History of The Kelpie Muster
As always, the story must begin with Jack Gleeson, the stockman who single handedly embedded the kelpie into Casterton’s history with one unknowing act: the trading of a horse for a kelpie pup on the banks of the Glenelg River.
Take us now to 1995 when the Casterton community was not alone, with many Australian rural community were struggling with rural decline. The community came together to consider its future and developed a working party ‘Casterton Project 2000’ – who’s clear aim was to have 2000 people living in Casterton by the year 2000.
But more importantly the aim was to promote the unique benefits and position that Casterton held within the wonderful pastoral area of the Western Districts in Victoria.
It was after much research and ‘think tanks’ that one of the local Vets mentioned she had been doing some research on the Kelpie as a working dog and discovered that Casterton was were the first ever Kelpie was born !!
Well that was it ………..it was the ‘unique’ thing that Casterton call its own and nobody could take anyway - everything went into overdrive. After confirming with the Australian Working Dog Council and a number of other authorities – it was the undisputable truth that the first Kelpie originated from Warrock Station just north of Casterton.
CASTERTON was the “BIRTHPLACE OF THE KELPIE’
With the impending 150 year celebrations for Casterton in 1996, the idea of a bronze statue in front of the Town Hall become a reality with world renowned sculptor Peter Corlett creating the statue.
Today a visit to Casterton is no complete for any child, whether a local or visitor, without jumping on Kelpie’s back for a ride. You just have to look or feel her shiny ears and smooth back to tell how loved she is!
During this period the local Apex Club came on board with an idea that club member, Ian O’Connell thought would be a goer, so he worked with the club and under the co-ordination of Steve Crossley the first Casterton Working Dog Auction was held at the local saleyards in 1997.
In the meantime projects such as the Kelpie Walking Trail were developed embracing many aspects and traits of the kelpie breed. At Ess Lagoon you will find ‘Man’s Best Friend’ and at the main bridge you will find Stockman, Jack Gleeson exchanging a kelpie pup on the banks of the Glenelg River.
At the entry to Island Park Recreational Reserve you can see a George Haddon cartoon which has been recreated on ‘clay tiles’ depicting the Working Dog Auction.
During this period the Working Dog Auction annually went from success to outstanding success and in 2001 the Casterton Kelpie Festival was included to the weekend program.
The festival is held in the main street, which comes alive with ‘all things kelpie’ – the Poets Breakfast starts the day. A classic country Street Parade always pleases with its array of fun and excitement with community groups, school and sporting clubs taking part, all hoping to take home the ultimate first prize.
The Kelpie Triathlon – involving the three major events of the Kelpie 50m Dash, Kelpie High Jump (with a world record of 2.951m) and the Kelpie Hill Climb up the amazing Blueberry Hill that walls Casterton, is certainly the most sort after crown.
Today we have sold well over $2mil worth of working dogs through the annual auction. Not a bad result when the first auction netted at total of $6,120.
The record price for a fully trained Working Dog stands at $12,000 which were achieved in both 2012 and 2017.
The Australian Kelpie Centre opening highlights an amazing milestone for the community having worked towards this goal since 1996 – the centre includes an ‘interpretive centre’ so on any day you can visit Casterton and embrace the spirit of the ‘Kelpie’.