top of page

Breed -

Around From 
Original Country/Kingdom 

Australian Shepherd


Breed History

Australian Shepherd

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 ÃomigrÃos began a push into the continent's vast interior in search of rich pastureland 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.

By their very nature, dog breeds are connected to specific places, reflecting both their native climates and cultures. As a result, the names of dozens of breeds incorporate their national origins, from the German Pinscher to the Swedish Vallhund to the Bernese Mountain Dog.

And then there’s the exception that proves the rule: the Australian Shepherd. Despite its formal moniker, this medium-sized herding dog is a quintessentially American breed. They were developed in Western states like California, Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho to tend to the large flocks of sheep grazing there. And that’s pretty much where the consensus ends.

Who was the likely ancestor who bequeathed the Australian Shepherd its medium-length coat and natural bobtail, as well as the blue eyes and merle patterning that appear in some dogs? What’s the reason for the Aussie reference in the breed name? And how much of the breed identity is owed to the Basques, a culturally distinct group of Spaniards whose tenure on the Iberian Peninsula dates back to Roman times.

To find the Australian Shepherd’s earliest roots, we go first to the white-washed adobe missions established by the Conquistadors, who arrived in the New World in the 1500s. Needing meat to supply their soldiers and clergy, the Spaniards imported their hardy native Churras sheep, as well as herding dogs to tend them. Some early accounts describe a wolf-like dog, much larger than the modern Australian Shepherd, yellowish or black and tan in color, and more a guardian than a herder.

bottom of page