Australian Shepherd.jpg
Breed Group Group 10: Pastoral and Stock Dog Breeds
Sub-group 10-C: Medium Pastoral Dogs
Origin Country United States
Weight Males: 50-65 pounds. Females: 40-55 pounds.
Height Males: 20-23 inches. Females: 18-21 inches.
Other Name(s) Aussie
Breed Type Pure
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Australian Shepherd

Breed Group Group 10: Pastoral and Stock Dog Breeds
Sub-group 10-C: Medium Pastoral Dogs
Origin Country United States
Weight Males: 50-65 pounds. Females: 40-55 pounds.
Height Males: 20-23 inches. Females: 18-21 inches.
Other Name(s) Aussie
Breed Type Pure
click here for FULL BREED STANDARD

Breed Spotlight

Origins

Contrary to what the name implies, the only thing Australian about the Australian Shepherd, or Aussie, is his name. In fact, the Aussie is as American as apple pie. Developed in the United States, the breed descended from the Pyrenean Shepherd, which was originally brought to the western United States by the Basque peoples who settled in the American Northwest in the early 1800s. These sheepdogs were then bred with the ancestors of other modern day and extinct herding dogs, including Collies, Border Collies, and Smithfield Sheepdogs.

The confusion surrounding the Australian Shepherd’s name likely comes from the fact that the Basque did not migrate directly from Europe. Instead, some Basque peoples took a detour Down Under when political unrest or unemployment gripped their home country. When some of the Basques uprooted and moved to Australia, they took their little blue dogs along with them. In Australia, many of the farmers found that the Australian sheep were hardy and resilient against pests and disease. When the farmers left Australia for the States again, they brought their dogs along for the journey. Once on American soil, they settled in Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, and Idaho. The dogs that once herded the famously resilient sheep of Australia became erroneously known as Australian Shepherds in the U.S.

The Aussie grew in popularity after World War II, a time when Western-style riding grew in popularity among the general public. Rodeos, horse competitions, and Western TV shows and film were of interest to people in America, and the sheepherder dogs were a part of that era. At first, Australian Shepherds, like other working dogs, were simply bred for hardiness and sustainability for their flock’s particular climate and environment. This produced many different looking dogs, even though all were being bred to have that same intelligence and herding ability. However, it wasn’t long before the breeders began to focus on the look of the breed, eventually standardizing it into the hardy, ruggedly handsome type we have today.

Breed Characteristics

Head: Mesaticephalic skull-type, moderate in size, wedge-shaped, and in proportion to the rest of the body. The top skull may be flat to just slightly domed. The occiput may be slightly prominent. The topskull length from the occiput to the stop is equal to the width from side to side, measured in front of the ears. In profile and from above, the head should form a wedge-shape. The head is clean-cut without excess skin or wrinkle.
Eyes: Medium in size, set well into the skull, almond or oval in shape, and set obliquely. Eyes may be any color, or any combination of colors, including dark to light brown, amber, hazel, green, blue, bi-color (two different colored eyes), flecked, or marbled (two different colors mixed together in one eye). Eyes rims are tightly fitted and well-pigmented. Eyes should never appear bulging or rounded. Dogs exhibiting iris cobloma should be disqualified.
Ears: The ears are of a moderate size, set high on the head, and triangular in shape. They may be naturally drop with some lift to the base, or they may be naturally rose. At full attention drop ears break forward, and rose ears are held with the tips out to the side. The ears should never be completely prick or houndy.
Muzzle: The muzzle is full, deep, and broad. Upper and lower jaws have good bone substance, appearing strong and well-developed, never appearing snipey or weak. It should taper just a bit toward the nose, forming a blunt wedge. The muzzle may be equal to the length of the topskull, or it may be just shorter. It is dry, without excess flews, skin, or haw.
Nose: The nose is well-pigmented and black, or self-colored according to the coat. Merle dogs may have a butterfly nose which must be at minimum 75% of the total nose at one year of age. Unpigmented portions of the nose that exceeds 25% of the nose area are undesirable. The nostrils are well-opened.
Neck: Moderate length to allow for proud head carriage, strongly-muscled, with a slight arch. The neck tapers smoothly from the deeper and broader body toward the head. The neck is clean-cut, without excess skin, throatiness, or dewlap.
Chest: Deep, broad, but never wider than deep. The brisket extends to the point of the elbows.
Body: Compact, solid, and good substance. The body is never racy or refined. Width at forequarters is approximately equal to the width at the hindquarters.
Feet: Oval to round, compact, with well-arched toes and tough pads.
Tail: Set neither high nor low on the croup, the tail is a natural extension of the dog’s topline. It is thick at the base and tapering toward the tip. Carried in accordance with the dog’s mood and energy level, but never tucked or carried up over the back. Tail may be left natural (preferred), docked short, or naturally bobbed. Natural long tails are of a medium length, with the tip of the last vertebrae extending to the hock joints when held down. The tail may be straight or gently curved. Natural tails are elegant and straight, or may form a graceful curve. Docked tails are cut short, no longer than four inches. Naturally, bobtails may be any length as long as they are straight and without kinks.
Movement: Effortless, efficient, energetic, indicative of great agility, power, and stamina. The characteristics of healthy structure are evident: when moving away, the forelegs and rear pasterns should remain parallel to one another. When viewing movement from the front, the forelegs should remain parallel, with elbows and paws moving neither in nor out. From the rear, the back pads should be visible when the rear legs are extended. As speed increases, the forelimbs and hindlimbs will converge to the center line of gravity. From the side, the topline should remain firm and level. Good reach of movement in the front allows the forepaw to extend out in a line with the nose. The width between the forefeet when extended should be approximately equal to the width between the hindfeet when extended, indicating balance, good reach, and good drive. Dogs that exhibit any sign of breathing or locomotive difficulty shall be disqualified from the show ring.
Temperament: The Australian Shepherd is a confident, energetic, and intelligent dog that loves a job. His even disposition, good nature, can-do attitude, and devotion to his family make him a great family pet. As with many herding dogs, his original purpose required him to have a sense of ownership and control for his flock or herd, which can carry over to other things, for example, his truck, his yard, his toys, and his family. Adult dogs are not expected to be overly friendly toward strangers, and a healthy reserve or aloofness is not to be penalized. However, any unprovoked aggressive or fearful behavior toward people is incorrect for this breed.
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Breed Standard

