Heelers and ACDs--Questions

Discussion in 'Dog Breeds' started by tx_cowgirl, Apr 14, 2009.

  1. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    I was just curious if anyone knew whether or not there was a difference between "heelers" and Australian Cattle Dogs. I know ACDs are often referred to as "Queensland Heelers" or other heeler nicknames, but I've been told by a variety of people very contradicting things. (For the purpose of easy-to-understand reading, when I say "HEELER," I am NOT referring to the ACD/Queensland Heeler. I referring to what many people know as simply blue/red heelers, similar to the ACD but possibly not the same.)

    First of all, as far as I know 'heelers' are not a recognized breed. In the US, heelers vary more than Border Collies. They all possess very similar characteristics, but size has no limit. Quite frankly, the average Texas bred heeler is...well, a genetic nightmare. They tend to be neurotic, unusually obsessive, and their appearance can be...well, anything. Color is about the only thing that stays consistent with a Texas-bred heeler. Texas-bred are usually anywhere from 30-50 pounds. South Dakota bred heelers, on the other hand, look like ACDs on steroids--typically the size of a German Shepherd or larger, but generally "sane" and intelligent dogs. In the US heelers can be any size and just almost any shape...most are the typical red or blue mottle color, with a few tricolors here and there and the occasional once-in-a-blue-moon piebald. On average, heelers tend to have a slightly different head than an ACD. The ears are set further down (on a heeler) and the head has a slightly different shape to it. ACDs are a little longer-bodied and tend to be lower to the ground in terms of body depth to leg length. Heelers rarely are left with full-length tails, while ACDs are often found with full-length tails.

    So....my question is, are heelers and ACDs one and the same? Are "heelers" just the result of non-selective overbreeding?

    Some pictures....

    "Heelers"
    [IMG]

    [IMG]
    [IMG]
    [IMG](This one looks to be an obvious mix, but they're still calling it a heeler.)
    [IMG]

    Australian Cattle Dogs
    [IMG]
    [IMG] [IMG][IMG]

    Although the "heeler" pictures shown are all very different, typically the heeler head has some very distinct differences. ACDs also tend to be much shorter than the average heeler. But anyway...I've had people tell me that there is no breed difference, and I've had people tell me that they are indeed two separate breeds. Zeke is 1/2 Border Collie, 1/2 Heeler/ACD/whatever. He has a gorgeous ACD-ish head, though not as large. Which reminds me; I need some new pics of him up here...but anyway, I was just curious as to what everyone's thoughts are on this. Thanks in advance. :)

  2. snooks Experienced Member

    In the US and the part of Texas I am from a Queensland heeler, Austrailian heeler, blue or red heeler is a blue merle or red merle Austrailian Cattle dog. This seems akin to the confusion surrounding what breed is a PitBull. Some people think any bully breed is a Pit but that is not so. The official answer has to be what the AKC defines as the legal breed standard which is below.

    ACD's were originally and are still known as Blue or Australian Heelers . They actually started back before the dalmation and kelpie was introduced. English bred Smithfields seem to be the starting point which were bred with Scottish Collies. The resulting Hall's heeler was the springboard from which the dingo, dalmtion, and kelpie were added. The ACD is still called a Queensland heeler, blue heeler, red heeler, heeler, and Austrailian heeler. See below from www.akc.org

    Australian Cattle Dog Did You Know?


    • <LI class=bottom_space>The Australian Cattle Dog has been a huge help to the beef industry of Australia; when populations spread to huge farmlands, Australian Cattle Dogs became indispensable and enabled farmers to maintain huge herds. <LI class=bottom_space>The most popular working dog used by the early drovers was a breed brought out from England known as the Smithfield, a breed that eventually became one of the ancestors of the Australian Cattle Dog. <LI class=bottom_space>The Smithfields were interbred with the Dingo, a native Australian breed, to increase stamina and to encourage a silent working dog, but the breed died out. Later, another pair of imports, a pair of Scottish blue merle Highland Collies, were interbred with the Dingo to produce a breed known as the Hall's Heeler. With the success of this breed, various other crosses eventually produced the Australian Cattle Dog of today. <LI class=bottom_space>The Australian Cattle Dog was accepted by the AKC in 1980 and was shown in the Working Group after a brief period in the Miscellaneous class. When the Herding Group was formed in 1983, the breed was moved. <LI class=bottom_space>The standard for the Australian Cattle Dog was drawn up by Mr. Robert Kaleski in 1902 and was based around the Dingo type.
    • The Australian Cattle Dog was first known as the Australian Heeler, although it is still called the Blue or Queensland Heeler today.
    My OCD ACD was a wee bit intense. :dogblink:
  3. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Awww yours was very cute. ^^

    So, is the ACD like the Border Collie in that there isn't necessarily one set-in-stone standard? (Aside from show stock.)

