Koolies: Australia's Other Herding Breed
Unlike the better-known Australian Shepherd and Australian Cattle Dog, the Australian Koolie has not yet established a foothold in the United States. Highly intelligent and loyal, the Koolie is one of Australia's oldest herding breeds, descended from Collies imported from Germany and England. Endlessly energetic and highly biddable, they make wonderful working dogs and excel in obedience and agility.
They are medium sized dogs, although they are bred for working ability instead of appearance. This means they can weigh anywhere from twenty to fifty pounds, with no breed standard to restrict them. Physically they can range from tall and lithe to short and compact. The most famous coat color in the breed is the distinctive blue merle, but they come in solid, tricolor, and red merle as well. Their ears are generally pricked but also come floppy.
Koolies have a cat-like tendency to climb things. They're known for traveling along the backs of sheep while working, instead of having to force their way through a herd. Koolies need lots of exercise and mental stimulation- they are not a couch potato breed! However, when properly cared for, they are known for having an off-switch in the house. Koolies enjoy spending time in the water, making fetch and swimming a great way to burn some energy. With proper socialization, they can be good with other dogs and animals; a herding dog needs to be able to cooperate with other dogs, and be non-aggressive toward their charges. They may display a tendency to chase things that run from them, but that is true for most drivey dog breeds.
Is the Koolie Right for You?
It's important to remember that this is not a breed you should purchase based on looks. While incredibly handsome dogs, they are bred for a purpose and need a job. If you like the intelligence and athleticism of more popular herders, but prefer the sociability and smooth coat of the Koolie, then they may be the breed for you. You will need to devote several hours a day to quality time with your dog, whether it be through herding, agility, or long walks and jogs. Fortunately for the breed, they have avoided irresponsible handling in the US simply because they are so difficult to get.
Finding a Breeder
If you're a resident of the USA, buying a Koolie can be difficult. There are few, if any, responsible breeders in America currently producing litters. The most common method of obtaining a Koolie is by importing a puppy from Australia. This can be quite expensive- the cost to import alone is approximately $2000. And that's not including the price of the pup. If you truly feel, however, that a Koolie is the perfect dog for you, you can get started in your search by visiting the website of the Koolie Club of Australia.
Whether or not you're smitten, certainly everyone can stop and admire this little-known breed!