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  • Temperament: Loyal, Alert, Intelligent
  • Height: 17-20 inches
  • Life Expectancy: 10-13 years
  • Group: Foundation Stock Service

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Breed Standard
Australian Kelpie jumping over a horizontal agility pole.
Two Australian Kelpies sitting side by side, one brown-coated and one black-coated.
Australian Kelpie leaping around vertical agility poles.

About the Australian Kelpie

As a herding dog, the Australian Kelpie is intensely loyal and devoted to duty. He has a natural instinct and aptitude for working in sheep, whether it be in open fields or enclosed yards. This breed originated from Collie type dogs imported from Scotland, but was developed to withstand the harsh heat and dry conditions of the vast open spaces of Australia.

National Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Australian Kelpie walking down a steep slope outdoors.

Find a Puppy: Australian Kelpie

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find Australian Kelpie Puppies



The Australian Kelpie should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.


The Australian Kelpie has a double coat with a short, dense undercoat. The outer coat is close, each hair straight, hard and lying flat, so that it resists rain. Kelpies need weekly brushing or combing to remove dead hairs, and the occasional bath will keep them clean and looking their best. Otherwise, the Kelpie is a relatively low-maintenance breed.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Weekly Brushing




Australian Kelpies need a lot of exercise to be their happiest selves. A good jog or long workout combined with the mental exercise of obedience lessons should be done daily. Kelpies prefer to have a job to do (they will try to herd other dogs, pets, even children), but they also have an “off” switch. They can do a five-mile run, then settle on the couch with the family to watch a movie. Kelpies are not suited to apartment living as they need space for their limitless energy.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity


Training for dog sports like agility, obedience and rally can be a great way to give your dog exercise. Kelpies are eager for a job to do, so giving them the mental exercise that training provides is a great way to keep them happy and involved.


May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Eager to Please




Most Australian Kelpies are healthy dogs. Working with a responsible breeder, those wishing to own a Kelpie can gain the education they need about specific health concerns. Good breeders utilize genetic testing of their breeding stock to reduce the likelihood of disease in their puppies.

Australian Kelpie sitting on a boulder
Australian Kelpie head and shoulders portrait.
Australian Kelpie weaving through vertical poles in an agility course.
Australian Kelpie leaping through an agility hoop.


Following the opening of vast areas of land in the Australian States of New South Wales and Victoria, the sheep numbers increased so dramatically that some properties were over two million acres and ran over a quarter of a million sheep. In areas as extensive as these, herding (originally carried out by convicts) was impractical, wire fences were erected and sheep were left to run free. It was then necessary to have dogs to handle sheep in such large areas. A dog had to be developed to work in the conditions present in Australia. These conditions included heat, rough terrain, dust storms and vast distances. The Kelpie being able to perform the work of several men, were tireless workers in the hottest and dustiest of climates.

Like so many breeds, the origin of the Kelpie is disputed. There is no doubt, however, that the origin of the breed came from dogs imported from Scotland. These dogs were black and tan, longhaired with semi-pricked ears, medium-sized and of Collie type. Others were smooth-haired with erect ears, but still of Collie type. Litters from these dogs also produced red (liverbrown) puppies.

Did You Know?

The Australian Kelpie has been recorded in the Foundation Stock Service since July 10, 2017.
An all-black Australian Kelpie is also known as a Barb.
The word "kelpie" is Gaelic, meaning water sprite.
The Australian Kelpie has been assigned the Herding Group designation.
On August 5, 2017, an Australian Kelpie name Abbie Girl won the World Dog Surfing Championship in Pacifica, California for the second year in a row.
The breed is also known by its shortened name: Kelpie.
Australian Kelpies make excellent watchdogs and can be trained as seeing-eye dogs.

The Breed Standard


The general appearance shall be that of a lithe, active dog of great quality, showing hard muscular condition combined with great suppleness of limb and conveying the capability of untiring work. It must be free from any suggestion of weediness.
Important Proportions: The length of the dog from the forechest, in a straight line to the buttocks, is greater than the height at the withers, as 10 is to 9.


The head is in proportion to the size of the dog. The overall shape and contours produce a rather fox like expression, which is softened by the almond-shaped eyes.
Skull: Slightly rounded and broad between the ears. The forehead running in a straight profile towards the stop.
Stop: Pronounced.
Nose: The colour conforms to that of the body coat.
Muzzle: Cleanly chiselled and defined, preferably slightly shorter in length than the skull.
Lips: Tight and clean, free from looseness.
Jaws/Teeth: The teeth should be sound, strong and evenly spaced, the lower incisors just behind but touching the upper; that is a scissor bite.
Cheeks: Neither coarse nor prominent, but round to the foreface.
Eyes: The eyes are almond shaped, of medium size, clearly defined at the corners, and show an intelligent and eager expression. The colour of the eyes to be brown, harmonising with the colour of the coat.
In the case of blue dogs a lighter coloured eye is permissible.
Ears: The ears are pricked and running to a fine point at the tips, the leather fine but strong at the base, set wide apart on the skull and inclining outwards, slightly curved on the outer edge and of moderate size. The inside of the ears are well furnished with hair.


Neck: The neck is of moderate length, strong, slightly arched, gradually moulding into the shoulders, free from throatiness and showing a fair amount of ruff.
Topline: Firm, level.
Loins: Strong and well muscled. Flanks of good depth.
Croup: Rather long and sloping.
Chest: Deep, muscular and moderately broad. Ribs well sprung and carried well back, not barrel ribbed.
Tail: The tail during rest should hang in a very slight curve. During movement of excitement it may be raised, but under no circumstances should the tail be carried past a vertical line drawn through the root. It should be furnished with a good brush.
Set on a position to blend with sloping croup, and it should reach approximately to the hock.


General appearance: The forelegs should be muscular with strong but refined bone, straight and parallel when viewed from the front.
Shoulder: Clean, muscular, well sloping with the shoulder-blades close set at the withers.
Upperarm: Should be at a right angle with the shoulder-blade. Elbow: Neither in nor out.
Metacarpus (Pastern): When viewed from the side, the pasterns should show a slight slope to ensure flexibility of movement and the ability to turn quickly.
Forefeet: The feet should be round, strong, deep in pads, with close knit well arched toes and strong, short nails.


General appearance: Should show breadth and strength. When viewed from behind, the hind legs, from the hocks to the feet, are straight and placed parallel, neither close nor too wide apart. Stifle (Knee): Well turned.
Hock joint: Fairly well let down.
Hind feet: The feet should be round, strong, deep in pads, with close knit well arched toes and strong short nails.


Hair: The coat is a double coat with a short dense undercoat. The outer coat is close, each hair straight, hard and lying flat, so that it is rain-resisting. Under the body, to behind the legs, the coat is longer and forms near the thigh a mild form of breeching.
On the head (including the inside of the ears), to the front of the legs and feet, the hair is short. Along the neck it is longer and thicker forming a ruff. The tail should be furnished with a good brush. A coat either too long or too short is a fault. As an average, the hairs on the body should be from 2 to 3 cms in length.
Color: Black, black and tan, red, red and tan, fawn, chocolate, and smoke blue.

Australian Kelpie illustration.

Colors & Markings


Description Standard Colors Registration Code
Black Check Mark For Standard Color 007
Black & Tan Check Mark For Standard Color 018
Blue Check Mark For Standard Color 037
Chocolate Check Mark For Standard Color 071
Fawn Check Mark For Standard Color 082
Red Check Mark For Standard Color 140
Red & Tan Check Mark For Standard Color 250
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