The Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized, high-energy working dog. They are highly intelligent, loyal to their families, and affectionate. Here are a few more facts about Australian Shepherds:
1. Their Origins Stretch Back to Europe
The Australian Shepherd we know today descends from some of Europe’s finest herding dogs. Their ancestors were the Pyrenean Shepherd, which was the favorite herding dog of the Basque people who were indigenous to the area between France and Spain.
When many Basques took to the seas to explore Australia in the early 1800s, they brought their herding dogs with them. After all, they were in search of rich, fertile land that would be perfect for pasture and cattle ranching and would need herding dogs they could trust.
2. The Australian Shepherd is American
Although the breed’s ancestors made a stop in Australia, this dog breed is American. The Basques in Australia eventually set sail for the United States, particularly California. Since they had sailed from Australia, their herding dogs were mistakenly categorized as an Australian dog breed, which explains their name.
California ranchers fell in love with the Australian Shepherd and helped make them an iconic part of the American West and cowboy culture. It is in the United States where this breed was refined and developed into one of the most popular dog breeds as we know it today.
3. They are Versatile Working Dogs
Australian Shepherds may be known as herding dogs and one of the best dog breeds for farms, but they are a versatile working dog breed as well. They are still a popular choice for working on farms herding and protecting livestock. But, they can also be found working in many other capacities as well.
These dogs can be found performing in rodeos. They also make great therapy and service dogs. Aussies can also be found working with the police as drug detection dogs and working in search-and-rescue. And, of course, they are a popular choice as a beloved family pet.
4. Aussies Need an Active Owner
These dogs are high-energy working dogs that need a lot of activity and a job to be happy and healthy. In fact, they are one of the most active dog breeds. Their strong work drive and an innate impulse to herd can be too much for a less active owner or family.
They need someone who can give them the exercise and mental stimulation they need to feel like a valuable and contributing member of the family. Their high intelligence can also be a challenge for novice owners as these dogs are easily bored and can become mischievous. Because of this, puppy training classes can be a good idea, especially because they offer opportunities to socialize a puppy.
5. They Helped Create the Miniature American Shepherd
The Miniature American Shepherd looks like, and is still often referred to as, a Miniature Australian Shepherd. The American Kennel Club currently recognizes the Miniature Australian Shepherd as a separate dog breed from an Australian Shepherd and registers them as a Miniature American Shepherd (MAS).
Although the MAS is now recognized as a separate dog breed and not just a small Australian Shepherd, they are thought to be descended from some smaller, unregistered Australian Shepherds in the late 1960s. This is why they were originally called Miniature Australian Shepherds and why that name is still popular today.
As they are recognized by more notable dog organizations as a Miniature American Shepherd, we should see that name become more common. As it does, it will help further differentiate Miniature American Shepherds and Australian Shepherds as distinctly separate dog breeds.
6. Native Americans Revered Aussies
According to legends, Native Americans considered the Australian Shepherd sacred. The Aussie’s light blue eyes got them the nickname of “ghost eye”. While not all Aussies have light blue eyes, this shade is common among the breed.
7. One Aussie was a Frisbee Champ
Hyper Hank, an Australian Shepherd from Colorado, was a frisbee champion in the 1970s. Hank and his owner, Eldon McIntire rose to fame as they dominated frisbee competitions. Hank and Eldon even got to perform at the Super Bowl and the White House for President Carter and his family!
8. They Have Short Tails
Along with heterochromia, a genetic condition that causes dogs to have two different colored eyes, Aussies also have a genetic predisposition to having shorter tails. This breed has a 1 in 5 chance of having a bobbed tail. Ranchers purposely bred Aussies to have shorter tails as it helped with herding.
These are just a few facts about Australian Shepherds. They are a great fit for active owners and families who can dedicate the time to making sure this high-energy working dog gets enough exercise and mental stimulation.
If you think this could be the right dog breed for you, learn more about them and check out the available Australian Shepherd puppies. You could end up finding your new best friend!