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Dingo Trapper with dead Black & Tan Dingo

Photo: Gary Steer


These days with most Australians living in cities and suburbs very few will ever see a Dingo in the wild but in the 1800's they were extremely plentiful even around the largest Australian city of Sydney. In Robert Kaleski's famous book 'Barkers and Biters' published in 1914 (revised 1933), he wrote: " Dingoes are becoming scarcer in the settled districts. In the old days they simply swarmed around Sydney. The red road which joins the Southern and Western Roads at Granville (Known as Dogtrap Road) was so called because Dingoes were so numerous on it that the settlers used to trap them in pit-traps to thin them. ... There are a fair number of Dingoes still in the wild country close to Sydney."

This area that Mr. Kaleski talks about in the early 1900's is now completely build out with houses, shops and industry. Mr. Kaleski was regarded as the leading Australian authority on sheepdogs in his day and even though he spent a considerable amount of money and time tracking down the true pedigree of Gleesons Kelpie he was unable to be completely satisfied. In the same book he later wrote: " The Kelpie approaches the Dingo type more nearly every year."


The strongest argument to suggest that a lot of crossbreeding was done between Dingoes and sheepdogs is that we know at one time Dingoes were very easy to obtain and use for a mating. The Dingo would seem an obvious choice to breed dogs that were capable of handling the heat and long distances a sheepdog needed to cover in its day to day work.

Typical Yellow Dingo

The native population of Australia, the Aboriginals were well known for keeping Dingoes as pets. Although some tribes used them as hunting dogs this was rare and most were only kept as companions. Fossil records have also shown that Dingoes were kept and looked after for many thousands of years.

C.P.Mountford, an early anthropologist, closely watched the relationship between the Aboriginals and the Dingo. " The Aboriginal's dog is happiest when close to its human companions .... At Ernabella some dogs had pulled a small bag of flour from the stack, torn it open and had a meal. I went across to the camp and made a fuss about the theft; but every women assured me it was someone else's dog which had stolen my food. Yet sitting around those women's fires were the dogs carrying their guilt with them, for each had some of the tell-tale flour stuck to its wet nose." - C.P. Mountford

Keeping dingoes as pets was not confined to the Aboriginals. In fact the first Governor, Captain Arthur Phillip took a Dingo pup as a pet soon after landing in Australia. -" The only domestic animals they have (the natives) is the dog ... These animals are equally shy of us, and attached to the natives. One of them is now in the possession of the Governor, and tolerably well reconciled to his new master" - An account from 'Sydney's First Four Years'.

Also, according to the book 'Dingoes Don't Bark' by Lionel Hudson (1974), in the early 1830's it was fashionable to keep Dingo pups in the colony.

In the 1800's and early 1900's, Aboriginal families often lived on the outskirts of large sheep stations and they had Dingoes as pets and hunting dogs. It is reasonable to suggest that with the easy availability of Dingoes and the fact that they could handle the conditions in the harsh Australian climate so well, that sheepdog breeders would use a percentage of Dingo blood in their breeding programs.

Another interesting fact that is often forgotten is that many of the early shepherds had Dingo pups as pets. Their life was a very lonely one and a pet provided companionship. Some of these Dingo pups were found when they were out with their sheep, others were swapped with the Aborigines for tobacco. In the 1860's the shepherds were being phased out in favour of fencing and herding type sheepdogs. This is the same period that the Kelpie breed was formed.

If the Dingo is in the breeding of the Kelpie why has it been denied for so long? This question is easy to answer. The Dingo for over 100 years has been regarded as a pest and a bounty was paid for every scalp taken from a Dingo and handed in. It was only thought of as a savage sheep killer and they were destroyed on sight. It is quite likely that if a stockman was using a sheepdog that carried Dingo blood it would be denied. It has only been in recent years that Australians have come to appreciate any good qualities of our native dog.



