Bringing one of Australia’s oldest working dog breeds out of the shadows | North Queensland Register
The Koolie Club of Australia hopes to generate interest in one of the lesser-known Australian dog breeds through a series of upcoming ranching workshops.
Over the past 10 years the Club in Mareeba has hosted a series of herding dog workshops to meet the continuing demand for working dog schools in the north while shedding light on the lesser known Koolie breed.
While the breed is better known for working sheep in the southern states, Queensland breeders have made it their mission to showcase the good temperament, speed, stamina and versatility of the Koolie breed to cattle and sheep breeders in the north.
Koolie Club secretary and registered breeder Kylie Willson said the club had remained an open register to attract more stationary bred Koolies in order to encourage more people to become registered breeders.
“We’re trying to stick to one breed and make it more popular in Australia for its characteristics, not just as a pretty dog for the garden,” she said.
“As such, our gene pool is pretty small, but the Koolie Club is an open register for it.”
Ms. Willson has been involved with the breed for 12 years after switching from Cattle Dogs at a young age.
“I grew up with cattle dogs, my parents always had cattle dogs, and a Koolie was something I had never heard of until Jackie introduced her to me,” she said.
“Up here Koolie’s weren’t very well known at all. Not many people in the rest of Australia knew about them, as they’re more down in Victoria and in places like that because they’re very good sheep workers.”
She still well remembers her first experiences with the Koolies through her first dog Echo, which sparked her fascination for the breed.
“Echo was a red and brown Koolie, and I think he could really think for you,” she said.
“One day we had a bit of a problem getting this one weaned pig into the yard. I had Echo locked in a box upstairs in the shed and I can’t explain how he got away.
“Things started going pear-shaped and all of a sudden Echo came down the paddock. He saw me, spotted this weaned pig and hit it on the nose so hard, turned the thing around and let it run all the way back to the yards – his own. “
Related reading:Amazing Jack extends his lead in the dog challenge with a week to go
Related reading:Queensland working dogs shine in your photos
Ms. Willson’s family owns 110 acres of land in the Tablelands where they now raise koolies to work cattle.
“Our biggest thing is that we want to improve the breed. I don’t breed unless it’s a guaranteed worker to me and has proven itself,” she said.
“For me, it’s a big deal to convey to people that color doesn’t make dogs.
“As a breeder, a lot of people have come to me and said, ‘I want a red merle color with two blue eyes,’ and I tell them directly that I don’t breed by color, I breed these dogs to work cattle.”
Ms. Willson said the DNA health tests performed on the breed allowed them to trace certain problems back to a specific bloodline.
“We have a company in Melbourne that does our DNA testing, so we figured out what specific diseases are reflected in each line to make sure they are as healthy as possible so you don’t breed two dogs that they will have common health problems. “
“A lot of people don’t know that breeding two merle-colored dogs together can cause genetic problems.
“As part of the club, it is a passion of mine to educate people about the breed for such things and the importance of monochromatic dogs in the breed.”
Similar to other breeds of animals, Ms. Willson said that the offspring of certain bloodlines have different work characteristics, with some dogs often being more direct than others.
“I have dogs from an old southern bloodline who are a little brave. When I sell them, I always like to send these puppies to ranch homes,” she said.
“It’s good to see more people contacting the club these days looking for registered koolies so they’re not just buying from gumtree’s backyard growers.”
The workshops on herding dogs 2021 will take place from 14.-16. September and 18.-20. September on the premises of the Mareeba Pony Club.
Theodore cattle producer Tony Cock will conduct the two herding workshops on behalf of the Koolie Club of Australia.
“Tony is very practical and the workshop is for everyone from beginners to backyard shepherds and ward people.”
Would you like to get daily news highlights in your inbox? Sign up for the North Queensland Register newsletter below.