Official Standard, Country of Origin, as supplied by
The Standard of The Australian Cattle Dog, updated 1994.
By the Australian National Kennel Club
Country of Origin - Australia.
The general appearance is that of a strong, compact, symmetrically built working
dog, with the ability and willingness to carry out his allotted task however
arduous. Its combination of substance, power, balance and hard, muscular condition
must convey the impression of great ability and endurance. Any tendency to
grossness or weediness is a serious fault.
The Cattle Dog should be seen as a whole dog. When this is done, the complete
body structure then becomes an integral part of the type, as does the head.
Both are essential if a Cattle Dog is to be of the standard required. While
no dog is perfect, one that is excellent in head but very faulty in body,
is just as lacking in type as the one that is excellent in body but very
faulty in the head. The typical Cattle Dog should be average or better in
both head and body, in addition to a characteristic temperament. The nearer
to perfection he is in both head and body plus movement, the better the dog.
As the name implies the dog's prime function, and one in which he has no peer,
is the control and movement of cattle in both wide and confined areas. Always
alert, extremely intelligent, watchful, courageous and trustworthy, with an
implicit devotion to duty, making it an ideal dog.
The Cattle Dog's loyalty and protective instincts make it a self-appointed
guardian to the stockman, his herd and his property. Whilst usually suspicious
of strangers, he must be amenable to handling, particularly in the Show Ring.
Any feature of temperament or structure foreign to a working dog must be regarded
as a serious fault.
Should give the picture of a bright, intelligent dog, loyal and ready
to defend his master and property, but at all times amenable to discipline.
The day has past when this or any other breed, should be excused for bad
show-ring behaviour. This dog is such a heavy biter, that it is much too
dangerous to encourage uncontrollable or temperamental specimens in the show
Head and Skull.
The head is strong and must be in balance with the other proportions of the
dog and in keeping with its general conformation. The broad skull is slightly
curved between the ears, flattening to a slight but definite stop. The cheeks
are muscular, neither course nor prominent with the underjaw strong, deep and
well developed. The foreface is broad and well filled in under the eyes, tapering
gradually to form a medium length, deep powerful muzzle, with the skull and
muzzle on parallel planes. The lips are tight and clean. The nose is black.
The head of the Cattle dog, as set out in the Standard, meets the requirements
of the dog to efficiently carry out the work that he was bred for. A broad
skull gives the dog plenty of brain room and the structure for musculation
of the head. A slight but definite stop is called for because if a dog received
a kick from a beast it would allow the hoof to glance off the head, minimising
damage to the dog. A stop that is too pronounced, if caught by a flying hoof,
would certainly mean serious if not fatal injury to the dog's skull. A strong,
medium length, deep muzzle, together with a good underjaw, is needed to carry
out the job of driving and turning cattle by biting their heels. The foreface
is well filled out under the eye and there should be a gradual taper to the
nose. Strength of foreface with clean lines enables the dog to give a strong,
clean bite. Tight, clean lips are required, as loose, drooping lips could be
bitten by the dog's teeth when heeling cattle. The nose is black, irrespective
of the colour of the dog. The head is a combination of several exacting parts,
and any one of these may contain enough faults to destroy the overall look.
It is absolutely essential to have correct type.
The eyes should be of oval shape and medium size, neither prominent nor sunken
and must express alertness and intelligence. A warning or suspicious glint
is characteristic when approached by strangers. Eye colour is dark brown.
The eyes have four variables. The manner in which the affect appearance are:
shape, set or placement in the skull, colour and size. The eyes are oval ion
shape, of medium size, and dark brown, with a warning or suspicious glint.
The eyes are set well apart, giving the dog good, wide vision. Prominent eyes,
as found in dogs that are too short in muzzle, would be a hindrance to the
dog in its work, as it could be blinded , or have its eyes badly damaged if
a steer lashed back, or if a twig caught its eye whilst working amongst low
bushes. A sunken eye is one that would catch the dirt on a cattle drive or
when working in dusty cattle yards.
The ears should be of moderate size, preferably small rather than large, broad
at the base, muscular, pricked and moderately pointed, neither spoon or bat
shaped. The ears are set wide apart on the skull, inclining outwards, sensitive
in their use and pricked when alert. The leather should be thick in texture
and the inside of the ear fairly well furnished with hair.
