Australian Kelpies

Is Working Dog Part Dingo?

The Australian kelpie is a dedicated working dog, herding sheep, cattle, goats, poultry and reindeer with the ease of star athlete. While many families have welcomed the breed into their homes as companions, more than 100,000 Australian kelpies are currently working dogs on ranches in Australia.
Australian kelpies

The Australian kelpie dates back to the early 1870s, when the British bred dog was imported to Australia to work as a sheep herder during the country’s booming wool trade. At the time, the kelpie was a black dog known as a collie.

Rumor has it that the “collies” were cross bred with dingoes in order to create a sturdier, tough breed that could withstand the harsh Australian climate. While there is no conclusive proof whether or not the Australian kelpie is related to the dingo, the two are similar in appearance.

The first litter of “collies” born in Australia to a Scottish man was named after Kelpie, the mythological water creature from Celtic folklore. Those kelpie puppies launched the beginning of a successful new breed. Black Australian kelpies earned the nickname, “Barb Kelpies,” after one of the breeders named a puppy after The Barb, a popular black horse that won the Melbourne Cup in 1866.

The breed became increasingly popular in Australia during the early 20th century. Not only does the breed make an excellent herder, it is also a skilled rescue dog. While the popularity of the Australian kelpie is undoubtedly very high in its native country, the breed now has homes in the United States, Europe, New Zealand, Sweden and parts of Asia.

As is the case with most herding breeds, the Australian kelpie is a very intelligent, enthusiastic and energetic dog that doesn’t tire easily. Ideally, the breed should get daily exercise that includes the opportunity to run in a spacious area such as a back yard or dog park.

Boredom can lead an Australian kelpie to destructive behavior and also the desire to dominate owners who don’t exhibit authority. It is highly recommended that routine obedience training take place to deter bad behavior. The breed also responds very well to agility training; if possible, Australian kelpie owners should give this activity consideration as the breed thrives exceptionally well on a working course. The breed also excels at flying disc games.

Australian kelpies also enjoy being put to work at home: Whether you ask your dog to fetch the newspaper, bring socks to the laundry room or fetch slippers from another room, he will jump at the opportunity to lend you a hand.

Although the Australian kelpie is known to bond with one family member in particular, the breed gets along well with children if raised with them from a young age and responds very well to continued socialization. The breed is extremely loyal and naturally protective of its family and home when necessary.

Australian kelpies

Australian kelpie is a medium-size dog with a compact build. The breed is actually slightly longer than it is tall, one characteristic likely contributing to the dog’s agility skills.

The Australian kelpie has a “double” fur coat, with a short, dense undercoat and a smooth weather-repellent outer coat that can shed more during the spring and summer months. The possible colors of the Australian kelpie’s fur coat are black or red—each with our without tan mixed in, and fawn, chocolate and blue.

The Australian kelpie weighs between 25 and 45 pounds, depending on gender.

Australian kelpies

While these medical conditions are known to occur in the breed your Australian kelpie will not necessarily develop any of the conditions listed below. Choosing a reputable breeder from which to purchase your pet will help minimize the risks.

  • Canine hip dysplasia is a hereditary malformation of the hip joint that is more commonly associated with large breed dogs. It can cause discomfort and lameness and result in arthritis. X-rays of the hips when dogs are young (under 2 years) can help identify if this problem is present will allow owners to identify a proper exercise, diet and treatment regimen if their dog is affected.
  • Cerebellar abiotrophy is a genetic neurological disease that occurs when the neurons known as Purkinje cells, located in the cerebellum of the brain, begin to die off, affecting the dog’s balance and coordination. This commonly takes place after the dog is born and becomes noticeable when the dog is less than six months old, although symptoms can present themselves when the dog is older as well. The disease is not preventable or curable. Genetic testing can detect carriers; selective breeding is the only possible way to prevent the gene from being reproduced.
  • Cryptorchidism occurs when one or both of the dog’s testicles have not descended from the abdomen into the scrotum. Retained testicles are not functional and have a high risk of developing tumors as the dog ages. Early castration is advised for cryptorchidism.
  • Patellar luxation is caused by anatomical defects of the bones that make up the knee joint. It is manifested by the kneecap (patella) slipping in and out of its normal location in the knee. Mildly affected dogs may carry the leg for 2 or 3 steps while walking. Severely affected dogs may become severely lame and refuse to use their rear legs. Surgical correction of this condition is very rewarding.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an adult-onset hereditary condition with gradual degeneration of the retina leading to blindness.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.