The development of the great wool industry of Australia to its present high standard has only been achieved by studmasters and graziers with the aid of the working sheepdog.
It is impossible to assess the value of the working sheepdog’s contribution to this nation’s number one industry, but it must run into millions over the years in its tireless, faithful, time and labor-saving service.
Many types of dogs are used, from the bitzer to the well-bred Kelpie, but it is the Kelpie breed which continues to provide this country with its greatest canine asset.
Some other breeds of dogs are inclined to bustle their sheep or are too heavily coated to stand up to continuous work in our hot summers.
The Kelpie gifted with inexhaustible patience and stamina, has proved his worth in the handling of our robust, active, even wild, Merinos and other sheep.
Kelpies perform all sorts of sheep work, mustering, yarding, draughting, traveling, holding, and the like, but are seen at their best on stations at mustering time when big mobs are handled.
A couple of good ones can do more than a dozen mounted men.
They cover many miles in the course of a day’s work with their smooth, easy stride, which literally eats up the distance.
No matter how long the job takes, the Kelpie is always on deck to perform his part of the work, and if proper attention is given to his feet he seldom knocks up or quits.
Kelpies work wider than other sheepdogs, which suits Merinos very well. The Merinos panic easily, and the closer working dog may split up the mob, and the work of rounding them up has to begin all over again.
The wide working Kelpie gradually eases the mob in the required direction.
His amazing patience, intelligence, skill, speed and staying power have to be seen to be believed.
It has been said that the Kelpie, is as shy as the sheep which he works and sometimes resents interference. This is true to a degree, but much of the blame for this can be placed on those who train and handle him. No properly trained dog, which has been shown kindness and care, will let you down.
Many working Kelpies are fed almost exclusively on rabbits, causing a risk of infection from hydatids. They also are not encouraged to associate with their masters, as most dogs are.
Many believe that the Kelpie is a pure Scottish breed and much documentary evidence has been brought to light to prove it.
The vast majority of countrymen consider that some Dingo blood has been introduced in the past, and the weight of evidence supports this theory.
His amazing endurance, smooth action, disinclination for close work and his general demeanor, point strongly to the infusion of Dingo blood at some time or other in the past.
The expression is another point which seems to suggest that there is Dingo blood in many of these really good working dogs.
The Kelpie has a wedge-shaped head, somewhat finer than the Cattle Dog with prick ears and bright, alert eyes and expressions.
His lengthy neck, clean shoulders, front and outline make an immediate appeal.
Although mostly lightly boned, the Kelpie suggests both speed and stamina with his short back, arched loin, deep chest and complete soundness of limb at both ends.
The tail is a natural one, carried fairly low and is covered with a good brush reaching to the hock joint.
The coat is fairly short and smooth with a dense undercoat to turn water and chill winds in the winter time, and give protection from the hot rays of the summer sun.
The color may be red (varying from light red to almost chocolate), black, blue, black and tan, red and tan.
Much white on the chest or feet is objectionable.
Kelpies stand about 20 inches at the shoulder and weigh about 30 pounds. They have reached a high standard of perfection in the show ring, and have won many major awards at our best shows. One bitch puppy scored for the best puppy all breeds at this year’s Royal Show.
Pet, and Worker
Kelpies must have plenty of exercises to keep their stringy muscles and deep, well-cushioned feet in good form.
They are easily taught to do almost anything and, apart from their value as sheepdogs, they make admirable companions in town or country.
The town Kelpie rapidly adjusts himself to city conditions and makes a lovely, knowing companion for those who like a smart, hardy and attractive dog of medium size.