Lifestyle Livestock

Long live the cattle dog

Valley Urricelqui


My grandfather, Roger Urricelqui, says it best, “A dog is one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind.” As a young girl, I remember whenever I got to my grandparents’ house, there were always happy puppies there to greet me. This was the best part of any day, having a slobber-faced puppy lick me all over, play tug-a-war, and chase me around on the lawn. That was my childhood. Little did I know that these dogs were used for more on my family cattle ranch than just to give my siblings and I licks and kisses. They were born and raised to contribute to the ranching lifestyle — and, most importantly, to work.

Centuries ago, my ancestors used dogs to heard sheep in the Piranesi mountains of Spain. There, the dogs ran hundreds of miles to round up sheep in rough, high-mountain terrain and herd them home. From heading to heeling their roots run deep in the excitement and exhilaration of driving livestock. This is still a tradition today, as owners of livestock from around the world use a variety of breeds to herd and drive livestock home.

The cattleman has evolved from using lots of horses and men on long day and night cattle drives to understanding the use of a cattle dog and how they can help drive livestock in a quicker and more efficient amount of time.

“One guy with one good dog can do the amount of work of three or four cowboys,” my grandfather says.

australian kelpies
Kelpies working cattle in the Australian Outback (Image by Melissa Spencer, Shutterstock)

Today, one of the best cow dogs for livestock around the globe is known as the Australian Kelpie. The legend of the Kelpie dates back hundreds of years in Australia. The story goes that a type of Collie was in heat and tied to a tree when a dingo snuck in during the night and bred her. This resulted in a littler of dingo/Collie-crossed pups. If true, it makes sense as to why the Kelpie is able to retain a high heat tolerance and have more endurance than any other working dog in its class. If you knew anything about a dingo, this dog was clearly bred to have the proper resilience, energy, and intellectual ability to find and herd livestock all day (and sometimes through the night) in both warm and chilling climates.

With the drive of a Collie to heard livestock and endurance of a dingo, there is no comparison to a Kelpie. To this day, this breed still stands true to those same qualities.

It has been found more efficient on the Urricelqui Ranch to send one maybe two cowboys out on horseback with one to four dogs to round up cattle for a day of tagging and branding. This way the other cowboys can get ready setting up the vaccine and tagging equipment. Once the dogs are back with the cattle, there is no wasted time, and we are ready to start processing cattle. These dogs help make life on a cattle ranch run smoother and more efficient. With their adrenaline and vitality, they are ready to work long hours any time of the day in rough terrain. At the end of a long and hard day in the heat, they will still be there right by your side, ready whether it be to work or give you love.

My grandfather got his very first Kelpie from a man named Dr. Jack Woolsey, a renowned veterinarian in California. Woolsey found his interest in the Kelpie while in Australia. He then began to breed them here in the states. My grandfather, who is now one of the most well-respected Kelpie trainers in California, did significant research about the Kelpie breed early on and took a lasting interest in them. He has trained, loved, and worked beside them for over 45 years.

I asked my grandpa what qualities he looks for when choosing a Kelpie. He says, “I look for a dog with good hearing ability, strength, agility, and a desire to work.”

australian cattle dog
An Australian cattle dog (Image by Iryna Dobrovynska, Shutterstock)

Everyone has their own way to get the job done — on the Urricelqui Ranch, the Australian Kelpie is known as our companion as well as our helper. They are used daily to herd and move cattle. Globally these dogs are used to round up livestock for the long drives home. They are the most selfless companion you will ever have, with dedication and commitment to put hard work in every day for their owner. All they require in return is a show of appreciation by a pat on the head or a good scratch on the belly. Maybe take them to cool off in their favorite watering hole after a long hot day of work.

Whatever it may be, show them you appreciate them. Dogs are only here for a part of our lives, but for them, you are their whole life. Whether it be a Collie, Shepherd, Heeler, or the Australian Kelpie, their legacy lives on. Long live the cattle dog.


Valley Urricelqui shares her passion for the agriculture industry one day at a time. You can visit her blog or follow her on Facebook or Instagram.

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