australian kelpie breed facts and temperament

Australian Kelpie: Breed Facts & Temperament

The Australian Kelpie is an undeniably good looking breed of dog. Often, those that buy a Kelpie won’t look at another breed of dog ever again given their looks, temperament, and loving companionship. They come in a number of variations of color adding to their good looks which are often prone to attractive markings.

In this guide to the Australian Kelpie, we look at the breed’s history as well as a number of things a potential owner should know before finally purchasing this breed. With this in mind, we also do a deep investigation of the dog’s temperament that may alert potential owners to any quirks that may mean the Australian Kelpie is not quite the dog for them. This is key as it prevents dogs from being placed in homes that are unsuitable – this can be stressful for both the dog and the owner.

History of the Australian Kelpie

The history of the Australian Kelpie was quite vague for a time, though some clarity on where the dog breed has come from has come to light in recent years. It is now confirmed that the Kelpie developed when three pairs of working collies were bred together and then taken to Australia to work on the land there by their owners. Anecdotally, the first female of the breed was named Kelpie by her owner, which is where the name came from. She was black and tan colored in her markings and went on to be bred on the farm known as Worrock Station. Her owner, JD Gleeson also owned a black dog that had come from Collies that had been brought over to Australia from Scotland. The black collie was male and so Gleeson bred Kelpie with him to produce a litter of puppies that would be the basis for the Australian Kelpie line.

However, come the beginning of the 1900s, there seemed to be such a huge proliferation of dogs that looked like Kelpies in Australia that their breeding was called into question. Eventually, it was agreed that to be a true Australian Kelpie, the dog had to be the produce of selective breeding of a tan and black mix collie with a black working Collie. Ideally, the black working Collie needed to have as little white on his or her fur as possible. Given that Australian Kelpies were only bred from Collies from the UK in the late 1800s, it is possible to trace their origins to dogs that were imported to the huge island at that time.

They gained notoriety as good working dogs and were often bought by owners to help with herding the huge flocks of sheep and other livestock in the Outback and other Australian farms. They were well loved for this use owing to their intelligence but also the fact that they could withstand the conditions within they worked. At times, the heat in Australia can be nothing short of hostile. Additionally, the farms on which they worked were often vast expanses of land that are now farmed using planes. The Kelpie was able to cope with these distances. Furthermore, Kelpies were known for being exceedingly reliable but also charming.

Quick Facts About The Australian Kelpie

  • The Australian Kelpie is one of the hardiest breeds out there.
  • While the original Kelpies were either completely black or black and tan, it is possible to find Kelpies with red or blue coloring too
  • Their working dog natures make them fantastic on farms, however, their reliability make the perfect companions for the home
  • They are one of the most popular breeds to own in their native Australia

Australian Kelpie dog in the fall in a field with dry grass

Things You Should Know

  • Average Weight

The average male or female can weigh anything from 14 kilograms to 20 kilos

  • Average Height

Taken at the withers, both male adults and female adults can start at 39 cm but can grow to up to 51 cm in height.

  • Looks

The Australian Kelpie is a handsome dog with a long snout and large pointy ears, which makes them instantly recognizable. However, in terms of their exact physicality, they are extremely athletic and lithe. They are very strong dogs, but also have a great deal of speed and agility on their side given their origins of Collie. Their faces are well defined with high cheekbones and skin and fur that finishes close to their jaw.

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One of the reasons that they are so handsome is down to their almond shaped eyes that are invariable brown and are neither too small nor too big for their head. If a Kelpie has slightly lighter colors in their fur, it has been seen that their eyes may be slightly lighter than the usual dark brown. Either way, many Kelpie owners often talk of their Kelpie’s alert look that comes from their expressive eyes. Other facial features of note is that their nose will always be the color of their coat.

In terms of their bodies, they have a long neck and slim shoulders. They are often seen to have a slight ruff around their neck where their fur is longer than the rest of the coat. While their shoulders are slim, their front legs and forequarters are still very strong, which can be seen down the rest of their legs as their fur gets shorter towards their paws. The main trunk of their body is also very powerful and they have a long straight back with a deep broad chest.

Towards the back of their bodies, their hind legs are also seen to be very strong with a slim rump to match their shoulders. Their feet continue to help their athleticism with arched toes. Their tails are the last extension of themselves and their personality. They hold it low when they are lying down or resting but will rest it when happy, excited or alert to danger or noise. Their tails are more often than not very fluffy.

The rest of their coat is reasonably short so they are easier to groom than some longer haired dogs out there. The coat lays very close to their bodies on their main trunk which helps them stay warm and cool in all weather. This is down to an efficient undercoat beneath their top layer fur. Other than their neck, the Kelpie has short hair everywhere else bar the back of their legs where it gets that little bit longer again.

