The Story of 'Red Dog' » JaneDogs (2022)

The Story of 'Red Dog' » JaneDogs (1)Australian Kelpie

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 mining industry.

The Background of 'Red Dog'

The Story of 'Red Dog' » JaneDogs (2)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 under way 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 urbanised, suburbanised, bureaucratic society. Born in 1971 he chose to live the life of a hobo and spent 8 years on the move."[2]

Everybody fed 'Red Dog' and gave him lifts in cars, buses, trucks and trains that travelled 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.

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Mining and 'Red Dog'

The Story of 'Red Dog' » JaneDogs (3)Mining Camp Pilbara WA 1964

The following quote summarises 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.

The Story of 'Red Dog' » JaneDogs (4)'RED DOG' as portrayed on the movie set of the film

They were either rootless or uprooted. They were from Poland, New Zealand, Italy, Ireland, Greece, England, Yugoslavia, and from other parts of Australia too. Most had brought no wives or family with them, and for the time being they lived in big huts that had been towed on trailers all the way up from Perth. Some of them were rough and some gentle, some were honest and some not. There were those who got rowdy and drunk, and picked fights, there were those who were quiet and sad, and there were those who told jokes and could be happy anywhere at all. With no women to keep an eye on them, they easily turned into eccentrics. A man might shave his head and grow an immense beard. He might go to Perth for a week, go 'blotto on Rotto', and come back with a terrible hangover and lots of painful tattoos. He might wear odd socks and have his trousers full of holes. He might not wash for a week, or he might read books all night so that he was red-eyed and weary in the morning when it was time to go to work. They were all pioneers, and had learned to live hard and simple lives in this landscape that was almost a desert.

The Story of 'Red Dog' » JaneDogs (5)Red Dog - the actual dog

These brawny individuals took a rapid shine to Tally (Red Dog). They had little affection in their lives, and they could feel lonely even with all their workmates around them, so it was good to have a dog that you could stroke, and have play fights with. It was good to have a dog to talk to, who never swore at you and was always glad to see you. Tally liked them, too, because they ruffled his ears and roughed him up a bit, and rolled him on his back to tickle his stomach. They fed him meaty morsels from their sandwiches and dinner plates, and they brought him special treats from the butcher. Even though he was sometimes absent for days on end, there would always be a can of dog food on the shelf, along with all the tools and oily rags, and there would always be a bit of steak left over from the weekend's barbecue."[4]

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The Story of 'Red Dog' » JaneDogs (6)Red Dog Statue in Dampier

Despite 'Red Dog' being known by so many people, very few photos of him have survived. But nearly all photos show him wearing his dog tag. On his tag was characteristically inscribed: "RED DOG - 'BLUEY'" on one side and "I've been everywhere mate" on the reverse.[5]

The Legend of 'Red Dog'

'Red Dog' was unarguably part of the community. He had his own bank account and was member of the Trade Union. He reportedly saw every film at the drive-in and was there at football matches and any other gathering of people. Of his other activities, one can only guess, as many puppies in the area looked remarkably like him.

When he died from a poison bait containing strychnine, money was collected not only from the iron ore workers and the vet Rick Fenny who looked after him, but also from the local dog clubs and indeed from dog folk all over Australia. The statue was sculptured by Mrs Merri Forrest and cast in bronze. A focal point of the bay of Dampier, it stands on a 10 tonne iron ore rock from Mt Tom Price facing the road out of town. The inscription on the monument reads:

'RED DOG The Pilbara Wanderer Died November 21st 1979, erected by the many friends made during his travels'[5]

The statue has this verse inscribed on the bronze plaque beneath it[3] It is the last verse of a longer poem written by Lloyd Reynolds of South Hedlands WA

The stories this old dog could tell
If he could only say
Would add a page in history
For ever and a day.
But still he'll be remembered
By those who knew his way
The Red Dog of Pilbara
From the north of W.A.

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The Film of 'RED DOG'

The tale of the Red Dog captured the imagination of many people. Based on the Louis De Berniere book in reference[4] below, the story was adapted into the film 'RED DOG' that was released recently. I thoroughly enjoyed both. As far as I am personally concerned, the star of the film was 'Koko', the Kelpie who portrayed 'RED DOG'.

