The Kelpie is an Australian sheepdog that has proven very successful at herding and droving with little or no command guidance. They are medium-sized dogs and come in a variety of colors.
Kelpies have been exported throughout the world and are used for herding livestock (primarily sheep) and poultry. The breed has been separated over time into two distinct varieties: the Show Kelpie and the Working Kelpie. The Show Kelpie is the variety that is seen at conformation dog shows.
They usually aren’t selected on their herding instinct. Show Kelpies do make excellent sports dogs and pets. Show Kelpie breeders tend to call their breeding establishments “kennels”.
Working Kelpies are bred for their herding instincts and aren’t usually selected based on their appearance. Breeders tend to call their breeding establishments “Studs” in a similar way to cattle and sheep Studs.
Weight: 11-20 Kg 25-45 lbs
Height: 43-51 cm 17-20 inches
Coat: Activity level: Very high
Learning rate: High
Temperament: Responsive, keen
Guard dog ability: High
Watch-dog ability: High
Litter size: 4-7
Life span: 10-14 years
Breed standards vary depending on whether the registry is more interested in a dog who performs his job superbly or a dog whose appearance meets an ideal standard.
It is possible for a dog to do both, but his options for competition in conformation shows might be limited depending on his ancestry and on the opinions of the various kennel clubs or breed clubs involved.
Working Kelpies are registered with the Working Kelpie Council (WKC), which is the primary authority on the breed standard, and/or the State Sheepdog Workers Association.
The WKC encourages breeding for herding ability and allows a wide variety of coat colors. The Working Kelpie cannot be shown, due to the wide standards allowed by the WKC.
Show Kelpies are registered with the Australian National Kennel Council, which encourages breeding for a certain appearance and limits dogs to certain colors.
Show Kelpies can only have recognized Show Kelpie bloodlines and dogs crossbred with Working Kelpies cannot be shown.
Outside Australia: In the USA, the Kelpie is currently not recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC), which promotes standards based on the dog’s appearance.
The North American Australian Kelpie Registry, which promotes the dog as a working breed, apparently does not want the breed to be promoted by the AKC. The Svenska Working Kelpie Klubben also does not permit Working Kelpies to be shown.
Description: The variety of coloration and coat types puts the Kelpie in a select group, as it is not possible to look at an unidentified dog and classify it as a Kelpie.
Not a currently recognized breed Kelpies referred to as Red Cloud Kelpies have red features with white markings on the face chest and feet.
Working Kelpies: The Working Kelpie comes in three coat types, smooth, short and rough, with almost every color from black through light tan or cream.
Many Kelpies have a white blaze on the chest, a few have white points. Kelpies used to have a double coat, but this has largely disappeared, possibly due to environmental factors. Agouti is not unusual, and can initially look like a double coat.
Ears are usually pricked, but about 20% will have one or both ears flopped; the tail will often follow the coat type and will vary between smooth to bushy.
Cosmetic features have no relationship to the dog’s working ability, so stockmen looking for capable working dogs usually disregard the dog’s appearance.
Working Kelpies stand about 50cm (19.5 inches) at the withers for females, 55cm (21.5 inches) for males; the weight would be between 14-21Kg (31-46lbs).
Show Kelpies are restricted to solid colors (black, chocolate, red, smokey blue, fawn, black and tan, red and tan) in a short double coat and pricked ears.
Different kennel clubs’  breed standards have preferences for certain colors. Show Kelpies are generally heavier and shorter.
Chocolate brown Kelpie Kelpies are loyal, friendly, intelligent, problem-solving dogs and make excellent pets. They do need to be stimulated as idle and bored dogs become frustrated and destructive.
Walks and socialization are more than sufficient to keep them happy, but agility and ball games bring out the best in them. A Kelpie is not an aggressive dog, but family pets will protect their family with no regard for themselves.
The Working Kelpie typically has an abundance of energy and deep endurance. It will often drive a mob of sheep over sixty kilometers (37 miles) and upwards in extremes of climates and conditions.
Kelpies are very agile: Working Kelpies are renowned for running along the backs of sheep when moving them through chutes. Show Kelpies generally excel in agility trials.
Kelpies are a hardy breed with few health problems, however, they are susceptible to disorders common to all breeds, like cryptorchidism, hip dysplasia, cerebellar abiotrophy and the luxating patella which registered breeders check every litter for. It is recommended that Kelpies be vaccinated against parvovirus and distemper, and rabies if the dog is outside Australia, which is currently free of the disease.
The ancestors of the Kelpie were simply (black) dogs, called Colleys or Collies. The word “collie” has the same root as “coal” and “collier (ship)”. Some of these Colleys were imported to Australia for stock work in the early 1800s, and were bred to other types of dogs (including the occasional Dingo), but always with an eye to working sheep without direct supervision.
Today’s Collie breeds were not formed until about 10 or 15 years after the Kelpie was established as a breed, with the first official Border Collie not brought to Australia until after Federation in 1901.
Some people claim that Kelpies have some Dingo blood, one possible reason for this belief is that as it was illegal to keep dingoes as pets, some dingo owners registered their animals as Kelpies or Kelpie crosses.
It should be noted that Kelpies and Dingoes are very similar in conformation and coloring: Dingoes are not restricted to tan and cream.
There is no doubt that some have deliberately mated Dingoes to their Kelpies, and some opinion holds that the best dilution is 1/16-1/32, but that 1/2 and 1/4 will work. As the Dingo has been regarded as a savage sheep-killer since the first white settlement of Australia, few will admit to the practice.
The first “Kelpie” was a black and tan bitch pup with slightly floppy ears bought by Jack Gleeson about 1860 from a litter born on Warrock Station near Casterton, owned by George Robertson, a Scot.
This dog was named after the mythological kelpie from Celtic folklore. Legend has it that “Kelpie” was sired by a Dingo, but there is little evidence for or against this. In later years she was referred to as “(Gleeson’s) Kelpie”, to differentiate her from “(King’s) Kelpie”, her daughter.
The second “Kelpie” was “(King’s) Kelpie”, another black and tan bitch out of “Kelpie” by “Caesar”, a pup from two sheep-dogs imported from Scotland. Again, there are legends that these two sheep-dogs may well have never seen Scotland, and may well have had Dingo blood. “(King’s) Kelpie” tied the prestigious Forbes Trial in 1879, and the strain was soon popularly referred to as “Kelpie’s pups”, or just Kelpies.
There is no Red Cloud Kelpie, beloved of Western Australians:
“There were a number of Kelpies called ‘Red Cloud’.
“The first, and most famous was John Quinn’s Red Cloud. I seem to remember that this dog may have been owned (or used) by the King & McLeod Stud.
This was at the start of the 1900s. But this tradition in Western Australia of calling all red or Red & Tan Kelpies a ‘Red Cloud’ stems back to around the 1960s when a Kelpie called ‘Red Cloud’ became very well known.”
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