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Australian Cattle Dog vs Australian Shepherd – Same Name, Different Origin

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These two have the name Australian in them. And you might think they are related. Despite their similar names, they are surprisingly different. Today, we will take a look at the Australian Cattle Dog versus Australian Shepherd dog breed comparison.

Both are traditional herding dog breeds, intelligent, energetic, and quite active. But there is a huge difference between them.

First and foremost, Australian Cattle Dogs were first bred in Australia to herd cattle, while Australian Shepherds were bred in the United States to herd sheep.

Having lived with dogs my whole life, I appreciate the power and focus of a good working breed. But choosing between the Aussie Shepherd and Aussie Cattle Dog… that’s a whole new level of tough!

What do these two have in common? And how are they different? Let’s find out.

Breed History

There is a lot of debate about where the Australian Shepherd originates from. The name might suggest Australia, but many historians believe that is actually the US. His history might be undocumented, but the main theory is that his ancestors are from the Scottish Highlands and the Pyrenees mountains.

The theory suggests that its ancestors sailed to Australia searching for better land to farm. Yet, they discovered that they could not farm the land as it was a barren landscape. So, they sailed for North America, where they were joined by Australian farmers. This is where the dog breed was born.

In other words, farmers from all over the world created the Australian Shepherd puppy we know and love. American cowboys used this canine to herd farm animals, but nowadays, it has become a lovable family pet. But in most cases, these canines have retained their herding instinct.

On the other hand, the history of the Australian Cattle dog is well documented. Everything started in the 18th century, when an Australian man named Thomas Hall, imported the now-extinct Smithfield dog, Scottish Collie, and crossed it with local dogs.

Because of its origin, the dog was known as Hall’s Heeler. Following World War II, American soldiers in Australia discovered the fiercely loyal and territorial breed and brought him back to America. Nowadays, it is still used for herding, but it is also used as a family dog.

Australian Shepherd2

Appearance Breed Comparison

Now let’s get to the appearance part of the Australian Cattle Dog versus Australian Shepherd debate. There are several differences in weight, coat type, coat color, and size.

When it comes to sizes, they are very similar. Of the two, Australian Shepherd dogs are the bigger ones, growing between 18 and 23 inches. Cattle dogs grow between 17 and 20 inches. Because of the bigger size, Shepherds are bigger, weighing between 25 to 30 pounds more.

Now let’s take a look at their coat. The Shepherd has a long, wavy, and thick coat that requires a lot of grooming. The uniqueness of the breed is the variation of color. The standard includes blue merle and red merle, but also solid black or red.

On the other hand, an Australian Cattle Dog puppy has a short coat, making grooming easier. It can also be a Red Heeler or an Australian Blue Heeler puppy. The Blue variation has black hairs spread among the white hairs and can also be blue-speckled or blue-mottled.

Both breeds have a double coat, but the difference is in the length.


Because both dogs are part of the herding group, they have similar temperaments and personality traits. It is important to understand their nature and herding instinct. Otherwise, you will have trouble training this challenging and quite intelligent dog.

Of the two, the Australian Shepherd is more suited to the role of a family pet. Now, the Cattle Dog can make a good family dog as well, but it is more challenging for him to adapt to the family setting. This is because they have been used for herding longer than Shepherds.

Because of their herding nature, they tend to try and herd small animals and children. Sometimes, they can use their nipping technique, particularly during the day. Training can help eliminate, or better said, alleviate these traits. But parts of them remain forever.

Speaking of their nature, they are loving and affectionate with their close family. Of the two, the Cattle dog is more aloof with strangers. His territorial skills might kick in. But that is what makes him an excellent guard dog.

Because of its wild roots, the Cattle Dog is happy to sleep outside even during warmer and colder months. Remember, they are working dog animals that need something to do. When left to chill, they might resort to destructive behavior just so they can find a job to do.

Australian Cattle dog


Training an intelligent dog is a challenge, and a reward. On one hand, your dog will pick up things easily. On other hand, its high intelligence can sometimes translate to stubbornness. And you need to add variety to your training so it is challenging for your puppy.

Both dogs are quite intelligent and belong among the smartest dogs according to The American Kennel Club. No, they are not on the level of a Border Collie, but they are close.

Besides training, you should consider socialization from an early age. It is even more important for the Australian Cattle dog puppy to cope with its territorial instinct and ensure they are more comfortable around strangers and other animals.

Exercise Needs

When you get a herding dog, you should be ready to provide a lot of exercise. These two constantly need a job to do. Be it participating in dog sports, or herding something. And yes, sports and agility are the best ways to burn their energy.

As high-energy dogs, these two need between 60 and 90 minutes of exercise per day. And because they are highly intelligent, you should also add some mental stimulation to your training and exercise sessions.

Australian Shepherd1


As working dog breeds and active dogs, they are generally healthy. Yet, both dogs are predisposed to some health issues and risks.

For example, the Australian Shepherd is prone to elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, cataracts, collie eye anomaly, and more.

On the other hand, the Australian Cattle Dog Club recommends that dogs should be screened constantly for progressive retinal atrophy and primary lens luxation.

Life Expectancy

Generally speaking, despite the several health risks, these two are healthy dog breeds. They can live an average of 12 years, with the Australian Shepherd often reaching up to 15 years. The Cattle Dog can live even longer, reaching the age of 16 years in most cases.

Yet, you have to understand, life expectancy depends on factors like diet, daily activities, exercise, socialization, and regular vet check-ups.

Which One To Get?

If you have set your mind on a herding puppy, you will hardly find a better one than these two. When you think of Australian Cattle Dog versus Australian Shepherd, it mainly comes down to preferences.

Do you want a friendlier dog or a guard dog? Do you want a dog with a shorter coat or a longer coat? In terms of intelligence, they are both high up there. But their temperament is a bit different. And it is mainly because of the way they were used for so many years.

Shepherds have been domesticated for a longer time. That is why they are the better family pet of the two.

australian shepherd vs australian cattle dog infographic

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