The Story of 'Red Dog' » JaneDogs (7)Koko as a showdog

'Koko' is an ANKC registered Australian Kelpie who attained his show title of Australian Champion Klassikelp Smart n Bossy handled by his breeder Carol Hobday from Dunolly in Victoria. When trainer Luke Hura approached Carol for a dog to play a part in this film, 'Koko' was already three years old. As a young dog, when Carol was teaching him to stand and gait for the showring, she observed how eager he was to please. But it was up to Luke to do the rest. Luke is already well known in Victoria for his outstanding work as a dog trainer.

'Koko' was required to give sufficient expression on command for all those wonderful close-up shots. This was a big ask because Luke had to teach him to 'look front' so 'Koko' would actually look straight at the camera. This produced marvelous charismatic shots which for me were part of the film's magic. After the film shoot was complete, Carol Hobday was so convinced that Nelson Woss would give 'Koko' a good home, she ultimately gifted him 'Koko'. He is now Nelson's best mate.

The Story of 'Red Dog' » JaneDogs (8)'Koko'

As look-a-likes are essential for any film shoot, producer Nelson Woss and dog trainer Luke Hura also sought pure breed Kelpies to "stand in" for 'Koko'. Interestingly three of these were also Australian Champions. Although I was not on the set and have no idea which dogs, other than 'Koko' were actually used, the breed type was so consistent and the editing so clever that I was never distracted from the story by any minor differences between any of the dogs. The producers certainly were successful in telling the story of 'RED DOG' with it appearing that just one dog filled the main role.

Luke sourced an old Kelpie from a working dog background for the part of the old 'RED DOG' who, along with 'Koko' reduced so many of us to tears. And lastly the puppy that appears at the very end of the film was the other Kelpie which filled a definite role.

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A Place in History

'Red Dog' was certainly part of a pioneering community in Australian history. Local stories about this remarkable dog live on in many different ways. But a mark of true fame, is when a wonderful film is made about a legend. I think 'RED DOG' is a must-see film, and although somewhat fictionalised, it will no doubt cement the Kelpie's position into Australia's iconic history.

References and Further Reading

This story was published by "Dog Show Scene" Australian Canine Press Pty Ltd Austral NSW Issue 4 2011 Pages 12 - 13 and 112 - 113

  • also by "Dogs Victoria Magazine" Victorian Canine Association Inc. Cranbourne Vic Vol. 78 Issue 1 January 2012 Pages 22 - 24

[1] Robert Kaleski, "Australian Barkers and Biters" first published 1914 and later printed by Bulletin Newspaper Co. Ltd. 1933 Pages 90 - 91.

[1a] Robert Kaleski, handwritten manuscript courtesy the Australian Kelpie Club of NSW National Dog Newspaper (Dog Publications Pty Ltd Windsor NSW) November 1979 Page 18

[2] Pauline Sadler (Secretary of the Pilbara all Breeds Dog Club) "Red Dog of the Pilbaba" National Dog Annual 1980 (Dog Publications Pty Ltd Windsor NSW) Pages 32 and 174

[3] Betty Reading, "West Australia Report" National Dog Newspaper (Fitzgerald Publishing Pty Ltd Windsor NSW) February 1981 Page 7

[4] Louis de Berniers, "Red Dog" (Published by Secker & Warburg, Random House London 2001) IBSN 0-436-25617-7 pages 21 - 23

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[5] Beverley Duckett, "RED DOG The Pilbara Wanderer" 1993 Pages 28 - 31


What happens at the end of Red Dog? ›

During the celebrations that follow, Red Dog gets up and walks out of the bar, unnoticed by everyone. Upon realizing that the sick dog has left, everyone in the town begins looking for him, eventually finding him lying dead in front of John's grave.

What is the moral of Red Dog? ›

The main messages from this movie are about the loyalty of dogs and the importance of animals to people. Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include: care for animals. community spirit.

What is the main theme of Red Dog? ›

Red Dog is an Australian film depicting the impact of a dog to an Australian outback community. The film maker cleverly used certain film techniques to present the main themes of the film. The Major themes are: community, loyalty, hardship, isolation, friendship and love.

