The Australian Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. The boundless energy and high intelligence of the Aussies make them fun, entertaining and hardworking pets and assistance dogs. With its unusual coat color and penetrating blue eyes, it is sure to catch your eye when an Australian Shepherd passes by on the street.
Learn more about this fluffy dog and its exciting background. Here are 13 surprising facts about the Australian Shepherd you may not yet know.
1Aussies Don’t Really Originate in Australia
The Australian Shepherd probably came from the Spanish Basque Country. Basque shepherds took their dogs first to Australia and then to the United States. That is why the Americans called the dogs Australian Shepherds. The breed as we know it today was developed exclusively in the 19th century in the United States. Australian Shepherds were bred as herding dogs.
2The Rodeo Has Made Them Famous
Australien Shepherds enjoyed an enormous popularity boom after the First World War. As the waves of humans moved west, the energetic dogs found more work outside pure sheep farming. Intelligent and easy to train, the dogs were perfect for the rodeo. Aussies could not only help to herd the bulls, but they could also perform tricks.
Three well known Australian Shepherds in the 1950s were Stub, Shorty, and Queenie, who belonged to Jay Sislers Rodeo Show and had their own television show called Stub. The three dogs were also seen in the two Disney movies “Run Appaloosa Run” and “Stub: The greatest Cowdog in the West”.
Here is a video showing Jay Sisler and his Rodeo Aussies in action. Black and white video and not the best quality, but the dogs are easy to spot:
3The American Natives Regarded Aussies as Sacred
When people think of Aussies, they usually think of their crystal clear blue eyes. In fact, some Indian tribes called this dog breed the “Ghost Eye Dog” because of its phantom-like eyes. They were considered sacred and were often shunned.
4There are Australia Shepherds in Different Sizes
Most Aussies are medium sized, but there are also miniature and teacup varieties.
5They Often Have Two Different Coloured Eyes
The Australian Shepherd is one of few dog breeds that often have two different colored eyes. This is called heterochromia. Aussies can have any combination of brown, blue, hazel, amber or green eyes. Some Aussies even show more than one color in the same eye.
6Many Australian Shepherds Have Short Tails
If you do hard work like herding, long ears and tails can get in the way. To avoid injuries, the tail was bred out of this breed. Today almost every fifth Aussie is born with a natural bent tail. Show dogs are usually expected to have either docked or naturally docked tails.
7Most Australian Shepherds Have Merle Coats
Out of the four registered colors of the Aussies, the blue merle is the most recognizable. The breeders tried to breed other colors of this dog but found that dogs with the double merle gene had many health problems such as blindness. Today there are Aussies in many different colors, although only black, red, red, red merle and blue merle are accepted by the American Kennel Club.
8Aussies Have Many Jobs
Aussies urgently need employment and if they don’t get a job, they will find one themselves. Therefore, they are not only herding dogs but are also used as guide dogs, drug dogs, search and rescue dogs. Due to their high intelligence, the Aussies are well suited to perform a variety of tasks. Insufficient mental stimulation and movement can cause destructive and wrong behavior.
9Aussies Need a Lot of Exercise
Aussies are very agile. Sports like frisbee, agility, and flyball the Australian Shepherd masters very well. So consider attending agility training with your Aussie.
10Aussies are Very Intelligent
Australian Shepherds are extremely intelligent dogs and must be trained from the start to contain bad behavior. Aussies are very shy, anxious dogs. Therefore, they must be socialized as puppies and exposed to as many people and situations as possible.
11Be Careful Your Aussie Will Herd Your Children
Aussies are very loving companions, but they have to stay active. Without proper stimulation, they can become bored and restless. If they have too much rest, they could use their natural instincts and start to take care of other things in your house.
Attention: If you have your children bundled in an orderly herd, your Aussie can keep them in check.
12Aussies are Extremely Popular
Australian Shepherds are, according to the AKC, the 15th most popular dog breed. This ranking makes them more popular Pomeranians or even Chihuahuas.
13Aussies are Very Good Family Dogs
Australian Shepherd love to be close to their family members. They will follow you anywhere, from room to room, outside and even into the bathroom. Having one can be like a shadow, especially if you are the “favorite” of your Aussie.