A herding breed native to Australia, the Australian Kelpie was bred to be a tireless and peerless worker, able to herd sheep and cattle effectively in the harsh environments of the Australian Outback. This breed is regarded as one of the most intelligent of all dogs. There are currently two lines of Australian Kelpie, a working line and a show line. Working lines are ineligible to compete in most dog shows, but are regular competitors in sheepdog trials. Show lines were bred to compete in dog shows and are considerably more standardized than working lines, but have significantly less working ability. The Australian Kelpie and its various lines are also known as the Kelpie, the Red Cloud Kelpie, the Barb Kelpie, the Barb, and the Australian Sheepdog.
The Australian Kelpie was first recognized as a distinct breed beginning in the 1870’s, but its ancestors go back much further in time. There is much debate over the true origin of the Kelpie, but all agree that the breed was originally developed in Australia for the purpose of working sheep and as a cattle dog.
The history of the Kelpie began in the early 1800’s. Initially, the sheep and wool industry in Australia grew slowly, partially because most European sheep were either ill-suited to the Australian climate or did not produce quality wool. In 1801, there were approximately 33,000 sheep in Australia. That changed in 1912 when the Merino Sheep, a breed native to Spain, was first imported to Australia. Merinos not only produced some of the highest quality wool of any sheep, but they were also able to survive in the hot climate and rugged terrain found over most of Australia. The Merino sheep and the industry that followed would eventually transform the Australian economy and culture; as evidenced by the fact that by 1830, there were over 2 million sheep in Australia. The vast majority of these were Merinos and by the middle of the 1800’s, Australia had become the world’s primary wool producing country and wool exports dominated the Australian economy.
Regarded as being one of the most unruly of all European breeds, Merino sheep are difficult to herd, and like to stray. These tendencies were exacerbated by the tremendous size and harsh conditions of the Australian Outback. Sheep that wandered off would likely never be found, and if they were found they would likely be dead. In order to control these flocks, farmers would be forced to rely heavily on dogs. As the vast majority of early Australian settlers came from the British Isles, the dogs they selected were those familiar to them, British herding breeds. England and especially Scotland had a long tradition of herding sheep with dogs, and had developed a number of different varieties of sheepdog. These varieties were not breeds in the modern sense; rather, they were localized varieties of working sheepdogs. Although appearance probably played a very small role in their breeding, the only thing that truly mattered was their working ability. These dogs have been present in the British Isles for so long that no one knows when or how they first arrived. It is most commonly suggested that they arrived with either the Celts or the Romans. Different varieties were given different names, but many of them became known as collies. Collie did not mean one of the modern collie breeds, but it was a generic term for a working sheepdog of certain physical types. There is much dispute over what collie originally meant. It was certainly a Scottish word, and most likely comes from the word ‘coalie’, a name for the black-faced sheep of Scotland.
Although it is unclear exactly when the first collies were imported to Australia, it was either in the late 1700’s or early 1800’s. As the decades wore on, native born collies would become ever more adapted to the hotter temperatures and dangerous conditions found in Australia. Some of this adaptation was the result of planned breeding, and some was the result of natural selection. New settlers and existing farmers continuously imported more collies from the United Kingdom, steadily increasing the gene pool of Australian collies. Few strains were kept pure; most were crossed with each other extensively. At some point in the 1800’s, it became a regular practice to cross collies with Dingoes, semi-wild dogs native to Australia. Farmers generally kept this practice a secret, as it was illegal to own Dingoes in much of Australia and Dingoes are infamous sheep killers. These crosses were made because farmers believed (with good reason) that Dingoes were better adapted to life in Australia and more capable of working for long hours. Dingoes are also seen as highly intelligent and adaptable, traits which would increase the working ability of their dogs.
These sheepherding dogs needed to be capable of surviving in Australia and of working with the troublesome Merino Sheep. Because of the size of the Outback, these dogs would also need to work independently of their masters, sometimes for hours at a time. The collies of Australia became much more heat tolerant than their British cousins, as well as more suited for dry and treacherous terrain. Additionally their temperaments had changed as well making them better suited to deal with large predatory creatures such as Dingoes, eagles, and goannas. Australian stock dogs also developed the intelligence and the ability to herd sheep instinctively, without any guidance from handlers. Tireless runners, this Australian strain of herding and livestock protection dog was able to work for hour after hour. Although the Australian Collie was still regularly crossed with new imports, by the 1870’s it had adapted and changed to a point that it was clearly distinct from its British counterpart. Perhaps the most distinctive behavior of these Australian collies was their tendency to run on the backs of sheep. If one of these dogs needed to get across the herd to round up a sheep, they would jump on the backs of other sheep rather than run around or through them.
