Kelpies are an iconic sheep herding dog breed. They were brought to Australia in the late 1800s from Scotland. However, two different variations of kelpie dog were developed in Australia – a working dog, which can endure the challenging climate of the continent and a calmer dog, which typically lives in the city. For a long time it was believed that Australian kelpies were bred with dingoes to be more resilient, but is that true?

Australian kelpie is a great shepard and a very resilient dog, but it is not related to dingo. Image credit: Pertti Kärppä via Wikimedia

No, say scientists from the University of Sydney. Researchers conducted a study have found no genetic evidence that the iconic Australian kelpie shares canine ancestry with a dingo. The story that kelpies were bred with dingoes is just a myth. Some kelpie enthusiasts may be sad, because this old bush myth was cultivated online and was a part of “fun facts” about the iconic bread of dogs. Many owners were proud to have a dog with dingo genes, but that is simply not true.

Dingoes arrived to current Australia some 4000 years ago, most likely from Asia. Dingoes, of course, are very well adapted to the Australian climate. Having a dog with dingo genes would be great, but scientists analysed known gene variants of both kelpie types (Australian kelpie; Australian working kelpie) and compared the variants present with those in sequenced Australian dingoes. And no important variations pointed to family ties. All in all, Australian kelpies are not related to dingoes.

Kelpies are already very resistant to hard working conditions and challenging Australian climate. Scientists are not sure whether dingo genes could have provided any substantial benefits. So why people loved this old bush myth so much? Claire Wade, one of the authors of the study, said: “There’s a bit of Australiana and sentiment here. We wish the Australian kelpie was somehow special or unique to us. But the breed has come from Scotland and the way we made it our own was by selecting it for our harsh climate”.

Kelpies are great dogs for sheep farms. They are intelligent, obedient and very athletic. They are also mighty resilient. These dogs spend the hottest hours of the day outside herding sheep without even asking for a raise. They are also great family dogs if you don’t mind the exercise. However, it is not a dingo. And it doesn’t have to be. Although this old bush tale is just a myth, Australian kelpie is still a great dog as is.

Source:  University of Sydney