Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog

The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is a breed of livestock droving dog native to Australia.  Although similar to the better known Australian Cattle Dog, the two dogs are entirely separate breeds and were developed separately at different times.  Known for being one of the most athletically capable and strongly driven of all breeds, the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is highly valued in the Australian cattle industry.  One of the most heat tolerant of all dog breeds, the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is capable of working for hours in temperatures that would be fatal to most dogs.  Due to a number of factors, the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog was almost extinct by the end of the 1990’s, but was saved as a result of major efforts undertaken by the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) and dedicated breeders.  The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is also known as the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog, Stumpy, Stumpy Tail, Stumpy Tail Heeler, and Heeler.

Breed Information

Breed Basics

Country of Origin: 
Size: 
Large 35-55 lb
LifeSpan: 
12 to 15 Years
Trainability: 
Very Easy To Train
Energy Level: 
High Energy
Grooming: 
Brushing Once a Week or Less
Protective Ability: 
Good Watchdog
Hypoallergenic Breed: 
No
Space Requirements: 
House with Yard
Compatibility With Other Pets: 
Known To Be Dog Aggressive
Likely To Chase Or Injure Non-Canine Pets
May Be Okay With Other Pets If Raised Together
Not Recommended For Homes With Existing Dogs
Not Recommended For Homes With Small Animals
Litter Size: 
3-6 puppies
Names: 
Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog, Stumpy, Stumpy tail, Heeler

Height/Weight

Males: 
35-50 lbs, 18-20 inches
Females: 
35-50lbs, 17-19 inches

Kennel Clubs and Recognition

ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council): 
CKC(Canadian Kennel Club): 
NZKC (New Zealand Kennel Club): 
UKC (United Kennel Club): 
History: 

 

The origin of the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is a mystery, and a hotly debated one.  The breed was developed in extremely rural areas and was bred exclusively as a working dog.  These factors combined with the fact that it appeared before written records were typically kept of dog breeding mean that no one is sure about how and when the breed was created, or who developed it.  It is a commonly made claim that the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is the oldest pure bred dog in Australia.  This is both possible and likely, but until more conclusive evidence comes to light cannot be stated with certainty.  There are a number of theories and stories about the development of this breed although evidence to support any of them is sparse and unreliable at best.

 

All theories agree on four key points, that the breed was developed in Australia, that it first appeared in the first half of the 19th Century, that it was the result of crossing British herding dogs and the Australian Dingo, and that it was bred as a cattle and sheep drover.  The history of the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog began in 1788, when the first British colony was established on the Australian mainland.  From the earliest days of European settlement in Australia, the cattle and wool industries played a major role in the country’s economy, just as they had in the British Isles.  For hundreds of years, British herding breeds have been regarded as some of the most highly skilled and best performing livestock working breeds.  These dogs were perfectly suited to both their job and their homeland.  When British shepherds and cattlemen first immigrated to Australia, they brought the dogs that had served them and their ancestors for countless generations along with them.

 

Although extremely dedicated and dependable workers and highly skilled herders, British dogs fared poorly in their new homeland.  Dogs adapted to life in cool England and the frigid Scottish Highlands were very ill-suited to Australia’s climactic conditions.  The temperature in Australia often rises to well-over 100 degrees Fahrenheit where it remains for hours on end.  British collies and sheepdogs often collapsed in such weather, and frequently died of heat stroke.  Numerous diseases flourish in the heat, including many that were either not found in Britain or were extremely rare.  In addition to a greater disease load, greater numbers of parasites and biting insects are found in Australia as well.  The Australian wildlife is also considerably more dangerous than that of Britain, where the largest surviving predators are the red fox and river otter, neither of which is much of a match for an adult sheepdog.  Australia is home to many species willing and capable of killing both dogs and livestock such as the Dingo, large monitor lizards, massive crocodiles, wild hogs, the most venomous snakes in the world, and if legends are to be believed, the Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger.  One of the most developed nations in the world, the United Kingdom was densely populated with a good road system and generally passable terrain.  During the 1800’s, Australia was perhaps the least developed nation on Earth, with essentially no roads and countless square miles completely uninhabited by human beings.  Even the sheep and cattle in Australia were considerably more difficult to work with.  Whereas the cattle and sheep in Britain were extremely tame and pliable as a result of breeding and close contact with man, those in Australia were half-wild due to the survival necessities of the Outback and the fact that many only saw humans up close a few times a year.

