Australian Cattle Dog Colors Explained

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Australian Cattle Dog Colors ExplainedMaybe you’re looking for Australian Cattle Dog puppies but aren’t quite sure which variant you want to take home with you. This can be a tough decision to make because each hue they come in is beautiful in its own way. To make things easier for you, this article explains all of the Australian Cattle Dog colors, along with other things you need to know about this breed. 

What is the Australian Cattle Dog? 

One of the most hard-working dog breeds is the Australian Cattle Dog (ACD) which is also known as the Queensland heeler, Australian heeler, Blue heeler, or Red heeler. Born with a white coat, they change into a red or blue-gray color as they get older — both colors can feature distinctive speckling or mottling patterns. Their high work drive allows them to excel in controlling and moving livestock, while their high energy makes them wonderful running partners. 

ACDs are known to be one of the most intelligent dogs and come with many other fantastic qualities such as:

  • Tenacity
  • Loyal
  • Alert
  • Aloof around strangers
  • Sporty
  • And more   

Just keep in mind that if your ACD isn’t challenged, it can easily get bored and may turn to destructive behaviors. As such, it’s recommended that owners spend time with these versatile dogs and participate in some dog sports, work, or a form of regular exercise to keep them physically and mentally fit.  

Australian Cattle Dog History

The breed was first developed in Australia when the need came for a tough, yet versatile herding dog — it took a number of breeds to cross before settling on the ACD. Some of the dogs used to come up with the Cattle dog included the following: 

  • Native Dingo
  • Dalmatian dogs
  • Bull Terrier
  • Kelpie
  • Blue merle Collies 

Because of an oddity inherited from their Dalmatian genes, the breed is born white — they have been purebred dogs since 1893. However, the first breed standard wasn’t developed until 1985 when they were first recognized by the United Kennel Club. These silent heelers are able to withstand the heat and the rough terrain of the Australian outback better than any other herding breed, making them the perfect companion for farmers.   

Australian Cattle Dog Appearance

The ACD is known for its sturdy, compact, and muscular body, which measures between 18 to 20 inches tall for males, and around 17 to 19 inches for females. They can weigh anywhere between 33 to 50 pounds — these dimensions give them both the agility and strength to herd and chase when needed. This medium-sized dog is strong and symmetrically built, conveying an impression of a high capacity for endurance and great agility. 

These gorgeous dogs have oval-shaped, dark brown eyes that aren’t sunken or prominent, expressing an intelligent and alert look — however, yellow eyes will be seen as a fault. Regardless of their coat color, they will come with a black nose, while the length of the body is taken from the buttocks to the breastbone to get an accurate measurement. The tail will come with a slight curve when resting and won’t usually be docked, however, docked tails will also be accepted.       

These dogs come with weather-resistant short coats that are hard, flat, and straight, which cover their dense undercoats. On the belly side of the body, their hair can grow longer, forming slight breeching onto the thigh’s back. Their coat will also be longer and thicker along their necks — on average, their short, dense undercoat will measure around 1 to 1 ½ inches long. 

Australian Cattle Dog Temperament

Protective and loyal, the ACD has a reputation for being an excellent guardian; they’re naturally suspicious of strangers but can be trained to be more friendly and confident inside the show ring. Protective and loyal are just a few traits that make these working dogs so unique and popular. Because of their steadfast dedication to their families, they are the perfect guardians of herds and properties. 

They are exceptionally good herders and will do well in any kind of farm or country setting. This means that they can make necessary adjustments to move and control cattle in all kinds of environments. However, extreme shyness or viciousness can lead to disqualification according to breed standards.  

Australian Cattle Dog Colors

These dogs don’t just come in blue coloring and can be found in other colors and different patterns. Here are the accepted Blue Heeler colors that you should know about if you plan on getting one of these gorgeous dogs. 

1. Blue

BlueThis is the appearance that gives these dogs their name, “Blue Heeler” and is the most common color they come in. These dogs aren’t actually blue; instead, they have a base color and white hairs that intertwine with their base-colored hair. All these dogs will come with a black undercoat but their white hairs will twist over their black hairs to give the appearance of a bluish coat. 

The amount of white hair they come with will indicate your Blue Heeler’s color; this means that the amount of white your dog has will dictate the kind of blue shade it will have. If there are fewer white hairs present, the darker your dog’s coat color will be. But if there’s more white hair present, your pup’s coat color will be lighter — as such, there are lighter and darker blue ACDs. 

According to the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC), there are a few instances when this dog’s color will be deemed unacceptable. These include the following: 

  • Too many white hairs: When this happens, the dog will look like a white dog or a white pup with blue markings which isn’t acceptable. 
  • Too few white hairs: If there aren’t enough white hairs on the dog, it will appear black which is also undesirable for Blue Heelers. 

2. Blue Mottled

Blue MottledAgain, we’re not referring to the actual blue color, but the same black color base with white hairs that create the appearance of a blue hue. However, in this variant, the white parts aren’t just strands of short hair but will appear as spots or smears of white, also known as mottles, hence its name. These mottles will be gathered into various smudges throughout their body, with each shape being 2 to 11 inches in size. 

