The kelpie is an Australian working dog who specialises in mustering sheep. They are smart, loyal, agile, hard-working, and a national icon. Casterton, in Victoria’s Western District, is the birthplace of the kelpie breed and celebrates them once a year with the Kelpie Muster. Whilst the auction of working kelpies is one of the main elements of the weekend (a record was set in 2012 with the sale of 2 year-old Tom for $12 000), there are also plenty of events both fun and serious to show off the special skills of kelpies. From novelty events like the Kelpie Egg and Spoon Race, to art shows, to the Kelpie Triathlon and the Stockman’s Challenge. In addition to the large numbers of kelpies completing in the various events, the small and usually quiet country town is inundated with kelpie admirers and non-competing spectator kelpies. It’s quite an overwhelming sight of dog love and loyalty.
The Stockman’s Challenge is the only event of its kind in Australia, with stockmen using both their horse and kelpie to herd sheep around a course, in and out of gum trees and finally into a pen.
First the stockman must show the judges his skills in controlling his horse; His kelpie waits patiently on the sidelines waiting for his opportunity to show off his skills.
At the command of his master, the kelpie skirts around the sheep, making sure none stray from the group.
People line up to buy coffee from a van in the bush car park next to the Stockman’s Challenge; A border collie spends the entire Kelpie Muster waiting patiently for their master in the back of a ute, next to a corrugated iron sculpture honouring the keplie.
A flock of sheep in a pen waiting to play their part in the Stockman’s Challenge.
From her horse the stockwoman gives commands to her kelpie, who rounds the sheep and helps her steer them around the course.
The crowd of onlookers at the Stockman’s Challenge, definitely a country crowd; The kelpie keeps a keen eye on the sheep, even as he helps herd them into the pen.
Kelpie rounds the flock to stop a lone sheep from straying.
Even though the sheep have been herded into the pen, the kelpie still keeps his eye on them.
Back in town one of the spectator kelpies keeps out of the rain by hanging out in the coffee tent with his family.
Crowds line the main street of town to watch the kelpies sprint past them in the first event of the Kelpie Triathlon, the 50 metre dash.
A friend holds the kelpie at one end of the while their master walks to the other end, when released the kelpie will sprint 50 meters down the course back into the arms of their master, but in the meantime this focused kelpie isn’t taking their eyes off their master; No one can deny the love between a man and his dog, here they’re waiting for their turn at the start of the 50 metre dash.
3, 2, 1, go! The friend releases the kelpie, who dashes as fast as he can down the track to his master.
One of the kelpies running down the 50 metre dash track; A playful young kelpie runs the length of the dash then runs back to the starting line for a bit more fun, trying to see if the other dogs waiting to start will play.
One of the spectator kelpies on the side of the 50 metre dash, more interested in other things though; An older kelpie sits in the stands to watch the event.
Releasing one of the kelpies at the start of the dash, who happily begins sprinting down the course to his master.
Crowds line the course as one of the kelpies dashes past.
Another playful kelpie completes the dash then runs back to the start for some play.
Kelpies wait to begin the final triathlon event, the Hill Climb.
With the owner driven to the top of Toorak Hill in a ute, the kelpie is released at the bottom of the hill where it rushes faithfully up the very steep slope towards the sound of its master’s voice.
One of the houses nestled into the surrounding hills, with cars parked in paddocks for the event; An owner at the top of the hill yells and waves their hands to encourage their kelpie up to the top, the kelpie can’t see them and has to go by voice only.
A kelpie runs and leaps in the first stages of the hill climb.
Crowds watch a kelpie run up the very steep hill towards its owner at the top; A spectator kelpie in the crowd, wet from the rain but probably very glad to be standing with its family and not running up the hill.
A friend runs the competing kelpie out to the start of the hill climb.
Kelpies waiting at the bottom of the hill with their friends and family until their time to run, while their masters are driven to top of the hill; A kelpie sprints up the hill towards the sound of its master’s voice.
A kelpie sulking again the fence because she refused to run up the hill.