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Australian Shepherd running in the grass.

The Australian Shepherd, or Aussie for short, is one of the most popular breeds in the United States. Their boundless energy and high intelligence make them fun, entertaining, hardworking pets and assistance dogs. Here are some interesting facts about the Australian Shepherd.

Australian Shepherds Aren’t Actually Australian

The Australian Shepherd probably came from the Basque region of Spain. Basque shepherds first took their dogs with them to Australia and then to the United States, so Americans called the dogs Australian Shepherds. The breed, as we know it today, was developed solely in the United States.

They Gained Popularity From Rodeos

American ranchers loved Australian Shepherds because they were great herders, but Aussies rose to fame among the general population because of their frequent appearances in rodeos. Not only could Aussies help herd the bulls, they could also perform tricks.

They’ve Had Many Names

Australian Shepherds have also been called Spanish Shepherds (which makes more sense, given their place of origin), Pastor Dogs, Bob-Tails (more on that later), Blue Heelers, New Mexican Shepherds, and California Shepherds.


Native Americans Considered Them Sacred

Legend has it that Native Americans called Australian Shepherds “ghost eye” and thought they were sacred. These dogs do not always have blue eyes, but pale blue, “ghostly” eyes are common among the breed.

They Often Have Two Different-Colored Eyes

The Australian Shepherd is one of a few dog breeds that commonly have two different colored eyes, called heterochromia. Aussies might have any combination of brown, blue, hazel, amber, or green eyes. Some Aussies even display more than one color within the same eye.

Many Have Naturally Short Tails

In addition to having a genetic predisposition for heterochromia, Aussies have a one-in-five chance of being born with a naturally bobbed tail. Ranchers purposely bred Aussies that had these naturally short tails because they are safer when it comes to herding.

Aussies Are Serious Shedders

Some owners will claim that their Aussie only sheds twice a year…for six months at a time. Australian Shepherds are dogs that shed a lot, so they’ll need a lot of brushing – once a day is recommended.

Merle Australian Shepherd walking in a field with her puppy.
©lenkadan -

They Have Natural Merle Coats

Some Australian Shepherds have merle coat patterns, which is the name of the mottled pattern with contrasting shades of blue or red. Merle in dogs is a beautiful, unique coat pattern, caused by genetics.

They Have Many Jobs

In addition to being herding dogs, Australian Shepherds serve as Seeing Eye dogs, hearing dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, and search and rescue dogs. Because of their high intelligence, Aussies are well-suited to do a wide variety of jobs.

One Aussie Was a Frisbee Champion

An Australian Shepherd, named Hyper Hank, rose to fame for his skill in catching flying discs in the 1970s. Hank and his owner, Eldon McIntire, dominated these competitions, and they even got to perform at the Super Bowl and play with the Carter family at the White House.

Related article: What Makes the Merle in Dog Coats? The Science Behind the Pattern
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