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15 Fascinating Facts About Australian Shepherds

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

australian shepherd dog in the meadow

Australian Shepherds have quickly become some of North America’s most popular dogs. As of 2022, Australian Shepherds are the 12th most popular breed in the States, and that number is probably going to continue to climb.

It’s understandable, really. Aussies are beautiful, high-energy dogs that are loving, super smart, and make wonderful family dogs.

So if you’re reading this because you’re thinking of bringing an Aussie home, or if you already have one and want to learn a little more, keep reading!

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The 15 Most Interesting Australian Shepherd Facts

1. Australian Shepherds are not Australian.

The absolute origins of Aussies aren’t entirely known, but it’s thought that their ancestors came from the Basque region of Spain.

Basque shepherds traveled to Australia with their dogs and then went on to the U.S. in the 1800s, where it was assumed the dogs were from Australia.

But it was in America that the breed was developed into the dog we know and love today.

a smiling Australian Shepherd dog walking outdoor
Image By: AlbanyColley, Pixabay

2. They are rodeo dogs.

Aussies make excellent herders, but their popularity grew when they started appearing in rodeos.

The most famous rodeo Australian Shepherds were Stubby, Shorty, and Queenie. They performed tricks like running through barrels and jumping rope and were featured in a few Disney movies.

3. They are made up of a number of breeds.

No one knows for certain what breeds make up the Australian Shepherd, but the intention was to breed these dogs to be smart, agile, alert, and adaptable. It’s thought that the Border Collie, Scotch Collie, and English Shepherd were all used in creating the Aussie.

It’s also believed the Australian Koolie is in the mix as well since they have blue eyes and merle coats, and Aussies are famous for these features.

Interestingly, when breeding for the perfect herding dog, the goal was for the right temperament and not so much for their appearance. But they ended up with a pretty beautiful dog anyway.

australian shepherd dog in the forest
Image By: maxxxiss, Pixabay

4. They are considered sacred.

There’s a legend from the American Old West that Native Americans viewed the Australian Shepherd as sacred and called them “ghost eye.” Many Aussies do have pale blue eyes, but many also have brown eyes.

5. Aussies are prone to having two different colored eyes.

blue merle australian shepherd dog with blue eyes
Image By: Nordwind, Pixabay

The Australian Shepherd is known to commonly have heterochromia, which is two different colored eyes. One eye is typically blue and the other brown, but it could be a combination of brown, hazel, blue, green, or amber eyes.

This trait isn’t terribly common in dogs and is usually seen more often in cats. Some Aussies can even have more than one color in one eye.

6. Some Aussies naturally have bobbed tails.

The unfortunate practice of tail docking started initially for hygienic reasons and to avoid tail injuries while working. Today it’s just part of the standard.

But there are Aussies that don’t receive the surgery because they are born with a natural bobtail, which is a 1-in-5 chance. This means they only have about one or two vertebrae in their tails.

7. They are known for their merle coloring.

a side view close up of an australian shepherd dog
Image By: 5019938, Pixabay

They come in a variety of colors, but the AKC only accepts four for the standard – black, blue merle, red, and red merle. We tend to associate the blue merle color the most with Aussies, but they are found in as many as 15 colors.

However, one concern when breeding these dogs is that the double merle gene can cause a white coat and a variety of health issues, most notably serious hearing and vision problems.

8. They do more than herd.

The energy and intelligence of the Aussies make them not only great herders but also trained as service dogs, therapy dogs, and search and rescue dogs.

9. They come in different sizes.

The Aussie we’re familiar with is a medium-sized dog, but they also come in miniature and toy versions. This also means they don’t require quite as much exercise (although they still need quite a bit), and their sizes make them great dogs for living in the city.

australian shepherd dog lying on the couch
Image By: Armin Forster, Pixabay

10. One Aussie was a frisbee champion.

Back in the 1970s, an Aussie named Hyper Hank was a Frisbee champion. His owner Eldon McIntire traveled across the States with Hyper Hank, where they won multiple Frisbee contests.

They also performed at the pre-show of Super Bowl XII and even spent time with President Carter at the White House.

11. Not to be confused with the Australian Cattle Dog.

Some believe the Australian Shepherd is related to the Australian Cattle Dog, but this isn’t the case. The Cattle Dog might be mistaken as merle in color, but they actually are more of a mottled blue color. And these dogs are actually from Australia, unlike the Aussie.

an Australian shepherd paw on a hand with a dog clicker
Image Credit: Melounix, Shutterstock

12. Aussies are amazing jumpers.

These dogs can jump as high as up to 4 feet, so you’ll want to ensure that if your Aussie is left alone in the backyard occasionally, you’ll need a pretty high fence!

13. Australian Shepherds have more than one name.

Other than Australian Shepherd and Aussie, these dogs have been given quite a number of names. They are also known as Pastor Dogs, Bobtails, New Mexican Shepherd, Spanish Shepherds, and California Shepherds.

blue merle australian shepherd dog playing with fleece rope toy in the meadow
Image Credit: Kristyna Mrazkova, Shutterstock

14. Aussies hold the fastest recall record.

A male Australian Shepherd by the name of Daiquiri from Calgary, Alberta, beat the fastest 30-meter recall record. Jennifer Fraser and Daiquiri beat the original record by 3 seconds at 17.54 seconds in 2020.

15. One Aussie cross is talented at balancing drinks.

An Australian Shepherd and Border Collie mix by the name of Sweet Pea broke a few records. Sweet Pea managed to travel 100 meters with a can balanced on her head in 2008.

Plus, she broke the record of the fastest 100 meters with a can balanced on her head.

Even more than this, she additionally broke the record of the most steps walked down by a dog balancing a glass of water on her head.

Sweet Pea was able to walk down 10 steps with a full glass of water on her head. And she can actually walk up 10 steps still balancing that glass of water!

australian shepherd dog training for dog show
Image Credit: LRuss, Pixabay

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It’s always a good idea to become very familiar with a dog breed before bringing one into your home. Not every breed will work for every owner.

Aussies are highly energetic and active and will potentially herd your children and cats, which is something to keep in mind.

But these dogs are definitely fascinating and super adorable, and unquestionably talented.

As long as you’re prepared to spend a lot of time with your dog and are willing to put in a lot of work with training, socializing, and otherwise building a strong bond, Australian Shepherds make incredible pets!!

Featured Image Credit: petri, Pixabay

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