13 Australian Dog Breeds That Work Hard and Play Harder

Sure, the world’s most venomous species live in Australia, but the continent is also the birthplace to some of the hardest working canines around. These breeds are smart and refuse to give anything less than 110 percent. Australian dog breeds—which vary widely in size, shape and temperament—know how to work hard and play hard. Adding any one of these pups to your family requires steadfast training and lots of time dedicated to keeping them engaged mentally and physically. If you’re up for it, these dependable dogs will love and protect you, rain or shine.

A brief history of Australian breeds

To understand why Australian breeds are often so intelligent and hard-working, you've got to know a little history. English and European immigrants ventured to Australia in the 1700s and 1800s with the hopes of making bank with livestock. To keep cattle and sheep in line, canines like Collies, Deerhounds and Foxhounds accompanied the settlers. However, they quickly realized no one was cut out for the outback heat, including the poor pups. So, the settlers began breeding dogs they knew and trusted (Collies, Deerhounds and Foxhounds) with either wild dogs, like Dingoes, or other breeds to achieve an ideal combination for the unfamiliar climate.

The Australian breeds on our list that were developed later in the 20th century have similar origins, albeit without the need for herding skills. Several breeds, like the Australian Bulldog and the Cobberdog, were designed to improve on certain traits of their English and American counterparts. Not all of the dogs on this list are recognized by the American Kennel Club or the Australian National Kennel Council, though most have organized clubs that monitor breeding practices throughout the continent.

The result of all this hard work? Extremely smart, athletic, tireless companion animals who live to work and protect their families. And further proof that dogs and humans need each other and thrive when working in tandem.

australian dog breeds australian cattle dog

1. Australian Cattle Dog

Average Height: 18.5 inches

Average Weight: 42 pounds

Temperament: Alert, loyal

Shedding Factor: Regular

Life Expectancy: 12 to 16 years

Also called Blue Heelers, Australian Cattle Dogs are incredibly smart, energetic animals. They were bred to herd cattle (duh) and require lots of mental and physical exercise (they become destructive if bored). Though wary of strangers, loyalty to their family is second nature. These hard-working canines were bred by English settlers in the 1800s who crossed their herding dogs with wild Australian Dingoes to create a breed better suited for the outback heat. That’s why many Australian Cattle Dogs have rich red coloring mixed in with blues, greys and tans. For more about the fascinating history of this breed (Australia’s first!), check out The Dogs that Made Australia by dog behaviorist Guy Hull.

australian dog breeds australian stumpy tail cattle dog
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2. Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog

Average Height: 18.5 inches

Average Weight: 38.5 pounds

Temperament: Energetic, goofy

Shedding Factor: Occasional

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Contrary to what their name suggests, the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is not just an Australian Cattle Dog with a different tail. This is a unique breed with tons of energy, intelligence and personality of its own, as outlined by the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog Society of the U.S. Their tall, pointy ears and bobbed tails are trademarks of the breed. Their coats are typically red or blue merle. Basically, if you’re looking for a reliable companion with a sense of adventure, the Stumpy is it.

australian dog breeds australian kelpie

3. Australian Kelpie

Average Height: 18.5 inches

Average Weight: 38 pounds

Temperament: Smart, playful

Shedding Factor: Regular

Life Expectancy: 10 to 13 years

With an undying dedication to their families, it’s no wonder Australian Kelpies make terrific companion dogs—as long as they get enough exercise. Bred to herd sheep in the vast, hot and dusty Australian outback, these dogs are able to spend long hours outdoors (and they love it). Give them a task like guarding your home or performing search and rescue and they’ll be happy. You’ll usually see them in black or brown coats.

australian dog breeds australian terrier

4. Australian Terrier

Average Height: 10.5 inches

Average Weight: 17.5 pounds

Temperament: Affectionate, lovely

Shedding Factor: Low

Life Expectancy: 11 to 15 years

These little buggers love to chase anything that moves. Luckily, Australian Terriers train well and will do anything for their favorite human. This devotion can become territorial, so it’s not wise to introduce this pup to lots of new faces at once (or have multiple pets). Unlike Kelpies and Cattle Dogs, routine bores Australian Terriers, so make sure to mix up your playtime activities.

australian dog breeds silky terrier
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5. Silky Terrier

Average Height: 9.5 inches

Average Weight: 10 pounds

Temperament: Feisty, friendly

Shedding Factor: Occasional

Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

It’s hard to ignore the luxuriously soft blue and tan coat on the Silky Terrier. Let it grow for show or trim it to avoid tangles and mats. Said to have been bred in Sydney by combining Yorkshire Terriers and Australian Terriers, these tiny, silky sweethearts have been around since the early 1900s. They love playtime and exercise (this isn’t a lazy lap dog) and adapt well to all types of households.

australian dog breeds australian staghound
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6. Australian Staghound

