For active families, one of these Australian dog breeds might be a four-legged match made in heaven.

By Lindsay Tigar
July 14, 2021
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Australian dog breeds have a fascinating history. Their origins date to the outback when settlers first called the country home. Many have dazzling eyes, others have the silkiest coats ever, and all of them make wonderful companions. From the Australian cattle dog to the mini foxie, here's our guide to Australian dog breeds to consider when researching your new furry best friend.

Portrait of Australian Cattle dog with forest background
ACD's hardiness and coloration is all thanks to their unique dalmatian, collie, and wild Australian dingo lineage.
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Australian Cattle Dog

When you think of a dog that's gathering up sheep, it's likely this pup you're imagining. Also called a blue heeler, you can consider this breed the go-to choice for herding. The Australian cattle dog is resilient to extreme conditions (think: the very hot Australian outback), and made vital contributions to the growth of the continent's beef industry, according to Jesus Aramendi, DVM, senior veterinarian at Chewy. "It is believed this breed's origins date back to the 1800s when Anglo-Australians started large cattle farms in the extreme Australian inland terrain," he explains.

Interestingly, this breed is born with a white coat that turns blue-gray or red later on and varies with mottling or speckled patterns. The Australian cattle dog loves keeping up with their active human family members. Even better if you have a huge backyard or a farm for them to roam! "Because of [their] high stamina and intelligence, they will become bored easily and get into mischief if they are not exercised and stimulated properly," Aramendi says. "It is recommended that owners participate with their dog in some work, sport, or regular exercise to keep them mentally and physically fit."

tenterfield terrier standing on sand
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Tenterfield Terrier

This small pup is believed to mix the miniature fox terrier and other small terrier breeds. With a smooth, tricolor coat that's a combination of white, black, and tan, these pups are loving, loyal, and full of energy, says Laura Robinson, DVM, medical advisor to digital health clinic Pawp. Originally from the South of England, the Tenterfield terrier was brought over to Australia in the 19th century by European Settlers. "They were initially bred to chase rats and other small animals away from homes and properties," she explains. "Like other terriers, this breed is known to chase so would do well in a single pet home with daily exercise."

silky terrier side profile standing in grass
Originally dubbed the Sydney silky terrier, silkies were bred from crossing Australian and Yorkshire terriers.
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Silky Terrier

In the early 20th century, a 'silky' coat was a big request for pup parents in Australia. To determine which breeds would create the best mix, they tried breeding Yorkies and Australian terriers, eventually ending up at the silky terrier. Though Aramendi says this breed is often mistaken as a Yorkshire terrier or an Australian terrier, an easy way to tell the difference is the size. The silky terrier is smaller than an Aussie terrier but bigger than a Yorkie.

Silky terriers have long, blue and tan coats and a wedge-shaped head that's just about as cute as it gets. "They are small but not fragile, and they are perfect for a family or single individuals who can dedicate time and effort to keeping their beautiful coat well-groomed," Aramendi says. If you love bonding over frequent brushing and have the budget for consistent grooming, this beautiful breed is likely a match for you.

Black and tan Australian kelpie lays down with tongue sticking out
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Australian Kelpie

Does your idea of a great weekend include hiking, going for long runs, and exploring the great outdoors? If so, the Australian kelpie might be your new best bud. As Aramendi says, these active, energetic, and alert doggos are not only capable of physical work, but they thrive from it. He says the breed is thought to be the mix of dogs from Scotland that have Collie-like physical attributes. "Because of their high stamina and intelligence, it is recommended for Australian kelpie owners to provide them with routine long walks or fast jogs every day to keep them physically and mentally active," he explains.

While they do not typically require special grooming needs, he does note that sound quality nutrition and routine physical exams twice a year are recommended to keep them healthy.

australian terrier wood sitting
The Australian terrier's hard, wiry coat is a staple of the breed. In fact, they were originally named the "broken coated terrier."
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Australian Terrier

Affectionate, small, sturdy, and self-confident Australian terriers are also known for a few physically defining attributes. As Aramendi explains, these dogs have long torsos, distinctive coats around the neck and forequarters, and a topknot of soft, silky hair that contrasts in texture with an otherwise rough coat. Their spunky, independent, and smart personality doesn't disappoint either.

The history of the Australian terrier dates to the 19th century when British settlers brought several breeds to the land. Aramendi says the Australian terrier results from interbreeding the Dandie Dinmont terrier, Skye terrier, and Manchester terrier.