The ears should be of moderate size. The standard says preferably small, rather
than large, which means that if the ears are anything other than moderate in
size, it is better that they are smaller, as large ears are not characteristic
of this breed. Ears should be pricked and set wide apart on the skull, inclined
outwards and sensitive in their use, so that words or whistles of command can
be easily heard. The inside of the ear should be fairly well furnished with
hair, as this helps to prevent foreign particles entering the ear cavity, where
it could cause damage to the dog's hearing.
The teeth are sound, strong and evenly spaced, gripping with a scissor bite,
the lower incissors close behind and just touching the upper incissors. As
the dog is required to move difficult cattle by heeling or biting, teeth that
are sound and strong are very important.
This is the usual mouth found in most breeds, but the accent is still on strength.
As the demand is for a powerful biter, faulty teeth must be penalised, such
as overshot or undershot bites.
The neck is extremely strong, muscular and of medium length, broadening to
blend into the body and free from throatiness.
This is the only neck a working Cattle Dog should have, as it is needed to
balance the rest of the dog, providing its frame is powerful and muscular,
because the general appearance is of a compact, sturdy looking, hard worker.
A dog that is free from throatiness has greater protection from a kick back
by cattle. Short necks restrict a dogs length of reach when going in to bite
the heels of cattle, and should be penalised.
The shoulders are strong, sloping, muscular and well angulated to the upper
arm and should not be too closely set at the point of the withers. The forelegs
have strong round bone, extending to the feet and should be straight and parallel
when viewed from the front, but the pasterns should show flexibility with a
slight angle to the forearm when viewed from the side. Although the shoulders
are muscular and the bone is strong, loaded shoulders and heavy fronts will
hamper correct movement and limit working ability.
The requirements for a hard working dog that needs to cover long distances
and work many hours, are that the upper arm should join the shoulder blade
as near to a 90degree angle as possible. The forelegs, viewed from all angles,
should be muscular, clean and strongly boned. Viewed from the front they should
be straight, but from the side should show a slight angle of pastern. His angle
of pastern is necessary to absorb shock from the forequarters. Too much angle
results in loose, weak wrists, whilst too straight pasterns cause jarring,
which puts a strain on the entire front assembly. Under hard work, these types
of fronts will become sore and break down.
The length of the body from the point of the breast bone, in a straight line
to the buttocks, is greater than the height at the withers as 10 is to 9. The
topline is level, the back strong with ribs well sprung and carried well back
but not barreled ribbed. The chest is deep, muscular and moderately broad with
the loins broad, strong and muscular and the flanks deep. The dog is strongly
The standard states that the approximate length to height ratio is as 10 is
to 9. Bear in mind that this is a dog that is required to turn away quickly
from danger; a dog that is too long in loin lacks the ability to turn quickly.
The topline should be level with a straight back. The standard is not asking
for a table top, but is indeed asking for a level back which fits in with the
musculation of the dog, and gives the impression that the dog is one, not two
parts. The ribs are well sprung and ribbed back, again the requirement of a
good working dog. The chest should be deep, powerful and moderately broad,
reaching down to the dog's elbows. This allows plenty of room for a large,
strong heart and allows the lungs to expand to their maximum for endurance.
The chest should not be too deep though, as this would prevent the dog from
flattening under a kick from a bullock. Deep, broad and muscular loins, with
deep flanks, are required to couple together the strong forequarters and powerful
The hindquarters are strong, broad and muscular. The croup is rather long and
sloping, the thighs are long, broad and well developed, the stiffles well turned
and the hocks strong and well let down. When viewed from behind, the hind legs
from the hocks to the feet, are straight and placed parallel, neither close
nor too wide apart.
The standard again calls for strength and illustrates the need for powerful,
muscular hindquarters to match the strong front and good, broad head mentioned
earlier. The hindquarters are the driving force of the dog and obviously weak,
narrow or tapering hindquarters would not provide the strength trequired for
the dog to work the long hours necessary when driving cattle. A well turned
stiffle is called for. It does not mean it should be as much as is found in
German Shepherds, nor should it be too straight, as this would not allow the
hindquarters to deliver the thrust needed for proper mobility. The hocks should
be straight when viewed from behind and set neither too close or too wide apart;
they should be strong and well let down. This gives the dog correct balance
and the ability to turn quickly and brake suddenly when required. Cow hocks
or bow hocks are serious faults.
The feet should be round and the toes short, strong, well arched and held close
together. The pads are hard and deep, and the nails should be short and strong.
