You Say Coolie, They Say Koolie (let’snotcall-thewholethingoff)*

Max Von Stephanitz wrote in his book, The German Shepherd In Word and Picture, “The Australian grazier were sufficiently impressed with German sheep dogs to import them.” Describing “tiger spotted dogs” of Central and Northern Germany, Von Stephanitz added: “These dogs had dark brown to black spots or splashes, or larger splashes in a lighter background, or, which was considered more aristocratic, silver grey splashes on a black background.”

It wasn’t the German Shepherd Dog, however, of which Von Stephanitz wrote.

The words penned in 1925 referred to a tough-as-nails stock dog thought to be descended from the same working Collie type dogs  brought to Thomas Hall in Australia of Australian Cattle Dog fame. For a long time in Australia, collie-type dogs were described as “coolies,” a likely result of the word, “collie” having morphed into “coolie” because of local ways of spelling and pronouncing the word, or even from how German immigrants living in South Australia pronounced “collie.” As an aside, “Colie” or “Coolie” was also the term used in Scotland for a Shepherd’s dog,” and in that light, it makes sense because there are many historical references to the importation of collies and “coolies” from Britain to Australia.

As for the the proper spelling and country prefix for the name, let the games begin. There are those who want to keep the breed’s name as “German Coolie,” and those who prefer to acknowledge the breed’s Australian’s origins by using “Australian Koolie.” 

*A reference to the George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin song, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” that you can watch here being sung by Fred and Ginger.

Image: “Koolie Dog” by Robin Arthur


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