Information about the Koolie

The Koolie or Coolie, also known as the Australian Koolie or the German Koolie is an Australian dog breed. Specifically, it is a herding dog, a subcategory of a working dog. Koolies have existed in Australia since the early 19th century, established through old photos owned by elder Koolie breeders and personal records such as diaries.

The Koolie Club of Australia defines the breed based on its ability to work rather than on its conformation. However, most Koolie breeders refer to the Koolie as a breed rather than as a type, and assert that it “breeds true”, with various types or strains within the breed.

Many countries will gather their working dogs under the same category like Germany with their herding dog breeds all classed as Altdeutsche Hütehunde (heading dogs). New Zealand not only classify their breeds this way, but they also grade them by their working traits. Koolies in New Zealand are registered as a “heading dog”: A dog which has a natural instinct to cast out (i.e., circle widely), round sheep and bring them back to their owner. The Koolie is known as a silent working dog. They are used for ‘heading’ sheep and also for quiet careful work at close quarters at lambing time or for ‘shedding’ (cutting out) sheep. It is only through the registrar of the Australian Koolie Club that these bloodlines remain an integral part of the breed and are active contributors to the Koolie gene pool. New Zealand Koolie breeders are working towards having the Koolie recognised under their own breed name as they have been in Australia.

The Koolie is as diverse as the country it originates from, Australia. In the north of Queensland and New South Wales they are tall, medium boned and agile, bred for mustering Simmental Cattle and Brahma over many miles. In The Hunter Valley region and Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, they’re thicker set and shorter to flush low lying cattle from the dense bush and gullies. In Victoria, one finds the smallest variety of the Koolie. Koolies are bred to meet the needs of the stockman, grazier and farmer, all agile, all with the same ability to adapt to any situation, all with a strong willingness drive. The Koolie vary from 40 to 60 centimetres (16 to 24 in) in size and are a contrast of coat, colour and body type, although they are merled coat pattern. The solid red or black Koolie are often mistaken for Kelpies, and some bi coloured Koolie have been taken for Border Collies by the general public, rarely if ever by breeders. As all of these breeds share Collie ancestry, they resemble each other.

The Koolie coat ranges from short/smooth (like that of the original blue merle Collies from Scotland) short (like a working Kelpie) medium and not common long (like the show Border Collie). Koolies are typically slightly longer than tall. The majority of owners prefer the short/smooth coats as they do not pick up grass seed, bur and are very easy to maintain, with the occasional swim to keep the coat glossy and free of parasites.

Koolie colours can be solid (all one colour black or red/chocolate this includes Koolie who are cryptic merle: carry the merle gene but do not display it obviously) “bi” (black & white or red & white) “tri” (solid red or black, with white markings, normally with brown points), or “tri merle” (same description but merle) “merle” (grey, black,red/chocolate or white undercoat with large splashes of darker colourings of red/chocolate for red merles or black, grey for blue merles). Black Koolies will commonly have a black nose with black eyes, or tones of black including blue. Red or chocolate Koolies will commonly have a red or chocolate nose with brown eyes, or tones of brown, including yellow, and there can be combinations of both black or brown with the added blue eye.

Graziers, stockmen and dairy farmers across Australia since days long past have typically selected breeds which display the abilities required to meet their working needs. The temperament found in a Koolie is a culmination of these much sought after abilities. The optimal worker possesses a combination of working skills and bonding temperament.

There are times when an uninitiated dog owner or a new enthusiast mistakes the Koolie as a shy, reserved or even a timid animal. The Koolie’s temperament needs to be understood in proper context when one seeks an optimal match of skills and demeanour. Koolies are intelligent animals, and the most experienced handlers know well that they need guidance in training. A steady and supportive approach will be productive, proving the Koolie’s adaptability in diverse situations when given time.

Owners will be rewarded through the Koolie’s diligence in varied roles such as in work situations, sporting activities, loyal service or the time honoured role of companionship. Known to be patient, temperate, dedicated, with a strong sense of willingness and devotion; the Koolie is not naturally aggressive but can demonstrate dominance. They show an untiring enthusiasm for work and an admirable hardiness when the job or circumstance requires.

Koolies are much sought-after in rural Australia, and interest is now being shown in America, Canada, Germany, Finland, New Zealand and Tasmania. According to Geoff Broughton, past president of the Koolie Club of Australia for 7 years, the Koolie will head (move to the front or head of the stock to push them back towards you), heel or drive, (push the stock from behind), cast (move out and around the stock), block (hold the stock or block them from in front, in three sheep trials this action is called the pick up) and back (literally jump onto the backs of their charges to herd them if necessary). Koolies have a reputation for being upright workers with a good eye, who can easily shift their focus from holding the group to casting around a flock or gathering breakaways. They are not known for having “sticky eyes” (focusing on the sheep in front only). Unlike other working breeds, which are noted for their crouched form or style and preference for either yard or field work, Koolies are at ease working in closed surroundings such as yards or trucks and being out in paddocks and droving. As well as working anything from ducks to bulls, like all dogs of their kind they will herd family members and children in the absence of other charges.

Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Koolies exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in stock dog trials.