The foundation for the modern Kelpie breed was a black and tan female with floppy ears, born on Warrock Station, and owned by the Scotsman George Robertson. Sometime between 1870 and 1872, the dog was purchased by J.D. Gleeson, who named her Kelpie after a water monster of Celtic folklore. Robertson bred Scottish collies of the Rutherford or North Country variety. All agree that Kelpie’s mother was a Scottish Rutherford Collie, but there is dispute as to the nature of her sire. Some claim that Kelpie’s sire was also a Scottish Rutherford Collie, while others insist he was either a Dingo or a Dingo cross. There is no evidence either way, and the mystery will likely never be fully solved. Kelpie is better known as Gleeson’s Kelpie to distinguish her from her daughter, also named Kelpie. Gleeson’s Kelpie was bred with a black Scottish Rutherford Collie named Moss, which was owned by Mark Tully, a friend of Gleeson. These two dogs would produce an exceptional line of working collies.
Around the same time that Kelpie was born, two other black Scottish Rutherford Collies were imported from Scotland, Brutus and Jenny. Some claim that these dogs were Australian natives descended from Dingoes, but this is probably just legend. Brutus and Jenny produced a puppy that was named Caesar. Caesar was bred to Gleeson’s Kelpie, producing an outstanding female also named Kelpie by her owners, the King Brothers. This second Kelpie has become known as King’s Kelpie to distinguish her from Gleeson’s Kelpie. King’s Kelpie would become such an excellent sheepdog that she tied the very prestigious Forbes Sheepdog Trial in 1879. King’s Kelpie became very famous and her descendants were highly sought by Australian stockmen. These dogs were initially known as Kelpie’s pups and then Kelpies and by 1890, the Kelpie strain had become well-established. At some point, the name Kelpie began to be applied to all Australian collies of a similar type, not just the direct descendants of King’s Kelpie. The King Brothers would partner with another collie breeder, McLeod and together they would produce dogs that dominated Australian sheepdog trials from 1900 to 1920, enhancing the reputation of the breed and the line. By the early 1900’s, the Kelpie was considered to be the premier sheep herding dog of Australia.
A few other early Kelpies became quite prominent. One of the earliest Kelpies was a female named Sally. Sally was mated to a smooth collie named Moss (a different dog from Gleeson’s Kelpie’s mate) and produced a black puppy. This puppy was named Barb after a black Barb horse that won the Melbourne Cup in 1866. Barb became so renowned as a sheepdog that it has become common to call all black or black and tan Kelpies either Barb Kelpies or Barbs. Another famous early Kelpie was a red male named John Quinn’s Red Cloud. Many other red and red and tan Kelpies were named after him, including a Western Australian dog that became quite famous. It is now common to refer to all red and red and tan Kelpies, especially ones with white chests, as Red Cloud Kelpies.
Australian stockmen strictly cared about the working ability of their dogs, and their Kelpies were highly varied. Some had semi-prick ears, others had prick ears. These dogs came in a variety of sizes, although most were medium. Australian stockmen cared little for color and working Kelpies can appear in almost any solid color, and most have some markings, especially on the chest. While these had immense working ability, they did not possess enough conformation to be shown in the ring. In the early 1900’s, some Australians became interested in standardizing the Kelpie into a show dog. In 1904, Robert Kaleski published the first Kelpie standard. Kaleski’s standard was adopted by several leading breeders and the Kennel Club of New South Wales. However, the vast majority of stockmen rejected the idea of standardizing the Kelpie for conformation, fearing it would destroy the working ability of the breed. From the early 1900’s, two distinct varieties of Kelpie developed in Australia, Working Kelpies and Show Kelpies. Working Kelpies continued to display the variety of their ancestors, while Show Kelpies were increasingly standardized. Show Kelpie breeders preferred solid-colored dogs with no markings, as well as fully prick ears and a short coat. Most kennel clubs officially call the breed the Australian Kelpie, although that name most accurately applies to the Show Kelpie. While breeders of both Show and Working Kelpies consider the dogs to be of the same breed, only pure Show Kelpies may compete in Australian National Kennel Council events, and few if any Working Kelpie breeders would cross their dogs with Show Kelpies. In Australia, the Australian National Kennel Council keeps the stud books for and judges Show Kelpies, while the Working Kelpie Council and the State Sheepdog Workers Association keep records of Working Kelpies and organize sheepdog trials. While there are a number of Show Kelpies in Australia, the Working Kelpie is much more common. Although it is impossible to get accurate statistics, there are almost certainly well over 100,000 Working Kelpies and Working Kelpie crosses herding sheep and cattle in Australia. Although the practice is rarely openly discussed due to legal issues, Working Kelpies are still occasionally crossed with Dingoes.
