Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd

livestock, herding

Modern Function: 

sheep herding, herding trials

Other Name: 


Area of Origin: 

United States

Date of Origin: 


Original Function: 

sheep herding


While said to have been called many other names in the past, including Spanish Shepherd, Pastor Dog, Bob-Tail, Blue Heeler, New Mexican Shepherd, and California Shepherd, the Australian shepherd, as it is now known, is not really a product of Australia.

Australian Shepherd Breed Health

Major concerns: 

cataract, CEA

Minor concerns: 

CHD, nasal solar dermatitis, Pelger - Huet syndrome, iris coloboma

Occasionally seen: 

lumbar sacral syndrome, epilepsy, PRA, vWD, distichiasis, PDA, PPM

Suggested tests: 

hip, eye


This breed is often sensitive to Ivermectin; however, the dosage for heartworm preventive is considered safe. Breeding merle-to-merle may result in some offspring that are homozygous merle, which is detrimental to health, commonly resulting in deafness and blindness. Breeding natural bobtail-to-natural bobtail can result in some offspring with serious spinal defects.

Life span: 

12 - 15 years

Average Size of Male: 

Height: 20 - 23 inches, Weight: 50 - 65 pounds

Average Size of Female: 

Height: 18 - 21 inches, Weight: 40 - 55 pounds

Australian Shepherd Breed History

By most accounts, this breed developed in the United States to be used as a herding dog. However, the misnomer of Australian shepherd likely comes from the fact that the ancestors of this dog came to America by way of Australia. Some claim that the Basque people of Europe settled temporarily, with their sheepdogs, in Australia, until they moved to the western United States. Americans working the sheep herds named the dogs "Australian shepherds" because of the dogs previous residence. The rugged terrain of the country was demanding on the breed, and it was crossed and selected for its ability to work in such conditions. The developing breed adapted well and gained some popularity. But it was in the 1950s that the Australian shepherd was featured as a trick-dog act in rodeos and film, thereby increasing its popularity in the United States. Research suggests that a man named Jay Sisler owned many of these dogs, and his dogs are found in the pedigrees of today's Australian shepherds. The breed was first registered with the International English Shepherd Registry (which now goes by the name of the National Stock Dog Registry). The Australian Shepherd Club of America was formed in 1957, and it became the biggest Australian shepherd registry in the United States. But many members of the ASCA members didn't want to pursue AKC recognition for their breed. Those who did want to gain AKC recognition for this dog formed the United States Australian Shepherd Association. Finally, in 1993, the AKC recognized the Australian shepherd. This breed is popular today for many reasons: it is used as a working ranch dog, a guide dog for the blind (and hearing dog for the deaf), as a pet therapy dog, a drug detecting dog, and a search-and-rescue dog.

Australian Shepherd Breed Appearance

Slightly longer than it is tall, the front legs of the Australian shepherd are strong and straight with oval bone. The compact feet are oval with well-arched toes and thick, resilient pads. The strong hindquarters are equal in width of the forequarters at the shoulders. The strong, clean-cut head features a tapered muzzle that is rounded at the tip. The almond-shaped eyes can be blue, brown, or amber and offer an eager, intelligent expression. The moderately-sized ears are triangular in shape and set high on the head. In blue merles and blacks, the nose is black, and in red merles and reds, the nose is liver. The teeth meet in either a level or scissors bite. The strong neck is moderately long and slightly arched, blending nicely into the shoulders. The tail is usually straight and can be docked or naturally bobbed. The double coat of the Australian shepherd consists of a straight or wavy outer coat of medium texture. It is weather resistant. The undercoat varies depending on the climate. There is usually a nice mane and frill around the neck. The coat comes in the following colors: blue merle, black, red merle, red (with or without white markings and/or tan points). The gait of this breed is best described as smooth, free, and easy.

Australian Shepherd Breed Temperament

Confident and independent, yet loving and responsive, the Australian shepherd is a breed that likes to have a job to do. Without appropriate mental and physical stimulation, this dog is likely to become frustrated. While it is generally reserved around strangers because of its protective nature, overall it is an affectionate dog. It can make a wonderful companion for children, even though it might try to herd them by nipping. This breed is known for its playfulness, and it is generally easy to train because of its intelligence and willingness to please its master. It can be aggressive with livestock while working, but it is friendly with people, as well as with other dogs and pets. Socialization from an early age is strongly suggested because of its natural suspicion of strangers.

Australian Shepherd Breed Maintenance

Generally, the coat of this breed is quite easy to groom. Simply brush or comb the coat a couple of times a week using a firm bristle brush. Be sure to check for burrs and such if the dog is outside. Bathing should only be done when necessary. This breed is considered to be an average shedder. It is important that the Australian shepherd is provided with daily mental and physical exercise. Long walks and games are suggested, as well as the chance to run and play in a safe area. Homes with large fenced yards would be best for the Australian shepherd. This is a social breed, so it needs to spend plenty of time with its family and should not be tied out in the yard all day.

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