About the Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd, the cowboy’s herding dog of choice, is a medium-sized worker with a keen, penetrating gaze in the eye. Aussie coats offer different looks, including merle (a mottled pattern with contrasting shades of blue or red). In all ways, they’re the picture of rugged and agile movers of stock. Aussies exhibit an irresistible impulse to herd, anything: birds, dogs, kids. This strong work drive can make Aussies too much dog for a sedentary pet owner. Aussies are remarkably intelligent, quite capable of hoodwinking an unsuspecting novice owner. In short, this isn’t the pet for everyone. But if you’re looking for a brainy, tireless, and trainable partner for work or sport, your search might end here.
The Australian Shepherd is descended from a line of Europe’s finest herders. The Aussie’s world tour began in Europe, near the Pyrenees Mountains. It was here, in the borderlands between France and Spain, where the indigenous people known as the Basques built their centuries-old reputation as world-class shepherds. Their herding dog of choice was called the Pyrenean Shepherd, progenitor of our modern Aussie.
In the early 1800s, Australia’s Anglo émigrés began a push into the continent’s vast interior in search of rich pasture land for cattle ranching. Eventually, many Basques, with their faithful shepherd dogs in tow, sailed east to try their luck on the virgin Australian continent, a wide-open paradise for sheep herders.
During their long sojourn in Australia, the Basque shepherd refined their dogs with judicious crosses to Australia’s British imports, Collies and Border Collies, among them. After building up their flocks, the intrepid Basques left Australia for greener pastures—literally—and set sail to California.
California ranchers admired the Basques’ herding dogs and assumed they were an Australian breed—thus the misleading name Australian Shepherd. Aussies, further refined and perfected in America, have been an iconic part of cowboy culture ever since. Many are still happily herding in the American West, others earn their feed as rodeo performers, and still others of this exuberantly versatile breed work as therapy dogs, drug detectors, service dogs, and search-and-rescue dogs. The Australian Shepherd entered the AKC Herding Group in 1993.