Fast Facts

Strewth! Your kelpie is not a dingo

Image courtesy of University of Sydney

Despite Australian bush myth, there is no genetic evidence that the iconic Australian kelpie shares canine ancestry with a dingo.

A University of Sydney study found that the domestic and wild dogs share no detectable common DNA in genes impacting coat colour and ear type.

Some kelpie owners and ‘old-timers’ believe the kelpie breed contains genes from the Australian dingo, said Professor Claire Wade in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences.

“It has been said that the dingo was mixed with the kelpie, which originally came from Scotland, to produce a more-resilient and hardy dog that could withstand hot, dry Australian conditions,” Professor Wade said.

“Our analysis shows there is no genetic evidence for this from any genes affecting the way the domestic and wild dogs look,” Professor Wade says.

Professor Wade, who is an expert in dog genetics, said some people have come to believe there is a connection simply because the two dogs look similar.

They both have pricked up ears, a similar body shape and hair texture, and some kelpies are yellow or cream in colour.

“There’s a bit of Australiana and sentiment here,” Professor Wade said.

“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.”

The kelpie was brought to Australia in the late 1800s. They are a herding dog derived from the Scottish smooth collie or farm collie.

The kelpie samples in the research were obtained as part of a larger genetic project helping breeders produce the best possible working dogs.

Owners of working kelpies are invited to take part in a survey of current working dogs and their behaviours.

This article was first published in The Fence magazine.

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