There’s a lot of confusion among Heeler dogs for understandable reasons. These dogs started with the name Australian Heeler before moving to the title Australian Cattle Dog, and some people refer to them as Queensland Heelers.
So, what’s the deal with the Red Heeler vs Blue Heeler?
Red and Blue Heelers are the same kind of dog but with different coat colors. I’ll help you understand these dogs’ color traits and share interesting facts about this hardworking breed.
The Practical Difference Between the Red Heeler vs Blue Heeler
Farm-oriented breeders created the Red and Blue Heelers with a specific goal in mind.
Australian Cattle Dogs born in the red variety looked similar to Dingos, a type of wild Australian dog seen as a pest to many locals. So, farmers realized that people would often shoot their Red Heelers, mistaking them for Dingos.
That’s why they bred the Blue Heeler, as the color difference is impossible for people to mistake them for Dingos.
A secondary advantage that came from developing Blue Heelers is that they have darker coats than Red Heelers, making it harder for predators to see them at night. Therefore, they’re more easily able to attack predators that might otherwise hurt the cattle and horses under their protection.
For this reason, Blue Heelers became the preferred Australian Cattle Dog color, and it remains the most popular color today.
Origin of the Red and Blue Heeler
George Elliott developed the original Australian Cattle Dog in 1840 by playing with Dingo-blue Merle Collie mixes.
These dogs were high-energy, muscular canines that did an excellent job of herding cattle. However, they weren’t as fond of horses and humans.
So, Jack and Harry Bagust crossed the Australian Cattle Dog with the Dalmatian and Kelpie, which we now recognize as the modern-day Australian Cattle Dog. These dogs continue to be excellent at herding cattle, but they’re also loving companions for humans and do well with hunting and chasing threats away from livestock.
Nowadays, the Australian Cattle Dog, which people continue to call the Red and Blue Heeler, continues to be ideal for working on farms and for families who lead an active lifestyle.
In 1980, the Australian Cattle Dog became an official breed recognized by the American Kennel Club.
A Genetic Perspective
Red and Blue Heelers can technically have three colors or pattern variations, depending on their genetic makeup. These genes are as follows.
Ticking: Determines whether the dog will have a primarily red or blue coat.
Agouti: Responsible for the patches of red and blue coloring, mostly around the dog’s face.
Spotting: Places white spots around the dog’s body.
So, of these genes, the ticking gene is most important for determining body color. But here’s the tricky part: Red and Blue Heeler puppies can come from the same litter.
Therefore, if you have a breeder promising a certain color Heeler before the puppies are born and grow old enough, you can assume they’re being dishonest.
Are Heelers Born With Their Colors?
Unlike most dogs, Heelers don’t have any color at birth. Instead, an Australian Cattle Dog gives birth to white puppies.
Once the puppies reach about one month old, they’ll show signs of red or blue hair.
That won’t be enough to tell their primary color, though. Instead, you’ll need to wait two to three months before it’s clear which color will be dominant.
That can get complicated for some Heeler owners-to-be since many people bring home puppies when they’re eight to nine weeks old. So, if you buy a Heeler before the three-month mark, be aware that while you might have a good feel for their coloring, the exact color and patterns could evolve.
Red Heeler Color Patterns
When comparing the Red Heeler vs Blue Heeler, the dominant color is the most distinguishing feature between these dogs. But there are also some nuances to their coat patterns worth exploring.
In the case of the red Heeler, two different subtypes exist. They include:
- Red Speckled Heelers
- Red Mottled Heelers
One of the most notable differences between these Heeler varieties is that Red Speckled Heelers have white spots with irregular shapes. The spots usually aren’t large; typically, they’re around the size of a fingertip.
In contrast, Mottled Red Heelers have “red” fur that alternates in shades. The range spans from ginger to light red.
Aside from these coat variations, either dog will have a red patch over one or both eyes.
Blue Heeler Color Patterns
Blue Heelers are a beauty since they have a combination of several colors throughout their coats, including blue, tan, black, and white.
These dogs also come in Blue Speckled and Blue Mottled varieties.
Most Blue Heelers have tan accents on the inside of their forelegs, hindlegs, throats, and chests. Like the Red Mottled Heelers, Blue Mottled Heelers usually have fingertip-sized white spots on their bodies.
Unlike Red Heelers, the blue variety has either blue or black skin, with black skin being a rarer trait. Blue Heelers always have one or two masks over their eyes.
Other Characteristics of Red and Blue Heelers
Although Red and Blue Heelers look notably different, they’re the same dog breed. Therefore, both dogs have the same physical stature and personalities.
So, I’ll walk you through their most notable traits to help you determine whether they’re the right breed for you.
Red and Blue Heelers are medium-sized dogs that stand between 17 to 20 inches tall when you measure them from their paw to the top of their shoulder. They also weigh 35 to 50 pounds.
Of this size range, you can expect female Heelers to be on the shorter and lighter range of the spectrum.
Blue and Red Heelers have a stocky, muscular appearance. They have a curved, broad skull with medium-sized ears that sit upright on top of it.
People unfamiliar with how sweet the Heeler breed is might feel intimidated looking at these dogs. That’s because they have strong-looking jaws, which serve to injure livestock predators.
It’s hard not to love a Red and Blue Heeler’s personality if you appreciate high-energy dogs who love to work. These dogs are highly intelligent and fiercely loyal to their owners.
Australian Cattle Dogs are a great fit for families. Although some people say their stature looks aggressive, these dogs have teddy bear-like qualities and love to cuddle. Nevertheless, they’ll expect to have a lot of time exercising outdoors before they’re ready to turn into lap dogs.
Ease of Training
Red and Blue Heelers are easy to train, thanks to their intelligence and energy. They love a good challenge, and you can spend hours training them with positive reinforcement techniques without worrying about it being too much for them.
A dense, double-coat is iconic of the Red and Blue Heeler breed. These dogs are medium to heavy shedders, so you’ll want to brush them at least a few times per week to avoid finding excessive amounts of fur on your floor.
Red and Blue Heelers also shed their coat in the spring and fall. I recommend daily brushing during these two seasons. These dogs aren’t hypoallergenic, so they’re not a good fit if anyone in your home has allergies, even though having a hypoallergenic dog isn’t a guarantee that they won’t induce an allergic reaction.
The good news is that, unlike some dog breeds, you don’t have to spend money taking them to the groomer for hair trims.
Is a Red or Blue Heeler the Right Fit for You?
Red and Blue Heelers are both lookers in terms of their appearances. So, now that you know that comparing the Red Heeler vs Blue Heeler comes down to looks alone, you can feel confident that both of these dogs will inherit their high-energy and hardworking ways.
While Red and Blue Heelers can make excellent pets, these dogs aren’t for everyone. Their breeding makes them hungry for high-intensity activities, so they require lots of room to play, and they love the challenge of long hikes and agility.
So, I encourage you to look past their beautiful coloring and consider the responsibility of owning a Red or Blue Heeler. Should you decide that this is the right breed for you, prepare yourself for lots of cuddles and a dog with a fun personality.