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Australian Kelpie
Characteristics, History, and Health

Australian Kelpie

The Australian Kelpie's history traces back to the late 19th century, with the breed's name reportedly derived from a mythological being from Celtic folklore known as the Kelpie, a water spirit often appearing in the form of a horse. It's believed that the Australian Kelpie was developed through crossbreeding imported dogs from Scotland, predominantly Collies, with native Australian Dingoes. The Australian Kelpie was developed to help herd large amounts of sheep in Australia. Selective breeding ensured its ability to work in heat, dust storms, and to manage rough terrain and cover vast distances (often up to 30 miles in one day).

Main Info
Scotland, then Australia
Alternate Names
Life Expectancy
10-13 years
Average Male Height
17-20 inches
Average Female Height
17-20 inches
Average Male Weight
35-50 pounds
Average Female Weight
35-50 pounds
Coat Length
Coat Type
Smooth, Double
Coat Colors
Black, Black & Tan, Fawn, Red & Tan, Red, Chocolate, Blue
Coat Pattern

Genetic Predispositions and Health

Australian Kelpie Dogs can suffer from eye conditions, including chronic superficial keratitis (or pannus), progressive retinal atrophy, and Collie eye anomaly. They may also be prone to cerebellar abiotrophy, cutaneous asthenia, globoid cell leukodystrophy, hernia (perineal), hypothyroidism, neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis 12, intestinal lipid malabsorption. Like many breeds, they are susceptible to hip dysplasia and degenerative myelopathy.

Personality and Behavior

Australian Kelpies are highly energetic, intelligent, and eager to work. They thrive when they have a job to do, and their herding instinct is deeply ingrained. As pets, they require regular physical and mental stimulation to prevent them from becoming bored and potentially destructive. They are loyal to their families, and while they can be reserved with strangers, they are not typically aggressive. Training should start from an early age and should be consistent to ensure that the Kelpie grows into a well-behaved adult.

Australian Kelpies are not recommended for apartment living or for those who can't provide them with enough exercise and mental stimulation. They are perfect for active individuals or families, and they excel in various dog sports, such as agility, obedience, and, of course, herding trials.

Fun Facts

According to the AKC, an all-black Kelpie is also known as a Barb, and the word "kelpie" is Gaelic for "water sprite".

The AKC also shares that a Kelpie named Abbie Girl won the World Dog Surfing Championship in California in 2017.


DOI: 10.1002/9781119540687