Australian Kelpie

The Australian Kelpie is an Australian sheep dog successful at mustering and droving with little or no command guidance. They are medium-sized dogs and come in a variety of colours. Australian Kelpie have been exported throughout the world and are used to muster livestock, primarily sheep, cattle, goats and poultry.

The dog breed has been separated into two distinct varieties: the show or bench Australian Kelpie and the working Australian Kelpie. The show or bench Australian Kelpie is seen at conformation dog shows in some countries and are selected for appearance rather than working instinct. Working Kelpies are bred for working ability rather than appearance.

Australian Kelpie Appearance

The variety of coloration and coat types puts the Australian Kelpie in a select group, as it is not possible to look at an unidentified dog and classify it as a Kelpie. Kelpies referred to as Red Cloud Kelpies have red features with white markings on the face, chest, and feet.

Breed standards

The dog breed standards vary depending on whether the registry is for working or show Kelpies. It is possible for a dog to do both, but his options for competition in conformation shows might be limited depending on his ancestry and on the opinions of the various kennel clubs or breed clubs involved.

Working Australian Kelpies are registered with the Working Kelpie Council (WKC), which is the primary authority on the breed standard, and/or the State Sheepdog Workers Association. The WKC encourages breeding for working ability, and allows a wide variety of coat colours. The Working Kelpie cannot be shown, due to the wide standards allowed by the WKC. Show Kelpies are registered with the Australian National Kennel Council, that encourages breeding for a certain appearance and limits dogs to certain colors. Only Show Kelpies may be shown in Australia.

Breed Standards Outside Australia

In the USA, the Australian Kelpie is not recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The North American Australian Kelpie Registry, which promotes the dog as a working breed, does not want the breed to be promoted by the AKC. Kelpies are recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in the United States and may compete in UKC events. The Svenska Working Kelpie Klubben also does not permit Working Kelpies to be shown.

Working Kelpies

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 to have a double coat, which sheds out in spring in temperate climates. Agouti is not unusual, and can look like a double coat.

Working Australian Kelpie stand about 50 cm (19.5 inches) at the withers for females, 55 cm (21.5 inches) for males; weight would be between 14–21 kg (31-46 lbs). Ears are pricked, but a few will have one or both ears flopped; the tail will often follow the coat type, and will vary between smooth to bushy. The dog's working ability is unrelated to appearance, so stockmen looking for capable working dogs disregard the dog's appearance.

A working Australian Kelpie can be a cheap and efficient worker which 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. The preferred dogs for cattle work are Kelpies, often of a special line, or a Kelpie cross. They will drive a mob of livestock long distances in extremes of climates and conditions. Kelpies have natural instincts for managing livestock. 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 good working Kelpie is a versatile dog—they can work all day on the farm, ranch, or station, and trial on the weekends. Kelpies compete and are exhibited in herding trials, ranging from yards or arenas to large open fields working sheep, goats, cattle, or ducks.

Australian Kelpie Temperament

Kelpies are loyal, friendly, intelligent, energetic dogs that require a challenging job to be satisfactory companions. They need to be stimulated as idle and bored dogs become frustrated, noisy, and destructive. With personalized love and attention, they can be very placid and faithful, although they do need space to run. For the show or bench Kelpie, walks and socialisation may be sufficient to keep them happy. A working bred Australian 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.

Working Australian Kelpie have done quite well in dog sports, search and rescue work, and can be good family dogs if they receive sufficient physical and mental exercise. The breed is unsuitable for a sedentary life and would not thrive in an apartment setting.

Show Australian Kelpie generally excel in agility trials and may be shown in conformation in Australia. 'Riley' an Australian Kelpie set the world record for dog jumping when he jumped 2.91 metres at the Casterton, Victoria Kelpie Festival. In his previous 30 high jumping competitions he was only beaten twice.

Australian Kelpie Health

Australian Kelpie are a hardy breed with few health problems, but they are susceptible to disorders common to all breeds, like cryptorchidism, hip dysplasia, cerebellar abiotrophy and luxating patella. Current research is underway to find the genetic marker for cerebellar abiotrophy in the breed.

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