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When most people think of Australian dog breeds, it isn’t long before their thoughts automatically turn to the native Australian Dingo, a wild breed that has been around for thousands of years and is often referred to as one of the key missing links between the earliest wild dogs in existence and modern-day domestic pets.
Yes, dingos are perhaps the most famous Australian canines, and yes, they do pop up in the family tree of many other breeds, but they’re far from the only Antipodean pooches around.
In this guide, you’ll meet not only the Dingo, but nine other popular dogs from down under, learning all about their origins, their temperament as domestic pets, and other fascinating facts;.
10 Popular Australian Dog Breeds
1. Australian Cattle Dog
Commonly known as Blue Heelers, Australian Cattle Dogs were first developed in Australia way back in the 1840s. Their development is often attributed to a farmer by the name of George Elliot who wanted to create a working breed that was strong, resilient and easy to train while also boasting an exceptional work ethic.
Since no other breed in the country possessed all those traits, Elliot set about to create one by crossing Blue Merle Collies with the Dingo, a non-domesticated canine native to Australia. He was successful, sure, and often receives most of the credit for the development of the Blue Heeler, but he wasn’t the only one involved.
Decades later, brothers Jack and Harry Bagust developed the breed even further, taking the Blue Merle/Dingo hybrids originally developed by George Elliot and further breeding them with Dalmations, and later with Black and Tan Kelpie. It’s the Bagust brothers’ dogs that are believed to have served as the genesis of the Australian Cattle Dog as we know them today.
If you’re thinking of owning one, you should know that though generally friendly and playful, Australian Cattle Dogs are also very athletic dogs with an abundance of energy and a keen intellect. This makes them unsuitable as an indoor dog or as a pet for anyone who has an inactive lifestyle.
If you can give them lots of freedom and space to run around, however, and especially if you have a lot of time, energy, and attention to give them, then they will make very loyal, loving companions.
Typical Height: 18″ – 20″ (males) / 17″ – 19″ (females)
Typical Weight: 30 lbs – 50 lbs
Typical Lifespan: 12 – 15 years.
2. Australian Kelpie
The Australian Kelpie can be traced back to the Highlands of Scotland and the northern parts of England. Collie dogs from those parts of the United Kingdom were first taken over to Australia in the late 1800s, their keen instincts and high levels of intelligence making them ideal candidates for developing a working breed.
To create such a breed, those collies were -much like the Australian Cattle Dog- bred with native Australian Dingos to ensure they could survive the harsh temperatures and climate of the Australian Outback.
Eventually, the Australian Kelpie developed into the domestic pet we know and love today, one with strong, wolf-like physical features and gorgeous amber and hazel eyes.
Temperament-wise, they’re often described as being much like a less-extreme version of the Blue Heeler – still highly energetic and super intelligent, just perhaps not to the same degree. Still, much like the heeler, they’re better suited as pets for those with an active lifestyle.
Typical Height: 15″ – 20″
Typical Weight: 23 lbs – 46 lbs
Typical Lifespan: 10 – 15 years.
3. Australian Terrier
Make no mistake about it, you’ll never find the Australian Terrier in any ‘Largest Dog Breeds’ list, but what they lack in stature they more than make up for in heart, courage, and an absolute devotion towards their humans.
Instantly recognisable by their long bodies, short legs, and shaggy coat (usually with a mix of sandy, tan blue, and red fur), these pint-sized fur balls don’t tend to be the heavy shedders they may first appear to be, though it’s still a good idea to get a good quality dog brush and groom them at least once a week.
They won’t mind spending time with you while you brush their fur, either. The Australian Terrier is a wonderfully sociable creature who loves people, which makes him an ideal family pet. They even get on well with children, though be mindful of them around other dogs and pets as their high prey drive can mean and tough spirit can mean they get a little hostile.
Typical Height: 10″ – 11″
Typical Weight: 14 lbs – 16 lbs
Typical Lifespan: 12 – 15 years.
4. Australian Staghound
If you’re looking at the Australian Staghound and thinking that it bears more than a passing resemblance to a Greyhound, you wouldn’t be far off.