Rare photo of Aboriginal women holding Dingoes around their waists



The Australian Cattledog is another working breed that was wholly developed in Australia for Australian conditions. Unlike the Kelpie there is no doubt about the Dingo being in the makeup of this popular breed. These dogs were originally divided into two varieties, the Red-Speckled Heeler and the Blue-Speckled Heeler. It is thought that Mr. Hall of Muswellbrook in NSW was the first to cross his imported merled Smooth Highland sheepdogs with Dingoes.

Robert Kaleski wrote a good deal about this breed in his famous old book, Barkers & Biters. Mr. Kaleski got rid of his own crossbred cattledogs and bought in these new Blue-Speckled Heelers in 1893. In 1903, he went on to write up the first breed standard for the dog which was published in the Agricultural Gazette of NSW.and adopted by the old Kennel Club of NSW. He wrote: " These Speckled Heelers are just like a small, thick-set Dingo to look at except in colour; if you met one in the bush you would shoot it for its scalp. And yet they do not want to go hunting at all; working cattle or horses is all they care about."


The Dingo these days is regarded as a special and unique Australian animal. Scientists state that it is the oldest form of wild dog still in existence. The Dingo has found respectability. However it wasn't so many years ago that the Dingo was considered nothing but a pest and a killer. To call someone a 'Dingo' was an insult that meant the person was sneaky and devious.

Today some breeders would like there to be an infusion of Dingo blood in the breed and they promote the breed as such. Others have the opposite view and will not hear of any Dingo blood messing up the pure lines of the Kelpie. The truth may fall somewhere in between.


DR. R.B. KELLEY - Geneticist and Author of 'Sheep Dogs' (1942)

"There can be no reasonable doubt that collies imported from the Old Country were crossed with Australian Dingoes, either accidentally or deliberately, and probably under both circumstances, to give rise to Kelpie-like dogs. But there is justifiable doubt of this as the only origin of Kelpies. Nevertheless, such crosses are biologically possible. They have been made repeatedly and their progeny, bred within themselves, give rise to animals in all respects similar to a standard Kelpie."


HERB MORRICE 1884 - 1969 (Artesian Kelpie Stud)

In a letter written to Dr. Kelley (dated 17 January 1946) and quoted in full in his book 'Sheep Dogs'. Herb Morrice, well known Kelpie breeder, trainer & triallist had this to say on the subject;

"Admitting that crosses have occurred, either accidentally or intentionally, the really good Kelpie of today (1946) definitely does not originate from any Dingo cross and any good that may be in those having a Dingo strain is not due to it. ....As far back as 1900, I tried the Dingo cross with no result except waste of time. In later years, due to so frequently hearing many unfounded stories of the wonderful Kelpies bred from the Dingo strain, I was persuaded to try again.

This time I went to a lot of trouble to get a suitable Dingo. Eventually, a reliable black-boy (Australian Aborigine) got me a bitch pup from a burrow after having seen both parents several times. This was up in the Gregory Ranges, hundreds of miles away from any habitation. He reared the pup and eventually gave it to me. She was a lovely animal and I would say, as pure a Dingo as it is possible to get. I kept her on a long running chain between two trees for over a year, then she was served by a beautifully bred black dog, Wilga, an unbeaten trial dog, a lovely type, a proved sire and the best dog I have known for general work, trial work, temperament, constitution and in every way.

The result of this mating was four pups, two yellow and two black. I kept the two blacks, a dog and a bitch. The bitch was lovely in appearance but being infertile, she was destroyed. The dog was mated with a suitable bitch and a yellow bitch pup was reserved. It in turn, was mated to a suitable red dog. I handled a red bitch from this mating (7/8 Kelpie, 1/8 Dingo). She was a moderate Kelpie type, a quiet harmless little thing and a very moderate worker. When close to her sheep she would not bite and she had a good idea of holding together and driving. This bitch was then mated with a very good black and tan Kelpie dog, and a black and tan bitch pup (1/16th Dingo) was reserved for handling. She was a bit better in type and style of working, but was just an ordinary drover's type of dog. This bitch now has a grown up litter (1/32 Dingo) all showing signs of fair Kelpie type and keenness to work, but in an ordinary common way. Every dog and bitch used in crossing with this Dingo and its descendants, was a highly-bred and high-class working Kelpie."

