Project Description


  • Dog Breed Group: Working Dog

  • Recommended for: Herding, Companionship, Cycling, Camping, Security

  • Maintenance Level: low level; They are easy to train, are obedient with  minimal grooming required

  • Life Span: 12-15 years

  • Height:  40-55 cm

  • Weight: 9-20 kg

  • Temperament: Extremely active, Intelligent, Anxious to please, fun-loving, friendly, loves children, alert

  • Hypoallergenic: No

  • Colours: Blue and Red Merle, solid red, black, or grey. Eyes can be blue, brown, or black

General Health
Exercise Needs

Koolies are medium-sized dogs standing at a height of between 40 to 60 centimetres and weigh from 9 to 20kg. They have a rigid and straight posture and are muscular. They are popular for their eye colour of either brown or blue or one eye of each colour which also matches with their colour coat and muzzle. Their ears are triangular and floppy but will stand erect when the dog is concentrating.  The Koolie coat varies from short/smooth similar to that of the original blue merle Collies originally from Scotland, short resembling that of the working Kelpie, medium-sized like the German Tiger, and the long coat similar to that of the Border Collie. Most owners however prefer the short smooth coat as it is easy to maintain and picks up less grass seed from the field.

Their coats come in various colours which include blue and red merle, solid red, black, or grey. The colours can be one solid colour i.e all one colour of black, red, or chocolate, have a combination of two colours e.g black and white or red and white or tri-colour e.g a solid red or black with white markings, normally with brown points. Others can also have three colours but with aspects of merle. Merle coat colours consist of either grey, black, red/chocolate, or white undercoat with large splashes of darker colouring’s of red/chocolate for red merles or black, grey for blue merles).

  • Suitability for Children – High
  • Tendency to Bark – Medium
  • Energy – High
  • Suitability as a Guard Dog – Medium
  • Grooming Requirements –  Once a Week
  • Trimming Required – Nails When Needed
  • Amount of hair shed – Low
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Life Expectancy

Koolie’s can live up to 12 to 18 years old. They rarely suffer from any adverse health conditions however inherited deafness and blindness have been reported in merle-coloured breeds. On the other hand, due to the nature of their lifestyle (working dogs), they may require frequent vet visits due to injuries and infections.

Origin of Koolie

Koolies are also commonly known as German Koolies. This name is however avoided as it is termed derogatory as it stems from the word coolie which referred to early German and other European immigrant farmers who used them as working dogs. Thus the word Koolie is a corrupted version of the word German word ‘coolie’. They are among the oldest working dogs in Australia.

Koolies were introduced in Australia in the early 1800s. This was the same time a famous farmer by the name Thomas Hall brought in the smooth-coated blue merle Collie from Britain and the Black and Tan Collie from the Highlands of Scotland. It is thought that it is from these two dog breeds that Koolies are thought to have originated from.

This breed of dogs is usually found in the north of Queensland and New South Wales where they are used by farmers in herding Simmental cattle and Brahma. They were later interbred with the Smith-field dog which explains their smaller legs. This was done purposely to enable them to work closely with cattle, sheep, and goats on farms during herding.

It is also thought that the German Koolie is a close descendant of the European sheepdog also known as the German Tiger though there is no tangible genetic information about this. Their close resemblance with the Australian Koolie and the Welsh Collie has also brought about assumptions that they too could be possible ancestors.

The lack of records on their bloodline and origin has made it difficult for this breed to be recognised officially by the Australian National Kennel Control Council.

There are no known  Koolie’s outside Australia.


Koolie are high-energy dogs that require frequent stimulation and exercise. They are active, hard-working, and eager to please their master. Their incredible stock gathering and herding abilities have seen them quite popular in Australia and Europe as excellent working dogs.

