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Breed Spotlight: The Australian Kelpie


The Australian Kelpie looking right at the camera

The Australian Kelpie is a dog whose roots sink deep into Australian history. They were bred to herd sheep, and have since become a favourite of many families. If you are considering a Kelpie for a furry pal to add to your family, read on.

Kelpies come from a few varieties of collies that were brought to Australia in the late 1800s. Jack Gleeson bought a Scotch Collie pup from George Robertson and crossbred her with other collies. Some people think that there were Dingo genes introduced at some time, but that is not well documented.

Where Did the Name “Kelpie” Come from?

The mother of the breed was named Kelpie by Mr J.D. Gleeson, and her descendants were called “Kelpie’s pups.” [1] They were great herders, so the name was eventually applied to the breed. The term Kelpie comes from Celtic mythology and is ”a shape-shifting aquatic creature.” [1

Jobs for Your Kelpie

Yep, Kelpies are working dogs, so what kind of occupations are they qualified for? First and foremost, they are herding dogs, and they are naturally talented at working a flock of sheep or a herd of cattle. 

They are also used frequently in search and rescue work. With some scent training, they do well at detection work. Because of their desire to please, they make great therapy and guide dogs.

Their temperament makes them excellent guard dogs. While not overly aggressive, they tend to be timid and shy around new people. In addition, they don’t have a tendency to bite, but you can bet that they will bark if a stranger comes too close to their beloved humans.

And while not exactly a job, with the proper training, they are great at agility competitions because they are both quick and nimble. This is a great way for the two of you to bond while burning excess mental and physical energy.

What Can You Expect from Your Kelpie?

A kelpie leaping

Kelpies usually live around 11-13 years, so you will have your furry pal around for a while. Here are some general characteristics of this remarkable dog. Just remember that dogs, like people, vary quite a bit in size and temperament.


Kelpies are medium-sized dogs, generally weighing between 14–20 kg and measuring 40–50 cm at the withers. They can, however, get a little bigger. 


Kelpies have short, straight hair, and come in a wide variety of colours. Their colour ranges quite a bit–they can be a mixture of black, grey, tan, red, chocolate and cream. But whatever the colour, they will be happy and energetic fur babies.

Their ears are erect, and their eyes are almond shaped which helps them to see clearly even when the sheep around them are raising quite a bit of dust.


Kelpies were bred to herd, so they are bright, energetic dogs, capable of making their own decisions when working. They can run hard and fast, but they can also be rather stealthy. They are full of energy, so you can expect requests for walks a couple of times each day.

They are very loyal to their humans and eager to please. They are alert and friendly, and they will make great watchdogs. They are intelligent, energetic, loyal, alert and friendly. 

They are good with kids and other people, but you have to remember to socialize them as pups. Just remember that they are herders so they might want to nip those young ones as they try to “herd” them around the house or yard.

They are very bright, so they are easy to train. They love to please and this helps them to learn how they should behave along with new tricks and skills. 

Due to their high energy level, they can easily get bored, and sometimes this can lead to destructive behaviour, like chewing table legs or one of your favourite shoes. So you need to plan on giving your new furry baby a lot of attention and plenty of exercise.

Living in an Apartment?

If you reside in an apartment or house with a small yard, don’t despair. Your Kelpie can adapt, but you must remember to take them out on a run or a long play session at the park to let them burn off all of their excess energy.

Bred to Withstand the Heat

Over the years, the ability to run all day in the heat has been bred into Kelpies. Regardless of the temperature, they will stay by your side for as far and as long as you care to run. While other breeds might be affected by the heat, that isn’t a problem with Kelpies. So if you like to hit the trail for a long run or hike, don’t worry about your doggo tagging along, just make sure that they get water when they need it.

Health Problems

Kelpies are very healthy dogs, but are susceptible to a few diseases. A responsible breeder will do their best to screen pups for most genetic problems. The health issues that you need to be aware of are:

  • Cerebellar abiotrophy
  • Collie eye anomaly
  • Cryptorchidism
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Luxating patella
  • Progressive retinal atrophy

Just talk to your vet, and they can check for these and inform you of possible symptoms.

A Long and Happy Life

A black kelpie in the woods

So if you think that a Kelpie is the forever pal that you have been looking for, start researching local breeders or checking with shelters for an adult Kelpie to bring home. They are special dogs, and before you know it, you will have a new best friend of the furry variety. They will be there for you from the moment that you wake up until the time you decide to call it a night. When you come home from a long, hard day at work, they will be there, at the door, waiting….to give you a batch of puppy kisses and take you for a long relaxing walk.

[1] Australian Kelpie: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care