These slender, medium-sized beauties are members of the Greyhound family and were first developed as a cross between the Greyhound and a deerhound before being brought over to Australia by European settlers. There, this greyhound/deerhound mix was further bred with native Australian dogs to ensure they could withstand the extreme Australian weather while putting their speed and agility to work as ideal hunting dogs.
In Australia, they were often used to catch boars, kangaroos, and other wild animals, after which their eventual arrival in the United States saw them used to defend farmlands and homesteads against coyotes, wolves, and other predators.
Despite their origins as hunting and guard dogs, Australian Staghounds are generally mild-mannered pets and will remain calm, gentle, and easy to get along with providing you give them plenty of opportunities to burn off their naturally high levels of energy.
Typical Height: 26″ – 32″ (males) / 24″ – 29″ (females)
Typical Weight: 55 lbs – 90 lbs (males) / 45 lbs – 85 lbs (females)
Typical Lifespan: 12 – 14 years
5. Silky Terrier
Another diminutive dog from the land down under, the Australian Silky Terrier (most commonly known as just the Silky Terrier) is even smaller than the Australian Terrier we looked at earlier, but is equally as energetic and affectionate.
As you can probably tell, they bear a strong resemblance to the Yorkshire Terrier and have a lot of Yorkie DNA in their genetic makeup.
After the original Yorkshire Terriers were brought to Australia from England, they were bred with a variety of native breeds to create a new breed that was perfect for hunting rodents and small animals.
These days, the Silky Terrier is better known as a companion dog and will be wonderfully affectionate around their family but naturally wary around those they don’t know.
Of course, they’re also well known for the beautiful, long, silky coat that gives them their name. While this can mean they require regular grooming, it’s nothing you won’t be able to handle if you have enough time and a good grooming kit to use.
Typical Height: 9″ – 10″
Typical Weight: 8lbs – 10 lbs
Typical Lifespan: 12 – 15 years
We’ve mentioned Dingos so often in this guide that we’d feel a little bit weird about not giving them their own entry. After all, with so many other Australian breeds descended -at least in part- from the native Dingo, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they can be just as easily adopted as a household pet as any other breed on this list.
Sadly, that isn’t the case.
Dingoes may be one of the oldest dog breeds in the world (fossil evidence proves they were around in Australia at least 4,000 years ago), but in all that time they’ve largely been wild, undomesticated animals and are said to be an important link in the evolutionary chain between the first wild dogs in existence and the domestic pets we know and cherish today.
Because they are so highly feral, debate remains about whether it’s appropriate to keep them as pets at all. In some parts of Australia, they can be kept with a permit, while in others it’s still illegal to keep them at all as some worry about what impact this could have on the wild dingo population.
Where they are kept as pets, experts recommend that they should only be adopted very early on as puppies and given extensive training and lots of exercise in order to properly tame and domesticate them.
That said, we still think that as handsome as dingos are, most people would still do better adopting a different Australian dog breed.
Typical Height: 20″ – 23″
Typical Weight: 30 lbs – 40 lbs
Typical Lifespan: 10 years (wild) / 13 years in captivity.
7. Tenterfield Terrier
The most fascinating fact about the Tenterfield Terrier is that they have a notably long lifespan compared to other Australian dog breeds, often living as long as 18 years, provided they’re properly cared for.
Still, that’s far from the only interesting thing about them.
Like the Silky and the Aussie Terriers we looked at earlier, the Tenterfield can trace its roots back to English terriers, which were brought over to Australia in the early-mid 19th century and bred with native breeds to create a breed with speed, strength and a high prey drive.
These characteristics made them perfect for hunting, catching, and killing rodents and vermin, but also means that today, they tend to be stand-offish -if not a little aggressive- around strangers and other animals.
That said, the Tenterfield Terrier (named after the town in New South Wales where they were developed) can make for a loyal companion who loves to play and run around.
Typical Height: 10″ – 12″
Typical Weight: 7 lbs – 10 lbs
Typical Lifespan: 12 – 18 years.
8. Bull Arab
As their name implies, the Bull Arab has the bull terrier in its genetic makeup. To develop this breed, the terriers were cross-bred with greyhounds and the German Shorthaired Pointer, and of the three, it’s the Shorthaired Pointer that they most closely resemble today.