They are also known to have a strong sense of smell and can spot livestock in the fields especially in cases where some get lost. This makes them quite indispensable especially among livestock farmers in some rare cases can be used as sniffer dogs with good training.
They are friendly, easy-going, fun-loving, and are rarely aggressive. They get along with other dogs and animals as well as children. This coupled with their loving nature makes them excellent companions and pets.
Their intelligence and alertness, train-ability, and obedient nature make them also excellent watch or security dogs and for activities such as agility classes or pet therapy. They rarely attack but will bark to alert their master in case of anything suspicious.
Due to their high stamina, they thrive better outdoors. They require plenty of exercise with daily walks. This not only helps to maintain great health but to expend excess energy which if not utilised can turn destructive. They also prefer company and become quite anxious when left alone for long hours.

Coat and Grooming

Koolies have short to medium-sized coats though long coats do exist. Most owners prefer those with short to medium-sized coats as they have a lesser tendency to carry grass seed and debris from the field and are easier to groom and maintain. However, regardless of the length of the coat, Koolies tend to shed fur though not as much compared to other breeds. This makes them low maintenance when it comes to grooming. Weekly hair brushing with a firm bristle brush to prevent the build-up of debris is usually enough accompanied by regular bathing at least once a month. Frequent bathing can strip off the coat essential and beneficial oils that help to keep it healthy and glossy.

Bathing should also be accompanied by ear cleaning. This helps to remove excess wax and debris which can cause discomfort and predispose them to infection and hearing loss. The ears should always be dry as a moist environment provides a conducive environment for fungal ear infections popularly caused by Malassezia.

Dental care especially among senior dogs should also be paid attention to. Regular check-ups and cleaning by your veterinarian should be scheduled to maintain good dental and oral health. Plaque and tartar build-up sets the good ground for gum disease (gingivitis) which can affect eating and predispose them to other health conditions such as liver, kidney, and heart failure.

Nail clipping should be done occasionally or when need be. Long nails can cause great discomfort for dogs. When they touch the floor they exert pressure on the nail bed which can cause great pain and even affect their posture over time. In serious cases, if left unattended long nails can affect the toe joints causing them to realign and consequently leave the feet looking flattened and splayed. This affects weight distribution predisposing them to injuries and cause great discomfort when running and walking.

Overgrown Nails can also curve into the paw pads which can be extremely painful for the dog. They can also split and in severe cases may need veterinary intervention. This is especially common for nails found on the dewclaws. Such cases can make nail trimming a painful and unpleasant experience for both the dog and the pet owner.

The anal glands should also be checked during grooming. Anal glands contain a strong-smelling liquid which dogs use to mark their territory. Healthy anal glands usually get emptied as the dog poops. However they can get blocked occasionally and if not emptied, it can set the pace for infections or abscesses. Dogs with full anal glands usually display discomfort and are seen licking the anus or scouting on the floor to ease the itchiness. In such cases, they should be emptied which gives instant relief.

Children and Other Pets

Koolies temperate, fun-loving, tolerant, and gentle temperament makes them excellent companions and playmates for children. Koolies love kids and vice versa. Their high stamina can match that of kids on a sugar high. They love to play, run, and have fun with kids especially outdoors. They are also protective watchdogs and bark to wade of strangers or intruders. They are also not overly aggressive and get along with other animals especially if socialised well during puppy-hood.

However, just like all dogs, playtime with children should be supervised. Their high energy and stamina can sometimes get the best of them. They can become overzealous during playtime and knock over small children. They are also known to be domineering and have a tendency to herd other pets and children.

General Exercise and Care

Koolies are known to be high-energy, fun-loving, and outgoing dogs. As much as they make excellent companions and family pets they thrive outdoors making apartment living quite constricting for them. They require regular exercise to use up pent-up energy which if not utilised can turn destructive. If leaving in the suburbs, daily walks are a general requirement. This not only good destruction but also helps to keep them healthy and strong.

Koolies are usually kept as working dogs. Due to their herding tendency, they are better suited for the countryside where they have access to vast space to run and herd livestock. However, in the big cities and suburbs owners should always keep them on a leash while outdoors as they have no road sense and can easily be run over. The compound should also have a high fence to prevent escaping or jumping over.

