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9 Australian Dog Breeds That Make the Best Mates

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You might not look at the Kelpie, Cattle Dog, Bull Arab, Koolie and Miniature Fox Terrier and think the breeds have much in common. But despite their differences in appearance, there is a shared history. These Australian dog breeds (or “Aussie dogs”) all hail from Down Under – and their similarities extend beyond their Australian heritage. 

History of Dog Breeds from Australia

Working dogs have long been essential for herding and guarding livestock and hunting snakes and rodents across the expansive Australian Outback and vast agricultural lands. This has led to the development of several Australian dog breeds that have the same boundless energy, independent spirits, and drive to work.

As a nod to their heritage, dog breeds such as the Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Kelpie, Australian Koolie and Australian Silky Terrier, honor their origins in their names. But there is one breed that breaks the mold: Australian Shepherds have no connection to their namesake. 

The Australian Shepherd dog was developed to be a sheep-herding dog in the Basque region of Europe. The Basque shepherds who created the breed emigrated to Australia and later moved to the United States, where the breed was refined and the dogs came to be known as Australian Shepherds.

There are, however, a number of true Australian dog breeds that are native to the continent. Some of the more common dog breeds from Australia have become popular as pets, and without livestock to herd, these dogs will need lots of vigorous exercise, training, and mental stimulation. 

9 Australian Dog Breeds

Looking for a new mate? These Australian dog breeds may fit the bill.

Australian Cattle Dog

The well-known Australian dog breed is the result of the accidental mating of a Dingo with a smooth-coated Collie. Australian Cattle Dogs, also known as Blue Heelers or Queensland Heelers, quickly became popular for their stamina and herding skills. 

Summer Whittaker, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, dog training manager at Animal Rescue League of Boston, describes the Australian Cattle Dog as a breed that is highly athletic and thrives on vigorous exercise, but is also eager to please and trainable.

“The best living situation for these dogs would be a family that hikes, jogs, [and] plans on doing agility, Frisbee, dock diving, or other performance sports,” she says. “Despite their size, they are not apartment dogs, [so] owners should have plenty of yard space.”

Australian Silky Terrier

Thanks to their small stature and long, glossy coats, Australian Silky Terriers are often mistaken for Yorkshire Terriers. In fact, Yorkies were one of the breeds that Australian breeders used to develop the Silky. 

Silkies weigh around 10 pounds, making them larger than Yorkies, and like other toy breeds, they have big personalities. They are high spirited, affectionate, playful and social; Silkies also have a strong protective nature and will bark to alert you to trouble. 

Australian Kelpie

The exact origins of the breed are disputed (some say they possibly go back to 1870), but one thing is certain: Australian Kelpies were bred to herd sheep across long distances and rugged terrain. 

The muscular dogs weigh up to 50 pounds, and their thick double coats require regular brushing to minimize shedding, but their biggest need is exercise. Kelpies have retained their working dog instincts and want to be on the go.

“Kelpies tend to have a lot of energy, [and] they can thrive in a variety of settings if their mental and physical energy needs are met,” says Amy VandenBerg, CPDT-KA, FPPE, professional dog trainer at the San Diego Humane Society. “If a Kelpie had their way, they would likely choose to live where they have a lot of space to run.”

Bull Arab

The Bull Arab isn’t a true dog breed; it’s believed to be a cross of multiple breeds, including the English Bull Terrier, Great Dane, Mastiff and shorthaired Pointer. The “breed” was developed in Australia to hunt wild pigs, earning it the nicknames Australian Pig Dog and Aussie Pig. 

Bull Arabs tend to be large dogs that weigh between 60 and 90 pounds. Their origins as hunting dogs mean that they are strong and independent, and typically have high prey drives. These dogs are best suited to homes with experienced owners and no other pets or small children.

Australian Koolie

The crossbreeding of smooth-coated blue merle Collies with black and tan Collies resulted in a new breed known as the Australian Koolie. The double-coated Koolies have short-to-medium coats and excel as herding dogs in Australia. 

Koolies are energetic, dedicated, and smart. They can be reserved around strangers and have natural herding instincts, which can lead them to round up children and smaller animals. For Koolies to be content, regular exercise is a must; they can channel their passion for work into success in competitive obedience, agility, flyball, or other dog sports.

Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog

No, these dogs aren’t Australian Cattle Dogs with docked tails. Both breeds are working dogs that hail from Australia, but Whittaker points out that the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog was developed from crossing native Dingoes with herding dogs. The result was a breed that was a skilled herder with extreme stamina.

Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle dogs are loyal and protective, making them excellent watch dogs. They are active and need a lot of exercise, so they do best in homes where they can hike, run, or participate in agility or other competitive sports.

Tenterfield Terrier

Best described as agile, fearless, independent and smart, these active little dogs have big exercise needs. Tenterfield Terriers originated in Australia and remain more popular there than in the United States, where the black and white terriers are still quite rare.

Although Tenterfield Terriers are confident, affectionate and eager to learn, these active working dogs require regular exercise and consistent training to channel their energy and provide mental stimulation. Tenterfield Terriers tend to bark and become destructive when they are bored.

Miniature Fox Terrier

This breed is believed to be a cross between Smooth Fox Terriers and Manchester Terriers that English settlers brought to Australia. (In the U.S., the breed is known as a Toy Fox Terrier.) These so-called Mini Foxies are often found on Australian farms.

“They were bred to hunt rats, rabbits, and snakes on farms,” explains Whittaker

Their small stature and big energy mean that the dogs could easily squeeze into small spaces in pursuit of their prey. While Miniature Fox Terriers are skilled hunters, Whittaker believes they can also make great family dogs, adding, “They are very loyal, active, and affectionate.”

Australian Terrier

These dogs are the smallest working terriers and have the distinction of being the first native breed to be recognized in Australia. This breed is sometimes called “Australia’s Dog” and was developed to dispatch snakes, mice, rabbits, and other small mammals on farms.

There are some commonalities between the Australian Terrier and the Australian Silky Terrier: both are smart, trainable, working dogs, but the Australian Terrier is larger (weighing 15 to 20 pounds) and tends to be more active and stubborn than the more diminutive Silky.

Australian dog breeds are as diverse as the continent of Australia. There are plenty of different types to choose from, which means that it’s definitely possible to find a furry friend from Down Under that will make a great mate for you and your family.