Starting in the early 1900’s, the Australian Kelpie was exported to many other countries around the world. Farmers in those countries quickly discovered what their Australian counterparts already knew, that the Australian Kelpie is almost peerless when it comes to working with sheep over very large areas. Outside of Australia, the countries where the Australian Kelpie has become most prominent include Argentina, Canada, New Caledonia, Italy, Korea, New Zealand, Japan, Sweden, and the United States. Although it is unclear exactly when the first Australian Kelpies arrived in America, it was probably in either the late 1920’s or early 1930’s. The first Kelpies were imported by American sheep farmers, to control their flocks over the immense expanses of the American West. The North American Working Kelpie Registry (NAWKR) was founded to register working Australian Kelpies in both the United States and Canada. Australian Kelpies proved very valuable to American farmers, and became a popular working breed in the American West. The breed is especially well-suited to life in the hot and arid conditions that exist in such states as Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona, but can also adapt to the colder conditions found farther north and into southern Canada. Although there is a substantial sheep and wool industry in the United States, the primary livestock in that country has always been cattle, and that shows no signs of changing. Cattle ranchers dominate the agricultural economy of the American West in much the same way that sheep herders do in Australia. In recent decades, American Australian Kelpie breeders have begun to focus more and more on the breed’s ability to work with cattle. As the Australian Kelpie becomes more adapted as a working cattle dog, it is becoming increasingly popular with American ranchers.
During the 1900’s, Australian Kelpies were imported to Sweden. In Sweden the breed has found a new role, that of a sniffer dog for law enforcement and related agencies. This breed is not only highly intelligent and trainable, but also tireless and capable of working on its own. Surprisingly for a dog native to Australia, the Australian Kelpie is quite capable of adapting to the cold climate of Scandinavia, or at least the more southerly parts. The breed proved so successful at this role that it is now the primary sniffer dog used in Sweden.
As is the case in Australia, the vast majority of Australian Kelpies in America are Working Kelpies. In the last few decades, a few Show Kelpies have been imported from Australia. Most of the companion Australian Kelpies in the United States come from these lines. Because there are so few Show Kelpies in the United States, there is a perception that this is a rare breed. However, several thousand working Kelpies are working dogs in the United States, in addition to the 100,000 plus that live in Australia and other countries. Initially, the American Kennel Club (AKC) showed interest in recognizing the Australian Kelpie, and had the breed in its Miscellaneous Class for a number of years. However, the NAWKR has long held a low opinion of the AKC, and strongly opposed the breed being recognized. Many breeders of working dogs see the AKC as focusing solely on conformation, without any regard for working ability. While this is not entirely fair, it is a perception shared by many fanciers.
It is true that many AKC recognized breeds have lost most of their working ability, such as Irish Setters, Rough Collies, and American Cocker Spaniels. Additionally, AKC recognition usually brings out greater recognition of a breed among the American public, who often see a dog in a show and want to acquire one. This has led to many people acquiring dogs that are poor matches for their family, which often results in a breed getting a poor reputation or many members ending up in animal shelters. This fear was greater among Australian Kelpie breeders than most as their breed would not be capable of adapting to life in the vast majority of homes. In the early 1990’s, the Australian Kelpie was granted full recognition by the United Kennel Club (UKC). The UKC is much better respected among most breeders and fanciers of working dogs because that registry both focuses on the working abilities of dog and is less visible to the American public. In the late 1990’s, the AKC announced that unless substantial progress was made towards getting the Australian Kelpie full recognition it would be dropped from the Miscellaneous Class. The NAWKR predictably did not make any progress and the Australian Kelpie was dropped from the Miscellaneous Class in 1997. There is seemingly no current interest from either side to get AKC recognition for the Australian Kelpie.
