The exact origins of the Australian Shepherd are uncertain; it’s a subject that abounds with speculation and theories. For example, some think that the breed came to the United States with Basque shepherds from the Pyrenees region between France and Spain. Some think that the breed has its origins in the dogs that arrived with shipments of sheep from Australia during the Gold Rush in the 1840s; these dogs would likely have been collie/shepherd-type dogs of British origin.
What we do know, however, is that the Australian Shepherd was developed in the western United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as a working dog on farms and ranches. Whether the dogs originated in Spain, Britain, and/or Australia, an important requirement for the breed was herding ability. Breeding for this ability, as well as for type, versatility, intelligence, and work ethic, over many decades led to the development of the breed we affectionately call the “Aussie” today.
Photos dating from the early 1800s capture glimpses of farm and ranch dogs that we now call the Australian Shepherd. We see these dogs doing what they did best then and still do today: herding stock, watching over their people and property, making themselves an integral part of house and home.