Is Red Dog a sad movie? ›

It's a beautifully shot movie in an inherently interesting setting. It doesn't take every opportunity for tear-jerking sentiment, but it is an emotional tale of how this special dog impacted the people he interacted with.

What does Red Dog mean? ›

In American football, a defensive tactic in which the offensive player who receives the ball from the snap (usually the quarterback) is charged at by multiple defensive players; a blitz. The quarterback has been sacked again after another suffocating red dog by the defense. See also: dog, red.

Is Red Dog a true story? ›

Red Dog was based on Louis de Bernières' best-selling true story of an Australian cattle dog who travelled through Western Australia in the search of his missing master in the 1970s.

How does Red Dog show loyalty? ›

Numerous days/weeks later Red goes looking all over the place looking for John asking one simple question “have you seen John?” This shows Red Dog is loyal because he sticks to John looking around to find him. When he finds him, he lays down next to Johns grave.

What is the opening scene of Red Dog? ›

The story begins when a truck driver and stranger to the town (Luke Ford) arrives at the pub in Dampier. He finds that everyone is preoccupied with a dying kelpie, Red Dog (played by a two-year old dog called Koko).

What is the setting in Red Dog? ›

The story – and the film – is set in the Pilbara, the red earth country of Western Australia where mining is the main industry.

What film techniques are used in Red Dog? ›


thisshot is used to make the character look like they have more power than the reast of the characters. A zoom in is where the camera moves closer to a charactor or object. An example in red dog is when Jack is takling about Red Dog and the camera zooms in to his face.

Is Dog a sad movie? ›

While “Dog” is often funny, it's not a comedy. Though it's often sad, it's not a tragedy either. Instead, it's a sensitive, engaging, realistic look at what happens when a soldier's toughest battle starts when they come home. It's not the movie its marketing would have you believe it is.

Who poisoned Red Dog? ›

Though he was a much-loved member of the Pilbara community, someone didn't like him at all. Red Dog was deliberately poisoned by strychnine in 1979.

What kind of dog is red? ›

The Australian cattle dog is also known for its stunning red- or blue-mottled coat. It is sometimes called a "red heeler" or "blue heeler," depending on its coloring.

Who is Nancy in Red Dog? ›

Red Dog (2011) - Rachael Taylor as Nancy - IMDb.

Who were the Red Dogs? ›

Red Dog -- which is said to stand for Run Every Drug Dealer Out Of Georgia -- came into being during the crack-cocaine epidemic in the 1980s when Atlanta, like other cities had open-air drug markets and almost weekly drive-by shootings.

How do you spell Red Dog? ›

Red dog Definition & Meaning |

Do they still make Red Dog? ›

Although popular during the mid-to-late 1990s, Red Dog faded into near-obscurity after the turn of the 21st century. Since 2005, it has been returning to stores in a current price segment between Miller High Life and Milwaukee's Best.

Where did Red Dog travel? ›

Red Dog was born in the area and travelled between Perth and Broome, and was known by many of the locals throughout the Pilbara and he travelled to many locations including Karratha, Dampier, Roebourne, Point Sampson, Port Hedland, Tom Price, Paraburdoo, Broome and even Perth.

Why is the dog green? ›

The rare phenomenon is thought to happen when light-colored puppies come in contact with biliverdin, a green pigment found in bile. It's the same pigment you can see when bruises turn green. It essentially dyes their fur in the womb, and the color fades over time. And here's Forest now.

Who trained Red Dog? ›

Luke Hura, showbiz animal trainer for 30 years, said an expressive face landed Koko the kelpie the title role in the Australian movie Red Dog, the story of a beloved 1970s outback stray, which had its Melbourne premiere at the Jam Factory in South Yarra last night.

What kind of dog is Clifford? ›

What dog breed is Clifford? Clifford is a Giant Vizsla. Although Clifford is over 10 feet tall and weighs A LOT (we don't know exactly how much because he broke the scale!), the average Viszla is only about 2 feet tall and between 45 and 65 pounds. The Vizsla breed originated in Hungary as a hunting dog.

How many dogs were used in Red Dog? ›

Moving four spirited kelpies and 40 cast and crew to remote parts of Australia gave Stage and Screen Travel Services a special affinity with the new feature movie, Red Dog.