A neat round foot is strong and functionally correct. Pads should be thick
to absorb shock and protect the foot. A dog with correct feet and adequate
exercise on a hard surface, will wear its nails down naturally. Splayed, or
otherwise weak feet will break down under hard use. Such feet allow gravel
and burrs to lodge between the toes. If a working dog has not got good feet,
even if he meets all the other requirements of the Standard, he has not the
mobility to do his work. Good feet atre a must. A dog with thin pads would
soon wear them out on hard ground.
The set-on of tail is moderately low, following the contours of the sloping
croup and of a length to reach approximately to the hock. At rest it should
hang in a very slight curve. During movement or excitement the tail may be
raised, but under no circumstances should any part of the tail be carried past
a vertical line drawn through the root of the tail. The tail should carry a
The tail acts as a rudder or counter-balance for the dog in movement. Although
the tail may be raised in movement, or when the dog is excited, it should never
be carried over the back, or past an imaginary line drawn through the root
of the tail. The set on of tail should be low and following the contour of
the sloping rump, because a dog with too high a set of tail usually flags its
tail over its back. The tail should look like part of the dog, not something
that has been stuck on. The length of the tail should reach approximately to
the hock, with a good brush and a slight curve. A tail that is too long and
lacks brush tends to hook or curl.
The action is true, free, supple and tireless and the movement of the shoulders
and forelegs is in unison with the powerful thrust of the hindquarters.. the
capability of quick and sudden movement is essential. Soundness is of paramount
importance and stiltiness, loaded or slack shoulders, straight shoulder placement,
weakness at elbows, pasterns or feet, straight stiffles, cow or bow hocks,
must be regarded as serious faults. When trotting the feet tend to come closer
together at ground level as speed increases, but when the dog comes to rest,
he should stand four square.
The Standard gives a fairly comprehensive description and obviously, only a
really well made cattle dog will correctly move in the manner described. Gait
in itself is not soundness, but a measure of soundness. Proper gait is not
possible without proper structure. If the structure is not proper, faults will
be revealed that may be hidden when the dog is posed. Keeping in mind that
a Cattle Dog is required to work long hours, it should gait freely with a minimum
of up and down movement, covering the maximum amount of ground with a minimum
The coat is smooth, a double coat with a short, dense undercoat. The outer
coat is close, each hair is straight, hard and lying flat, so that it is rain
resistant. Under the body to behind the legs, the coat is longer and forms
near the thigh a mild form of breeching. On the head (including the inside
of the ears), to the front of the legs and feet, the hair is short. Along the
neck it is longer and thicker. A coat either too long or too short is a fault.
As an average, the hairs on the body should be from 2.5cm to 4cms (approx,
1 to 1.5 ins) in length.
Cattle Dogs are required to work in the open in all weather conditions. They
require all possible protection against the elements - wind, rain and heat,
as well as cold nights of the slopes and plains of this country. It is a double
coat, the outer helping to ward off the elements and the undercoat also helps
to keep the dog warm in winter and cool in summer. The coarse outer coat and
the thick undercoat also help to protect the skin from scratches and cuts from
scrub where they work. The hair is straight. Curly or wavy coats are uncharacteristic
of the breed. And should not be encouraged.
Colour - Blue:
The colour should be blue, blue-mottled or blue-speckled with or without other
markings. The permissible markings are black, blue or tan markings on the head,
evenly distributed for preference. The forelegs tan midway up the legs and
extending up the front to breast and throat, with tan on the jaws; the hindquarters
have tan on the inside of the hind legs and inside of the thighs, showing down
the front of the stiffles and broadening out to the outside of the hindlegs
from hock to toes. Tan undercoat is permissible on the body providing it does
not show through the blue outer coat. Black markings on the body are not desirable.
The colour should be of a good even red speckle all over, including the undercoat,
(neither white nor cream), with or without darker red markings on the head.
Even head markings are desirable. Red markings on the body are permissible
but not desirable.
The standard lays out quite clearly the colour requirements of this breed.
The correct colour and markings are a good indication as to the purity of the
breed. Although body patches should not be encouraged, an otherwise excellent
specimen should not be put down under a dog without body markings which is
inferior in general conformation.
Size - Height:
Dogs 46 -51 cms (approx 18 - 20 ins) at the withers Bitches 43 - 48 cms (approx
17 - 19 ins) at the withers.
The Standard lays out clearly the desirable height at the withers for dogs
and bitches. As there is a good range of 51mm(2ins) allowable for both dogs
and bitches, specimens over or under the desirable heights should be seriously
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the
seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion
to its degree
Note: Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended
into the scrotum.
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