Average Height: 28 inches

Average Weight: 68 pounds

Temperament: Gentle, alert

Shedding Factor: Low

Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years

Australian Staghounds are not yet recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club or the Australian National Kennel Council. However, Dog-Learn says they were bred by combining Greyhounds with Scottish Deerhounds and Foxhounds in the late 18th century. Staghounds have long, lean bodies with deep chests; they are incredibly gentle and sweet, as long as they’re able to burn energy regularly throughout the day. Designed to hunt rabbits and boars, they may not do well in homes with other small pets.

australian dog breeds koolie
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7. Koolie

Average Height: 21 inches

Average Weight: 42.5 pounds

Temperament: Intelligent, energetic

Shedding Factor: Regular

Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years

According to Australian Koolie Breeders International, these dogs thrive when there’s a job to be done and space in which to do it. You may hear folks refer to these dogs as German Coolies, a name lingering from 19th century German settlers in Australia and their herding Collies. Koolies were bred from these dogs and can be found in coats of tan, black, white and merle.

australian dog breeds bull arab

8. Bull Arab

Average Height: 25.5 inches

Average Weight: 80 pounds

Temperament: Sweet, brave

Shedding Factor: Regular

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Also known as an Australian Pig Dog, Bull Arabs were bred to hunt boars, pigs and feral animals. Though they are strong and aggressive while hunting, Bull Arabs are known for their even-keeled demeanor when at home with their families. Coats tend to be white with colorful markings accentuating their muscular bodies. Again, don’t be fooled by their tough exterior! They’re loyal lovers at heart.

australian dog breeds tenterfield terrier
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9. Tenterfield Terrier

Average Height: 11 inches

Average Weight: 10 pounds

Temperament: Confident, loyal

Shedding Factor: Occasional

Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Tenterfield Terriers live to learn and enjoy mastering new skills. Recognized by the Australian National Kennel Council, they’re likely descendants of Foxhounds brought to New South Wales centuries ago. Tenterfields have short, white coats with black, tan or blue markings. Definitely highly energetic and intelligent dogs, they shouldn’t be left alone for long. Include them in the action! Similar to Staghounds, smaller pets beware the Tenterfield’s hunting instincts.

australian dog breeds miniature fox terrier
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10. Miniature Fox Terrier

Average Height: 10.5 inches

Average Weight: 10 pounds

Temperament: Curious, adaptable

Shedding Factor: Occasional

Life Expectancy: 12 to 18 years

Affectionately dubbed the Mini Foxie by The Mini Foxie Club of Australia, these small terriers are a lot like Tenterfield Terriers in both appearance and demeanor. Some have tiny bobtails; most are white with tan or black markings. Since the middle 1800s, these speedy pups have kept farms and homes rabbit- and rodent-free. Get ready for a loyal, playful and sprightly companion.

australian dog breeds australian cobberdog
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11. Australian Cobberdog

Average Height: 22 inches (Standard size)

Average Weight: 50 pounds (Standard size)

Temperament: Friendly, gentle

Shedding Factor: Low, Hypoallergenic

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Say hello to Australia’s Labradoodle! Recognized by the Master Dog Breeders and Associates, Cobberdog literally means “dog friend.” The breed was developed in the 1990s for therapy purposes. They range in size from miniature to extra-large and have wavy or curly coats in a variety of colors. Basically, they’re an ideal family and therapy pet because they don’t bark much, are incredibly affectionate and learn and retain commands well.

australian dog breeds australian bulldog
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12. Australian Bulldog

Average Height: 19 inches

Average Weight: 70 pounds

Temperament: Happy, loyal

Shedding Factor: Seasonal

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

If you know English Bulldogs, you know high heat isn’t good for their short snouts. That’s why Australian breeders developed the Australian Bulldog in the 1990s. They wanted all the joys of the English version (affection, loyalty, playfulness) without putting the animal’s health at risk in a harsher climate. So, breeders combined Bull Arabs with English Bulldogs, and voila. Ideal canine family members who are team players and do well with kids.

australian dog breeds australian shepherd

13. Australian Shepherd

Average Height: 20.5 inches

Average Weight: 52 pounds

Temperament: Smart, athletic

Shedding Factor: Seasonal

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

We added Australian Shepherds to our list even though they are technically an all-American breed. Aussies were perfected in California, but Basque sheepherders in Australia began the breeding process before moving their flocks to America’s west coast in the 1800s. Aussies have weather-resistant coats with white underbellies with varieties of speckled blue, black, grey, tan and red along their backs and faces. They’ve also got tiny bob tails. The Australian Shepherd Club of America says these pups are definitely sweethearts who enjoy a hard day’s work.

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Sarah Ashley is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She has covered pets for PureWow for six years and tackles everything from dog training tips to the best litter boxes. Her...