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One Man and His Kelpie?

AT FIRST glance it may lack the athletic prowess and sleek finesse of the Border Collie, but the Australian Kelpie is making a bold challenge to usurp the former's position as the Farmer's Best Friend.

At least, that's the story at Balbuthie Farm in Fife, Scotland, where kelpie Glams Jess spends her time and considerable stamina rounding up cattle as well as sheep.

Kelpie's Strength and Stamina
The breed's strength and stamina - which make it so useful a worker on Australian farms in searing heat - are becoming increasingly attractive to British farmers. Until recently, the cost of importing Kelpies and putting them through quarantine made them prohibitively expensive for most farmers, but now, thanks to scientists at Edinburgh Genetics, a part of the Scottish Agricultural College, they could be far more readily available, as the scientists have now successfully bred several litters of kelpies from frozen semen flown from Australia to Scotland.

John Brown's Brainchild
The project is the brainchild of John Brown, a stockman from Fife, together with three associates, all Kelpie enthusiasts, Mr Brown, 55, bought his first Kelpie to work at Balbuthie farm in the mid 1980s. Two years ago, he sought to import a pedigree dog to improve the blood line of his own stock, but found the cost extortionate.

He then hit upon the idea of breeding Kelpies by Artificial Insemination, a process more familiarly used in the world of show dogs than of working farm dogs.

Samples of semen from two top Australian dogs were flown into Scotland at a fraction of the cost of importation. With the help of Edinburgh Genetics, the AI was under way and Glams Jess gave birth to her first litter of seven pups in December last year.

Fed up
'I first stared working in Kelpies because I was fed up with Border Collies,' said Mr Brown. 'They were too weak and did not have the force needed for the work I wanted them to do. Whereas a Collie will get tired a Kelpie will run around forever and a day.'

Mr Brown admits that the Kelpies are not very stylish compared to their Collie counterparts. 'You'd never see them on One Man and his Dog,' said Mr Brown, 'But they're like all Australians , they love life and hard work and they play hard. The only thing they don't like is the rain.'

500 Kelpies in UK
Currently, there are only 500 Kelpies in the UK, compared to the 6,000 working Border Collies registered annually with the International Sheep Dog Society, although that may well be set to change now that Kelpie breeding is taking off.

Dogs - This article has been reproduced courtesy of Our Dogs

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