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There are dogs who gather sheep, dogs who stare at sheep, dogs who count sheep (the lazy ones, at least) and dogs who walk over them when the need occurs. Wait, a minute, did you just say "walk over sheep?"

 Yes, that's correct. There is a dog breed in particular that's known for walking on the back of sheep. 

Do the sheep mind? Well, that's beyond the scope of this article, but it's sure impressive watching these dogs in action when the need arises.

Introducing the Kelpie

The Australian kelpie, also known simply as kelpie, is an Australian sheepdog that is very talented in performing several tasks.

 This breed is capable of moving herds of sheep, cattle and goats over long distances and gathering them up with little of no guidance from humans.

 In Australia, there are two different registries when it comes to this breed: working kelpies which encompass dogs purposely bred for their working ability, and show kelpies which encompass dogs mostly bred for appearance rather than working ability.

 Today, we will be focusing on the working kelpies.


australian kelpie

A kelpie walking over the backs of sheep.

A Great Working Partner

Kelpies are quite valuable to Australian farmers looking for an effective worker capable of gathering livestock and preventing them from moving away. 

Kelpies are known for quietly moving ahead of the stockman and blocking the movement of livestock until the rider arrives.

They help keep the livestock at bay and then move then as needed from the pasture to the pen or into the truck.

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As mentioned, kelpies are also great drover dogs moving livestock over long distances despite difficult climate and conditions. The signature move of this breed though is walking over the backs of sheep..

Watch Your Back!

sheep

Why did the kelpie walk over the backs of sheep? It's easy, to get to the other side.

 Jokes aside, kelpies do really walk over sheep as the picture above and the video below can attest.

Why do they do that though? Well, imagine several sheep packed tightly like sardines within a pen, how can the kelpie get to the other side? Should he just give up? No, giving up is not an option for this breed. Should he try to fly? Well, if he could, he certainly would.

No, instead the smart and determined kelpie uses his brain and figures out that the fastest and shortest way to get to the other side is to just jump up on the back of the closest sheep and carefully move across the flock!

This signature move has even a name, it's known as "sheep backing." Sheep backing is a natural behavior that most confident kelpies will do, but in some cases, it may require some training, explains Kevin Reeves, breeder and owner of Lyndhurst Working Kelpies. 

Their ability to jump and balance themselves is quite impressive, but we're sure if sheep had something to say, it wouldn't be very nice..."Yo, kelpie, stop stepping on our baaaaacks!"

Did you know? Not only are kelpies capable of jumping on the backs of sheep but they also excel in jumping over very high gates. Just recently, a kelpie known as "Bailey" broke the Casterton Kelpie Muster Kelpie jumping competition record in Victoria as she cleared a 2.951-metre barrier, breaking the previous record set in 2007.

References:

  • Lyndhurst Working Kelpies, Sheep Backing, retrieved from the web on July 12th, 2016
  • Wikipedia, Australian Kelpie, retrieved from the web on July 12th, 2016

Photo Credits:

  • Wikipedia, An Australian Kelpie walking across the backs of the sheep.Martin Pot (Martybugs at en.wikipedia) Australian Kelpie walking across the backs of sheep, The Shearing Shed, Yallingup, Western Australia CC BY 3.0

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