"Aussies were bred to be fearless, all-purpose exterminators for small mammals and snakes," he continues. "This breed makes a perfect companion to families and individuals that have the time to involve them in routine exercising activities such long walks, jogs, and even agility courses."

mini foxie lying in grass with one ear up
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Australian Mini Foxie

Also known as the miniature fox terrier, Aramendi says this breed is likely a mix between a smaller fox terrier type and an English toy terrier or whippet. The mini foxie's smooth, shiny coat and strong, athletic build defines the breed.

And while Aramendi says the breed's origins are English, the mini foxie was developed in and is endemic to Australia. "They were initially bred as hunting dogs, but became highly effective in controlling rodent infestations across Australia," he says.

If you own one of these sweet guys or gals, you'll need to stay active! They require a lot of exercise to stay healthy, both physically and emotionally. "They are generally low maintenance dogs, but twice a year routine check-ups at the veterinarian are highly recommended."

australian stumpy tail cattle dog lying in grass
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Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog

First things first: The most crucial point to know about this breed is that they are not an Australian cattle dog with a docked tail. Instead, the Australian stumpy tail cattle dog (aka stumpy tailed heeler) is naturally bob-tailed and stands square with plenty of leg length under the body, explains Aramendi. "The origins of this breed are believed to be very similar to those of the Australian cattle dog, however, one interesting note is that there is a strong belief that it was truly the first breed created in Australia," he continues. "Similar to their relatives, this breed is mostly used by cattle ranchers for herding purposes."

Known by their nickname 'The Stumpy,' this pup is a relatively healthy breed and can live 12 to 15 years with a loving family and home.

australian staghound closeup
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Australian Staghound 

Chances are you've heard of this cutey, but perhaps, not by its official breed name. Instead, you've likely heard of its nickname, 'The Kangaroo Dog,' since it has gained popularity in recent years. This fun-lovin' pup is full of energy and needs lots of space (like a backyard) to run it all out, Aramendi says. Because of this, you likely shouldn't have one if you're in a cramped city apartment.

"They are beautiful and strong dogs, perfect for guarding and herding cattle because of their speed and great vision," he continues. "They, however, are not recommended for families with young children."

koolie running through grass
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Australian Koolie

You might recognize this breed from its shortened name, The Koolie. Aramendi explains this is a herding pup in the land down under since the 19th century when they were imported from Britain. In appearance, this pup looks similar to an Australian cattle dog, and is beloved by cattle ranchers. An Australian Koolie needs tons of exercise, so make sure you have room for your Koolie to roam before adopting.

"Because of their history of descending from British and German breeds with collie in it, it's recommended to test them for the MDR1-1 gene often found in collies and Shelties," he continues. "The MDR is a gene believed to cause dogs to be sensitive to certain heartworm medications containing the active ingredient Ivermectin."

bull arab walking through stream
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Bull Arab

Though this breed is relatively uncommon, they are still beloved by their owners. As Aramendi explains, the Bull Arab was initially bred to hunt feral pigs in Australia. And it's believed they are the result of putting many strong, sturdy breeds together, like greyhounds, mastiffs, Great Danes and bull terriers. "They are strong medium-size dogs with a calm temperament and are also highly intelligent," he adds.

australian dingo on beach
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Australian Dingo

According to Aramendi, this is the primal form of canine family in Australia, similar to the wolves, coyotes, or jackals found in North America. In other words: this is not a pet you have in your family; it's an actual wild dog. "The dingo's habitat covers most of Australia, but they are absent in the southeast and Tasmania," he continues. "As Australia's largest terrestrial predator, dingoes prey on mammals up to the size of the large red kangaroo, in addition to birds, reptiles, fish, crabs, frogs, insects, and seeds."

Australian Shepherd standing in profile in front of woods
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Australian Shepherd (Not Actually Australian!)

Hundreds of years ago, the Basque people who lived in the mountains between Spain and France used a Pyrenean shepherd to herd cattle or sheep. Over time, this breed has evolved into the modern Australian shepherd. As Aramendi explains, in the early 1800s, it is believed the Basque emigrated to Australia and with them, they took their incredible herding dogs. "After almost a century living in Australia, some Australian Native Basques moved to North America and settled in California as ranchers," he continues. "It was then when the breed became very popular around Californian ranchers as excellent herding dogs, and because the Basque migrated to California from Australia, people continued referring to these dogs as Australian shepherds."

However, It was not until 1993 when the Australian shepherd entered the AKC Herding Group as an American-made breed. For this reason, the Australian shepherd is known as an American breed and not an Australian breed, despite their name. "They have beautiful long hair coats, great stamina, and strong muscle," Aramendi says. "Lately, this breed has become very popular among families all across the world, making them a favorite to many."