Campaspe Working Dogs - Tully Williams

My aim is to breed strong, keen yet calm working sheepdogs of the highest level of NATURAL ABILITY and BRAINS. This means adaptable, intelligent dogs with the right instincts, and with sound, bold temperaments.

Their BREEDING should largely tell them how to cast, hold, drive, muster, when and where to force, and so on. The ideal dog shouldn’t need much training in such things.

So what are the advantages of such NATURAL WORKERS?

– Develop into SUPERIOR dogs
– Are more RELIABLE
– Have greater PURPOSE and INITIATIVE
– Reach a high level of competency at a much YOUNGER age

Campaspe Working Dogs are bred as practical, all-round natural workers, suitable for working sheep and cattle, paddock and yard. They are bred for work, not trial. (In my view three sheep trials have largely ruined the collie, and yard trials likewise the kelpie, and ISDS style trials also have many shortcomings.)

My aim is to continually improve the bloodline to more closely approach the ‘perfect’ working dog with each generation. Quality is never sacrificed for quantity.

The premise I work from is that a dog should not have to be taught how to handle stock—its breeding should tell it that. You shouldn’t have to teach it not to split sheep, or basically how to cast (although some training and experience is always required), etc., but should only have to teach it a system of commands that allows you to communicate your wishes. Otherwise it will never be a top dog; it may be a handy dog, but it will never be a top dog.

The Campaspe line is based on what could best be described as Yulong Russ blood, which is becoming very rare. Many people who saw Russ work consider him one of the best dogs they have seen, if not THE best, and his mother (Campden Jip) one of the best bitches they have seen. He won the 1970 Centenary National Championships at Canberra, and in the years around that time won most of the major Victorian trials and many others also. When he wasn’t working trials he was working sheep and cattle in the steep Strezlecki ranges.

However this blood has become scarce, and has been diluted with inferior blood of other lines. I have tried to catch the last trickle of this blood before it disappears for good, and to concentrate and improve what is left before it is too late.

I aim to breed a natural, big casting and mustering dog with the extremely rare ability to muster scattered stock in rough hill-country. Exceptional cover and holding ability, and also the ability to drive stock well without overheading continually, are high on my list of priorities. A good dog should ‘work its sheep from behind’, and not take one more step than necessary.

Force is also essential, but it should be combined with the ability to hold while forcing, and without being too pushy. Pushy dogs that are always putting excessive pressure on stock are a nuisance. The good dog forces when required, then backs off and takes them quietly—it is steady and has good distance. Ideally Campaspe Working Dogs should have enough eye to get the job done—none on a mob but enough when needed. They should be keen, calm and bold, with good stamina and great heart (I have no time for dogs that must be molly-coddled along – they must be keen).

I aim for a short-haired dog, leggy and of good size, without too much white, but I give no credence to old wives tales about the colour of a dog’s eyes or anything of that nature. Having said that, however, I have had some excpetional dogs that break all these rules, so looks are not high on my priorities.

 Hold, force, drive, cast and distance.

Tully Williams working border collie sheepdogs

The Campaspe Working Dogs Bloodline

The Campaspe line is based around a dog called Moorlands Tomie, an exceptional worker linebred to Yulong Russ (4:3.4). Moorlands Tomie was bred by renowned sheepdog handler Jack Hiscock. He was by Cavanagh’s Esjay (a great grandson of Yulong Russ) who Jack rated as the best alround dog he had ever had, and out of Barravore Jean (a granddaughter of Yulong Russ). Jean was by Sid Cavanagh’s dog Miller’s Pete 2nd (bred by the great handler Allan Miller, by Yulong Russ out of a Sinclair’s Butch bitch).

There is a lot of the blood of dogs bred or owned by my good friend the late Sid Cavanagh behind the Campaspe dogs. Sid was a very knowledgeable breeder and handler, and without his influence the trickle of good blood still remaining would be gone.

Working border collie sheep dog Moorlands Tomie

Border Collies or not?

Personally, I don’t see much value in so-called “pure breeds” in the working dog.  In all of the working “breeds” there is a huge variation in every area, including colour, coat length, size, shape, temperament, intelligence and working instincts.  About the only commonality is some degree of shared ancestory, although the modern Kelpie is fairly standardized in colour and type (the old Kelpie was not).

So I see little value in breeds.  The modern “border collie” is far removed from the original dogs bred in the border regions of the UK, and the modern “kelpie” is far removed from the original dogs of that breed, both in generations and generally also in working style and type.

If someone said to me that a dog was a Kelpie, then that would tell me virtually nothing about what the dog might be like, except perhaps its colour and pricked ears.  It tells me nothing about how it might work, or its temperament, etc., and the same with the Border collie.  But if someone were to say a dog was of a particular bloodline, then that would tell me something about its work, its temperament, its instincts, and its likely usefulness.

So I far prefer to consider ‘strains’ of dogs, or bloodlines. This is what the original “Border” collie was – just one particular strain of collie which become popular. The Kelpie also was one particular strain of collie.  (“Collie”was a generic term used for working dogs, which meant ‘black’).

So even before I brought in Kelpie blood, I didn’t consider my dogs to be “Border collies”, although that is the description most people would probably have applied, and they were registered as such.  In recent years I have introduced some exceptional Kelpie blood through Roustabout Lil, who, when joined to Campaspe King, produced my highly prepotent and influential sire, Campaspe Ridge. 

My dogs are neither border collies, nor kelpies, they are Campaspe Working Dogs. 

“Old Blood”

Find me a real dog, bred down
Many lines from the great Yulong Russ

A dog of brains and ability, self-reliant
Of cover, and balance, and the searching cast
Hard dogs, and tough
One good line, the last

Unfashionable now
When soft dogs, weak dogs, and brainless
Turn-tailers proliferate
The steady strength and cover despised
In ignorance, inexperience

The good dogs have thinned, died out
Still, a remnant remains, a handful
Natural dogs, and clean

Real sheepdogs
not quite yet
A relic of the forgotten past
As a priceless pup demonstrates
The old blood,
throbbing in its veins

By Tully Williams



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