When was Red Dog born? ›

What's known about Red Dog is that he was born in about 1971 in the Paraburdoo area, travelled thousands of kilometres by walking or hitching a lift in cars, buses, trucks and trains and was loved by the many friends he made during his travels.

Who are the main characters in Red Dog? ›

Red Dog

Why is Red Dog important to the community? ›

Red Dog is important to the community of Dampier because he is just like all of its members. He reflects their independence, a shared life that has emerged despite a vast number of different backgrounds, the free spirit and wanderer in all their natures, and the capacity for companionship, loyalty and love.

Who plays John in Red Dog? ›

As for star power, Josh Lucas stars as the wanderer turned bus driver John who becomes the one and only de-facto owner of Red Dog as they form a loyal master-dog relationship, with Rachael Taylor (of Transformers fame) playing Nancy his love interest whom he met while serving the community, and she getting into a ...

Who are the Cribbages in Red Dog? ›

Other main characters during the scene include Nancy and Mr & Mrs Cribbage. These characters were wearing old Australian clothes and were very fancy. We find out that the Cribbages really don't like dogs and threaten to shoot Red Dog. Nancy stands up for Red and get all of the miners to protest against the Cribbages.

Which of these animals offspring is called a Red Dog? ›

It's a baby bison. Bison calves tend to be born from late March through May and are orange-red in color, earning them the nickname "red dogs." After a few months, their hair starts to change to dark brown and their characteristic shoulder hump and horns begin to grow. 6.

What kind of Dog is Red Dog in the movie? ›

Australian Kelpie

How does Red Dog represent Australian identity? ›

The Dog of the North-West. Red Dog's determination reinforces the aspect of the Australian identity of being brave and shows he will not give up. Red Dog is a very strong character in the film and is a representation of the working class.

Where do ferns grow? ›

Where the Red Fern Grows is a 1961 children's novel by Wilson Rawls about a boy who buys two hunting dogs.
Where the Red Fern Grows.
First edition hardback cover
AuthorWilson Rawls
Publication date1961
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
Pages245 pp.
6 more rows

Does dog have happy ending? ›

The Magic Mike star added that he asked his loved ones why they would want to know the ending, but he quickly learned that they were less concerned about spoilers if it meant knowing that the adorable furball survives. Luckily, Channing confirmed that Dog has a "good ending."

What happens end of dog? ›

He attends the funeral together with Lulu and then goes to the military facility to hand over the canine. Just then, he had a change of heart. He didn't feel right giving her up. He goes back and takes Lulu with him.

What happens to the dog at the end of the story? ›

He dies not long after, although he manages to complete the rope he made for Peter. Peter receives the rope, hides it under his bed, and then looks out the window to see that his mother, now recovering from her depression, is now happy with George. Peter smiles knowing that he has “saved” his mother.

Who is John Stazzonelli? ›

John Stazzonelli was a West Australian, who joined Hamersley Iron in 1972 and became Blue's unofficial owner. When John drove the company bus, Blue always sat behind him. John died July 23rd 1975, aged 27 and is buried in Northampton, WA near his Mother and Father, Winifred and Albondio.

Where is Red Dogs statue? ›

A memorial statue is located on the outskirts of Dampier, Western Australia. The Red Dog Statue is located on the left as you enter the town of Dampier, WA, there is a small parking bay for you to safely stop and get out and take a photo of Red Dog.

How much of the movie Red Dog is true? ›

"Ten or 15 per cent of the movie is fact and the rest is fiction," she says. "He didn't go to China." Two of the main characters, John and Nancy, were real people says Jenny and it was after John's accidental death that Red became a wanderer.

What happens at end of Clifford the Big Red Dog? ›

In the end, Clifford is saved and Emily Elizabeth schools an enormous crowd on the importance of love and appreciating what makes us all different. With beautifully inclusive morals and a cavity-spawning happy ending, Clifford is only a tear-jerker if you're a big ol' mush.

How does the movie red end? ›

As they fall, they fire back: in the crossfire, Harold and Pete are fatally shot.

Does the new Clifford movie have a happy ending? ›

Clifford The Big Red Dog Movie Review and Ending ... - YouTube

Does Emily Elizabeth have a dad? ›

Mark Howard is the father of Emily Elizabeth Howard. He has brown hair.


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