The Australian Shepherd: The Rancher's Right Hand


With origins as mottled as his coat, the Australian Shepherd is a unique little working animal that has been capturing the hearts of dog lovers since the end of WWII. While it is believed that this beautiful breed may have originated near the Basque region of the Pyrenees Mountains, he was dubbed the Australian Shepherd, due to his close association with the Basque shepherds who made their way into the United States, from Australia, during the 1800’s. In fact, the Australian Shepherd is not even registered in Australia as a native breed, despite the dog’s gaining recognition throughout the world since the 1950ís. Regardless of his origins, however, this beautiful dog was further developed within the United States, where he was not only recognized as a registered breed, but he was also quick to gain popularity, featured in various rodeos and wild west shows, movies and on the television. In no time flat, the Australian Shepherd became a part of Western culture.

A favorite amongst ranchers, the Australian Shepherd is an excellent herder, able to control sheep, cattle and even horses, through a complex collection of movements, techniques and, of course, the herding “eye” (a term which refers to the herding dog’s ability to control the herd through eye contact). This dog is extremely attentive and quick, allowing him to not only notice the calf that is about to break from the herd but, even more, allowing him to head said calf off before it gets more than a few bounds away. At times, these movements are so quick, and so precise, it seems like the Australian Shepherd knows what each member of the herd is going to do, before they even do it.

As if the intelligence and extreme train – ability of the Australian Shepherd wasn’t draw enough, this scruffy little dog is truly a prince amongst the canine world as well. Sporting coats of red, black, or the more exotic red or blue merle, they are a sight to behold and their eyes are jewel-like, ranging in shade from amber and blue to a rich brown, as well as mottled, marbled and flecked, with any combination of the mentioned colors. It’s not uncommon to find yourself captured by an attentive mismatched gaze; a sight which only helps add to this wonderful breed’s allure. Additionally, the Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized herding dog, standing only 20-23 inches at the top of the shoulder, which makes him small enough to comfortably enjoy life both inside and outside the house.

The Aussie, as he is affectionately known, is a sweet-tempered dog and rarely aggressive with other animals. He can be, at times, somewhat shy and does best with quiet voices and gentle, slow touches. One downfall of the Australian Shepherd is that they are a very active dog and do require a good deal of exercise, so they are not well-adapted to a city lifestyle in an apartment, unless you’re prepared to spend a lot of time down at the local dog park – of course, they are also known to make excellent Frisbee dogs, with their athletic frames and high-energy personalities, so this may be an option for you yet!

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