These unique-looking canines with their strong legs, slim, muscular frame and boundless energy were originally bred as hunting dogs, with their keen sense of smell and high level of intelligence making them well suited for tracking and catching wild game and feral pigs in the Australian outback.
As domestic pets, that same intelligence makes them easy to train, and they generally have a calm temperament around those they know. However, that instinctive prey drive can make them hostile to strangers and other pets if early training and socialization isn’t provided.
Typical Height: 25″ – 27″ (males) / 24″ – 26″ (females)
Typical Weight: 70 lbs – 92 lbs (males) / 66 lbs – 88 lbs (females)
Typical Lifespan: 12 – 15 years.
9. Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog
Yes, this is technically a different breed than the Australian Cattle Dogs we met earlier. Although the two share some similar qualities and both descended from dingoes, the Stumpy Cattle Dog was cross-bred with breeds like the Smithfield, the Scottish Smooth Collie and possibly other breeds to create their distinctive, tailless appearance and speckled coat.
A working dog, the Stumpy was originally bred for herding cattle and maintained many of the instinctive qualities that made him such a good fit for that role, such as sharp intelligence and high energy levels.
This means that they will respond well to training, but if you’re planning to adopt one you should be prepared to start that training early and carry it on often throughout their lifetime. These dogs can get bored, restless, and destructive if left to laze around, so be sure to stock up on some good dog training toys and be prepared to invest a decent amount of time and energy on taking care of your Stumpy.
Typical Height: 17″ – 20″
Typical Weight: 35 lbs – 50 lbs
Typical Lifespan: 13 – 15 years.
10. Australian Kangaroo Dog
How could we end any list of Australian dogs without getting acquainted with the Australian Kangaroo Dog?
Sometimes affectionately known as ‘Roos, these medium-sized sighthounds were first bred in the early 1900s to serve as hunting dogs, putting their superior sight, speed, and agility to work in tracking down game.
Though they may not be as popular as they once were, Roos can still be found in the more rural parts of Australia, especially those areas where they can still be put to work as hunting dogs.
If you do happen to come across one, keep in mind that these dogs tend to do better in warmer climates due their short, smooth coat, a feature which may make them look handsome but does very little to keep them warm.
Typical Height: 24″ – 32″
Typical Weight: 50 – 100 lbs
Typical Lifespan: 10 – 14 years.
Why is the Australian Shepherd Dog not Featured in This List?
Conspicuous by their absence in this guide is, of course, the Australian Shepherd. Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about them, nor is this omission a sign that we didn’t consider them a worthy addition.
No at all. The simple reason why we didn’t include them is that while Australian Shepherd dogs are undoubtedly one of the more popular shepherd breeds and make for wonderful household pets, they’re actually not Australian.
Rather, they were bred in the United States. Sometime around the mid-19th century, Europeans came over to the States to work as sheep herders and farmers, often bringing their four-legged friends along to help. Some of those workers are said to have first spent time working in Australia before heading Stateside, which is where the name may have originated from, though the Australian Shepherd definitely has European rather than Australian ancestry and were only developed into the breed we know them as today once they landed on American soil.
In fact, in years gone by, they were also known as Spanish Shepherds and California Shepherd in honor of their roots.
So no, we don’t overlook your beloved Aussie, we just simply didn’t include them because they’re not Australian.
The Final Word on Australian Dog Breeds
From tiny terriers to substantial stag hounds, bulk bull arabs and everything in between, Australian dog breeds can come in all shapes and sizes. Yet while many of them may look different, they do have a few things in common beyond their shared Antipodean ancestry.
Since most Australian dogs were first brought to the land down under to serve as hunting or herding dogs, most tend to be both highly energetic and highly intelligent.
What’s more those hunting breeds in particular may not always get on well with strangers or other pets.
However, that in itself shouldn’t be enough to put you off adopting an Australian breed altogether.
Despite that hunters’ instinct, most Australian dog breeds can make loving and even affectionate family pets, but only if they receive regular proper training and socialization from an early age.
Fortunately, that keen sense of intellect means they respond well to such training, meaning if you have the time, energy, patience and experience to devote to them, they could soon become a loyal, devoted companion for years to come.