The origin of kelpie
The colonisation of Australia began in the 1790’s as the continent was explored, and cities were constructed and established. Around the same time shepherding became prosperous on the Australian plains which brought many emigrating Brits. These British sheep farmers saw the need for sheep dogs when the sheep industry increased. Around the turn of the century the Brits imported dogs from their families in the old country. The first imported dogs were a heterogeneous group of sheep dogs since the sheep dog lineages in Scotland at the time varied between different districts. The dogs were all called Scotch Dog Collies regardless of their appearance. Over time, some lineages had a greater influence. This marks the beginning of the Kelpie’s history.
The Kelpie’s origin can be traced to three sets of parents that were imported by three immigrants, with no connection of each other. The bitch that came to name the breed was born on the property of George Robertson, Warrack Station in Victoria. This dog was the offspring of two black and tan Working Collies, both imported from Scotland in 1866. This puppy had a long, black and tan coat and floppy ears. She came to Jack Gleeson and he named her Kelpie, a popular name in Scotland for herding bitches at the time. Kelpie is Gaelic and means water spirit, a mystical spirit. The Gleeson Kelpie was also called Old Kelpie.
In the beginning of 1870, when Gleeson’s Kelpie was born, he visited his old friend Mark Tully who gave him a black dog named Moss. This male dog was brought up by Mr. Rutherford on the Yarrowonga Station. Moss was the offspring of two black and tan coloured dogs imported from Scotland. Gleeson’s Kelpie was mated with Moss and this resulted in an outstanding lineage of sheep dogs.
The third original set of parents, Brutus and Jenny, were both black and tan coloured Working Collies imported from Scotland around 1870. Brutus and Jenny had, among other pups, Caesar, Nero and Laddie. This offspring became excellent sheep dogs, well suited for the Australian conditions. Caesar mated Gleeson’s Kelpie and a Mr. King was given a black and tan bitch pup from this parent combination. This little bitch was named Kelpie after its dam, and she developed into an outstanding sheep dog. King ran her in the first sheep dog trial in Australia in 1872. King’s Kelpie won the trial and because her impressive performance the demand for her puppies was huge. These puppies were called Kelpie’s pups – and the rest is history as far as the breed’s name is concerned.