 

The difficulties placed on British herding dogs were most extreme in the farthest reaches of European settlement.  Cattle and sheep ranchers operating in the Australian interior often owned hundreds of acres which were located well-over one hundred miles from the nearest major settlement.  Before the introduction of railways and automobiles, the only way for them to get their livestock to market was with droving dogs and horses.  These operators needed dogs that were capable of working at a rapid pace in extremely high temperatures for countless hours over entirely undeveloped and rough terrain, in addition to possessing disease and parasite resistance and the ability to deal with Australia’s dangerous wildlife.  There was however, one type of dog extremely well-suited to life on the Great Southern Continent, the Dingo.  Although its origins have been lost to time, the Dingo was first brought to Australia sometime between 4,000 and 12,000 years ago by seafaring explorers from Indonesia or New Guinea.  Once on the Australian mainland, Dingoes went feral and eventually reverted to a completely wild state.  Living in isolation on Australia, the Dingo developed so differently from both other dogs and wolves that it is now usually (but not always) regarded as a unique subspecies.  Dingoes are exquisitely adapted to life in Australia, and have successfully colonized the entire continent even the harshest regions.  Having to hunt to survive, Dingo packs are regularly on the move.  Although possibly a separate subspecies, all Dingoes can produce fertile offspring with all domestic dogs and all wolves.

 

The most popular and widely accepted theory for the origin of the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is that the breed was developed by a man named Timmins, whose first name has apparently been lost to history.  Timmins was supposedly a cattle and sheep drover operating in New South Wales during the early colonial period.  Many sources claim that Timmins lived and worked primarily in Bathurst, but there is not any agreement on this point.  As was the case with many early Australian settlers, Timmins possessed Smithfields.  Now generally regarded as extinct, Smithfields were a herding and droving breed native to Southern England, very similar to the Old English Sheepdog to which they may have been ancestral.  Smithfields were named for the Smithfield market in London, where they were most commonly used.  At one point, there were two varieties of Smithfield, one with a naturally bobbed-tail and another with a longer tail.  Timmins allegedly crossed his Smithfields with Dingoes, in order to achieve a dog with the best qualities of each.  Bred to bite and the heels of cattle to get them to move, his dogs became known as Timmins’s Biters.  Timmins’s Biters allegedly had the stumpy tail of the Smithfield and the red coloration of the Dingo.  Timmins found his dogs to be very hard workers and exceptionally adapted for Australian life.  However, they also tended to bite so hard that they injured the livestock that they were driving, as well as being wild and difficult to train.  Timmins crossed his dogs with blue-merle smooth-coated collie-type dogs to solve these problems.  The puppies still possessed the stumpy tail, working ability, and environmental adaptations, but bit less hard, were more trainable, and some possessed blue coats instead of red ones.  Timmins and other breeders focused their efforts on the blue-coated dogs under the assumption that they possessed less Dingo blood and were therefore tamer, although the red color never disappeared entirely.

 

There is another popular theory regarded the origin of the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog.  Some claim that it is the descendant of Hall’s Heelers, the same group of dogs that gave rise to the Australian Cattle Dog.  In 1802, the Hall family moved from Northumberland, England to New South Wales and came to own a massive interior cattle ranch.  The family subsequently imported droving dogs from Northumberland to their new home to assist them.  The exact nature of these dogs is unclear but they were almost certainly collie-type dogs.  The Hall family may have later crossed their Northumberland dogs with Smithfields, but sources debate this point.  Finding that their dogs had the same problems as other British working dogs in Australia, the Halls crossed them with Dingoes that they were keeping as pets.  The offspring of these crosses proved to be exactly what the Halls needed, and they became known as Hall’s Heelers.  Perfected by the early 1840’s, these dogs provided so much of an advantage over other ranchers that they were not sold or given to any non-family members until the death of family patriarch Thomas Hall in 1870.  Believers in this theory claim that those dogs which remained closest to the original Hall’s Heeler eventually became the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog while those which were further crossed with other breeds became the Australian Cattle Dog.

 

Prevalence of opinion and what little evidence remains seems to indicate that the Timmins origin theory is more likely than the Hall origin, but either is possible.  In fact, neither could be fully accurate, especially in the precise details.   Regardless of how the breed came into existence, the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog became one of the premier livestock dogs in its homeland by the end of the 19th Century.  The breed was widespread across Australia and quite commonly used as a working dog, although it was probably never as popular as the Australian Cattle Dog.  Although used for similar purposes and probably occasionally crossed, he Australian Cattle Dog and Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog have apparently always been recognized as different breeds, or at least varieties.  Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs have appeared in Australian dog shows since at least 1890.  Most early shows included both breeds in the same classes, and until World War I Stumpy Tailed Dogs made up almost 50% of Cattle Dog entries.  In 1917, the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) recognized both dogs as separate breeds, initially calling them the Australian Cattle Dog and Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog (without the Australian) respectively.  The Australian Cattle Dog wound up becoming a relatively popular show and conformation breed, although it remained primarily a working dog.  Meanwhile, its Stumpy-tailed relative remained almost exclusively a working animal. As a result of a large number of American servicemen being stationed in Australia during World War II, the Australian Cattle Dog was introduced into the United States, where it became quite popular as both a working dog and a companion animal.  However, the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog remained essentially unknown out of its home country.

 

As the 20th Century wore on, the Australian Cattle Dog almost completely eclipsed the Stumpy Tail in terms of popularity and public recognition.  Interest in pedigreed breed members almost disappeared entirely.  By the 1960’s, there was only one family breeding fully registered Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs, Mrs. Iris Heale of Glen Iris Kennels.  A number of other breeders continued to breed the dogs as working animals but did not register their dogs and may have crossed them with other breeds and Dingoes.  By the 1980’s, it was clear that the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog was on the verge of complete extinction, at least as a purebred dog.  In 1988, the ANKC announced a radical program to save the breed, the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog Redevelopment Scheme.  Dogs resembling purebred Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs were sought out throughout Australia.  Primarily, but not exclusively, working livestock dogs, these animals were graded on how closely they conformed to breed standards, with A being the highest ranking.  The offspring of two dogs with an A grading were allowed to be registered as purebred Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs.  The Redevelopment Scheme proved very successful, massively increasing the number of registered breed members while maintaining conformation and working ability.

 

As breed numbers increased, a few Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs began to be exported to other countries, primarily New Zealand and the United States.  In 1996, the United Kennel Club (UKC), the second largest dog registry in both the United States and the world, granted full recognition to the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog as a member of the Herding Group.  In 2002, the ANKC formally changed the breed’s name to the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog and the Federation Cynologique Internationale granted the breed provisional recognition.  In 2006, the Redevelopment Scheme was officially ended, and no new non-pedigreed dogs will be added to the registered population.  However, breed numbers have increased to the extent that the dog is now is now quite secure and in no danger of extinction.  Additionally, a sizable population of non-pedigreed breed members remains in rural areas as working dogs.  Unlike most modern breeds, the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog remains almost exclusively a working dog and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.  In recent years, a few owners have begun to keep breed members primarily as companion animals, but this breed has such extreme exercise and stimulation requirements that the vast majority of families could never hope to meet them.  The breed’s population is now quite stable in its homeland, but this dog is almost unknown elsewhere.  If the breed is to gain popularity in other countries, it will almost certainly be in nations such as the United States that possess a major cattle industry that can utilize the dog’s talents.

