Australian Kelpie

Recommended for: Active People
Maintenance Level: High
Lifespan: 11-15 years
Intelligent, very active
Health Risk:
This breed has an around average probability of having health issues in its lifetime, hence it is one of the more affordable breeds to insure.
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Breed Overview

The Australian Kelpie is a medium-sized dog originally bred for droving and mustering livestock. They are skilled and intelligent dogs with a rich history in Australia.

Australian Kelpies have compact bodies with a broad chest, muscular lower body, and a medium-length, low-set tail. Kelpies have a double coat made up of a short, dense undercoat covered by a hard, straight, weather-resistant overcoat. They come in a few different colours and patterns, the most common being black and red, with or without tan/fawn, chocolate and blue.

The average Kelpie stands between 43 and 51 cm tall and weighs around 14 – 20 kg and their lifespan is about 11 – 15 years.

Like all dogs originally bred to work, the Kelpie has lots of energy and needs frequent, vigorous exercise – though sometimes even this isn’t enough to tire them out! Owners are recommended to take their Kelpie for a long walk or jog at least once a day. Kelpies also love flyball training that keeps their mind and body active.

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Personality and Temperament

The Kelpie is known for its boundless energy, enthusiasm and work ethic. For this reason, they are not recommended for relatively inactive families, as they require lots of physical and mental stimulation each day. A bored Kelpie can develop behavioural problems, so owners are encouraged to keep them well occupied.

A highly intelligent breed, the Kelpie is easy to train and a fast learner. Not only are they great workers, but they excel in agility trials due to their ability to jump extremely high.

When dealing with livestock, the clever Kelpie often jumps on the backs of sheep and runs over the top of them to get to the other side as quickly as possible.

Kelpies have excellent sight and can be trained as seeing-eye dogs. Their amazing eyes also make them great watchdogs. Though not aggressive in nature, the Kelpie can be very protective of its family and property, even if it means sacrificing itself.

Common Australian Kelpie Diseases & Conditions

Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

  • Progressive retinal atrophy refers to a family of eye conditions which cause the retina’s gradual deterioration. Night vision is lost in the early stages of the disease, and day vision is lost as the disease progresses. Many dogs adapt to the loss of vision well, as long as their environment stays the same.
  • Cryptorchidism. This is a condition where one or both of the testicles fail to descent. Both descended and undescended testicles can be removed through neutering.
  • Patellar luxation occurs when the bones of the patella are not aligned properly and as a result slip in and out of place, causing pain and an abnormal gait. Mild cases generally do not require treatment and do not impact too much on the dog’s life, but severe cases may require surgery.
  • Hip Dysplasia. This is a hereditary condition and common in many breeds where the hip doesn’t develop as it should, often resulting in prolonged limping and eventually lameness in later life.
  • Cerebellar abiotrophy is an inherited neurological disease resulting from certain neurons in the cerebellum dying off, affecting balance and coordination. The disease begins to affect the dog shortly after it is born and usually becomes noticeable before the age of 6 months, though some dogs may not show signs until they are older. There is no cure – the only way to ensure a healthy Kelpie is to know for sure that its parents are not carriers.


Not all conditions are covered by Pet Insurance. For details of Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance cover, refer to the Product Disclosure Statement.

What are the most common health issues for Australian Kelpie?

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The Kelpie’s ancestors were black dogs known simply as Collies. These dogs were imported to Australia to work with livestock in the 1800s and were crossbred with other types of dog (possibly even the Dingo).

The first Kelpie (a black and tan pup) was reported in 1872 by Jack Gleeson. Gleeson named the dog after the kelpie, a mythological being in Scottish folklore. The first Kelpie’s subsequent litters were referred to also as “Kelpies”, and the name caught on. “Barb” (black) Kelpies earned their name after a black Kelpie pup was named Barb after the 1866 Melbourne Cup winner.


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Australian Kelpie Facts!

  • A Kelpie called “Riley” formerly held the world record for dog jumping, reaching 2.95 metres.
  • Red Dog, an Australian icon, was a red Kelpie cross known for wandering in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. He had many owners in his time and made many friends – he was a member of the Dampier Salts Sport and Social Club, the Transport Workers Union, and was even given his own bank account by the Bank of New South Wales, who used him as a mascot. He died in 1979 at the age of about 8, possibly from intentional poisoning. He is buried in Roebourne, Western Australia and a statue was erected in his honour in Dampier. There are several books and poems written about Red Dog, and his story was turned into a movie in 2011.
  • A stray Kelpie known as “Gunner” is credited with alerting the Australian Air Force that Japanese aircraft were moving towards Darwin during WWII. When he heard an enemy aircraft approach, he would whine or jump. He served in the Air Force between 1942 and 1945.

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Australian Kelpie Rescue:

The Australian Kelpie Club of NSW:

The Working Kelpie Council of Australia:

Australian Cattle Dog & Kelpie Club of Qld:

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