On the other hand, this breed of dogs can turn destructive when left alone for long periods. They enjoy the company of their owners. Due to their predisposition to separation anxiety, Koolies are not suitable for people with long working hours unless pet sitting services are procured. This mostly applies to those living in the city and suburbs. Crate training may not work in such situations due to their high stamina and need for open space to run, sniff and explore.

In terms of train-ability, Koolies are known to be intelligent, eager to please their owners and have a strong work ethic. This makes them easily trainable. They respond to positive reinforcement and firm leadership from the trainer. However, training sessions should be kept short and interesting to prevent them from getting bored.  Just like other breeds of dogs, they too need to be socialised in their early years for easy interaction with other animals as well as humans. For those planning to keep them as pets, obedience training is also a good option to explore.

Koolies are also known for their strong herding instincts especially when among other pets. Leash training should be initiated promptly before being taken outdoors or at an early age especially for those living in urban areas to avoid embarrassing moments while out.

Due to their propensity to turn destructive or anxious when left alone, Koolies thrive better in homes where there is constant companionship. They are best suited for farmers, people working from home, families or couples that spend time at home, pet owners with active lifestyles or love the outdoors (hiking, camping), or those who can take their pets to work.

In terms of feeding, Koolies being such high energy and active dogs a good diet is essential to keep them healthy and strong. Considering their size, a working breed formula for medium-sized dogs is best suited for them.

However, pet owners should regulate feeding portions to avoid cases of obesity. Food rich in proteins and carbohydrates is highly recommended to meet their high energy requirements and to maintain muscle growth and repair. Approximately 2.5 to 3 cups of good quality dry food divided into 2 meals daily is sufficient for their daily calorie intake. Supplementing with vegetables and fish oils can also help them get essential minerals, vitamins, and trace elements.

A good diet accompanied by ample daily exercise and regular check-ups with the veterinarian has been shown to extend their lifespan greatly.

Common Diseases and Conditions

Koolies are usually hardy dogs and don’t suffer from many genetic conditions. This can be explained by their diverse gene pool.

However, their origin is closely linked back to the Merle breed of dogs. This breed of dogs is known to produce deaf or blind puppies. That said potential pet owners should do their due diligence to ask for health records before purchase to be on the safe side. Breeding merle to solid breeds can help to put a stop to this.

Due to their highly athletic nature, Koolies are prone to fracture and degenerative joint conditions such as

  • Osteoarthritis – Inter-vertebral Disk Disease happens when the disks that act as shock absorbs between the vertebrae along the spinal cord lose their jeloy-like cushioning and press against the spinal cord. Minimal compression of the spinal cord may result in mild back or neck pain, while more severe pressure can cause serious conditions such as numbness, paralysis, and lack of bowel or bladder control. In some cases, the damage done by disk disease is irreversible. Treatment with pain medications, physical therapy, and surgery may be necessary, although surgery is not always successful.
  • Cruciate ligaments issues- The cruciate ligament is found on the knee joint and helps to keep the knee joint stable. A tear or rupture of these ligaments is pretty common in athletic dogs as they are prone to jumping, skidding, or turning awkwardly. Rupture of the cruciate ligaments causes affected dogs to have wobbly gait, limping, back leg pain, swelling of the affected knee, etc. As such a veterinarian should be consulted as soon as the symptoms become evident.Skin allergies are also quite common in this breed. Common allergens include pollen, change in weather, gluten, dairy products, dust mites among others. In such situations identifying the causative allergen helps in management through elimination and reducing exposure. Anti-inflammatory drugs or antihistamines are usually prescribed in such cases.

Interesting Facts

  • It’s rare to find Koolies outside of Australia

  • They have natural herding instincts making them a favourite among farmers

  • Their versatile temperament makes them popular both as a pet and also function as a working dog.

  • They have a life expectancy of up to 18 years.

  • The solid red or black Koolie is often mistaken for Kelpies, and some bi-coloured Koolies have been mistaken for Border Collies

  • Koolies are sometimes misrepresented as a German breed,  because they are also known as the German Koolie.

  • They are friendly to cats.

  • Koolieare also commonly crossbred with Kelpies or Border Collies in Australia, as these working breeds perform similar functions on the farmyard.

More photos of Koolies