In America, the Australian Kelpie remains almost exclusively a working breed. This is to the great satisfaction of most fanciers. Although an incredibly intelligent and skilled worker, the Australian Kelpie adapts very poorly to life as a companion animal. This breed has one of the most intense exercise requirements of any breed and also requires a tremendous amount of mental stimulation. Of those Kelpies that are kept as companion animals, a sizable majority are either Show Kelpies or rescue animals. Both Show and Working Kelpies are among the most successful competitors at agility and obedience competitions, and any other dog sport. Although the Kelpie is a rare pet in the United States, there are large numbers of working Kelpies in that country and the population is quite secure.
The Appearance of the Working Kelpie
The Working Kelpie is bred almost exclusively for working ability, and therefore shows substantially more variation than is common in other breeds. Most observers accustomed to other pure-bred dogs may mistake a Working Kelpie for a random-bred dog or a herding mix. Some Working Kelpies look quite Dingo-like. While these dogs come in a range of sizes, most females stand around 19½ inches tall at the shoulder, and most males stand about 21½ inches tall at the shoulder. The average weight for both sexes is between 30 and 45 pounds. These dogs come in three coat varieties, smooth, rough, and long. Some Working Kelpies have double coats and others do not. The tail will tend to match the coat, and may be either smooth or bushy. While most Working Kelpies have prick ears, many dogs have either one or two semi-prick ears. Color is generally solid, but ranges in shade from cream to black with every shade and color in between. Many working Kelpies have markings of other colors, with tan and white being the most common. Such markings are most common on the chest and feet, but may be found anywhere on the dog’s body. Black or black and tan Working Kelpies are frequently referred to as Barbs or Barb Kelpies. Red and red and tan Kelpies are frequently referred to as Red Cloud Kelpies. In America, Working Kelpies tend to be short-coated and prick-eared, although this is not always the case. American Working Kelpies are more likely to be black and especially black and tan than other colors.
The Appearance of the Show Kelpie
Show Kelpies exhibit substantially more conformation than is the case with their working cousins. Although the breed name does not contain the word collie, this breed is definitely a member of the collie family and closely resembles the working collies of the United Kingdom. The Show Kelpie is generally smaller than the Working Kelpie, but is still a medium-sized breed. Males stand approximately 18 to 20 inches at the shoulders, and females stand approximately 17 to 19 inches at the shoulders. These dogs weigh between 25 and 45 pounds with females generally weighing less. Although bred for conformation, the Show Kelpie is still an incredibly muscular and athletic dog. This breed should look like it is capable of working for long hours. This breed should show no exaggerations in terms of body structure and features. Much of the Kelpie’s structure is average for a dog. This breed is slightly longer than it is tall, however. The tail of a Show Kelpie is long and held with a slight upward curve.
The head and face of a Show Kelpie are similar to that of other members of the collie family. This breed has a broad and rounded head that is proportional in size to the rest of the body. The head and muzzle merge relatively gently into each other, but are still distinct. The muzzle is slightly shorter than the head, with tight fitting lips. This muzzle is generally narrow, but slightly wider than some that of some similar breeds. The color of the nose is determined by the color of the coat, which it matches closely. This breed has almond-shaped, medium sized eyes which are typically brown in color. The ears of a Show Kelpie are set far apart and are naturally pricked. The overall expression of a show Kelpie is intelligent and somewhat wild.
The coat of the Show Kelpie is moderately short, but long enough to provide protection from the elements. This coat should be flat, hard, and straight. All Show Kelpies should be double-coated. The head, ears, feet, and fronts of the legs have shorter hair. The hair may be longer on the neck, where it may form a ruff, and on the rear of the thighs, where it may form breeching. The hair on the tail should form a brush. Different kennel clubs allow Australian Kelpies to be shown in different colors. The UKC allows solid black, black with tan markings, solid blue (grey) of any shade. Blue (grey) dogs tan markings, solid red from chocolate to light, red with tan markings, and tan from dark to cream. A small patch of white no larger than a blaze is acceptable on the chest. White feet are not a disqualification but are a serious fault.
The Australian Kelpie is a tireless working dog. This breed has been bred to be the ideal stock herding dog and possesses all of the characteristics one would expect of such an animal. Thousands of Australian and American farmers would say that the Australian Kelpie is an absolutely indispensible part of their operations. Although Show Kelpies are slightly less energetic and driven than their working counterparts, the difference would only be noticeable to a farmer. Australian Kelpies are famed for their loyalty and devotion. This is a breed that forms an intense bond with its master that will last a lifetime. Some Australian Kelpies become one-person dogs, only caring for the company of their owner, but most will form friendships with others.
