Despite all of the info on Australian shepherds, a truth that is sometimes not known is that the Australian shepherd is not from Australia at all. Most likely they were bred somewhere in the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France, but this remains unclear, as breeds as we know them today did not exist before Victorian times. Much of what we know of any given breed’s history is conjecture.
The forebears of the modern Aussie were likely a mix of breeds, some now extinct, that would eventually result in the modern dog that we know. As was mentioned, this dog could have been a result of breeding between dogs anywhere from Spain to France, but it need not have been limited there. There is some thought that somewhere in their history are British herding dogs, as well as some breed from Germany. The question of when exactly this breeding took place, and what the results were with each generation, is of course an unknown.
What is common info on Australian shepherds is that they are one of the world’s best herding dogs. They are an intelligent, quick, and adaptive dog that’s natural talents have been realized for many different working roles beyond herding. Some of their talents include retrieving, guarding, serving as a watchdog, police work which includes narcotic detection, search and rescue and as guide dogs among other things.
There has been some conjecture that their name was derived from the fact that some of the first of the breed to come to America did so aboard ships carrying Australian sheep, to which they naturally gravitated to herding. Whatever the case, their stock is uniquely suited to the many different extremes found wherever cattle and other livestock roam. They can handle the cold temperatures, or the semiarid ones, while putting up with the storms and other such weather systems that sometimes ravage the American Midwest.
Another name that could be given to the breed is California shepherd. With the gold rush in the late 1800’s, a massive migration of fortune hunters travelled and settled on the west coast. They brought with them their clocks of sheep and herds of cattle, and to help them they brought their herding dogs. These animals were in every way perfectly suited to carrying out their herding duties in California and other plains areas.
Unlike their origins, info on Australian shepherds from more recent years is far easier to trace. In Nevada, California, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, and the Pacific Northwest the development of this breed started to see its modern roots. Selective breeding was undertaken, which can be seen in the rise of the teacup and miniature Aussie’s, as well as in those instances where the breeding instinct was emphasized and worked on in order to make an even more effective herding animal. Foundational bloodlines can be seen in the Australian Shepherd Genealogy Chart, and several decades ago the Australian Shepherd Club was formed. All of this is to help ensure the continued strength of proliferation of this amazing dog.