    Meaning, in the working BC realm, obviously all Border Collies are easily distinguished...but they are not one and the same. Some are larger, some are smaller, head shape varies, etc. With ACDs it seems there are many with the broader head pictured in all of the pics under "Australian Cattle Dog" in my original post....and many other variations. I realize different breeders can have variations in all breeds, but in studying either Border Collies or ACDs, it seems outside of the show realm there is a LOT of variation simply because working stock is typically bred with working quality being the main thing in mind(after health, of course). Their hair or snout length doesn't necessarily have to meet the standard, so long as they can move a herd.
  4. dat123 Experienced Member

    This is ironic, I've lived in Queensland ( state of Australia ) for over 40 years, and have never heard anyone refer to a cattle dog as a " Queensland heeler" . However, in saying that, it is extremley common to hear " Blue Heeler", which was more of an old-fashioned slang name for cattle dog or ACD.
    I think it's one of those things where a breed is given an alternative name by someone and it catchs on.

    I often get people ask me, " what breed are your dogs ? " , which I reply " border collies " , they will often say something like , my neighbour had a collie. Of course a collie is a totally different breed again. I should probably correct them, but I usually don't bother.
  5. snooks Experienced Member

    That's really funny you never heard them called Queensland heelers. It can be very geographic obv. :dogrolleyes: I think the different appearences of the heelers here in the states are like the differences in Goldens. Some are snipe nosed, wall eyed, black marked, not marked and the differences caused by not breed standard goal breeding are huge. The way we got doxies and danes is the same thing. Not breeding for standard can cause huge variations. My girl was a MOOSE at 55 lbs and taller than most males. Very true that akc breed standard and an effective working dog can be quite different looking just as with BC's.

    It is often very funny what perceptions people have about breeds including "collies" or "heelers. ":dogtongue2:

    Thanks, Mica was cute and soooo obsessed with FETCHING.
  6. bellapup Well-Known Member

    Interesting information...I was a bit confused over the same thing myself. When I tried to do research, many of them grouped them together into one breed. Bella is supposedly half heeler...is that why she's so obsessed with the ball? It's like she doesn't want to be bothered when she's in fetch mode.

    When she was a puppy, she used to nip my heels almost painfully. Even now she'll press her wet nose to the back of my knee when I go up and down the stairs. I don't know what mannerisms are linked to what part of her.
  7. snooks Experienced Member

    Bella certainly looks BC enough to account for the ball and fetching obsession alone. If there's some ACD in there it would probably make it more intense. I don't obviously see it but then most of the DNA testing that comes back on people's dog surprises me. :dogtongue2:
  8. bellapup Well-Known Member

    The rancher that gave Bella up said that she was half heeler, half springer spaniel. His dog was the springer, so I know that's in there for sure. As far as ACD, the only thing I see that might be part of it is when she tries to herd, and the fact that she has short hair, unlike springers. Not that it truly matters to me what her bloodline is, but it's interesting to see what behaviors are inherent to the breed.

    We have several heelers that go to the dog park, and they look much like the pictures Tx posted...both of them. I can't see a one of them in Bella really, but they all do seem to play alike, which in itself is strange.
  9. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    I don't know that I see any BC in Bella aside from coloration. The color could indeed be a combination of the two breeds the rancher told you. I'm not entirely sure that I see the heeler either though.... :dogblink: I don't know.

    DNA testing costs anywhere from $50-400. You're getting screwed if you pay the higher price. I know someone who paid that. ><

    Anyway....Dave I've gotten that before too. :dogdry: Kinda annoying personally but I usually just go on...not a big deal. People have asked me what kind of Mud is, and when I reply "Border Collie," they say, "Oh like Lassie???" That's when I ALWAYS reply with, "No, Lassie's a rough collie, and Mud's a Border Collie." Nicely, not bitter...that one just annoys me.

    I've had people tell me that heelers and ACDs are two different breeds, and I've had people tell me they're the same. So I just wasn't sure what to think. :dogblink: I always though they were the same, but after hearing such contradicting feedback on it... Anyway. I do personally prefer the smaller, stockier, tailed ones with the broader heads featured in my second set of pictures. Not that I dislike others. I very much like the breed.
  10. storm22 Experienced Member

    here we have two sets of heelers, they are both called heelers or acds but we have show stock (short (20inches) and stocky) and working heeler(abit taller(22-24 inches) leaner but still stocky and broad headed like your acd pics) ive never seen a cattle dog as big as a shepherd, storms one of the biggest ive met and hes your average acd size medium dog, but hes from larger working stock

    there isnt really any difference, but i have seen some dome shaped headed true blue heelers i think it just depends on the stock people have breed from to what they can look like

    there is a breed stumpy tail cattle dog thats the only different type of heeler ive seen
  11. Simone Coleman New Member

