Australian Kelpie

Chances are, if you don’t live in Australia or New Zealand, there’s a great possibility you don’t know about one of the hardest working, highly intelligent, medium size breeds on the planet, the Australian Kelpie.

Yet you should know about one of the most important canine breeds to grace the wool industry in Australia. The Australian Kelpie, or Kelpie for short, is also a master engineer at herding cattle and livestock. 

What makes this breed such a national treasure aside from their incredible work ethic?

Here is what you need to know about the Australian Kelpie.

History

There’s not a whole lot of history when it comes to the Kelpie. However, during their short existence, the breed has been able to accomplish quite a reputation. Primarily, as a breed that works with little to no oversight and possesses a tremendous amount of stamina.

Much of the Australian Kelpie’s story begins and stays within their country of origin, Australia. While there is no definitive year for the Kelpie’s ‘official birth,’ most research indicates around the 1870’s. 

The 19th century in Australia became a beacon of hope for ranchers and cattle herders. There was such a need for a quality dog that could handle the rough terrain and trying working conditions. Breeders and farmers alike knew of the challenges and the dogs they were importing from Great Britain and Scotland weren’t cutting it.

With this in mind, many in Australia began to search for the right dog to do the job. Many credit a man named, James Gleeson. Gleeson came into possession with a black and tan Collie and began breaking the dog into sheep work. Moreover, Gleeson began calling his new female working dog “Kelpie.”

In due time, Gleeson would come into contact with his friend, Mark Tully. Tully gave Gleeson a male black dog from Scotland called, Moss. Without delay, Glesson began mating the two dogs, ultimately producing an excellent litter.

This litter would produce another dog by the name of Kelpie, which became the property of C.T.W. King. As a result, he would name the dog, “King’s Kelpie.”

Additionally, thanks to King’s Kelpie winning a Sheep Dog Trail at the Forbes show in New South Wales, the Australian Kelpie’s popularity and demand grew. During that time, the breed was known as “Kelpie’s pups.” Shortly after, this would change to “Kelpie.”

The official standard for the Australian Kelpie isn’t conclusive. However, some attribute Robert Kaleski’s work in 1914 as the breed’s standard. Kaleski wrote the standard for the Australian Cattle Dog

Many believe that the official breed standard was created in 1907, a few years before Australia’s first studbook, Tyzack’s Annual.

In 1932, a name change took place thanks to a new standard by the Kennel Control Counsel of Victoria. As a result, the breed’s new name became, “Australian Kelpie.” 

The Australian National Kennel Club adopted their official standard for the breed in 1962. This standard is similar to today’s version.

The American Kennel Club considers the breed to be part of their “Foundation Stock Service.”  A FSS requires at least 150 individual dog registrations before the Kelpie can compete in AKC events.

Today, the Australian Kelpie is a part of the American Kennel Club’s Herding Group.

Size

The Australian Kelpie is a medium sized dog. While the American Kennel Club doesn’t have a standard size yet, the UKC does. At the withers, a female should stand 17-19 inches. For males, the height should range between 18-20 inches.

As far as weight, you will find many clubs differing on exact numbers. That said, many have the Australian Kelpie around 31 to 44 pounds.

Personality/Temperament

Independent, effective, witty, and versatile; these words in short can describe the Australian Kelpie. But you should prepare yourself for quite the task. A Kelpie is no small feat by any means. It takes plenty of effort to own an Australian Kelpie.

They love to be outdoors exerting their natural energy. Much like their counterpart, the Australian Cattle Dog, this is a breed that needs a job. Their minds need plenty of mental stimulation and protection from boredom. Boredom can equate to destruction. 

Hunting and farming is the very fiber of this breed. In fact, one study claims that over 200,00 Kelpies in Australia are working dogs. These numbers indicate a purpose for this dog. They want to herd and help around the farm. An Australian Kelpie isn’t shy from showing off its talents.

Having said that, Kelpies with the right hand can be quite the family companion. Australian Kelpies are known to be protective but engaging towards their family. Loving and affectionate towards their master. Loyal to nearly a fault. Eager to please.

Because of their intelligence, this is an easy breed to train. A great competitor of agility and K-9 sports, an Australian Kelpie can pick up on training rather easily.

Perhaps not the best choice of breed for the first time dog owner. Due to their activity inclination, the Kelpie should have plenty of space to exercise and play. Speaking of which, this is a very playful dog, which makes them suitable for children. If you socialize the Australian Kelpie early on, you will notice a friendly dog towards strangers, children and other animals.

