When the Australian Cattle Dog was developed in the mid 1800's, it is doubtful that any thought was given towards the breed someday winning Best of Show. The standard for the Australian Cattle Dog was not truly set forth until 1903. Since then, minor adjustments have been made to the standard over time. It took until 1980 for the breed to be fully recognized and eligible for competitions in the American Kennel Club and other organizations. Upon the breed's induction, a newer standard was created that lasted another twenty years. The latest updates to the standard, by which all Cattle Dogs are currently measured against, was made in 1999.
The first standard for the Australian Cattle Dog described a general appearance of a small but stocky blue dingo. In the showring, the Australian Cattle Dog can be either blue or red and have black, blue, speckled or tan markings. Patches of color on the body are permitted but not wholly desirable. At just eighteen to twenty inches tall, the Cattle Dog is expected to be compact yet muscular and symmetrical at the same time. Being overly developed or too thin are undesirable traits. The specimen should be alert, receptive and perfectly composed. Male Cattle Dogs will need to be intact.
To balance out the body in good proportion, the head of an Australian Cattle Dog needs to be strong with a broad skull. Though it would seem otherwise, the ears need to be reasonable in size; not too large and not too small. The ear is broad at its base, traveling up to a nice gentle point. The ears are always pricked forward and never floppy or offset. The eyes of the Cattle Dog should be medium in size, brown and clear. They are never deep set, nor are they overly prominent. The jaw is also strong, with a nice scissor bite.
The muscular body of the Cattle Dog gives it an amazing thrust from the hindquarters. Their gait is confident and able to change direction quickly. Their stance is solid and assured with back and front paws securely to the ground. When at work in the field, the Cattle Dog will assume a number of postures. In general, the dog must read the herd by carrying its head at shoulder level before either hunkering down to charge or coming straight on with the head up.
The breed has amazing ability for dealing with stubborn cattle and an agility and speed that keeps it from being kicked and stepped on. Every Cattle Dog's approach is individual. Their approach may also depend on the cattle. While some herds may require the breed to work close, others may only require the occasional nudge with the head. Being overly aggressive when and where it is unnecessary is also an undesirable trait.