While this breed prefers to be in the company of its master, it was bred to work independently for hours on end, and is comfortable working on its own or with the help of other dogs. The Australian Kelpie is average when it comes to strangers. When properly socialized, most breed members will be friendly and polite with new people but not exceptionally excited to see them. When unsocialized, this breed can become nervous around new people or possibly slightly aggressive. This breed is highly alert at all times and makes an excellent watchdog. It is not unheard of for this breed to develop territorial aggression issues. While this breed is certainly willing to defend its home and family, the Australian Kelpie is not seen as an ideal guard dog because it is too small and not aggressive enough. Some Australian Kelpies have been trained as guard dogs with some success, but the breed is considerably less well-suited than others.
Many Australian Kelpies come from a hard day of work to live with their families. As a result, most breed members are quite accepting of children. Australian Kelpies may not be the ideal companion for young children. This breed may play a little bit too rough and bowl over toddlers in the process. The biggest issue that Australian Kelpie’s are likely to have with children is nipping. This breed herds sheep and other animals by nipping at their heels and occasionally by biting and dragging. This dog is likely to attempt to herd small children just as it would sheep, and may nip on occasion to do so. This problem is a matter of instinct rather than aggression and can be trained out.
The Australian Kelpie is average when it comes to other animals. This breed frequently works in the company of other Australian Kelpies, and often forms very close bonds with other dogs it knows well. This breed probably experiences an average-to-low level of dog aggression. However, most breed members will attempt to obtain a dominant position over other dogs, especially males. While not nearly as dominant as some other breeds, this tendency can cause problems. These dogs also have a tendency to herd other dogs, and may nip to do so. Many Australian Kelpies have issues with strange dogs entering what they perceive as their territory, although this breed is not frequently excessively territorial. Australian Kelpies were bred to work with livestock, and can be socialized to live with essentially any other animal. However, this breed will try to herd any creature, whether it is a cow or a cat. This may cause some household tension and the occasional injury to a small animal such as a rabbit or chicken. Although not common, when an Australian Kelpie is not socialized or trained properly its herding instinct may transform into a predatory drive.
The Australian Kelpie is one of the most intelligent and trainable of any dog breed. There is probably nothing that any dog can learn that an Australian Kelpie cannot, and this breed often learns very, very quickly. Although the intelligence of this breed is not studied to the extent of some others, it is likely that the Australian Kelpie is of comparable intelligent to the Border Collie, Standard Poodle, and German Shepherd. This breed excels at virtually any canine sport; agility trials, obedience competitions, sheepdog trials, fly ball, Frisbee, jumping contests, and many others. Although primarily employed as a stock dog, the Australian Kelpie has performed exceptionally as a search and rescue dog and as a law enforcement animal. For owners who know what they are doing, the Kelpie can become one of the most obedient and well-trained of all breeds. However, this breed presents great training challenges for owners who don’t know what they are doing. The Australian Kelpie is an independent breed, which is both capable of and enjoys doing things on its own. This is a breed that doesn’t need to be told what to do all of the time and seems to know it. These dogs are more than intelligent enough to figure out exactly who is in charge in any situation. While not an especially dominant breed, an Australian Kelpie will figure out very quickly who it has to respect and will not respect those that it does not. If you are not in charge of an Australian Kelpie, you will have serious problems as the breed is capable of an immense amount of mischief. Australian Kelpies can learn so quickly that it becomes a problem. If a behavior is uncorrected very few times, the breed will come to think that it is acceptable.
Australian Kelpies have one of the highest exercise requirements of any breed, if not the highest. These dogs were bred to work incredibly hard for hours upon hours. Most Australian Kelpies will keep going until they literally collapse from exhaustion. This dog is best suited to life as a working dog, especially if that life involves hours of livestock herding every day. This breed is so capable that is has become an indispensible part of the Australian sheepherding economy. However, this breed not only can exercise for long hours, it absolutely needs to. This is not a breed that will be happy with a long daily walk, or even a long daily run. These dogs need several hours of vigorous physical activity every day, and they will take as much as they are provided. These dogs need to run free, and any attempt to keep one in an apartment would likely meet with disaster. An average person would find it impossible to meet the needs of an Australian Kelpie, especially one from working lines, as they simply require too much exercise. If you are unable or unwilling to provide a dog with hours of vigorous activity every day, you should not acquire an Australian Kelpie. It is absolutely imperative that these dogs get the exercise that they need. Even the most well-trained and best behaved Australian Kelpie will become an absolute terror if they do not get their exercise needs met. This breed will go completely stir crazy if confined for too long. One of these dogs would and could destroy everything in a room, if not an entire house, as well as becoming excessively vocal, hyperactive, and overly excitable. This breed has such an intense need to exercise that if they are prevented from doing so they often develop long-term mental issues such as manias or obsessive compulsive behaviors. It is not enough for an Australian Kelpie to run; they need to use their minds as well. This intelligent dog craves work and mental stimulation. To keep one of these dogs happy, owners must provide them with some task to complete, whether that task is herding sheep or running through an agility course. Unlike most breeds, the energy and work drive of an Australian Kelpie does not diminish with age. Many breed members are still just as athletic when they are 10 or 12 as they were when they were 6 or 7.