 

Appearance: 

 

At first glance, the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog looks very similar to its better known relative the Australian Cattle Dog, especially when it comes to coat and coloration. Closer inspection reveals two substantially different animals.  The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is more squarely proportioned than its cousin, with longer legs, a more slender build, and a naturally short tail.  In general, the breed is completely free of any exaggerated feature which would impede working ability, and this is among the most, “natural looking” of all dogs.  The average male Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog stands between 18 and 20 inches tall at the shoulder, and the average female stands between 17 to 19 inches.  The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is a true working dog, and should always appear extremely fit and muscular.  Although sturdily constructed, this breed should appear fit rather than stocky, and most breed members weigh between 35 and 50 pounds.  The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog should be equally long from chest to rump as it is from ground to shoulder, with a broad straight back.  The tail of this breed is its defining feature.  The tail must be naturally short, with no docking.  A maximum tail length of up to four inches is permitted, but most breed members have substantially shorter tails.

 

The head and face of this breed are quite reminiscent of those of the Dingo.  This breed’s head is proportionate to the size of its body, although somewhat broad. The head transitions smoothly into the muzzle while remaining distinct from it.  The muzzle itself is of average length, but substantial width, displaying the immense power that the jaws possess.  Although it tapers slightly, the muzzle ends quite abruptly and possesses a nose that is always black regardless of the dog’s coat color.  The ears of the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog stand straight erect and end in a relatively sharp point.  Some breed members have narrow ears while others have ears that are quite wide.  The eyes of this breed are moderately-sized, almondAmong experts, the use of Almonds, or Almond derived products in pet food appears to have been met with mixed reviews. While some feel that there is no issue and that the ....-shaped, and dark brown in color.  The overall expression of most Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs is intelligent, keen, mischievous, and vaguely wild.

 

The outer coat of the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is moderately short, straight, dense, and somewhat coarse.  The breed also has a soft, dense undercoat underneath its outer coat.  This coat both provides protection from the elements and allows the dog to tolerate the extreme temperatures of Australia.  This breed comes in two primary colors, blue and red.  Either color may be speckled/ticked or mottled.  The amount of the color present varies substantially from dog to dog.  Blue dogs may or may not have black markings on their heads and bodies, and red dogs may or may not have red markings on their bodies.  Occasionally blue dogs will be born with red markings and vice versa, or either color may have tan markings present.  Such dogs are ineligible in the show ring and should not be bred but otherwise make just as good of a working dog or a pet as other Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs.  Similar restrictions apply to those breed members which have the solid cream, tan, or red coat of a wild Dingo.

 

Temperament: 

 

The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is one of the most driven and energetic of all working dogs, along with being extremely heat tolerant.  This breed has been bred almost exclusively as a working dog for almost two hundred years, and is still primarily kept for this purpose.  This dog is extremely devoted to its own family, with whom it forms very close attachments.  While this breed prefers to be in the presence of its family, it is an independent dog that would probably rather be in the same room as its owners than on their laps.  Although rarely fawningly affectionate, this breed will show affectionate to those it knows best.  With proper socialization, Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs will generally get along well with children that they know.  However, this breed has a very strong urge to nip at the heels of running animals which will often be initiated by children.  This must be very carefully regulated to avoid major problems.  For this reason, breed members that have not been exposed to children should be carefully watched around them.

 

This breed tends to be very suspicious of strangers.  With proper socialization and training most breed members will be tolerant and polite with strangers, although most will never be friendly with them.  Dogs that have not been exposed to new people from a young age may become very nervous around them or quite possibly aggressive.  This breed is extremely alert and makes a very capable watchdog.  Quite territorial, the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog makes a surprisingly talented guard dog.  This breed will not only challenge intruders but also drive them off with violence if it feels that it is necessary.