According to the book, 'Dogs of Australia' by the Victorian Kennel Council (1973), the Kelpie, Artesian Jacko was reported to be a product of a Dingo-Kelpie mating.

" In Mr. Morrice's experience he did not get a dog which he regarded even as useful until he had diluted the Dingo blood to 1-16 or 1-32. On the other hand, Mr Jack Goodfellow, who worked his two excellent dogs, Don and Nap, so successfully a few years ago in Sydney and elsewhere, believed a dash of Dingo blood to be advantageous. He told the writer that both these dogs had a splash of it." - Dr. R.B. Kelley 1950


FRANK SCANLON 1903 - 1990 (Scanlons Kelpie Stud) - Interviewed by Mary & Stephen Bilson March 1985

"There was Tom South and (Mervyn) South, his son. I was in Sydney at the trials with no dogs, just there as a spectator and I met Arthur Kemp and various others of the old time workers. Tom South always had a good team of dogs. They were horrible looking dogs up to a point. Peculiar colours, they were....... red dogs, nearly bridle dogs and an old black and tan bitch with quite a lot of tan on her. He had a team of four or five dogs, him and his son. And there were very few years that they went to Sydney trials that they didn't get worthy mention, I'll tell you. They were nearly always up in the money.

Tom South came over to me and he said "For goodness sake, can you get me a good Dingo pup. I said, What are you going to do with him Tom. He said I'm going to breed it into my dogs again. He said, see those dogs there, every one of them has Dingo breeding in them.

The people today they howl it down. I could quote instances of it (Dingo crossing) for the next hour.

I had a red dog, a King and Mc Leod bred dog that had a fire-branded nose. In those days King and Mc Leod dogs were all fire-branded on the nose. And this red dog was definitely a King & Mc Leod bred dog and he was sent to me by people that lived near the Hanging Rock kennels and I broke him in. It wasn't long after we were married.

This dog, all the time I had him here, never looked at a sheep, never. If I let him off the chain when I was riding away in the morning he would be sulking around on the ground. If you looked back when you got half a mile out or a quarter of a mile, whatever, and he would be home. When you got off the horse at lunch time to boil the Quart ... after a while you could see him in the distance moving about and that's where he would stop. When you arrived home he would arrive home about the same time behind you every night.

That dog wouldn't bark, he would howl just like a Dingo. He wouldn't work. Never looked at a sheep. He could fight, he was an out and outer. I've seen big Cattle dogs take him on and he'd have them finished like that (clicked his fingers). If this dog didn't have Dingo in him then you can kick me. You can only rely on people as far as you can go.

There was an old gentleman I knew when I was a young fellow and he told me that he lived right near where those Rutherfords lived and he said there is no doubt in the world he said about the Kelpie having Dingo in them. He said the first cross was no good but the next cross they started to work. You got some workers out of them. They went on from there and he said they were really good dogs. Not only that particular dog but I can quote other dogs that I had.

What was the Attitude to Dingo blood then ?

Well, no one cared because they reckoned it was in them. They reckoned that was what made these dogs good. They had a ton of eye, all eye. A lot of them were better damn dogs than we get now.

Stan Collins was a man I reckoned wouldn't put a story over you. He said one morning a chap and I were out on a big property in back Queensland and we saw these few sheep coming out of the scrub and out came two Dingoes. He said, You've never seen a Kelpie dog work sheep better than those dogs did. He said one would Complement the other. I'll tell you another thing. It is common knowledge in Dingo infested country that a Dingo bitch will drive two or three sheep or a little lot of sheep over to her pups and kill it so they can feed off it. ....

