The names Red Heeler, Blue Heeler, and Queensland Heeler are synonymous with each other. More often than not, the Australian cattle dog (generic name) is often confused with having 3 different breeds, which is not the case. People get confused between Blue Heeler and Red Heeler dogs. In this article, you’ll get to know the difference between Red Heeler and Blue Heeler.
So, what is the difference between red heeler and blue heeler? Red and Blue Heelers come from the same breed, and apart from the color, there is no difference between them. The distinctive blue color combined with a dark coat allows them to go unspotted at night and avoid attacks from the horses or cattle. Whereas the red color and white spot play a crucial role in differentiating the heelers from dingos, the latter is a notorious animal and susceptible to being shot on sight.
The breeding of a special kind of cattle dog was necessary and propagated by a settler, Thomas Hall. By cross-breeding blue-merle smooth collies with dingos, he could breed a dog with all the traits vital for a cattle dog.
What’s so special in Australian Cattle Dogs?
Living in Australia, the cattle rearers need to move the cattle from one place to another. Not considering the reason for the cattle’s migration, it is a daunting task to shift them. It’s not like you can airlift them or hire a cargo ship for cattle. They have to be moved on foot while taking care of a multitude of aspects.
So, cattle dogs provide the necessary help in moving the cattle. Some of the most important traits of cattle dogs include intelligence, stamina, perseverance, energy, apt decision-making skills, especially when the driver is away. All of these characteristic features are present in the heelers.
Most importantly, a cattle dog needs to be steadfast and ensure that even the most stubborn and annoying cattle falls in line with the others. So, when no dog could fit the bill, Thomas Hall cross-bred a special cattle dog that can wear different hats.
Where the characteristic feature of blue and red color comes from the genetic differences in both the dogs, rest everything is more or the same in both the breeds.
Lastly, the Australian cattle dog is low maintenance, wash and wear kind of dog. This is because they boast a short and tightly packed inner coat, which keeps it warm. Plus, the heeler’s topcoat is harder and denser, giving it high resistance to rain and dirt.
Fusing all these attributes together, we have a highly intelligent being that is the panacea for all drovers. Since their color characterizes the only difference between the blue and red heelers, let’s take the discussion forward.
You will see two subtypes of red heelers, red speckled and red mottled. By now, you must have realized that apart from appearance, there are no physical and cognitive differences among the Australian cattle dogs.
The red speckled heelers are distinguishable by their white hairs protruding out of the outer fur coat. These white hair spots are irregular in shape. These white spots are as big as the fingertip. Since the underlying coat boasts a dark red color, these white spots are vividly visible.
Red Heelers need the distinctive color and the speckled fur. Apart from this, their masculine body makes them strong, hyperactive, and agile. If you would observe carefully, the Red heelers have stronger muscles around their shoulders. In terms of height, the red heelers can grow up to 20 inches.
Besides the speckled fur, you might also find some red heelers having mottled coat fur. The difference lies in the background, which in this case, ranges between light red to ginger. Lastly, some dogs might have a red patch over one eye as opposed to others who might have the patch over both eyes.
Like its red brother from another mother, the blue heelers are equally energetic, agile, and ready to tackle cattle hoards. However, their blue color is darker and more challenging to spot in the night.
The blue heelers have a slightly lighter colored tail with an extensive white spot presence, making it easier for the owners to locate them in the night. It is because their background coat is darker than the red ones. However, the dark blue coat’s glaze is less visible when there are more speckles and vice versa.
Some blue heelers also have black hair, and almost all of them have a tan shaded coat at the insides of fore and hind legs, which is another one of their distinctive features. Compared to the red heelers, the tan shade in blue colored Australian cattle dogs has higher visibility. The same tan shade is also seen on the throat and breasts.
Now, the blue mottled skin coat of the blue heelers is similar to the red ones in terms of the size and color of spots, fingertip plus white. However, the actual color of the skin coat is either blue or, in some cases, black. The blue heelers also boast single or double masks over the eyes.
Do they get the trademark blue and red color from the parents?
Well, you might say that this is an obvious question. But no, that is not it. The Australian cattle dogs are white at birth. They have white fur all over the body, and with time some develop blue or red color along with the speckled or mottled coat.
There are three types of genes in these dogs, Agouti, Spotting, and Ticking. While developing, if the Ticking gene is dominant, the puppy will develop vividly clear blue or red color.
On the other hand, the dominance of the Agouti gives them patches of red and blue (primarily over the face). Lastly, the extent and location of the white spots are decided by the Spotting gene.
The average age when the Red or Blue color starts to show
Around 4 weeks after birth, the Australian cattle dog will start to have blue or red-colored hairs. But it is not before 8 to 12 weeks that either of the two colors starts to dominate.
Can they be domesticated?
With proper training and support, even the most fierce and hyperactive heelers can live harmoniously with the family. However, there are a lot of caveats involved in the domestication of these dogs.
For some, the word domestication can be a bit confusing. However, to clarify the confusion, you must understand that these dogs were specifically bred to help the cattle herders, drovers, and ranchers control them without a break.
They were meant to be strong, always on the run, quick, and muscular. All this implies that these dogs must have something to do at all times. Otherwise, they will have to channelize their outflow of energy on other things. At times, this can also be destructive.
In other words, if you decide to keep an Australian cattle dog, be prepared to keep them busy all the time. Because only when they are tired, the heelers will rest, otherwise they love to move around constantly like clockwork.
Training the Australian cattle dog is laborious, time-consuming, and complicated, but not impossible. The fact that these dogs are intelligent and fast learners, continuous training will mold them in a way that they feel comfortable, happy, and content in a suburban or urban household.
Throughout the training, you must utilize the majority of your energy on obedience and socialization training. Remember, they are natural-born herd control dogs. To them, any other social being, man or animal, is an object that needs to be controlled. This is their basic instinct.
As long as you keep their control-oriented behavior under the hood, they are good to go and can be easily trained. To make it possible, training should start as early as eight weeks after they are born.
If you feel that you need some help, get a professional trainer who will most probably leverage positive reinforcements and repeat what works to train the dog.
In a nutshell, blue heelers and red heelers are one and the same except for the color. Both the dogs are equally active and have become an integral part of the ranchers and cattle herders all across the globe and not only in Australia. Their versatile skin and capacity to bear weather extremities make them almost a native to any country or region.