 

Although bred to work with livestock, the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog has substantial issues with other animals.  Many breed members are highly dog aggressive, especially towards members of the opposite sex.  Training and socialization will greatly reduce issues but this is still a breed that is best kept as either an only dog or with one other dog of the opposite sex.  This dog has a very strong prey drive that is usually exhibited by biting the heels of anything that moves.  Even with training, this breed will probably harass other pets in an attempt to herd them and may seriously injure small animals by biting them too hard.

 

Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs are extremely intelligent animals and are almost certainly capable of learning anything that any dog can.  Breed members particularly excel at herding, but are also highly skilled at a number of other tasks including search and rescue, Flyball, Frisbee, competitive obedience, agility, and many others.  This breed learns very quickly and is also quite obedient.  However, this breed can present substantial training difficulties, especially for inexperienced owners.  Independent minded, these dogs would prefer to do their own thing than follow someone else’s orders.  This breed tends to be rather dominant and challenging and will not obey any owner blindly.  Owners who do not maintain a consistent position of leadership and authority will likely have a dog that is completely out of control.  Additionally, breed members are so intelligent that they bore quickly and may refuse to perform repetitive tasks after a certain amount of time.

 

This breed is perhaps the most energetic and highly driven of all dogs, with most claiming it is requires significantly more activity than even the Australian Cattle Dog and Border Collie.  For those looking for a breed that will go on extreme adventures such as surfing, mountain biking, trail riding, and week-long hikes, there may be none better suited as there is probably not another dog as physically capable and eagerly willing.  This is a dog that not only wants to work all day every day, but to work hard.  This makes it absolutely invaluable to cattle and sheep ranchers who strongly admire the dog’s drive and ability.  It does make it extremely challenging to keep the breed as a pet.  Owners of this dog who do not use it as a working dog would have to make an absolutely mammoth commitment to provide this dog with enough activity.  A breed member probably needs a bare minimum of several hours of intense activity every day, and would take as much as it is given.  Although this dog would love a long run on either a leash or in an enclosed area, it really needs mental stimulation and purposeful exercise such as competitive obedience or agility as well.  This breed will develop extreme behavioral problems if not provided a sufficient outlet for its body and mind including incredible destructiveness, excessive barking, hyperactivity, over excitability, nervousness, or aggression.  This is a dog that needs to run around as much of the day as possible and is almost impossible to keep in an environment without a very large yard, preferably acreage.

 

Grooming Requirements: 

 

This dog has some of the lowest grooming requirements of any dog.  Professional grooming should never be required, only a very occasional brushing.  This breed does shed, and many of them shed very heavily.  Many of these dogs shed even more heavily when the season’s change and they grow a new coat, leaving a trail of hair almost wherever they go.  Although no breed is truly hypoallergenic, an Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog would be a poor choice for an allergy sufferer or someone who simply hates cleaning up dog hair.  Owners should carefully examine their dogs for injuries after a day of work or play as this breed is so pain tolerant that it will keep going without complaint despite severe injuries.

 

Health Issues: 

 

The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is regarded as being an extremely healthy breed.  Although breed numbers dropped greatly during the 20th Century, the gene pool has been expanded with working dogs.  Breeders of working dogs are completely intolerant of health defects as they impact the dog’s working ability.  Additionally, the harsh Australian environment is completely unforgiving to any defects or weaknesses, placing a substantial amount of natural selection pressure on the breed.  The breed has recovered so recently that health surveys have not yet been completed for it, but most fanciers claim that it does not suffer from high rates of any known conditions.  This breed is known to be extremely long lived for a breed of this size.  The average life expectancy for an Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is at least 14 to 15 years, but many breed members reach very advanced ages of up to 18 years.

 

Although the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog tends to suffer from low rates of genetically inherited conditions, it is certainly not immune from them.  Although health information is very sparse on this breed, extensive surveys have been conducted on similar breeds.  Based on this information, some of the health problems to which the breed may be susceptible include:

 

 

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