The Australian Working Kelpie, is one of Australia's truly national dogs. However its origins lie in Scotland, where a number of collie-types (collie is Scottish for sheepdog) contributed to the development of the breed we know today.
During Australia's migrant boom in the 1800s, demand grew for a dog suited to working with the vastly developing Merino sheep population. This saw the import of many herding dogs from the homelands of new migrants, particulary the United Kingdom. Many breeds were brought to Australia, but those most suited to the harsh conditions were soon recognised. It was these few strains of Scottish working dogs, in particular a strain from the Rutherford family, which were crossed together, and with a mix of good fortune and skill the Kelpie was born. These original strains have now all but disappeared.
The Kelpie was first registered as a breed in Australia in 1902, one of the earliest registered breeds in Australia. This was actually four years before the Border Collie was registered as a breed in Britain.
The working Kelpie comes in three coat types, smooth, short, and rough, with almost every colour from black through light tan or cream. Some Kelpies have a white blaze on the chest, a few have white points. Kelpies sometimes have a double coat, which sheds out in spring in temperate climates.
A working Kelpie can be a cheap and efficient worker that can save farmers and graziers the cost of several hands when mustering livestock. The good working Kelpies are heading dogs that will prevent stock from moving away from the stockman. This natural instinct is crucial when mustering stock in isolated gorge country, where a good dog will silently move ahead of the stockman and block up the stock (usually cattle) until the rider appears.
They will work sheep, cattle, goats, pigs, poultry, and other domestic livestock. The Kelpie's signature move is to jump on the backs of sheep and walk across the tops of the sheep to reach the other side and break up the jam.
A working bred Kelpie must have a job to do and plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to remain healthy and companionable. A Kelpie is not aggressive towards people and cannot be considered a guard dog, though he will certainly bark when necessary. Working Kelpies may nip when working stock and should be taught early not to do so to humans.[