Anthony was born in Murwillumbah in northern New South Wales. He was the son of Hubert Lawrence "Larry" Anthony, a well-known Country Party politician. Doug Anthony was educated at Murwillumbah Primary School and Murwillumbah High School, before attending The King's School in Sydney between 1943 and 1946 and then Gatton College in Queensland. After graduating he took up dairy-farming near Murwillumbah. In 1957 he married Margot Budd, with whom he had three children: Dougald, Jane and Larry.
In 1957 Larry Anthony sr., who was Postmaster-General in the Liberal-Country Party coalition government led by Robert Menzies, died suddenly, and Doug was elected to succeed his father in the Division of Richmond in the House of Representatives, aged 27. He was appointed Minister for the Interior in 1964. In 1967 he became Minister for Primary Industry. It was obvious that the Country Party leader, John McEwen, was grooming Anthony to succeed him.
When McEwen retired in 1971, Anthony was duly chosen as his successor, taking McEwen's old posts of Minister for Trade and Industry and Deputy Prime Minister in the government of John Gorton, portfolios he retained under William McMahon. He was a shrewd, attractive figure, with considerable public speaking skills. He rescinded McEwen's veto of McMahon as liberal leader and Prime Minister. However, McMahon was quickly seen as being in over his head, and many people would have preferred to see Anthony as Prime Minister. Such was not to be, but he showed his tough streak within the cabinet when he forced McMahon to accede to the Country Party's demands on petrol prices and other issues which affected rural voters.
After McMahon's defeat in 1972, Anthony was said to favour a policy of absolute opposition to the Labor government of Gough Whitlam. Despite this, the Country Party voted with the Labor Government on some bills, for example the 1973 expansion of state aid to under-privileged schools. He urged the Liberals to take a hard line against Whitlam thereafter, and welcomed his dismissal by the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, in 1975. To broaden the appeal of his party beyond its declining rural base, he changed the party's name to the National Country Party and began contesting urban seats in Queensland and Western Australia.
The Coalition was confirmed in power at the 1975 election, with the biggest majority government in Australian history. Anthony again became Deputy Prime Minister, with the portfolios of Overseas Trade and National Resources (Trade and Resources from 1977) under Malcolm Fraser. But with the Liberals having a majority in their own right between 1975 and 1980, Anthony found that he did not have the same power he had possessed before the 1972 election. Even Fraser's near-defeat in 1980 did not significantly increase Anthony's cabinet standing.
After Fraser lost office in 1983, Anthony remained as party leader (now named the National Party) for less than a year before retiring from politics in 1984. By then, although still only 55, he was the Father of the House of Representatives. He returned to his farm near Murwillumbah and generally stayed out of politics. In 1996 his son Larry Anthony won his father's old seat, creating the first three-generation dynasty in the House of Representatives.
In 1981 Anthony was appointed a Companion of Honour (CH). In 2003 he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for service to the Australian Parliament, for forging the development of bi-lateral trade agreements, and for continued leadership and dedication to the social, educational, health and development needs of rural and regional communities.
During 1999 Doug Anthony spoke in support of Australia becoming a Republic.
In 1994, Anthony appeared in a documentary series about the Liberal Party in which he revealed that McMahon had refused to tell him beforehand the date of the 1972 election despite Anthony being the Country Party leader.