Friday, November 2, 2007

The Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd, also known as an Aussie, has a vague history. It is believed it originated in Spain then brought to America where by countless merging of breeds the ancestors of this breed emerged. Breeds didn’t appear until late Victorian times so shepherds used to breed dogs based on how hard working they can be. They never looked at appearance or maintaining the status quo of a certain breed. They just wanted a hard working dog, which could perform well, given the climate in which they worked. When the Gold Rush hit America in the 1850’s a flock of people hit the western coast and they brought with them the Spanish descent dogs and herds of cattle. Mingled with the breeds already existing in the region the Australian Shepherd appeared.

Just like collies, the Aussies can be split between show dogs and working dogs. The working dogs tend to have shorter fur whilst the show dogs have long fur and different criteria for description, according to breed standards. These standards tend to differ from opinion to opinion. Some general standards do apply and these are: height between 18 and 23 inches while the weight should be 35 to 75 pounds. Even here some say that the miniature type of breed should be considered a different one and not an Australian Shepherd. Among the eight colors accepted the most common are blue merle, red merle, black and red.

A great variety of Aussies come when talking about eyes. An Australian Shepherd is also know as a “ghost-eyed dog” since the eyes can be blue, brown, hazel, amber or even green. They can be of different colors or even bi-colored, which means a half green half brown eye. This is linked mostly to the fur coloration according to some experts. Any combination of these eye colors are accepted in a competition as long as the eyes are healthy.

When it comes to temperament and behavior the Aussie is unique. There are mainly two types of personality you should be aware of. In general the breed is very active playful, intelligent (it may invent games to play if bored) quickly catches new tricks but it may need to run a lot, even full out. If you want one as a pet you may need to search for one properly trained or bred for a household since the working ones tend to nip at running children and strangers and have a general frightening behavior towards someone who doesn’t know its temperament. As far as guarding duty the Australian Shepherd tends to bark warnings about neighboring activity but it doesn’t tend to get too obsessed with it.

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