|History of the
For many years the breed has been known as the "German Coolie". There have been many spellings of the name,
such as Kuli, Koolie, and Colie. The Coolie has also been referred to as "German Collies". Many generations of
people believe the Coolie is a German bred dog, imported into Australia, or brought to Australia by the German
immigrants that were seeking a new life or employment on sheep stations. No trace of the German Coolie can be
found in Germany.
Not a lot is known about the history of the breed although there are theories. Research indicates that the breed is a
derivative from early herding breeds from the United Kingdom such as the Scotch Collie (rough collie) though some
believe that the German Coolie is a member of the Border Collie family and known throughout the British Isles as the
Blue Merle Collie and that these dogs can still be found today in Wales, Scotland and England. It should be
remembered that there is no concrete evidence of the breed’s origin and until any claims are proven without a doubt;
any information is conjecture and should be understood as theory not fact. What is important is that those entrusted
with the future of the breed be diligent and breed only to protect and improve the traits for which the breed is
Out of extreme respect for the original breeders, those who have continued to breed and hold this breed to their
heart, and for the breed itself ---- we are choosing to leave the historical name of the breed as the German Coolie.
The Complete Book of Australian Dogs
Angela Sanderson is quoted in her book, The Complete Book of Australian Dogs, not all the working dogs brought to
Australia during the last century were from Britain. There was a diverse variety of other European breeds, and it is
still possible to find descendants of some of these early working dogs. Among them is a type known as the German
Collie, or by its colloquial name 'German Coolie' or 'Coulie'. In von Stephanitz's book The German Shepherd in Word
and Picture (1925), there is mention that Australian graziers were sufficiently impressed with German sheepdogs to
import some. These dogs would almost certainly have been crossed with local dogs, among which could have been
the Border Collie. von Stephanitz's classic work covered all manner of German sheepdogs. Among them were what
he called the 'tiger-spotted sheepdog' that could be found in several provinces of Germany. Two pictures of the dogs
from Saxony are of special interest: one shows a long-coated prick-eared type similar to the German Collie; the
second, from Brunswick, is identical to the German Coolie, including the shorter hair. The photographs are black and
white, but Stephanitz describes the dogs are merle coloured. Beilby mentions as early as 1896 that Blue Merle
Collies in Australia were known as German Coolies. Certainly many Blue Merle Scottish Collies were brought to
Australia in the 1840s. [In the British magazine The Field (1901)] Mr. Freeman Lloyd wrote at that time: There is, what
is known as the German Collie -- a wall-eyed merle, probably a cross between a [Smithfield and the Scottish Collie].
He gets his name from a very good working strain owned by a German, and imported from the Fatherland many
|The Origin of the German Koolie
|THE OLD WELSH BOB TAIL CONNECTION
Editor's note: This is an excerpt from a travelogue about a visit to England and Wales in September 1989. At the
rainy International Sheepdog Trials, the DeChants get wet, so rather than sleep in their van, they decide to look for a
place to spend the night.
. . . We asked the men behind us if they knew of a place where we could stay for the night. Then fate took over, and
we met Mr. William Rigby. He told us that his daughter, Jan, had a Bed and Breakfast in an old stone barn on his
Cefn-Yr-Erw Farm, in the Swansea Valley, about a half hour away. We arranged to follow Ron Morgan, Mr. Rigby's
friend, to Cefn-Yr-Erw, while he had his broken truck towed home. When we asked Ron Morgan if he lived nearby as
we thanked him for leading us, he answered that he lived a half hour in the other direction! We checked into a
comfortable room and had fish and chips for dinner in the dining room,, which was formerly the horse stable. After
Mr. Rigby got his truck home, got dry and had his supper, he came to find us. We talked in the lounge by the coal fire
until 11:00 p.m. He has been training dogs for 55 years.
I showed him the only Aussie photo that I had with me, that of Diamond Aire Sundewette, a black tri bitch owned by
Marie Murphy, out of my Raven and Mari's Max. His immediate response was, "That's an Old Welsh Bob Tail." With
shock I told him it was an Australian Shepherd. He said that it looked just like the black and tan Welsh Bob Tail on the
neighbor's farm. Just then Jan walked through and he showed her the photo, asking what breed it was. She said,
"Looks like t' dog next door." We sat amazed as we learned the following about this breed.
