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Five interesting snippets of information about the Australian shepherd dog breed
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Five interesting snippets of information about the Australian shepherd dog breed

Dogs
Breed Facts

The Australian shepherd is a herding-type dog breed that is widely used (as the name suggests) in Australia for herding and other forms of livestock work, but they are also becoming increasingly popular in the UK among people who love the various herding breeds and are looking for something a little different!

However, while most people who love herding dogs (or dogs in general) could probably recite several facts and traits of many of our more common herding breeds, fewer people know a lot about the Australian shepherd-other than their actual owners, of course!

If you are interested in buying or adopting an Australian shepherd dog or are simply interested to find out a little bit more about them, in this article we will share five interesting snippets about the breed to get you started. Read on to learn more.

They do not actually originate from Australia

It might seem like a trick question to ask where the Australian shepherd breed originates from-but the answer is not, in fact, Australia! The breed originated in continental Europe, and while there is some debate over their exact foundations, Basque in Spain is widely accepted as the cradle of the Australian shepherd breed.

When Europeans (particularly Spanish farmers) emigrated to Australia, they took their dogs with them, and these lively, smart dogs were put to work herding and guarding livestock, leading to their popularity and the standardisation of the breed today.

Their coats and colouring can come in a range of combinations, which can actually cause them to have odd-coloured eyes!

The coat of the Australian shepherd dog is generally rough or broken, but can be found in a slightly wavy smooth variant. They can also be found in a huge variety of different colour combinations, including black, red, red merle and blue merle, with varying amounts of white on their legs, faces and coats.

The blue merle colouration is actually a mutation that affects pigmentation in the dog’s eyes too, giving many dogs of the breed very bright blue eyes, or in some cases, one blue eye and one brown one! However, the blue merle gene can also give dogs of the breed a predisposition to a range of congenital eye problems, including progressive retinal atrophy and collie eye anomaly.

Ergo, while the blue merle coat pattern can be one of the most beautiful and appealing, proceed with care if you wish to own a blue merle Australian shepherd, as the colour may accompany ocular defects.

They have a history and folklore with Native Americans

While everyone associates the Australian shepherd with Australia, they are also popular all over the world, including within the USA. In some Native American folklore, dogs with walleyes or light blue eyes (as often occurs in the Australian shepherd breed) are referred to as ghost-eyed dogs, and are considered to be sacred!

The sight of a pale blue eyed dog is said to indicate a deceased loved one’s return, or good tidings.

They are excellent sporting dogs

Like most working dog breeds, particularly those of the herding type, the Australian shepherd is usually a natural at all manner of canine sports, and this can provide an excellent way for owners of the breed to keep their dogs occupied and active when not used for working purposes.

They are highly intelligent and able to execute commands quickly and accurately, and they are also very nimble and precise on their feet, which makes them naturals at sports like flyball and agility where tight turns are required and speed is of the essence.

They are also great at sheepdog trials and treibball, and finding something that requires the dog to use both mental and physical energy on a daily basis is vital for domestic Australian shepherds in order to keep them happy and fulfilled.

If their need for stimulation and exercise is not adequately met, the Australian shepherd will soon become unruly, and possible destructive.

An Australian shepherd by any other name…

A lot of the dog breeds that we know very well today have gone by different names throughout their histories, or are called by different terms in different countries. The Australian shepherd dog is no exception, and they have a reasonably long list of alternate names that dogs of the breed may be referred to as!

In Europe, they were originally known as Spanish shepherd dogs, due to their origins in the Basque region, and in the UK, are sometimes referred to as blue heelers.

In other regions too they often have localised names, including the Californian shepherd, New Mexico shepherd, and Texas shepherd dog!

This can make it very confusing to identify a dog of the breed around the world, given the variety of names that they can be known by and the amount of potential variance in appearance from dog to dog!

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