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  • Temperament: Alert, Eager, Intelligent
  • Height: 19-25 inches
  • Weight: 28-60 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12-15 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
Working Kelpie lying facing left, head turned forward.
Working Kelpie standing in three-quarter view in a sheep pen.
Working Kelpie in three-quarter view walking with a stick in its mouth.
Working Kelpie standing in three-quarter view on the bank of body of water.
Working Kelpie leaping over a horizontal agility pole.
Working Kelpie in action herding sheep in a pen.

About the Working Kelpie

The overall appearance of the Working Kelpie is that of a medium-sized, lithe, active, strongly-muscled dog conveying the capability of untiring work. He has been successfully used to manage a variety of stock, including reindeer, goats, cattle and of course sheep. Kelpies in Sweden have gained police dog titles and have pulled sleds. They are also being widely used as search and rescue dogs.

Kelpies need companionship. Though he can be content to stay for hours on the chain, he also needs to be with you for some time each day and needs exercise, walks or games with a ball or a stick. One cannot expect this dog, which has been bred to work, to stay outside the house without any mental or physical stimulation. Inevitably, he will set about looking for an occupation, which could include chasing cars, trying to ‘work’ them as he would control sheep. A Working Kelpie makes a fine family dog, gets along well with ‘his’ children and, because they are naturally gentle, almost all Working Kelpies live peaceably with other family pets.

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.
Two Working Kelpie puppies standing facing right playing with each other.

Find a Puppy: Working 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.



The Working 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.


As a smooth-coated breed with minimal undercoat, it will suffice to occasionally go over your Working Kelpie with a hound mitt to remove any dried-on dirt. Beyond regular weekly grooming, the occasional bath will keep your Working Kelpie clean and looking his best. Grooming can be a wonderful bonding experience for you and your pet. The strong, fast-growing nails should be trimmed when needed with a nail clipper or grinder to avoid overgrowth, splitting, and cracking. The ears should be checked occasionally to avoid a buildup of wax and debris, which can result in infection. Teeth should be brushed as needed.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Occasional Bath/Brush




Working Kelpies are very energetic and require a lot of exercise. Options for exercise include play time in the backyard, preferably fenced, or going for walks several times a day. Exercise can also come in the form of indoor activities, like hide-and-seek, chasing a ball rolled along the floor, or learning new tricks. Certain outdoor activities like hiking and retrieving balls or flying discs can provide a good outlet for expending energy. Training for dog sports like agility, obedience, and rally is also a possibility.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity


Dogs should be trained or taken to reputable training classes from the age of 16 weeks to learn basic commands. Appropriate advice (e.g. from a reputable livestock working dog handler/trainer or veterinarian, or dog behaviorist) should be sought at the early stages of a behavioral problem. Training sessions should be short and regular and should be determined by the animal’s reactions and condition, without overworking the animal.


May be Stubborn
Eager to Please




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


Recommended Health Tests

  • Elbow
  • Hips
Working Kelpie head in three-quarter view.
Working Kelpie
Working Kelpie
Working Kelpie
Two Working Kelpies standing side by side outdoors.


Historically, it is interesting to observe that the dogs which formed the foundation of the Australian Working Kelpie sheepdog were not owned, as one might expect, by shepherds, but land/property holders who were members of highly-respected and well-known families. George Robertson and his cousin John G. Robertson came from Scotland to Victoria; the 5 Rutherford brothers immigrated to Australia in the mid-1800s and are from a very well-established sheep farming family in Sutherlandshire, NSW; Gilbert S. Elliot and William Allan were both sons of very well-connected families in England and Scotland. The foundation of the Kelpie breed happened by sheer chance and the results have been of tremendous value to the Australian pastoral industries.

The breed’s origins begin with a pair of black and tan Collies, named Brutus and Jennie, who were brought from Jedburgh, Scotland by Arthur Robinson for his brother-in-law Gilbert Elliot. Following the death of Gilbert Elliot, William Allan took Brutus with him to Queensland. Caesar, one of the litter born on the way to Australia, became the property of Mr. John Rich of Narriah station, a property that adjoined Yalgogrin. It was while Jack Gleeson was managing Yalgogrin that he mated his dog, named Kelpie, to Caesar to produce the litter of which Kings Kelpie was a part.

Because of the short time between the arrival of Brutus and Jennie, Gilbert Elliot’s death, and Williams Allan’s move to Queensland, the bloodlines of this imported Collie pair was limited and, to date, the only records held are that Caesar mated to Gleeson’s Kelpie producing Kings Kelpie; Nero owned by James Cunningham of Kildary station; Swan ll and Wylie ll all of which bred on well; Laddie, Caesar’s litter brother, was mated to King’s Kelpie to produce the dam of The Barb and a couple of unnamed dogs bred and owned by R M Macpherson. During the 1800s, these early ancestors of the Working Kelpie were shown and displayed at various sheepdog trials and other competitions, where they won not only the competitions, but the love and admiration of the people who watched them work so quickly and effortlessly.