    So lets get some pictures up of our much loved Blue Heelers.
    Here's my Katie.
    She's 12 months old and from good show stock. 5th generation NON working stock, she has never nipped at my heels and I take her sheepherding on weekends for fun=she has NO natural working instinct what so ever.
    I'm not into showing myself, so i don't care much about her blood lines or the papers she came with. i purchased her for temperament and have found the perfect dog for me.
    over here in Australia they call the Heelers/ACD's the 'original velcro dog' as they always stick to your side.
    This is particulary true in katie. She never leaves my side and I can be in the middle of a field with cows, sheep, and any number of distractions and she'd rather be with me. It's wonderful if you don't want to work them. I used to have one from from working lines many years ago and he was completely different in temperament and instinct. I guess this proves you can change their behavioural traits somewhat to suit your needs over the generations.
    here's a picture of katie laying by my feet while my husbands Kelpie is herding sheep.

    Attached Files:

    abby_someone likes this.
  12. Ky's Jed New Member

    Aww Katie is so cute :)
    I have two Heeler X Storm (my old boy) and Jed 14 weeks old (cant upload photos as Im using my friends computer) Jed is my profile photo.
    Tx cowgirl the photos you posted as "Heelers" look like heeler crosses to me (one looks like my Storm). The other photos look more like purebred "Heelers".
  13. Lexy88 Well-Known Member

    omg!!! Katie is ADORABLE! *adds to wishlist!!!*

    have not read all the threads, but, in New Zealand a Blue Heeler [or Red] IS an Australia Cattle Dog - ACD is the recognised breed by the KC and theyre 'also known as' the Blue Heeler, Queensland Heeler or Half Heeler. People just call them Blue Heelers though, that is how theyre most commonly known. Also their tails are NEVER removed - the Australian Shepherd often has its tail removed though, though some are naturally 'bob tailed'.
  14. abby_someone Well-Known Member

    The Blue Heelers here in Wyoming look identical to the ACD. I would imagine that they are the same breed. I just never have thought about it, but now that you mention it, it is rather curious.O_o
  15. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    This post is old now, but personally I've come to the conclusion that they are exactly the same, with differences in appearance simply being due to breeding. For instance, most of the South Dakota-bred ACDs I have seen are freakishly huge, much larger than the breed standard. One particular pair I remember that were SD-bred were both the size of your average German Shepherd. Far larger, but still had all other characteristics of ACDs, and did indeed look like well-bred ACDs...only massive. In Texas, you probably have a 1% chance of finding a well-bred ACD. They are as overbred as Labs, if not more so. The typical Texas bred heeler is really a terrible example of the breed(no offense anyone...Zeke is half!). They are neurotic and generally just full of issues. Crazy dogs, and not in a good way. If you could line up every Texas-bred ACD, they would really share very few characteristics due to extremely poor breeding.
  16. karleee Well-Known Member

    Hey,I live in western australian....i havn't heard them refered to as queensland heelers either,or any state heeler for that matter.I've only heard "blue heelers","red heelers"and "Aussie cattle dogs"they are a good breed,but i find that they are dog agressive.

    and don't worry,i have people mistake my bordercollie/Kelpie as a collie as well when i am asked her breed!
  17. Hyla Burleson New Member

    Hello, I live in texas too, & hope to share some new info on Heelers.

    In Australia, there are two breeds of Cattle Dogs
    recognized by the ANKC, (AKC equivalent in AU) One is the "Australian
    Cattle Dog", the other breed, "Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog". The
    Stumpy, when blue has no tan markings. It's natural tail can be anywhere from
    no tail at all to 4inches long. Pups born with full length tails are not eligible to be registered.
    These dogs tails are never docked.
    Other differences. They are lighter boned than an ACD, body type is square, not long. Ears on top
    of the head at 11:00 & 1:00 o'clock, ACD ears shorter, and set at 2:00- & 10:00. Not
    heavy bodied. The Stumpy is actually the older breed.
    They have been coming to the states since WWII. The thing is the Americans did not understand
    that they were getting to different breeds of dogs, & often cross breed them.
    There are not many purebred registered Stumpies in North American. CKC, (Canadian Kennel Club) has them as a breed,
    as does UKC, in the states, & ARF. I am including a side by side photo of the two breeds so you can see the differnces.
    I have had Stumpies for more than 20 yrs. Have been to Australia several times & adore this breed. Happy to answer any questions anyone here has.
    There is also a face book group. Just type in Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog.
    Thanks for reading.

    Attached Files:

  18. Hyla Burleson New Member

    PS, Tx_cowgirl. You said " They are neurotic and generally just full of issues. Crazy dogs, and not in a good way." I have to respectfully disagree.
    Show me one like that & I will show you an owner who never taught it anything more than sit or ride in the back of a truck. There is so much drive & brain power, that when it is not correctly channeled, yes, they become problem dogs. No different than the child with a higher than Avg IQ, that develops problems in school with his behavoir. It's on the people, not the dogs.
    Hyla

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