Australia’s grazer lifestyle today and in the past have always depended on the help of dogs. Three unique and distinct breeds of dogs have emerged from the sheep and cattle stations of Australia: the Australian Cattle Dog, the Australian Kelpie and the Australian Koolie (historically called German Coolies). The original dogs arrived with immigrants in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. The three Australian herding breeds emerged as grazers and farmers selectively bred for traits that suited their needs. The German Coolie was probably in reference to the German immigrants and the dogs they brought with them. It is possible it was a slang word for collie (referring to the German’s Collies). No one really knows the exact origin, but there is evidence that the name was used and known in 1877 as the advertisement below illustrates. There are mixes of these new and historical names such as German Coolie, German Koolie or Australian Koolie. These can be used interchangeably, but Australian Koolie is now the name of choice for the breed in Australia.
There are written accounts of people referring to the importation of a German spotted dog called a Tiger dog which had “silver” and were multi-colored, much like many of the Australian Koolies found today. It is likely that the immigrants who arrived in Australia as early as the 1780s from Germany also brought these Tiger dogs with them. The Koolie was noted very early on for sometimes being merle and with blue eyes. Later in the 1850s smooth and rough-coated collies would be imported from Scotland and England including the silver collie, which was also merle. Eventually, the merle gene would be present in the Australian Koolies (German Coolies), a ticking gene would become present in the Australian Cattle Dog, and solid or bi-colors would become standard in kelpies once these breeds began to be bred for specific jobs. The Koolie would continue to be bred for versatility and as all-around station dogs with fewer specialties in mind than were bred for in the Australian Cattle Dog with its heeling and bite characteristics on cattle and the Kelpie for its casting and sheep yard abilities such as backing. The Koolie continues to be a versatile and intelligent dog that is very biddable and able to do any job presented to it with or without livestock.
Today they continue to work on Australian ranches, farms and stations but they are also present in agility rings, dock diving, flyball, disc, search and rescue, and of course, as companion dogs. Their presence in countries outside of Australia is becoming more common.
Australian Koolie/Coolie – German Koolie/Coolie – Coulie – German Collie