The energy and drive of an Australian Kelpie makes the breed highly desirable to some fanciers. If you need a dog that will tireless and loyally herd sheep, cattle, or any other livestock, few if any breeds are as up to the challenge as an Australian Kelpie. For non-farmers, the breed can also hold appeal. Long-distance runners have used this breed to help them train for marathons. An Australian Kelpie in good health will keep going for just as long as the most athletic human being, and probably longer. This adaptable and intelligent breed is also physically and mentally capably of accompanying its master on almost any activity, whether it is surfing in the ocean or climbing mountains. The medium-size of this breed makes it relatively easily transportable, but be warned that these dogs will get dirty.
Australian Kelpies are some of the most infamous escape artists of any dog breed. These dogs have a tremendous urge to roam over large areas and hate to be confined for long periods, even in a huge back yard. This breed also loves to explore. The average Australian Kelpie wants to break out of any fence that it is put it. If a gate is left open, this dog is as good as gone. Of all breeds with a desire to break out, few are as physically and mentally capable as an Australian Kelpie. This breed is such a good problem solver that it will figure out any weakness in an enclosure, and figure it out quickly. If no obvious weakness is present, this dog can make its own by digging under a fence or breaking through it. What this breed is best at is jumping and climbing over fences. These dogs could scale a six foot fence with little to no effort, and may be able to go over a fence as high as nine feet. They can also jump onto one object and over a fence. Make sure that any enclosure which holds an Australian Kelpie is incredibly secure. Escaping Australian Kelpies are in even greater danger than many other breeds. Their herding instinct is so strong that they often attempt to herd cars by nipping at their wheels, which typically ends in tragedy.
Stockmen working in the Australian Outback would not have tolerated a dog which required any coat care. As a result, Australian Kelpies of any coat variety, especially Show Kelpies, have very low grooming requirements. An occasional brushing is all that they need. This breed should only be bathed when absolutely necessary in order to prevent the loss of natural protective oils. The area of biggest concern for Australian Kelpie owners is to check their dogs for injuries after a hard day of work. This breed will tirelessly and devotedly work through even severe injuries. Minor injuries will often go unnoticed and untreated on these tough and hardy dogs.
Australian Kelpies are regarded as being an exceptionally healthy breed. Working lines are considered extremely healthy for a pure bred dog, and show lines are considered much healthier than other show dogs. This breed has benefitted from having a wide gene pool, as Australian sheep herders mixed many different varieties in its creation and there are a great many Australian Kelpies alive today. This breed has also benefitted from being bred for working ability. Although the great variation which exists in Working Kelpies is not favored by breeders of most modern breeds, it has greatly increased the gene pool of the breed. The life expectancy for this breed is between 10 and 14 years, and most breed members live a year or two longer than other similarly sized breeds. However, these estimates take into account accidental deaths to which this breed is especially prone and barring injury their life expectancy is probably closer to 12 to 15 years. The majority of Australian Kelpies are not hindered by non-fatal health issues in their old age. Many breed members are capable of working well-past 10. This does not mean that the Australian Kelpie is immune from genetically inherited conditions, but it does mean that they suffer from fewer conditions than other breeds and at lower rates.
The biggest area of concern for Australian Kelpie owners is Progressive Retinal Atrophy. Progressive Retinal Atrophy is one of the most common problems found in purebred dogs. This condition results in the gradual deterioration of vision, which inevitably leads to blindness. Blindness can be difficult for any dog to accept, but this is especially the case for the driven and hard working Australian Kelpie. Progressive Retinal Atrophy is genetically inherited and there is no cure, although veterinarians are putting a substantial amount of research into the condition.
It is always advisable to get your pets tested by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and/or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, particularly if you intend to breed. The OFA and CERF test for various genetically inherited disorders such as blindness and hip dysplasia that may impact either your dog or its descendants.
A full list of health problems experienced by the Australian Kelpie would include: