This breed probably originated in the Basque region of the Pyrenees Mountains, between Spain and France. However, it was named because of its association with shepherds who came to the United States from Australia in the 1800s. While in Australia, Pyrenean Sheep Dogs probably were crossed with various types of Collies. Then, they were brought with herds of sheep to the United States – primarily, to California - in the mid- to late- 19th century. They were developed by American ranchers as sound, stable stockdogs with an honest work ethic and tremendous endurance and trainability. They commonly were used to move huge herds of sheep and cattle between summer and winter grazing grounds. They especially excelled at managing livestock in tight quarters, such as alleys and chutes. In America, the Australian Shepherd’s popularity rose with the popularity in Western horsemanship after World War II. The breed became well-known through appearances in rodeos, horse shows, television programs and movies. Despite this surge in popularity among companion owners, American ranchers continued to use and breed these talented dogs for their inherent herding instincts, versatility and keen intelligence.
Aussies are highly competitive in obedience, agility, utility and other performance disciplines, as well as quite recently in the conformation show ring. They are used as working ranch dogs, guide dogs for the blind, hearing dogs for the deaf, therapy dogs, drug detectors, show dogs and search-and-rescue stars. They are perhaps best known as affectionate family companions. The Australian Shepherd Club of America became the parent club for the breed in 1957. Australian Shepherds were entered into the American Kennel Club stud book in 1991, and they were fully recognized as members of the Herding Group in January of 1993.
The average life span of the Australian Shepherd is 12 to 15 years. Breed health concerns may include allergies, autoimmune diseases, cancer, cataracts, congenital deafness, cryptorchidism, Collie eye anomaly, corneal dystrophy, dental problems, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, iris coloboma, osteochondritis dissecans, patellar luxation, patent ductus arteriosus and persistent papillary membrane. But overall, this is a sound, healthy breed.