Probably descended from the border collie and the dingo, the breed has been known since 1870
The Australian Kelpie, or simply Kelpie, is an Australian sheep dog successful at mustering and droving with little or no guidance. It is a medium-sized dog and comes in a variety of colours. The Kelpie has been exported throughout the world and is used to muster livestock, primarily sheep, cattle and goats.
The breed has been separated into two distinct varieties: the Show (or Bench) Kelpie and the Working Kelpie. The Show Kelpie is seen at conformation dog shows in some countries and is selected for appearance rather than working instinct, while the Working Kelpie is bred for working ability rather than appearance
The ancestors of the Kelpie were simply (black) dogs, called Colleys or Collies. The word collie has the same root as coal and collier (a ship). Some of these collies were imported to Australia for stock work in the early 19th century, and were bred to other types of dogs (possibly including the occasional Dingo), but always with an eye to working sheep without direct supervision. Today’s Collie breeds were not formed until about ten or 15 years after the Kelpie was established as a breed, with the first official Border Collie not brought to Australia until after Federation in 1901.
Kelpies are partly descended from Dingoes, with 3–4% of their genes coming from the native Australian dog. At the time of the origin of the breed, it was illegal to keep dingoes as pets, some dingo owners registered their animals as Kelpies or Kelpie crosses. Kelpies and dingoes are similar in conformation and colouring. There is no doubt that some people have deliberately mated dingoes to their Kelpies, and some opinion holds that the best dilution is 1/16–1/32, but that 1/2 and 1/4 will work. As the Dingo has been regarded as a savage sheep-killer since the first European settlement of Australia, few will admit to the practice.
The first dog called a Kelpie was a black and tan female pup with floppy ears bought by Jack Gleeson about 1872 from a litter born on Warrock Station near Casterton, owned by George Robertson, a Scot. This dog was named kelpieafter the kelpie, a mythological shape shifting water spirit of Celtic folklore. Legend has it that “Kelpie” was sired by a dingo, but there is little evidence for or against this. In later years she was referred to as “(Gleeson’s) Kelpie”, to differentiate her from “(King’s) Kelpie”, her daughter.
The second “Kelpie” was “(King’s) Kelpie”, another black and tan bitch out of “Kelpie” by “Caesar”, a pup from two sheepdogs imported from Scotland.
An early Kelpie, Sally, was mated to Moss, a smooth haired Collie, and she produced a black pup that was named Barb after The Barb, a black horse which had won the Melbourne Cup in 1866. Consequently, black Kelpies became known as Barb Kelpies.