Unfortunately, any spot over 11 ½ inches big will be considered a fault and will deem the dog undesirable. Moreover, dogs should always have an equal-spread in terms of white mottled parts around their coat. While this isn’t always easy to achieve, breeders tend to focus on the size of their mottles and will tend to keep them smaller at just 5 inches — anything bigger than this and the puppy can look white with a few patches of blue.  

3. Blue Speckled

Blue SpeckledBlue-speckled ACDs come with bluish fur that has white speckles throughout it, giving their name; the sizes of these speckles can be an inch in diameter or smaller. While they’re not actually circular, they still have the appearance of spots, which is why they’re often placed under spotted dog breed groups. While people will often mistake these dogs for blue-mottled Blue Heelers, the difference is obvious when they’re placed side by side together.  

The reason for this confusion is the size of the white spots formed by the white hairs along the blue outer coat. Moreover, their base color is the same black shade, so when the white dots get bigger than 1 inch, they can turn into mottles, and the same can happen vice versa when the white mottles are under 1 inch in size, making them speckles. Unfortunately, ACDs don’t come with evenly distributed mottles or speckles that are kept the same size all over their coat. 

As such, these dogs can appear to have speckles on one part of their body but mottles on another part. Determining whether a Blue Heeler is mottled or speckled will depend on how many speckles or mottles they have on the body. If it comes with more speckles of approximately the same sizes, then it’s speckled but if it has more mottled white marks then the dog is classified as mottled. 

4. Red Speckled

Red SpeckledThe fourth color of the ACD is known as red speckled coloring, which will come with a red base color along with white hairs that intertwine with their outer coat. Also known as the Red Heeler dog, they have the appearance of a red dog; genetically, this color is referred to as sable or fawn. No matter where these dogs are raised, they will need to come with a base color of red, not white or cream to be considered acceptable by breed standards.

However, they will also need to come with white speckles that are spread evenly throughout their body; these speckles can’t be any bigger than 1 inch, because anything more than this will result in a coat color of red-mottled. Just like the blue dogs, the size of white hairs will be taken into consideration to determine if they’re desirable or not. Having no white hair at all is a big fault, and will result in dogs that are reminiscent of wild dingoes, which is why a red Australian cattle dog without any whites is considered to be the most undesirable kind of color.  

5. Red Mottled

Red MottledThis red ACD is the final registered and accepted color; red mottled dogs are also simply called red dogs. Much like in blue dogs, red ACDs will need to have spots of white hair that are evenly spread around the body, which all will ideally be around 2 to 5 inches big. Anything under 1 inch across will place the dog under the red-speckled category. 

As with the blue dogs, the same rule applies and mottled areas can be over 5 inches and up to 11 inches, but anything larger than that won’t be desirable. They will also have the same white hair spots, just with red hairs instead of a black base. However, they shouldn’t come with huge white patches or be unevenly mottled to be accepted within breed standards. 

Permissible Markings for the ACD

However, their colors aren’t the only interesting points about these dogs; their markings also contribute to their unique and interesting look. According to the American Kennel Club, there are 3 different body and facial markings accepted on an adult Australian Cattle Dog. These standards work together with other breed regulations which include the following: 

  • Their pointy ears
  • Long and bushy tails
  • Specific weight, height, and others

Keep in mind that dogs without any markings are accepted just as much as dogs with markings. However, not many ACDs will come without any kind of marking along their body, so most of them will have some kind of mark. 

1. Tan Markings

When it comes to ACDs with tan markings, you can expect them to appear on specific body parts of the dog and will follow the “tan point” genes, which can be present in other dogs, such as a tan Kelpie. They will often appear as patches of tan, a pale brown-like color. However, they may also become dark in color, or turn into darker red markings. A dog will have tan markings around the following areas: 

  • Over their eyes
  • By the side of their cheeks
  • On the sides of their necks
  • On the sides of their muzzles
  • Over their chest in a triangular shape
  • Under their tail
  • Inside their hindlegs and forelegs
  • Inside or at the edge of the ears 

2. Black And Tan Markings

These are common markings on the Blue Heeler, and will also come with “tan point” genes but with a darker shade that can turn into a completely black patch. These black markings will commonly be seen around the tail and the head; when found on their head, they can present themselves as eye patches over one or both eyes. The patches may also spread over to one or both ears and while the tan marks will stay in the same locations, these dogs will also come with black marks as well.   

3. Red Markings

A red-speckled Cattle dog will often come with red markings around the head and tail. These are normal markings, just as black and tan marks are usually found on blue ACDs. Red marks will usually take the form of red patches around their eyes or may cover close to half of the pup’s head, including their ears. 


Whether you’re looking for blue pups or red pups, the Australian Cattle Dog is certainly one of the most impressive dogs in the world, but you’ll want to look out for undesirable colors to ensure that your pooch is within breed standards. Make sure to speak to a reputable breeder before you take one of these dogs home to clear it from common conditions such as hip dysplasia. When their exercise needs are met and given proper care as well as early socialization, these dogs will do well with families that have an active lifestyle.