The following colors are colorways that are accepted by Kennel Clubs around the world for the Australian Kelpie breed.

  • Tan – can be very light, dark or anywhere in between
  • Red – this tone will range from chocolate in color to a much light red. This color can have tan markings too
  • Black – a black Kelpie can also have tan markings
  • Blue – the blue Kelpie will tend to be quite dark, but it can be fairer. It too can have tan markings.


Knowing the temperament of a dog is key to knowing whether they are suitable for your home or not.

The Australian Kelpie is one of the brightest and cleverest dogs out there. They are quick to learn what is being asked of them, but this can backfire on owners as it does mean they can get easily bored when left on their own for any period of time. Their intelligence means that they need entertainment. For that reason, they are best suited to families that can dedicate time to their physical needs by walking them or taking them outside with them for long spells of time. Breeders often advocate first time owners to look at other breeds first and gain experience with dogs in general before taking on a Kelpie given their need for stimulation a great deal of the day.

However, there is no denying that they are quick to learn and are great dogs to have if you are interested in entering a dog into competitions where agility courses are a big part. Either way teaching them new tricks is a good way to build a rapport and relationship with a Kelpie who like to play with their owners and please them too. This loyalty can make them wary of other strangers they have not met before, especially if they were not socialized enough as a puppy.

Despite this strong loyal nature, they can also be fairly stubborn at times so while training them can reap amazing rewards, it is not for the faint-hearted – especially if you are thinking of teaching them to do more complex tricks than simply sitting or rolling over. It is important therefore to establish the correct owner dog bond with the right boundaries so that the dog does not forget that it is to be submissive to its owner at all times. This will prevent your Kelpie from any nipping or running away to chase things he or she sees, which the breed can be prone to do if they have not be trained properly.

This is a particularly good point to note if you intend on introducing a Kelpie to a household with a young family, but it is good practice in general too. It means that you will be able to take your Kelpie anywhere without fear that he or she will bolt or cause distress to other humans or dogs by playful behaviour that can be quickly misconstrued. Ultimately, the main thing to remember with a Kelpie to stop this sort of action, is simply to tire them out during the day with a large amount of exercise and mental stimulation in the form of games. This way they will also settle down in the evening when an owner more often than not wants to sit down and relax. While a Kelpie is always ready to go and alert by nature, it is possible to tire them out so they are at least calm for a time.

Another good way to ensure that your dog always stays on the right side of good behavior throughout his or her life is to socialize him or her with other dogs from when they are puppies. This is particularly true for male, unneutered Kelpies. It means that they will get used to a variety of situations with dogs nearby and they will naturally follow their lead as to what is acceptable behavior and what is not. They are pack like dogs so will enjoy the stimulation of being with other dogs and will learn their place in the pack for when they are introduced to a wider family too.

Despite all this training, Kelpies really can make fantastic family dogs or companions. So while they are playful, their affectionate and loyal side will win out and they simply enjoy playing any game with a member of their pack or their main owner. These games will also help owners to instill a bond with their dog that means their prey drive will diminish over time too. There is no denying that Kelpies love to chase things but this urge can be dampened when a Kelpie has been stimulated in other ways throughout the day. Bearing this in mind, Fetch is the perfect game to play with your Kelpie pup as well as piggy in the middle and Frisbee.

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The Australian Kelpie – The Bottom Line

The Australian Kelpie is a fantastic, lovable dog for so many reasons as this guide to the breed points out. So while their main drawback is the simple amount of energy they have, this is not a difficult issue to workaround for the right family or owner. In fact, a Kelpie can be a wonderful addition to a family that are consistently outside for long periods of time. Finally, this handsome breed is one of the most loyal breeds out there. They make great friends for life.


  1. Australian Kelpie, VetStreet
  1. Mark Plunkett
    Dec 27, 2021

    hi I am going to purchase a Black & Tan Kelpie for a personal home companion. I am experienced with Kelpie working dogs during my youth as my Dad was a Shearing Contractor for 45yrs & we always had 2xworking dogs which were alway our pets on weekends as we lived in Town & dogs went to work from Town to Shearing Sheds Mon-Fri.
    My question is because Dad only ever had Male working kelpies never females & I was wondering if for an urban environment is there any difference in temperament & suitability of either sex over the other in the Kelpie breed.
    I am very familiar in the knowledge that Kelpies love work,action & play. I walk 6km·s daily & have immediate access to a large park & also a dog beach immediately across the road so the need for daily work & play is just not an issue for me.
    Also are there any kelpies that have Black with Tan & small amounts of white/cream markings ie the 3x colors & not just the 2?
    many thanks,

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