The industry powerhouse of Australia, the Pilbara is an ancient landscape studded with mountain ranges and deep gorges, where the outback and desert meet the coast.
In this landscape of red earth and blue skies Red Dog, a canine larrikin with a wandering heart became legend.
See the trailer for the new "Red Dog True Blue" movie below, and read on for more Red Dog information, plus find out how to experience the Pilbara like the original Pilbara Wanderer!
What is a 'Red Dog'?
"Red Dog" was a Kelpie, an Australian breed of sheepdog said to be one of the best all round stock dogs in the world. Intelligent, agile and energetic, Kelpies are ideal working dogs. They were recognised as a breed in Australia in 1905, said to derive from Scottish Collies at a station in Victoria in the late 1870's. Rumour has it however that interbreeding with Dingoes played a part in the development of the breed, and that this was kept a secret as Dingoes were seen as a pest at the time.
Red Dog - True Story
Stories about the real Red Dog and his travels are many and varied, and as with all great legends some of the stories have been enhanced in their telling and retelling over the years. 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.
As a young dog known as Tally Ho, he travelled to Dampier with his human companion Col Cummins, and soon became a fixture at the Dampier Salt Co and at Hamersley Iron, travelling on the company buses. Red Dog had a chocolate colour, sometimes called red. It’s said that his most well-known name came about from being covered in the famous fine red dirt of the Pilbara but those who knew him best say he was most often called Tally, Blue or Bluey.
A WA man named John Stazzonelli was Red Dog’s next and last true master, and after his tragic death Red Dog took to wandering the Pilbara. Red Dog’s many friends looked after him during this time, including the Karratha vet, Dr Rick Fenny. With a bank account and fully paid up memberships in the Dampier Sports and Social Club, Metal Trades Union and the Transport Workers Union, Red Dog was no ordinary dog.
After his death in 1979, a statue was erected in his memory in the town of Dampier and today the statue is a very popular stop with tourists.
Red Dog Movies
Hugely popular on its release in 2011, Red Dog was mainly based on Louis de Bernieres’ book and featured a fantastic cast of Australian and international actors, not least of whom was its canine star, Koko. Red Dog won multiple film awards nationally and internationally and is the 10th highest grossing Australian film (as at May 2016).
The vibrant colours of the Pilbara and the rough and tumble early days of the town of Dampier came to life on the big screen and brought the story of the Pilbara wanderer, Red Dog, to a wider audience. A semi-autobiographical tale, the human characters in the film are fictitious although based on true events. The true essence of the story is the relationship of Red Dog to the Pilbara and its inhabitants.
In December 2016 “Red Dog: True Blue” will be released and it tells the fictional story of a young boy’s incredible bond with his Kelpie, and their adventures in the Pilbara.
The Red Dog movies were filmed on location around the town of Dampier in the Pilbara, Western Australia with some scenes recreated in South Australia.
Red Dog Books
“Red Dog” by Louis de Bernieres is the best known of the published books about the Pilbara’s famous dog and the basis for the 2011 movie. “Red Dog: True Blue” (Penguin, 2016) is Louis de Bernieres’ novella based on the screenplay for the second film, but as he notes in the foreword he took the liberty of diverging from the screenplay in a couple of places Both books are quick and entertaining reads, and paint a very descriptive picture of the Pilbara landscape.
Published in 1983, “Red Dog” by WA author and Dampier resident Nancy Gillespie is a collection of stories and poems from local residents who knew the Pilbara Wanderer. Beverley Duckett, also a Pilbara local, published "Red Dog: The Pilbara Wanderer" in 1993. While both of these books can be hard to find, Karratha Visitor Centre has copies for sale alongside other Red Dog merchandise.