The artful kelpie

Well I can’t claim any real art connection on this one but I’ll have a go.

Here is Rigby – our newest family member and official disturber of the peace.

She’s an absolutely charming little kelpie cross pup and is already partaking in near synchronous sleeping habits with the teenager inhabitants of the house – ie late to rise, late to bed.

Rigby girl

Rigby girl

Those of you who follow Celie’s wonderful Kitchens Garden blog – at will know her beautiful blue heeler – also sometimes called a Queensland Cattle Dog.

Kelpies are another quintessential Australian dog breed. They can be red or chocolate brown or black and tan – like Rigby – with her tell-tale little brown eyebrows – which blue heelers also have. Her white tummy suggests she is a Kelpie-Collie cross as most Kelpies are full coloured without any white.

Apparently we can thank Robert Kaleski who published the first ‘standard’ for the Kelpie in 1904 which was adopted by the Kennel Club of New South Wales. The first “Kelpie” was a black and tan female pup with floppy ears bought by Jack Gleeson about 1872 from a litter born on Warrock Station near Casterton in NSW.

As working dogs they are extremely agile and intelligent. Heavier dogs are used for cattle while lighter dogs might be used with collies, or on their own, for sheep. I’ve seen some amazing examples of these dogs working in vast paddocks to bring in a flock or a herd under very minimal commands.

There is a great jump off competition between a kelpie-collie cross and a blue heeler on You-tube – they are both keen jumpers

See for more fascinating facts

Just so there is a link to art somewhere – Suggestion is that the kelpie was a result of cross breeding with dingos which is perhaps why the breed was named after the mythological kelpie from Celtic folklore. The mythology holds the kelpie as a strong and powerful horse, or water horse, who can lure a man to his death in the guise of a beautiful woman.

Herbert James Draper certainly didn’t shy away from his vision of the mythical kelpie in his painting on the subject in 1913.

The Kelpie by Herbert James Draper 1913

The (mythical) Kelpie by Herbert James Draper 1913

Also I shouldn’t have been surprised by the amount of information on the dog in art. William Second has certainly made a life of chronicling every aspect of canine presence in art from prehistoric representations to ancient civilisations until today.

You can find more about this amazing man’s  dedication from the founding of the Dog Museum of America as well as his authorative knowledge on dogs in paint of the 18th and 19th Centuries on

He is the author of the best-selling “Dog Painting, 1840-1940, a Social History of The Dog in Art”, as well as three other books on nineteenth century dog paintings. Evidence of the rich history of art and the dog can now also be seen in Mr Second’s gallery in New York.

William Second Gallery

William Second Gallery in New York


7 thoughts on “The artful kelpie

  1. Can help falling for Rigby – an amazing contrast to the excited 15 month-old grey Great Dane that I met this afternoon.


  2. What a wonderful face young Rigby has. You need a partner for her called Eleanor. The mythical kelpies sound like the Lorelei, who lured sailors to their deaths on the rocks. We have a 30 year old teenager who follows the same body clock. But our Lulu is early to bed early to rise. Fine dog, Lulu. Sometimes.


    • Hi Andrew – nice to hear from you. Yes it’s tempting for us older ones to call her Eleanor Rigby! There was quite a bit about all the different country mythologies on the kelpie- very interesting. Say hi to Lulu and all there – (although the 30yo teenager is one of my great fears…)


    • I think there is a wonderful match in the family with our 13 year old being able to fill the part of fellow pup – we went to the beach today and pup and boy just ran and played non-stop.


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