The box office success of the recently released Australian film ‘RED DOG’ looks set to entrench our Australian Kelpie into history. This is more than just the legendary story of an individual dog named ‘Red Dog’. It is also the story of how one of this iconic Australian breed adapted from being integral to Australia’s sheep industry, to being part of a pioneering community which was working to establish Australia’s iron ore industry.
The Backgound of ‘Red Dog’
Modern Working Kelpie
The origin of the Australian Kelpie was the 1800’s when it was said that Australia rode on the sheep’s back. Today, although many Kelpies still work sheep, for other members of this iconic Australian breed, their role has been adapted to various forms of companionship. For ‘Red Dog’ he was to become the mate of an entire pioneering mining community.
During the 1970’s this mining boom was well underway in the north west of Western Australia. Iron ore had been discovered in this area in 1965 and a railway had been built to the coast to transport the iron ore by ship to the rest of the world. As nothing was there except a hot unforgiving landscape, the iron ore company began building settlements to accommodate the workers, who came from a variety of backgrounds. They were attracted to work in this area for many different reasons, not least of which was the large wages. Most of the men eked out a lonely existence like the gold miners who preceded them in past generations. So when a waif dog arrived in the district in 1971, he was befriended by all and sundry. He became known as ‘Red Dog’ and had the amazing ability to bring people together and connect them. It seems everybody in the community loved the companionship he gave them.
“Red Dog belonged to everybody but to no-one. He was an independent spirit, a symbol of the individual in an increasingly urbanized, suburbanised, bureaucratic society. Born in 1971 he chose to live the life of a hobo and spent 8 years on the move.”
Everybody fed ‘Red Dog’ and gave him lifts in cars, buses, trucks and trains that traveled throughout the mining district and beyond. His homing instinct was reinforced by the welcome he always received. Many of those he met told their own stories about him.
Mining and ‘Red Dog’
Mining Camp Pilbara WA 1964
The following quote summarizes where, how and why the legend of ‘Red Dog’ came about.
“. the town was so full of lonely men. There had been a few aborigines and even fewer white people there before the iron companies and the salt company had moved in, but just recently a massive and rapid development had begun to take place. New docks were constructed, new roads, new houses for the workers, a new railway and a new airport. In order to build all this, hundreds of men had arrived from all corners of the world, bringing nothing with them but their physical strength, their optimism and their memories of distant homes. Some of them were escaping from bad lives, some had no idea how they wanted their lives to be, and others had grand plans about how they could work their way from rags to riches.