While there are many theories as to the origin of the Australian Shepherd, the breed as we know it today developed exclusively in the United States. The Australian Shepherd was given its name because of their association with the Basque sheepherders who came to the United States from Australia in the 1800’s.
The Aussie rose rapidly in popularity with the boom of western riding after World War II, becoming known to the general public via rodeos, horse shows, movies and television.
Their inherent versatility and trainability made them useful on American farms and ranches. The American stockmen continued the development of the breed, maintaining the versatility, keen intelligence, strong herding instinct and eye-catching appearance.
The Australian Shepherd is an intelligent working dog of strong herding and guarding instincts. He is a loyal companion and has the stamina to work all day. He is well balanced, slightly longer than tall, of medium size and bone, with coloring that offers variety and individuality. He is attentive and animated, lithe and agile, solid and muscular without cloddiness. He has a coat of moderate length and coarseness. He has a docked or natural bobbed tail.
The Australian Shepherd are an intelligent, medium-sized dog of strong herding and guardian instincts. They are also delightful and loyal companions and great family dogs. They love to be part of the daily hustle and bustle, and enjoy riding in the vehicle just to be with their beloved master.
As farm dogs, they diligently carry out their responsibilities, be it bringing in the stock or finding the stray one that got tangled in the brush. They are easily trained, easily housebroken, because they are intelligent and eager to please. Aussies have been used as seeing-eye dogs, as utility dogs to the physically handicapped, hearing aid dogs, police and narcotics dogs, and search and rescue dogs.
In the northern areas they have also been used as sled dogs. Many go with their masters as volunteers to children’s homes and nursing homes to do therapy work.
Truly, the Australian Shepherd is a highly versatile dog. “Aussies” (as they are lovingly nicknamed) are very active dogs that need a great deal of exercise on a daily basis to prevent them from becoming bored or frustrated and consequently developing destructive habits. Because of their high energy level, combined with high intelligence, Aussies need to be given a “job” to perform, be it shepherding the children, protecting the house, herding livestock or competing in dog events.
The preferred height for males is 20-23 inches, females 18-21 inches. Quality is not to be sacrificed in favor of size.
Blue merle, black, red merle, red – all with or without white markings and/or tan (copper) points, with no order of preference. The hairline of a white collar does not exceed the point of the withers at the skin. White is acceptable on the neck (either in part or as a full collar), chest, legs, muzzle underparts, blaze on head and white extension from underpart up to four inches, measuring from a horizontal line at the elbow. White on the head should not predominate, and the eyes must be fully surrounded by color and pigment. Merles characteristically become darker with increasing age.
Learn more at the United States Australian Shepherd Association.