It gives you food for thought when you see all the things I've seen. I've been about this country for as long as most men around today. And I have every reason to believe that the Kelpie had Australian Dingo in him. - Frank Scanlon interviewed by Mary and Stephen Bilson in 1985


"In 1988 Frank Scanlon told me that he was positive that Currawang Wilga, one of Australia's greatest trial Kelpies had Dingo blood in him. Wilga was an expert at working a few sheep. He would even work one - but he was not a good dog when it came to mob work. Jack Goodfellow (Currawang Kelpie Stud) had also told Frank Scanlon that the famous Currawang Nap also had Dingo in him. Frank also told me that by 1950 he was unable to get hold of a good pure dingo for breeding." - Stephen Bilson (Noonbarra Stud)


Photo: Jean-Paul Ferrero


JIM MOORE (Newton Kelpie Stud)

Letter to Tony Parsons (Karrawarra Stud) and reprinted in 'The Working Kelpie' (1986 revised 1992)

"Now a word re the joke about Scots breeding Kelpies.. or the breed originating from Scotland. If you have studied dogs at all, you can go all over the breeds of dogs in Scotland and there never was a combination of dogs in the land that could breed a working Kelpie..or any other land for that matter where there was no Australian Dingo."

" I have bred from the Dingo and even the first cross were quite good dogs for driving mobs and very hardy with good feet. Trouble is for a few generations one breeds a lot of duds in each litter. You may get two that will work and make champions and four that will never look at sheep, out of a litter of six. Strangely enough, they are not sheep killers. You will get an odd one that will bite as a pup, but they are very easy to train not to..."


ROCKYBAR BUFF - Top sire at Liscannor Stud

A well known saddle marked pure-bred Kelpie



Roger Smith was a drover & stockman for most of his life and as a young boy he worked in droving camps with early strains of Kelpies including many of the King & McLeod, McMaster and Scanlon strains. In a number of letters to Stephen Bilson in the 1980's he gave his opinion about the Dingo and the Kelpie. - "I have talked to hundreds over the years and I am positive about the Dingo in the Red Hope strain and some other strains. I have said it on many occasions over the years, that the Dingo made a contribution to the greatness of our present day Kelpies. It caused him to have a distinctive character and toughness, a wonderful temperament and exceptional power of learning; and a faithfulness, that can only be understood by those that love him.

In a letter dated 1988, he was talking about the light coated, Kalari Basil, the major sire of the renowned Rockybar Kelpie Stud, and he wrote: "If Basil trotted out of the Mulga, with no collar on, in poor condition, one would put a bullet through him real quick, scalped him, and got paid for a Dingo scalp. I liked Basil a lot" ...


" While mustering in northern Queensland I got hold of a purebred Dingo bitch pup. ..I was leaving her with a friend; together with an old red Kelpie dog to be mated to her. The first litter was 1 black, 1 ginger bitch, 3 black dogs and 1 red/ginger dog. We kept them up to 4 months to see what they were like for temperament. ..I kept the Ginger bitch who had intelligence beyond expectations. I broke her to cattle; yet she was a trifle inconsistent which is more or less what I expected. "

" I then put a very good red Cattledog over the Kelpie/Dingo cross bitch and kept two bitches. A mate broke one into sheepwork and was very happy with her; no bite on sheep! The bitch I kept I broke into cattle work and produced ability and brains far beyond my expectations. I still have the breed and have a very good young bitch here at the moment... She can cast far out of sight in rough scrub country, miss nothing, and do it without ever over-pushing or unduly upsetting the cattle. She will only bark on command, can nose & heel and has a beautiful friendly nature. Tough, but so soft, go all day- day after day; not always looking for water. I once worked this bitch for 25 days straight; 10 - 12 hours, where she would easily cover between 40 & 60 miles per day."

" I do know from early experience the ideal infusion of pure Dingo blood in a working dog is 1/32, no more than 1/16 th. So these people that reckon the 1st crosses and the 1/4 Crosses didn't work well were really a long way off the job and yet were self styled experts."

" The intelligence and antics of my dogs with Dingo blood in them have amused me no end for a lot of years. One Kelpie Dingo cross I had mostly for a pet. When on the road with sheep she would find any fly blown sheep (even if it was only a touch). and just follow it around until I caught it and dressed it. It wouldn't matter how big the mob may be, she would locate the blown one or two." - Roger Smith 1988



Capree Zap - A cream coloured Kelpie and winner of WKC 'Best Type Working Kelpie' for 1987



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