Australian Kelpie

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    History & Overview

    The Australian Kelpie is a medium-sized dog used to herd sheep. In the late 1800s, a rancher named Gleason swapped a horse for a black-and-tan sheepdog puppy bred in Victoria of imported Scottish lines. He named her “Kelpie,” Gaelic for water sprite, and found her to be a fine worker. It was her offspring that gave the breed its name.

    Many fine working black dogs resulted from the lines created by backcrosses to Moss, a black Australian dog from the Rutherford strain, particularly one named “Barb.” For many years, there was a general belief that the black ones were a separate breed.


    Kelpies are still the top herding dogs in Australia. Sheep workers say a good Kelpie is equivalent to two men on horseback. They can be most useful in gathering sheep and bringing them into the pens, forcing them through the dipping vats, and loading them into trucks and railcars. Kelpies have been used effectively with horses, goats, poultry, and even reindeer. These dogs are rarely exhibited. Lately, they have been used in areas other than herding and have been useful in search and rescue, as dog guides and for drug detection work.

    At A Glance

    Other Names:

    Kelpie, Barb

    Country of Origin:



    Sheepdog capable of doing the herding work of several men and travelling about 40 miles in one day.


    FCI Classification: Section 1 – Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs
    Other Classification:
    1. North American Australian Kelpie Registry (NAAKR)
    2. United Kennel Club (UKC) – Herding Dog Breeds
    3. Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) – Working Dogs


    Medium (17 – 23 inches at shoulders)


    Black, black and tan, red, red and tan, fawn, chocolate, and smoke blue

    Litter Size:

    4 – 7

    Life Span:

    12 – 14 years

    Grooming Requirements:

    The coat is a double coat with a short, dense undercoat and a glossy, weather-resistant outercoat. Brush weekly to remove shedding hair.




    Intelligent, loyal, friendly and independent

    Social skills:

    Most generally, Kelpies are good with other pets, but they will try to herd them.

    Suitability for Children:

    Kelpies need early socialization and obedience training, otherwise they will try to herd children.

    Exercise Needs:

    These dogs need an athlete’s training schedule – exercise, exercise, exercise – or they may develop severe behavioral problems. Although they are friendly and trainable, their high energy and a great drive to work make them unsuitable for a house-bound or apartment living.

    Train Ability:

    They bond strongly to one owner and, although loyal and intelligent, they are independent thinkers. Some owners may find their level of independence difficult to deal with.

    Health & Behavioral Issues:

    Responsible breeders will screen their breeding stock for hereditary diseases including:

    Video Credits: Animal Planet, Discovery Channel
    Image Credits: VetStreet


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