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All Dog Breeds >>History of Australian Shepherd

The Australian shepherd's history is vague, as is the reason for its misleading name. It is believed by some the breed has Basque origins in Spain and was used there by shepherds. What is known is that it developed in western North America in the 19th and early 20th centuries. An Australian shepherd from working lines; early breeders chose dogs for their abilities rather than conformation.Breeds as we know them today did not exist before Victorian times, but local variations of the ancestors of current breeds came into America along with their owners and livestock. Included are some that are now extinct or that have merged into other breeds. These may have included British herding dogs, as well as dogs from Germany and Spain. For many centuries, shepherds had interest in dogs' working abilities rather than their appearance. As a result, over time, shepherds interbred dogs that they believed would produce better workers for the given climate and landscape. In the eastern U.S., terrain and weather conditions were similar to that of Europe, however, so the existing imported breeds and their offspring worked well there. In the American West, conditions were quite different.

During the early introduction of sheep into America, the Spanish dogs that accompanied the flocks proved well suited for their job in the new, wild and dangerous land. They were highly valued on the open range for their ability to herd and protect their charges from predators. In the arid and semiarid areas inhabited by early Spanish settlers, temperatures reached extremes of hot and cold, and fields varied in altitude from sea level to the higher, rougher Sierra Nevada and similar mountain ranges. The ranchers in these areas often pastured livestock on remote ranges. They preferred more aggressive herding dogs that served in the capacity of herder and guardian. With the 1849 California Gold Rush, a massive migration occurred to the west coast, and along with easterners came flocks of sheep and their eastern herding dogs; from the southwest came people and Spanish. But it was just as effective to bring sheep in by ship, and in they came, including flocks from Australia and other regions, along with shepherds and their own herding breeds.