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Herding Dog Breeds That Originated in America

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It is no secret that dogs are more popular in the United States than in any other country in the world. According to World Population Review, the U.S. has the highest number of pet dogs, leading with 90 million dogs. In the United States, 201 dog breeds are currently registered and recognized by the American Kennel Club. Wikipedia lists fifty dog breeds as "originating in the United States." Surprisingly, the top ten most popular dog breeds in the U.S. are all foreign dogs.

If that is not surprising enough, enter the herding dogs, which have played a prominent role in American agriculture. All herding dog breeds share an instinctual ability to gather, herd, and protect livestock. Of the fifty breeds listed by Wikipedia as originating in the U.S., only a few are herding dogs, all of which I'm going to list below. So the next time you look for a herding dog, why not consider an all-American breed?

1. Australian Shepherd

A smiling red merle Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd, despite its name, is an American dog breed that originated in the state of California in the 19th century. Legend has it that the breed was so named by observant Americans who thought its forebears came to the U.S. through Australia. The Australian Shepherd is believed to be descended from sheepdog breeds, including collies, imported, alongside sheep, to California from Australia and New Zealand. 

There is some speculation that the Australian Shepherd's ancestors included the Carea Leonés, Merle Collies, and Pyrenean Sheepdog. Originally used solely as a herding dog, the Australian Shepherd became known outside of the livestock industry in the mid-20th century. That was thanks to a rodeo performer named Jay Lister, who appeared at rodeos across the western states performing all kinds of tricks with his Australian Shepherds. 

The Australian Shepherd Club of America was soon formed to promote the breed. In 1979, the Australian Shepherd was recognized by the United Kennel Club as a breed. Subsequently, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in the 1990s.

From the late 20th century, Australian Shepherds began appearing in dog shows and have increasingly become popular as companion dogs. In 2023, the Australian Shepherd was ranked by the AKC as the 12th most popular dog breed in the U.S. Earlier in 2024, a Survey by Forbes found the Australian Shepherd to be the most favored dog in America. Australian Shepherds are beloved for their smarts, gorgeous looks, and affectionate nature. However, Australian Shepherds are high-energy dogs and therefore don't make suitable pets for sedentary pet owners.

2. Miniature American Shepherd

A black and white Miniature American Shepherd

Formerly called the Miniature Australian Shepherd, the Miniature American Shepherd is a small shepherd dog breed that originated in the United States. The breed was first developed in the late 1960s from small-sized Australian Shepherds. By the mid-1970s, the Miniature American Shepherd had its current desired size, measuring between 13-18 inches in height. Notwithstanding its size, the Miniature American Shepherd is every inch a true herding dog. 

The breed is described as smart, energetic, loyal, and trainable, in terms of temperament. Like the Australian Shepherd, the Miniature American Shepherd has an expected lifespan of 13–15 years. The Miniature American Shepherd was recognized as a breed by the AKC in 2025 and subsequently by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 2019.

3. English Shepherd

An English Shepherd in the snow

The English Shepherd is a medium-sized breed of herding dog originating in the United States. English Shepherds' forebears were collies of various types imported, alongside sheep, to the U.S. by early settlers from Britain and Ireland. As such, the English Shepherd shares ancestry with the modern Australian Shepherd, whose forebears also include collies. Moreover, both breeds share many common traits and require a great of exercise to stay healthy and happy. 

In terms of temperament, the English Shepherd is described as energetic, bossy, smart, adaptive, independent, and kind. The breed is said to be trustworthy and possess an upright, loose-eyed herding style. Furthermore, English shepherds are known for making great, obedient family dogs, though they require early socialization and obedience training.

4. Catahoula Leopard Dog

A Catahoula Leopard Dog

The Catahoula Leopard Dog is a multi-purpose working dog that originated in Louisiana, USA. Though the breed's lineage is unknown, legend has it that it originated in the mid-1700s when French settlers' Beauceron dogs were crossbred with Native Americans' well-adapted swamp-hunting wolfdogs. The ultimate goal of this crossbreeding was to develop a better working dog that is yet good with children.

Although the Catahoula Leopard Dog was initially used for hunting, both the UKC and the AKC have recognized the breed as a herding dog. It possesses a natural herding instinct and a unique herding technique described by the AKC as creating a "canine fence" around the herd, allowing the shepherd to work the herd within that circle.

The AKC describes Catahoula Leopard Dogs as independent, territorial, and protective, and consequently need firm guidance and early socialization. On the other hand, the AKC says, these dogs can be affectionate, loyal, and gentle once they know their place in the family unit. Just so you know, the Catahoula Leopard Dog is the state dog of Louisiana.

5. Blue Lacy

A Blue Lacy dog
Source: Instagram

The Blue Lacy is a working dog breed that originated in Texas, USA. The breed is described, in terms of temperament, as intelligent, alert, bold, devoted, active, and intense. As "a true Texas breed," the vast majority of Blue Lacy dogs are expectedly found in the Lone Star State. Though not recognized as a breed by any major kennel club, the Blue Lacy, by all accounts, is known to be a very serious, intense herder. The breed is also used for hunting, though.

6. McNab Dog

An McNab Dog
Source: Instagram

The McNab Dog is a herding dog that originated in California, United States. In terms of temperament, it is described as a well-mannered, hard-working, protective, sociable, friendly, and obedient dog. McNab Dogs possess a loose-eyed herding style and, unlike many herding breeds, tend to work more independently. 

Originally bred to herd sheep, McNab Dogs, thanks to their bold nature and working abilities, are also used for herding cattle, geese, goats, and llamas. With no breed-specific health issues, McNabs are hardy dogs whose average lifespan is 13–15 years. This breed, which is currently not recognized by any major kennel club, was little known outside California until recently.

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