Health

The average life expectancy for an Australian Kelpie is 12-16 years. In addition, many regard them to be a very healthy breed. However, that doesn’t mean Kelpies are excluded from certain health complications.

The best way to avoid any chance of an unhealthy dog is to get the proper health clearances and documentation from the breeder. Working with your veterinarian is also essential. Equally important is understanding the breed of dog you have. Australian Kelpies are very active, and use their muscles and joints often, which can result to issues down the road.

Here are some known health issues affiliated with this breed. 

Luxating Patella, a condition where the Patella slips out of place or dislocates. This can be very painful, discomforting and can lead to corrective surgery.

Another common condition is Hip Dysplasia, when the hip socket doesn’t fully cover the ball portion of the upper thigh. This leads to severe pain, lack of mobility and quality of life.

Also, the Australian Kelpie may encounter issues with their eyes. For instance, Kelpies could suffer retinal degeneration known as Progressive Retinal Atrophy. There’s also an incurable genetic condition that affects the size of a dog’s eyes, resulting in smaller than average eyeballs. This condition is called, Microphtalima, a condition common with breeds like Akitas and Cocker Spaniels.

Minor problems like Cryptochidism, which involves your Australian Kelpie having one testicle can be linked to the breed.

Care

The Australian Kelpie isn’t a high maintenance breed. However, they are a breed that needs a strong and firm hand. Someone with experience. Kelpies are better off with a master who has a farm or working needs. This may explain why novice owners abandon this breed making the Kelpie one of the most vulnerable to rescue shelters.

Kelpies need early socialization and constant reinforcement. Australian Kelpies love the outdoors but should live indoors with their family. Naturally, they want to be an integral part of the family atmosphere. You’ll have a happier dog if you do include them in family outings. 

An Australian Kelpie should get plenty of exercise. They will appreciate a lengthy walk. Kelpies should get about 45 to 60 minutes of activity per day. If you socialize them early, you can bring them to dog parks without worry. Apartment living is less than ideal.

Feeding

The Australian Kelpie is a working dog first. This means that they will need to replace all of the calories they burn. If you have a very active Kelpie, you will want to consider that among other important elements.

Such as; whether the dog has been neutered, spayed, how active, age, and metabolism. 

A majority of Kelpie owners advise a diet of 1.5 to 2.5 cups of dry food per day. Dry food should be top notch and meat as the first ingredient. Protein that is animal or plant base is fine, according to the Ohio State University.

Most Kelpies will require around 1000 to 1600 calories per day. Again, this depends on how active your dog is.

Since protein is essential to a breed of this caliber’s diet, you should aim for a gram of protein per pound. This is especially true if you have a herding Australian Kelpie. 

Another train of thought by many dog nutrition experts is the consumption of 50-65 percent crude fat by working dogs. If you have a dog that has an average activity level then the normal 8 to 18 percent should work.

As always, the most important nutrient, water, should be available for your Australian Kelpie.

Coat

The best way to describe the coat of an Australian Kelpie is short, flat, but hard and capable of weather resistance. Their short double coat should have a dense undercoat and a ruff around the neck.

There isn’t a lot to worry about when it comes to grooming. You will do yourself a favor by keeping up with the brushing once per week. An occasional bath as you see fit.

As far as coat color, you will notice Kelpies with their trademark blue or red. The American Kennel Club accepts the following colors: black and tan, blue and tan, chocolate, chocolate and tan, fawn, fawn and tan, red. 

Cream, solid blue or black isn’t acceptable by the American Kennel Club’s standards. The Australian Kelpie may have white markings.

Fascinating Australian Kelpie Facts

  • There is over 200,000 working Kelpies in Australia.
  • 70 percent of rescue shelter dogs in Australia are Australian Kelpies, according to ABC.
  • The movie about a red Kelpie mix, “Red Dog,” is a true story about a straggler dog that a community in Australia took in as their own. Unfortunately, the dog died of suspected poisoning. 
  • There are two types of Australian Kelpie: Show and Working Kelpies.
  • Red Cloud used to be a common name for a Kelpie with red and tan or just a red coat.
  • An Australian Kelpie is intelligent enough to train as a scent dog, tracking and rescuing.
  • Many attribute the breed in helping save millions of dollars in labor costs.
  • Kelpies are wonderful jumpers. One Kelpie broke a breed record after barrier jumping nearly ten feet.

Closing Words

There is a lot of hope from the likes of the American Kennel Club to introduce more exposure about this breed to America.

And for good reason.

The Australian Kelpie is an amazing resource to livestock work, with incredible stamina, and an intelligence that makes them easy to train and multi dimensional. If you have the patience and space, this breed is the perfect dog for you and your family.