Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler What’s the Difference

Australian Cattle Dogs and Blue Heelers are beautiful dogs with a strong, compact build. Many people can easily spot how similar they look, but what you might not know is that they’re actually the same breed of dog!

That’s right; the Blue Heeler is really just a variation of the Australian Cattle Dog. That means that they don’t have any real differences, apart from their appearance and color.

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In this article, we’ll give you a brief overview of the Blue Heeler and Australian Cattle Dog. Since they’re technically the same breed, you can decide if this dog is right for you, then make your adoption choice based on the color difference alone. Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler: Side-by-side Comparison


Australian Cattle Dog Blue Heeler
Size17-20” tall17-20” tall
Weight33-49 lbs33-49 lbs
ColorRed, gray, or blackBlue, blue mottled, or blue speckled 
TrainabilityAble to learn more advanced tricks thanks to high intelligenceEasy to train thanks to their intellect 
IntelligenceHigh intelligenceHighly intelligent 
Friendliness with strangersFriendly with everyoneFriendly with everyone
Friendliness with other dogsUsually good with other dogsNormally good with other pets
Exercise needsNeeds about 45 minutes of exercise per day, minimum.Similarly high energy and needs a good amount of exercise
Lifespan12-16 years12-16 years

Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler: History

Let’s take a look at the history of the ACD to understand the difference in colors.

During the 19th century in England, these dogs were bred as herding dogs for beef cattle farms. These cattle dogs were bred by crossing native Australian Dingoes with dogs from other parts of the world, including the Scottish Highland Collie. 

The Australian Cattle Dog therefore can be credited with helping grow the country’s beef industry, and thus the Australian economy as a whole. 

Australian Cattle Dogs were bred to withstand the harsh Australian climate and have the energy and intelligence needed for their job as herders. 

The ACD was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1980. Both the red and blue variations are considered to be the same breed. 

Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler: Appearance

Like we mentioned earlier, the only real difference between these two dogs is their appearance. So, let’s go into a bit more depth on what the differences are in how they look. 

Australian Cattle Dog Color

As newborn puppies, the red variation of the Australian Cattle Dogs is completely white. They may have some brown spots of hair growing on their coat. As they get older over a period of a few weeks, the reddish-brown coat will develop more.

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As fully-grown dogs, their coat will be red, brown, or reddish-brown. They may have tan fur around their neck, on their chest, and on their legs. It’s also possible that they can have a white-tipped tail. 

These dogs often have what’s referred to as a ‘Bentley Mark’: a characteristic white spot on their forehead.

Blue Heeler Color

Blue Heelers are also born white, and have a black mask around their eyes. For the red variation of the ACD, this mask is red or brown. 

The Blue Heeler, as the name implies, has a bluish coat. As newborns, their spots are black, not red. 

The amount of black fur that they grow will determine what type of blue coat they end up having. This means there are variations to the Blue Heeler’s coat. 

A Blue Heeler can either be blue, blue speckled, or blue mottled. 

A Blue Heelerwith a blue coat will appear mostly black. This is because the black fur has grown in to completely cover the white coat. 

A Heeler with a blue speckled coat will have spots of white hair along its mostly black coat. This gives it the appearance of being black with some irregular clusters of white fur. 

Finally, a blue mottled Heeler is mostly white. They’re essentially the opposite of a blue speckled Heeler, having a white coat with small spots of white fur. 

Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler: Temperament

Since both of these dogs are the same breed, their temperaments will only vary based on upbringing and genetic factors. So, let’s take a quick look at the ACD’s personality, for both the red and blue variation. 

Australian Cattle Dogs and Blue Heelers are known for being independent, energetic, and active. They’re also very smart and obedient. 

However, Australian Cattle Dogs of all colors need lots of attention and physical exercise, or they can get bored and destructive. This is not the type of dog to adopt if you live in a small space or apartment!

In fact, this dog isn’t well-suited for you if you’ll have to leave them alone for many hours out of the day. An ACD is great for families, fitness enthusiasts, and people with a big backyard. 

Since they’re so playful and affectionate, they make great companions, even with young children and older adults. However, they might be a bit rowdy at times, and will need to be socialized with other animals. 

Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler: Grooming

Which one of these dogs needs to be brushed and groomed more often? Well, even though their coat color may be different, both are about the same in terms of grooming needs.

The Red Heeler and Blue Heeler variant of the ACD both have a double coat, with a thick undercoat and a short overcoat. This protects them from the elements and keeps them warm in the winter. 

As they get older, their coats will start shedding more often. This is especially true during the change of season, like in spring, when they shed their winter undercoat. It’s important to brush them often during this period, possibly even multiple times per day. 

Invest in a good dog brush, and a vacuum!

Bathe your Blue or Red Heeler as needed, brush their teeth occasionally, and trim their nails about every month. 

Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler: Training

As mentioned earlier, these dogs are very smart. This means training tends to be easy with them. 

Australian Cattle Dogs, both red and blue, are very smart and obedient. Since they were bred for herding, they’re happiest when they have a job to do. 

Since they’re high-energy dogs with a strong desire to work, we recommend that you give them activities to stimulate them almost every day. This can include jogging with them, bringing them to training school, or allowing them to herd, if possible. 

When training your ACD, make sure to reward them with positive reinforcement. 

Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler: Lifespan

Australian Cattle Dogs and Blue Heelers both live, on average, between 12-16 years.

Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler: Health

Before adopting a dog, you should always do a bit of research on the health of the breed. This way, you’ll know what to expect in terms of vet bills and lifespan. 

Australian Cattle Dogs are healthy overall. However, there are some common health conditions to be aware of.

Notably, since they’re so athletic, their joints and ligaments can deteriorate from use over time as they age. It’s not uncommon for these dogs to accidentally tear a ligament while running. 

Canine hip dysplasia can also occur in Blue and Red Heelers alike, usually appearing later in life. They can also develop progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and deafness. 

If you adopt an Australian Cattle Dog or Blue Heeler, make sure to choose a responsible breeder who screens their breeding stock for these health conditions. 

Conclusion: Australian Cattle Dogs vs Blue Heelers

All in all, the main difference between these two dogs is their color. One is red, while the other is blue, blue speckled, or blue mottled.

You can make your decision for which one to adopt based on their color. Either way, both the Red Heeler and Blue Heeler make for great companion dogs.

They’re loyal, affectionate, smart, and great for families. Just make sure to adopt from a responsible breeder and give them plenty of exercise. 

So, whichever color you choose, you’re sure to have a great companion with an Australian Cattle Dog. 

Thanks for reading! We hope this article has been helpful!

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