Kelpies have been exported throughout the world and are used to muster livestock, primarily sheep, cattle and goats. They were brought to North America around the turn of the century to expedite livestock handling.

Did You Know?

The Working Kelpie has been recorded in the Foundation Stock Service since March 11, 2014.
The Working Kelpie has been assigned the Herding Group designation.
Kelpies originated in Australia around 1870.
Kelpies "back" sheep. They run across the backs of sheep to move them through tight places.
Kelpies stand on their hind legs to look around.

The Breed Standard


The overall appearance of the Working Kelpie should be that of a medium sized, lithe, active, strongly muscled dog possessing great suppleness of limb, and conveying the capability of untiring work.


An acceptable Kelpie type head has a slightly rounded skull, broad between well-pricked ears, forehead curved very slightly towards a pronounced stop. The cheeks neither coarse nor prominent but rounded to the fore face, cleanly chiselled and defined. The muzzle, of moderate length tapered towards the nose and refined in comparison to the skull; lips tight and clean.
Teeth should be sound, strong and evenly spaced. The lower incisors just behind but touching the upper.
The overall placement in the skull should provide the widest possible field of vision without the need of head movement with the eyes slightly oval shaped, of medium size and widely spaced, clearly defined at the corners and showing a kind, intelligent and eager expression.
Ears should be widely spaced, pricked and running to a fine point at the tip, the leather fine but strong at the base, inclining outwards and slightly curved on the outer edge and of moderate size; the inside of the ears well furnished with hair to discourage entry of foreign bodies. Comment There should be a marked ability to rotate the ear to catch sound to minimise head movement.


The neck should be of fair length, strong, slightly arched and showing quality, gradually moulding into the shoulders. Comment – Incorrect attachment at head or shoulder; short thick ‘bull’ or ‘ewe’ neck are undesirable structural faults.
The shoulders should be clean, muscular, with a long sloping shoulder blade (scapula) set at approximately 45 degree angle to the ground; close-set withers, upper arm (humerus) forming a near 90 degree angle with the blade (scapula) and appropriately angulated to the forearm (radius and ulna) with elbows set parallel to the body. Particular emphasis should be placed on the sloping shoulder.
The chest should be deep, rather than wide; ribs well sprung (not barrel-ribbed) with a top line showing a rise at the withers (to allow sufficient action of the forequarters); strong and well muscled loins, sloping to the butt of the tail.
The body measured from the point of the breast bone in a straight line to the buttocks should be greater than the height at the withers, as 10 units is to 9 units. e g a dog 18 inches in height should measure 20 inches in length.
When viewed from the side the butt of the tail should be well let down. During inactivity the tail should hang in a slight curve reaching the hock -longer rather than shorter is desirable.
Classified as a medium sized dog with a height to length ratio of 9 10.


Forequarters: As a whole should be clean, muscular with sloping shoulders close-set at the withers; elbows set parallel with the body. The forelegs should be muscular with strong but refined bone, perfectly straight when viewed from the front, but pasterns should show a slight angulation to the forearm when viewed from the side.
Forelegs: Clean, muscular, refined boned and perfectly straight when viewed from the front. The length of leg should be approximately the same from the point of elbow (tip of the ulna) to the ground as is the distance from the wither to the base of the rib cage, with preference towards longer rather than shorter forelegs. The pastern should show a slight angle with the forearm when viewed from side.


Should show breadth and strength with the rump rather long and sloping; the upper thigh (femur) well set into the hip socket at the pelvis at a corresponding angle to the shoulder blade. When viewed from the side the overall upper line of rump and tail should form a smooth curve when the dog is standing at rest. The stifles (junction of femur with tibia and fibula) well turned (angled), the hocks fairly well let down and placed parallel with the body when viewed from behind.
The hind feet should be slightly elongated in comparison with the front feet, strong, deep in the pads, with flexible well arched toes with strong short nails to allow the dog maximum thrust under differing ground surfaces.


The outer coat should be moderately short, flat, and straight and weather resisting, with or without a short dense undercoat. On the head, ears, feet and legs the hair should be short. The coat can be slightly longer at the neck, at the rear of the thighs, and on the underside of the tail to form a brush.
Any color and markings historically associated with the development of the breed. For example Black with or without tan; blue (grey) ranging from dark to light, with or without tan; red ranging from chocolate to light red, with or without tan; fawn ranging from dark to light, with or without tan; tan ranging from dark to cream; Tan marking ranging from dark tan to cream and present in varying amounts.

Working Kelpie illustration.

Colors & Markings


Description Standard Colors Registration Code
Black Check Mark For Standard Color 007
Blue Check Mark For Standard Color 037
Fawn Check Mark For Standard Color 082
Red Check Mark For Standard Color 140


Description Standard Markings Registration Code
Tan Points Check Mark For Standard Mark 029
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