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Why is the Australian Shepherd Called Australian?

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A fluffy Australian Shepherd dog

The Australian Shepherd is a breed of herding dog described, in terms of temperament, as intelligent, affectionate, good-natured, active, and protective. When I first heard the name, I thought the dog was from Australia. However, to my greatest surprise, the Australian Shepherd is said to be from the United States. This begs the question of why Australian Shepherds are named after Australia if they did not originate from the country. Below is what I found, according to my research.

The breed's name is a misnomer

The name "Australian Shepherd" is technically a misnomer because, according to the breed's history, it was developed in California in the 19th century. Ancestors of the Australian Shepherd probably came from the Basque region of Spain. According to the American Kennel Club, Basque immigrants from the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain first took their dogs with them to Australia and then to the United States. 

In the US, it is believed that Basque immigrants' Pyrenean shepherds crossbred with other working dogs, including collies, to create the Australian Shepherd. So Americans named the breed "Australian Shepherd" solely because its ancestors were brought from Australia.

Today, the Australian Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds, not only in the United States but in many other countries around the world.

Are Australian Shepherds Popular in Australia?

The Australian National Kennel Council officially recognized the Australian Shepherd on January 1, 1994, four years after the breed was reintroduced into the county in 1990, when the Ford family emigrated from England. The breed, as we know it today, is considered rare in Australia, selling for around $1,000–$2,000 AUD.

The top ten most popular dog breeds in Australia, according to, include the following:
  1. Cavoodle
  2. Miniature dachshund
  3. Golden retriever
  4. French bulldog
  5. Labrador retriever
  6. Border collie
  7. English Staffordshire bull terrier
  8. German shepherd
  9. Maltese dog breeds
  10. Goldendoodle

Top 8 dog breeds originating in Australia

  1. Australian Cattle Dog: A medium-sized, short-coated dog developed in Australia in the 1880s and 1890s for droving cattle over long distances across rough terrain.
  2. Australian Cobberdog: Developed in Australia by the Rutland Manor with the sole objective of having the ideal characteristics to serve as therapy and service dogs, Australian Cobberdogs are derived from a combination of at least eight existing breeds in order to achieve the desired temperament.
  3. Australian Kelpie: A medium-sized Australian sheepdog that comes in a variety of colors and is capable of mustering and droving with little or no guidance.
  4. Australian Silky Terrier: A small dog breed of the terrier dog type, the Australian Silky Terrier was developed in Australia during the late 1800s and early 1900s by crossing the Yorkshire Terrier and the Australian Terrier.
  5. Miniature Fox Terrier: Developed as a hunting dog and vermin router in Australia, the Miniature Fox Terrier is a balanced, smoothly-muscled dog breed that comes in only three permitted color combinations: black and white, tan and white, and black, tan, and white.
  6. Koolie: The Koolie (also known as the Australian Koolie) is an Australian working or herding dog that has proven its worth in many other fields where it is renowned for its sensitivity, athleticism, and obedience.
  7. The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog: Commonly known as the Stumpy, the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog was first recognized as a breed in its own right in 1963 by the Australian National Kennel Council.
  8. Tenterfield Terrier: Developed in Australia, this breed of dog is deemed an 'easy care' family companion due to its smooth, short coat.
Although the above dog breeds originated in Australia, none of them has been listed among the country's top ten most popular dog breeds in recent years.


The Australian Shepherd is not native to Australia. The breed was first developed in the United States in the mid-19th century, when Basque people came to the United States from Australia to herd sheep and bring dogs with them. When their dogs crossbred with other herding dogs in the US, Americans called the offspring Australian Shepherds.



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