The Koolie is an Australian dog breed. Specifically, it is a herding dog, a subcategory of working dog. Koolies have existed in Australia since the early 1800s.
The Koolie is a medium-sized dog of varying coat type and colour, although they are generally recognised by their merled coat pattern. Koolies are typically slightly longer than tall and resemble a cross between a Border Collie and a Kelpie - dogs with whom they share Collie bloodline ancestry.
Like the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America, the Koolie Club of Australia defines the breed based on its ability to work rather than on its conformation. Unlike the JRT Club of America, most Koolie breeders refer to this dog as a breed rather than as a type, and assert that it "breeds true".
The Koolie is believed to be descended from the same Collie types that were brought to Australia for the kennels of Thomas S. Hall (an originator of the Australian Cattle Dog breed); some believe that they could be direct descendants of Hall's dogs. This, if true, would make the Koolie the oldest of Australia's breeds.
In 2000, the Koolie Club of Australia was formed to preserve, protect and ethically promote the Koolie breed. Opinion is divided as to whether official recognition would be good for the breed. As of (2006), no bench standard exists and none is expected in the near future.
The Koolie breed is currently not recognized by any kennel club, although judges from the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) may judge Koolies in the various sporting trials. In the states of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, registered Koolies may compete in Australian national kennel council-sponsored working, obedience, tracking, jumping and dog agility events by registration on their State's Sporting Register as members of the Koolie Club of Australia.
Graziers, stockmen and dairy farmers across Australia since the days of the earliest settlers to their present day counterparts have typically selected breeds which display the abilities required to meet their working needs. The temperament found in a Koolie is an example of this much sought after ability. The optimal worker possesses a combination of working skills and bonding temperament. There are times when an uninitiated dog owner or a new enthusiast mistakes the Koolie as a shy, reserved or even a timid animal. The Koolies temperament needs to be understood in proper context when one seeks an optimal match of skills and demeanor. The Koolies are intelligent animals and most experienced handlers know well that they need guidance instead of merely being pushed and given praise instead of assigning blame. A steady and supportive approach will be productive, proving the Koolies adaptability in diverse situations when given time. Such is the hallmark it bears and owners will be rewarded through the Koolies diligence in varied roles such as in work situations, sporting activities, loyal service or the time honored role of companionship. Known to be patient, temperate, dedicated, with a strong drive for willingness and devotion, the Koolie is not naturally aggressive but can demonstrate dominance, an untiring enthusiasm to work, and an admirable hardiness when the job or circumstance requires.
DNA testing carried out on 56 Koolies from Australia by Dr. Mark Neff of the University of California at Davis in the USA cleared those bloodlines tested for the presence of the mutant gene mdr1-1, which causes malfunction in the canine multidrug resistance gene; Collie bloodlines were chosen to be tested because they showed a reaction, even death, to chemicals, such as Ivermectin, used in the treatment of intestinal parasites.
Since 2004, the Koolie club of Australia in conjunction with Genetic Science Service of Australia has been undertaking the collection and processing of Koolie DNA, which is being tested for all current Collie diseases and family relationships. To date, the Koolie Club of Australia’s database records that their registered Koolie breed is relatively free of common genetic disorders that are found in recognized pure breeds, thanks to DNA testing. It is general accepted that this is due to the natural breeding selection, which has continued unhindered for over 160 years.
Koolies are much sought-after in rural Australia, and interest is now being shown in America and Germany. According to Geoff Broughton, the current president of the Koolie Club of Australia, the Koolie will head (move to the front or head of the stock to push them back towards you), heel, drive (push the stock from behind), cast (move out and around the stock), and back (literally jump onto the backs of their charges to herd them if necessary). Koolies have a reputation for being upright workers with a good eye, who can easily shift their focus from holding the group to casting around a flock or gathering breakaways. They are not known for having "sticky eyes" (focusing on the sheep in front only). Unlike other working breeds, which are noted for their crouched form or style and preference for either yard or field work, Koolies are just as much at ease working in closed surroundings such as yards or trucks as being out in paddocks and droving. As well as working anything from ducks to bulls, like all dogs of their kind they will herd family members and children in the absence of other charges.