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Although there are many theories about the origin of the Australian Shepherd, the breed as we know it today developed exclusively in the United States. It probably originated in the Basque region of the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France, but was dubbed the Australian Shepherd because of its association with Basque shepherds who came to the United States from Australia in the 1800's.

As with most working breeds, the Australian Shepherd was initially called by many names, including Spanish Shepherd, Pastor Dog, Bob-Tail, Blue Heeler, New Mexican Shepherd, and California Shepherd.

The Australian Shepherd's popularity rose rapidly with the boom in Western-style horse riding after World War II. The breed became known to the general public via appearances in rodeos, horse shows, movies, and television programs. Its inherent versatility and trainability made it a useful asset on farms and ranches.

Ranchers continued to develop the breed, maintaining the adaptability, keen intelligence, strong herding instincts, and eye-catching appearance that originally won its admirers. As a herder, the Australian Shepherd is a loose- to medium-eyed dog. ("Eye" is a general term used to describe the way a dog controls stock with its gaze.) It will watch an entire group of animals, but not with an intense gaze. Some dogs use more eye in situations where added power is required to move stubborn or balky animals, while holding off on single animals, as in the shed.

The Aussie (as the breed is nicknamed) is a truly versatile dog. It is so sound minded that it easily adapts to various situations. Today, the Australian Shepherd serves humanity in every imaginable way: as working ranch dogs, guide dogs for the blind, hearing dogs for the deaf, pet therapy dogs, drug detectors, and search-and-rescue dogs.

The breed is not registered in Australia as a native breed, although Australian Shepherds have been registered by other registries since the 1950's. The United States Australian Shepherd Association works hard to maintain the breed true to type in its land of origin. The breed entered the AKC Stud Book in 1991 and entered the Herding Group in January 1993.