The Australian kelpie, also known as the black and tan kelpie, barb or Australian sheepdog, originated in Australia about 1870. Although popularly thought to have descended from border collies and wild dingos, the ancestors were most likely an extinct breed known as the Rutherford English North Country collie. Popular in Australia, the breed is not recognized by the American Kennel Club but is recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club.
The average Australian kelpie is only 17 to 20 inches tall from the ground to the top of the withers, or the highest point of the dog's shoulders. It weighs from 25 to 50 lbs, according to "The Howell Book of Dogs." Males tend to be larger, heavier and more muscular than females. No matter what the size and weight, kelpies appear like lean athletes, ready to put in a full day's work.
Although best known in North America for being black and tan, Australian kelpies come in many more colors. These include all red, all black, all blue, all fawn, all cream, red and tan, blue and tan and fawn and tan. Fawn is a blend of red and white hairs, causing a light tan. Blue is a blend of black and white hairs and may appear more gray than blue. Kelpies may sport small white spots on the face and chest. Albinos with pink eyes are discouraged and are disqualified from showing in United Kennel Club events.
Australian kelpies need constant activity in order to keep them from developing destructive habits. They should never live in apartments. Kelpies need long walks, lots of exercise and interaction with people. Kelpies make great companions for ranchers, farmers, hikers and backpackers. Kelpies, bred with the herding instinct, will round up children and pets as if they were sheep. Cats do not appreciate this, notes "The Howell Book of Dogs."
Most Australian kelpies possess short coats which only need brushing twice a week in order to help reduce shedding. Kelpies shed most in fall and spring and may need daily brushing, notes "The Howell Book of Dogs." Some kelpies grow some medium hair on the bellies, tails and back of the hair, but they can be groomed just like short-hairs. When working outside or running frequently on paved roads, dogs may not need their nails clipped. Check paws regularly for overgrown claws. Black and tan kelpies have black claws, which makes bleeding during claw clipping inevitable. Keep styptic powder nearby when clipping claws.
By Rena Sherwood
Dog Breed Info: Australian Kelpie
Canadian Kennel Club: Group VII: Herding Dogs
"The Howell Book of Dogs"; Liz Palika; 2007
United Kennel Club: Australian Kelpie; January 1; 2008
North American Australian Kelpie Registry
The Working Kelpie Council of Australia
Australian Kelpie Rescue Groups
About the Author
Rena Sherwood is a writer and Peter Gabriel fan who has lived in America and England. She has studied animals most of her life through direct observation and maintaining a personal library about pets. She has earned an associate degree in liberal arts from Delaware County Community College and a bachelor's degree in English from Millersville University.