An Australian shepherd outside.

First things first: Australian shepherds aren’t exactly Australian. They actually hail from the Basque region of Spain where, in the 1800s, their original owners, Basque shepherds, took the dogs to their pastures in the Australian Outback, where they gained a popular following. As news of these remarkable, energetic herders spread around the world, ranchers, most notably in California, started importing the dogs to work on their ranches, where they perfected today’s standard of the breed. So you could say that Aussies, as they’re affectionately known, have some serious mileage on them.

Hard Workin’ Tricksters

The breed gained popularity by performing both herding feats and tricks at traveling rodeos. In fact, in the 1950s and 1960s, Jay Sizzler, a popular rodeo owner and performer popularized his touring rodeo by promoting it with his trained Aussies. The breed’s instinctive need to have a job quickly made them popular as seeing eye dogs, hearing dogs, search and rescue dogs, and even explosive detection dogs. Aussies are an intelligent, medium-sized breed that possess strong herding instincts (hence the name). They love stimulation and being a part of the daily grind, often enjoying car rides and being with their owners.

Australian Shepherd Breed Standards

Australian shepherds come in four “acceptable” colors by breed standards: black, blue merle, red and red merle. Their outer coats are usually a moderate length and course, while the undercoat is soft. Their tails are either naturally bobbed or docked by their owners; and their ears break forward and over, giving them a friendly look. Male Aussies are 50 to 65 pounds and about 20 to 23 inches at the withers, while females are slightly smaller at 40 to 55 pounds and 18 to 21 inches at the shoulder. Their eyes can be any color combination, and often Aussies will have two different colored eyes. Many Aussies have pale blue eyes, which might’ve endeared them to Native Americans, who felt the breed was sacred.

Busy Family Pets

Aussies definitely need jobs; being productive is genetically engrained into the blueprint of their DNA. If not stimulated, Australian shepherds will act out. Giving them jobs is important, and frequent exercise is required; so this pet is not for couch potatoes. But given a good vocation, these dogs can be wonderful family pets. They’re smart and easy to train. Just keep them busy or they’ll wear you out!

An interior graphic detailing four quick facts about Australian shepherds.
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The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.