
10. Miniature Fox Terrier
The Miniature Fox Terrier is an Australian Terrier that was developed as a working dog to hunt vermin. While still used for this purpose on farms across the country, Mini Foxies, as they are also known, are now popular family pets.
These small active dogs are extremely hardy and regularly live between 18-20 years. They have a friendly, loyal, and loving temperament and a reputation as being great with children of all ages.
While still relatively unknown outside Australia and New Zealand, the breed is exceptionally popular in Australia, with several well-known Australian celebrities, including Anthony Field (better known as the Blue Wiggle) and Olympic swimming champion Ian Thorpe, being proud owners of Miniature Fox Terriers.
11. Tenterfield Terrier
The Tenterfield Terrier is another small Australian Terrier that was bred originally as a working dog and was employed across Australia to help farmers control rats, rabbits, and foxes.
Like most Australian working dog breeds, the Tenterfield Terrier was developed in the mid-1800s.
The breed takes their name from the Australian town of Tenterfield in rural New South Wales, not because they were developed there, but rather because dogs of this breed were known to have been owned by the late Australian singer Peter Allen’s grandfather, the famed “Tenterfield Saddler.”
Although often confused with the Miniature Fox Terrier, the Tenterfield Terrier is a separate breed with their own standard. The confusion is made worse by the similar appearance of the two breeds and the fact that both are often colloquially referred to as Mini Foxies.
Clever, lively, and confident little dogs, Tenterfield Terriers make great family pets. They have a reputation for being gentle and playful around children, but due to their high prey drive and tendency to chase small animals, they do best in single pet households.
The American Australian Dog Breed
Although named “Australian,” the Australian Shepherd is not an Australian dog breed. Rather, they were originally developed in the United States as a herding dog and took their name from the Australian breed of Marino sheep that they were employed to shepherd.
The Australian Shepherd, or “Aussie,” has gone on to become a popular pet in the United States. Yet, the confusion about the breed’s origin is still quite prevalent throughout the country.
Intelligent, quick, and highly energetic, Australian Shepherds have made quite a name for themselves in the world of competitive dog sports and are often top competitors in all levels of obedience, agility, flyball, and herding tests. They also make outstanding rescue and assistance dogs.
Featured Image Credit: K.A.Willis, Shutterstock
- 11 Dog Breeds That Originated in Australia
- The American Australian Dog Breed