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What 2 Breeds Make an Australian Shepherd?

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A Blue merle Aussie's head

MOST dog breeds, including the Australian Shepherd, were not originally created by crossing two different breeds. In Australian Shepherds' case, their origin is rather uncertain. By all accounts, the Australian Shepherd, aka Aussie, was developed in the United States but was so named by observant Americans who believed the dog's ancestors came from Australia. As I mentioned earlier, there are no two dog breeds that make up the modern Australian Shepherd breed.

The Aussie is believed to have been developed by mixing various herding dogs. According to legend, Australian Shepherds' ancestors were brought, along with sheep, to the United States by Basque shepherds from Australia. The exact combination of sheepdogs used to create the Australian Shepherd we know today is unknown. However, two breeds are believed to be among the breeds involved in the Australian Shepherd's development. These include the Collie and the Pyrenean Shepherd.

A rough collie (left) and a Pyrenean Shepherd (right)

Collies, which form a distinctive type of herding dogs, originated in Scotland and Northern England. On the other hand, the Pyrenean Shepherd is a small to medium-sized herder descended from ancient sheepdogs of the Pyrenees mountain of France. This underscores evidence that the Australian Shepherd's roots lie in European herding dogs. Moreover, an AKC article suggests that the Carea Leonés may have been among Australian Shepherds' forebears. 

Carea Leonés

Carea Leonés vs. Australian Shepherd

The Carea Leonés, known as Leonese Sheepdog in English, is a medium-sized herding dog from the León region of northwestern Spain. The AKC describes this dog as a better ancestral fit for Australian Shepherds. Leonese Sheepdogs have merle coats that can be of medium length and slightly wavy. In addition, they can have blue eyes. Intelligent and easy to train, Leonese Sheepdogs are renowned for their willingness to work. Australian Shepherds' similarity to these dogs is quite intriguing.

According to Wikipedia, Leonese Sheepdogs contributed to the type of herding dogs found throughout the U.S. today, including the Australian Shepherd. Leonese Sheepdogs were brought to the U.S. along with Churra sheep when Spain colonized America.

Dog Breeds That Share Ancestry With The Australian Shepherd

1. Koolie

A Koolie dog running

Also known as the Australian Koolie, the Koolie is a herding dog bred in Australia from British working dogs. As with most Australian Shepherds, most Koolies also have the merle pattern. The Black and Tan Collie and the smooth-coated blue merle Collie were thought to be the Koolie's ancestors. In other words, the Koolie is believed to be descended from Collies.

2. English Shepherd

Two English Shepherd dogs

Also known as the Farm Collie, the English Shepherd is a medium-sized herding dog developed in the U.S. The breed is believed to be a descendant of the English and Scottish shepherd dogs brought to the U.S. by early settlers. English Shepherds come in many colors including Black and White, Black and Tan, Tricolor, and Sable and White. Black and White English Shepherds can be impossible to tell from Black and White Australian Shepherds. In addition, English Shepherds can also be born with a natural bobtail, just like most Australian Shepherds.


Popular accounts say Australian Shepherds' forebears include the Collie, the Carea Leonés, and the Pyrenean Shepherd. As I mentioned earlier, the exact combination of sheepdogs used to create the Aussie is not well documented, but in the end, it doesn’t matter much. Besides, the American idiom has never been about dwelling on the past. No matter the long-ago details of the breeds from which they were developed, Americans are certainly glad Australian Shepherds are here.

As for the road ahead, the Australian Shepherd remains one of the most popular breeds in the U.S., ranking 12th in 2023.


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