They are usually black and tan, and almost all have natural bob tails. They do not dock tails of those that are born
with them. He said they are a very pure breed, where the
Border Collie is a "made" breed. When he told us there were a
lot of them on farms in the area, he promised to take us to two
farms in the morning. He had the utmost respect for these
dogs, having owned some himself. He said they are very
versatile and could put your chickens in the coop and then
take your cattle to market.
They were drovers' dogs in the past. Drovers would collect
groups of cattle from many different farms and put all these
strange cattle together into one herd, to take them to the
buyer's farm. They had to take them down the road past all the
farms along the way. He said sometimes they make excellent
"front" dogs. These dogs stayed in front of the flocks of sheep
going to market and fought off any dogs which they passed,
and then returned to the front. They would also stop in the
farm driveways until the flock passed by to keep them from
turning in. It was the "front" dog's job to lead the flock where
the shepherd wanted them to go. Shepherds often had an Old
Welsh Bob Tail for the "front" and a Border Collie for the back.
But many used Welsh Bob Tails only, because some
individuals have strong ability in one job or the other. Some
are just as good at either position.
The next morning Gene and I had our Welsh breakfast (one scrambled
egg, lean bacon--no fat, potato pancake, fried tomato, toast, juice and
tea). Mr. Rigby took us out to see his Swaledale sheep. He got this hardy
breed from North Wales because of their ability to withstand weather,
now that the barn is a Bed and Breakfast. I know he was proud of his
sheep, but I'm sure that his real purpose was to show off his Border
Collie, Ben. He was the BEST dog that I saw working on the trip! Yes,
including all the ones at the trial. I asked why he wasn't in the trial. Mr.
Rigby said, "He's not registered and there's them that's glad he's not."
Then we went down the road to the neighbor's farm, and Mr. Rigby went
over to the dog house in the field and pulled a black and tan bitch out of
it. Though not exactly "show type", I have seen many Aussies that look
the same. The enclosed photos are of a bitch that was very unhappy that
strangers were on her property. Her tail was indeed a natural bob.
We then crossed the road and Mr. Rigby called to Turk, who came out of
the shed. As you can see in the photo, he was a beautiful blue merle with
lots of white trim. He has a long tail. Turk didn't bark, but he wasn't
comfortable with us looking at him either. Mr. Rigby also said,
"Sometimes they have a silver eye." Neither picture of the dog is in a
good pose unfortunately, but we had to take what we could get.
. . . . I also went to speak with Iris Combe, author of “Herding Dogs, Their
Origins and Development in Great Britain”. I asked her what she knew
about the Old Welsh Bob Tails. She did not cover them in her book, but
she had heard about them. She figures that they are descended from
the Pyrenean Sheepdog because of their natural bob tails. Ireland and
Wales were landing places for priests who came from France and Spain
centuries ago. Another fact is that many Welsh went to Australia and
America and may have taken these bob tails with them. She wondered
aloud whether the German Coolie wasn't this breed.
this article was originally published in the January-February 1990 Aussie
•Working Aussie Source Stockdog Library
He went on to say that they are a tough using dog, who could guard the farm and help with the livestock. They are a
more useful farm dog, in some ways, than the Border Collie. They are more apt to grip the nose of a cow going astray.
They had it all over the Border Collie for dealing with ewes with lambs because they would make them move instead of
eying them on the fence. They also tended to shoulder the lead sheep instead of grip.
They are not as good at outwork as the Border Collie, which has been selectively bred for that purpose. Many
current-day Welsh farmers in certain parts of Wales have both kinds of dogs for each need. He said one of the ones
at the farm nearby used to be his, and you couldn't beat them. He was very, very positive about these dogs! He said
again that he was sure that's what my photo was! I'm sure you can see why I sat listening with my mouth gaping. I
have heard all of the virtues extolled before -- about Aussies!