Koolie breeders say silent director of working dogs deserves more recognition

New South Wales cattle farmer Wendy Mayne has owned her fair share of working dogs, from kelpies to border collies, and then there was a koolie.

It was the koolie that left a lasting paw print on his heart.

“We’ve always had working dogs, usually kelpies, and [Mum] got this koolie that we named Jess and she turned out to be this fantastic dog,” Ms Mayne said.

“It’s a breed that needs more recognition because they are the most wonderful dogs.

Her love affair with the breed may have started as a child, but it’s only in recent years that Ms Mayne has started raising her own bloodline.

Wendy Mayne started breeding her own koolies because she didn’t want to lose their bloodlines.(ABC New England North West: Jennifer Ingall)

Texas Koolies was founded in 2019 when Ms. Mayne realized that there were very few people raising working koolies and she wanted to expand their reach.

“I decided that koolies were a breed that people don’t really know about and they really aren’t recognized very well,” she said.

It all started with a puppy that his own mother raised and gave to him. This pup was named Emmie and turned out to be a very special dog.

“When I was researching koolies, there weren’t a lot of breeders out there…and I didn’t want his lines to be lost, so we went out and bought a strong male koolie and some black color of northern Queensland and the rest is history.”

Three dogs are sitting in line
These three koolies are sisters, with Emmie on the far right.(Provided: Wendy Mayne)

Deserving more

According to the Koolie Club of Australia, the breed began in the 1800s and was “unrecognized by many”.

It was a sentiment that Jenny Bradley agreed with Jenny Bradley, sheep farmer, grain farmer and koolie owner.

Based in west central New South Wales, Ms Bradley has only ever had koolies.

His dad owned his first koolie in the late 1950s and has had them ever since.

“I continued that line of koolie dogs, so we still have that original line of koolie that Dad started with,” she said.

“He had sheepdogs when he was younger…he had kelpies, I think, and I don’t know what initiated that change, but he never went back to anything other than the koolie dog.”

A woman and a dog stand in a pen with sheep
Jenny Bradley has had work koolies all her life.(Provided: Jenny Bradley)

While Ms Bradley said the recognition had to be earned, koolies tended to stay in the shadows of other breeds.

“All the publicity revolves around kelpies and collies, so you never see a lot of koolies in yard or sheepdog trials,” she said.

“They are so loyal.”

Lack of genetics

Breeders and owners say outdoor genetics for working koolies are limited when it comes to broadening the breed.

Ms Bradley said she had great difficulty finding genetics, going to great lengths to do so.

Puppies sitting online
Breeders and owners say it’s hard to track down koolie genetics that work.(Provided: Jenny Bradley)

“It’s getting really hard to find those outside genetics and a base of working dogs as well,” she said.

“So I’ve done weird things like that, following people on the highway to find out where they live because you don’t hear a lot of them around.”

So far, Ms. Bradley has managed to find working koolie genes, but she would like to see the breed grow.

However, she said it had to be for the right reasons.

“A lot of people like colors and they just want a colored dog, which leads to not breeding working dogs, but breeding for their beauty,” Ms Bradley said.

“You just have to find the people with the working dogs.”

A black and white dog
Maisie is one of Jenny Bradley’s beloved koolies.(Provided: Jenny Bradley)

Although Mrs. Bradley only raises a litter every few years for her own farm, she has sent puppies to different states.

They went to farms and some even went to compete on the agility circuit.

For Mrs. Bradley, she will never find a better employee or friend than her beloved koolies.

“They’re fun dogs to have. They’re working dogs first, but they’re part of the family and they love it,” she said.

Bette C. Alvarado