THE AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD: HISTORY
From the United States Australian Shepherd Association (USASA) official breed seminar
Special thanks to Nannette Newbury, Diane Bettis, Flo McDaniels & Vicki Wehrle
These colorful dogs acquired their name as they arrived in the U.S. with the boatloads of Australian sheep and their Basque sheepherders. This took place in the late 1800s and early 1900s as the American wool market was blossoming. The English Coulie and the Smithfield Sheep Dog may have been used in their early development. Although there are many theories as to the origin of the Australian Shepherd, this breed, as we know it today, was developed exclusively in the western United States.
The American stockman continued the development of this breed while maintaining the versatility, keen intelligence, strong herding instincts and eye-catching appearance that originally won their admiration. Each individual is unique in color and markings, and displays an unsurpassed devotion to its family. Their popularity began to rise throughout the western United States as stockmen were impressed with the abilities of these capable dogs.
In reality the dogs were not officially registered until the 1950s in the United States. You can find pedigrees which state, ìAshurst Ranch dog bred to Frusetta Ranch female.î That was the initial stage of this relatively young breedÖhastily scratched notes in a rancherís files. The dogs that worked were kept, bred, crossbred, prized, shared and sold. The precise history is fragmented, even the origins of our name merely conjecture. Our dogs were not exhibited in conformation events until the 1960s at rare breed events. Breed historian Phil Wildhagen noted (circa 1970s) that, ìthe Australian Shepherd breed ìis relatively unknown here in the East.
The ìAussieî rapidly rose in popularity with the boom in Western riding after World War II. They became known to the general public via rodeo performances, horse shows, movies and television appearances. Their inherent versatility and trainability made them a useful asset on American farms and ranches. It wasnít until the 1950s and 1960s, when Jay Sisler, a rodeo contestant and rancher from Idaho, teamed up with Shorty, Stubby and Queenie that the Australian Shepherd gained national attention. Jay and his Aussies delighted rodeo audiences throughout the U.S. and Canada with an array of tricks that have yet to be equaled, even today. So unique and delightful were these dogs that Walt Disney Studios produced two movies featuring them, îStub, The Worldís Greatest Cow Dog,î and îRUN Appaloosa, RUN.
Because of his popularity, some of todayís Aussies still have Sisler lines in their pedigrees. Two other foundation lines include Jaunita Elyís breeding, a major foundation for todayís herding dogs and Nick Smedra, whose dog out of Fletcher Woodís stock, went on to produce the famous Heard/Flintridge lines, which appear in most of todayís conformation pedigrees.