The Australian Kelpie is a highly intelligent breed of herding dog that likes to work hard. The name for this breed is similar to a creature from Scottish and Irish mythology – a Kelpie is a magical water horse that has ill intentions toward humans, particularly children. In reality, the Australian Kelpie is nothing like this mythological creature – it is friendly and playful, always eager to please its human companions.
Illustration courtesy of the Swedish Kennel Club
Black Kelpies are known as Barb Kelpies thanks to Barb, the black Kelpie who won the Melbourne Cup in 1866.
About this Breed
Kelpies are relatively small herding dogs from Australia. These multitalented dogs are one of the few breeds that originally hails from Down Under. Kelpies are unusual in that they come in two varieties: show Kelpies and working Kelpies. What is valued in show Kelpies is quite different from what is valued in working Kelpies. As a result, breed fanciers thought it would be a good idea to essentially divide the breed in half. The big distinction between the two is color. Show Kelpies can only be solid colors, and they must also have pricked ears. Working kelpies can be any mix of color, and the shape of the ears doesn’t matter.
Kelpies can trace their ancestry back to the early 1900s. They are a mix of other working dogs that were brought to Australia for stock work. In fact, it is distinctly possible that they mixed with the native Australian Dingo—based on similar DNA, Dingos and Kelpies appear to be remotely related.
While still relatively rare outside of their native Australia, Kelpies have been imported all across the world as working dogs, show dogs, and pets. Their ability to make good house pets depends largely on what stock they come from. Working Kelpies are extremely high energy and might be too much for average dog owners, while show Kelpies are slightly less wired and may settle better into life as house dogs. That being said, all Kelpies are in essence working dogs and will require a decent amount of time outside with space to burn their energy.
Kelpies generally get along well with other dogs. Owners might want to be careful with smaller mammals—while Kelpies are famous for protecting sheep, they may get overexcited with smaller animals like cats or rodents. Therefore, they should be supervised or, even better, separated from smaller animals.
Kelpies are good with children, big or small, and they will make a lovely addition to any family. They are not particularly easy to find in the United States, so be prepared to spend time looking for a breeder and possibly joining a waiting list for a litter.
Australian Kelpies on Embark
Explore some Embark dogs that share Australian Kelpie ancestry.
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