5 Popular Australian Dog Breeds

From the Koolie to the Kelpie and the Bull Arab to the Australian Terrier, Australia has more than crocs and kangaroos.

Feb 17, 2024By Natasha Elder
australian dog breeds

Australia is known for many things – from its insane assortment of creepy crawling creatures to its breathtakingly beautiful beaches. One thing the country is not known for? Dogs. And we don’t know why, because it’s home to some truly fascinating breeds. Let’s take a look Down Under to discover some of Australia’s native dog breeds. Spoiler alert: the Australian Shepherd won’t be making an appearance. Despite the name, those dogs hail from California!

1. The Koolie

australian koolie dog side profile
Image credit: Balanced Canine

First up is the canine with the coolest name: the Koolie! This herding dog was developed in 19th century Australia and was used to herd sheep and assist during sheep shedding. Today, the Koolie breed is known to be a great working dog and is intelligent, confident, and fearless when on the job. Though Koolies are still found on farms and work well with sheep, cattle, and other livestock, they also make fantastic family pets.

Koolies are strong, active, and athletic – if you like dogs you can run with then you’ll love the Koolie – if you can keep up, that is! The Koolie’s exact heritage is unknown. Yet, most believe that the dog is the descendant of a German Tiger (which was a type of Old German Sheepdog) and blue merle smooth-coated Collie from the Highlands, as well as other Collie breeds like the Welsh Collie and the Black and Tan Collie.

Koolie Australian working dog
Image credit: Petside

Depending on where you are in Australia, the Koolie you know might look different from the one that people in other parts of Oz may know. This is because, over the years, they have been bred differently in different parts of the country. In New South Wales, for instance, Koolies are shorter and thicker than the tall and agile Koolies in Queensland. It’s likely because of this that the Koolie is not recognized by any official canine clubs.

2. Australian Cattle Dogs

bluey australian cattle dog portrait field
Image credit: Pets4Homes

Next up is the iconic Australian Cattle Dog, or ACD. As their name suggests, the Australian Cattle Dog was bred to herd cattle in Australia during the 1840s. A big part of their strategy was to nip the heels of the herd, earning them the nickname “Heeler.” As legend has it, the Australian Cattle Dog is the result of cross-breeding herding breeds with dingoes and other dogs, such as Dalmatians and Kelpies (who you’re going to meet a little later in this article!)

Like the Koolie, the Australian Cattle Dog is a working dog, and it also performs incredibly well as a show dog. In addition to their expert herding skills, Australian Cattle Dogs are super smart. According to “the Intelligence of Dogs”, they’re the 10th most intelligent dog breed.

They’re one of the three most popular dog breeds in Australia, and they’ve been slowly gaining popularity worldwide ever since the American Kennel Club recognized them as a breed in 1980. The immensely popular children’s show “Bluey” features an Australian Cattle Dog, which has recently made the breed’s level of popularity BOOM!

3. Australian Kelpie

brown australian kelpie dog outdoors
Image credit: Wikipedia

Now, let’s take a look at the Australian Kelpie. This breed is the result of intermixing three different types of Collies with other types of herding dogs. In 1872, this breed was given to a woman named J.D. Gleeson, who named her Kelpie after the mythological Celtic creature, and the breed as it is known and loved today was born. Their full history is very well documented by The Working Kelpie Council of Australia.

Kelpies are lithe and lean, intelligent, and loyal. Like the Australian Cattle Dog, Kelpies are true working dogs. But unlike the former, their abilities aren’t known to shine through in the dog show scene. As such, they demand plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, so they’re best off being put to work.

Many people think that the Kelpie is a descendant of the Dingo, like some of the other dog breeds on this list. Yet, DNA ancestry testing has confirmed that there is no Dingo blood in the Kelpie.

4. Australian Terrier

australian terrier grass tan black
Image credit: Dogs Australia

Australia doesn’t just produce medium and large dogs; it’s also developed a range of Terrier breeds! One of the most well-known is the Australian Terrier. This dog breed is small but sturdy and was developed in the 19th century after British Terriers were brought to Australia. Originally, their purpose was to hunt mice and rats, but now they’re more interested in being snuggled – and spoilt!

Australian Terriers are self-confident and spirited, playful and protective. They’re also a fantastic dog breed for families with children. Plus, their soft and silky coats just lend themselves so well to being stroked and cuddled.

These little furballs are a bit possessive, so they don’t always do well in homes with lots of other dogs or pets. They are, however, up there with the best dog breeds for apartment living due to their small size and minimal exercise requirements.

5. Bull Arab

bull arab face close up
Image credit: Dog Breeds List

And last, but by no means least, is the Bull Arab. This medium-to-large-sized dog is also known as the Australian Pig Dog, and for good reason! The Bull Arab was specifically developed to locate feral pigs from up to three miles away, drag the pigs to the ground, and pin them down by the ear until their owner came to find them.

This fascinating breed was developed in the 1970s by breeders Mike Hodgens and Heather Rea, who created the Bull Arab by selectively breeding the likes of Bull Terriers, Greyhounds, Saluki, and German Shorthaired Pointers. Its mixed heritage is evident in its appearance.

Sometimes, Bull Arabs attack livestock, and they’ve garnered a bit of a reputation for being a bit wild. The Bull Arab Rescue Organization is working hard to change the breed’s reputation as “just a Pig Dog” and wants to make the breed a household pet and name. At the moment, the Bull Arab is one of the more uncommon dog breeds in Australia, and – like the Koolie – the breed is not recognized by any official kennel club.

Natasha Elder
By Natasha Elder

Natasha is a mother, a wife, a writer, and a serial cat owner. Though she is currently in mourning, her heart not ready for another feline family member just yet, she has always lived life with four paws beside her. She loves – you guessed it – cats, as well as creatures of the fluffy, scaly, and finned variety. Natasha longs to meet Sir David Attenborough one day and is passionate about responsible pet ownership