by Linda Rorem (this article originally appeared in 

    the American Herding Breed Association newsletter



The Kelpie was developed nearly 140 years ago as a reliable livestock working dog for the harsh conditions of Australia. The breed originated from the old British working collie and thus shares an ancestry with such breeds as the Border Collie, McNab, and others. The Kelpie was selected for heat tolerance, endurance, and the brains to take direction and still be able to work independently. Today there are over 80,000 Kelpies working on stations in Australia and thousands more on farms and ranches in North America and other countries such as New Zealand and Sweden.

The Kelpie is a natural gathering dog using eye, bark, and bite to move stock as conditions warrant. It will gather stock from huge pastures and pen them, push stock through chutes and load trailers. Kelpies handle all types of livestock: sheep, cattle, pigs and poultry. In Australia, the breed is primarily a sheepdog, while in North America, work with cattle predominates.

Kelpies are keen, active, intelligent and biddable. Always ready to work, they have notable stamina and endurance. The disposition of the breed should be friendly, alert, but stoical, with a good balance between keenness to work and ability to rest. Kelpies are best suited to a home where there is work to be done -- they thrive on physically and mentally demanding activities.

In appearance the dog is lithe, showing hard muscular condition. Movement and action should be smooth and effortless, with a good length of stride. Kelpies generally are medium-sized dogs, around 17-23 inches in height, with a short, flat, straight, weather resisting outer coat and dense undercoat. They can be black, red, blue, fawn or cream with or without tan markings. Ears are erect.

In Australia the registry for the Kelpie is the Working Kelpie Council. There is a bench show version of the Kelpie in Australia registered by the RASKC, the Australian show-oriented kennel club, but the bench dog has become so different from the working dog that the bench Australian Kelpie and the Working Kelpie are considered to be different varieties.

Working Kelpies, Inc., is the national breed club in the United States. The primary purpose of the association is to "preserve and protect the breed's natural instincts for working livestock." To that end the association voted in 1995 not to seek full registered status with the AKC. WKI holds regional meetings and a yearly national meeting, with clinics and working trials taking place in conjunction with the meetings. The WKI herding program sanctions trials in ranch or farm environments to evaluate the dogs in working situations. The WKI trial is judged 50% on field work and 50% on yard work, reflecting the full range of tasks for which the Kelpie is employed. Rather than judging Kelpies by arbitrary "beauty" standards, WKI promotes evaluation of dogs by their ability to handle different types of livestock in variable conditions. WKI does have a written breed standard, published in the late 1980's. For more information contact Working Kelpies, Inc., Jan Wesen, Secretary, (360)766-6808, e-mail:; or Joyce Shephard, Treasurer, e-mail:

Kelpies in North America are registered by the Australian Kelpie Registry, P.O. Box 186, Port Byron, IL 61275, (309)523-2188, e-mail: Kelpie; the National Stock Dog Registry, P.O. Box 402, Butler, IN 46721 (219)868-2685 and the Working Kelpie Council of Australia.

Books on the Kelpie and on Australian stockdogs in general are available from Windrush Farms, (515)672-2049.

Thanks to JoAnna Yund, Susan Thorp, and Joyce Shephard for their assistance.



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