BREED GROUP 10: Pastoral and Stock Dog Breeds

Proportions: The Australian Shepherd is a somewhat rectangular dog breed, being slightly longer than tall. The distance from the point of the chest to the point of the rump is greater than the height at the withers, with a desired body height to length ratio being 5:6. The body is strongly built for agility and endurance, being medium in size, with moderate substance and medium bone. Well-balanced, muscular, yet never cloddy or light, the Australian Shepherd should never exhibit extremes of any sort, including extremes in mass, size, or coat. Males should appear masculine, being more substantial in size and mass, while females should appear more feminine and slightly less substantial. Neither should lack overall type.

Head

General Appearance: Mesaticephalic skull-type, moderate in size, wedge-shaped, and in proportion to the rest of the body. The top skull may be flat to just slightly domed. The occiput may be slightly prominent. The topskull length from the occiput to the stop is equal to the width from side to side, measured in front of the ears. In profile and from above, the head should form a wedge-shape. The head is clean-cut without excess skin or wrinkle.
Expression: Alert, intelligent, watchful, keen, eager, and friendly.
Stop: The stop is moderate to well-defined.
Skull: The ideal muzzle-to-skull ratio is 1:1, with the topskull being equal in length to the muzzle.
The ideal muzzle-to-skull axis may run parallel or be slightly convergent.
Muzzle: The muzzle is full, deep, and broad. Upper and lower jaws have good bone substance, appearing strong and well-developed, never appearing snipey or weak. It should taper just a bit toward the nose, forming a blunt wedge. The muzzle may be equal to the length of the topskull, or it may be just shorter. It is dry, without excess flews, skin, or haw.
Lips or Flews: Lips are clean and fit tightly over the teeth and jaws.
Nose: The nose is well-pigmented and black, or self-colored according to the coat. Merle dogs may have a butterfly nose which must be at minimum 75% of the total nose at one year of age. Unpigmented portions of the nose that exceeds 25% of the nose area are undesirable. The nostrils are well-opened.
Cheeks: Some padding of the cheek is present. The cheeks should not appear chiseled or coarse.
Dentition and Bite: Forty-two strong, clean, white teeth. Bite may be level or scissor. Contact preferred between the top and bottom incisors, however, a space of ¼ of an inch or less is permissible. Missing or broken teeth as a result of routine work is not to be penalized.
Eyes: Medium in size, set well into the skull, almond or oval in shape, and set obliquely. Eyes may be any color, or any combination of colors, including dark to light brown, amber, hazel, green, blue, bi-color (two different colored eyes), flecked, or marbled (two different colors mixed together in one eye). Eyes rims are tightly fitted and well-pigmented. Eyes should never appear bulging or rounded. Dogs exhibiting iris cobloma should be disqualified.
Ears: The ears are of a moderate size, set high on the head, and triangular in shape. They may be naturally drop with some lift to the base, or they may be naturally rose. At full attention drop ears break forward, and rose ears are held with the tips out to the side. The ears should never be completely prick or houndy.

Body and Tail

General Description: Compact, solid, and good substance. The body is never racy or refined. Width at forequarters is approximately equal to the width at the hindquarters.
Neck: Moderate length to allow for proud head carriage, strongly-muscled, with a slight arch. The neck tapers smoothly from the deeper and broader body toward the head. The neck is clean-cut, without excess skin, throatiness, or dewlap.
Chest: Deep, broad, but never wider than deep. The brisket extends to the point of the elbows.
Topline: Level from slightly prominent withers to croup. The back is broad, strongly muscled, and straight, yet supple. The loin is taut, level, or slightly arched, yet supportive. The topline is never swayed or roached.
Croup: Gently sloped.
Underline: A slight to moderate tuck up may be present. The underline is taut and firm, without any indication of sagging or excess weight.
Ribs: Long, well-sprung, well-laid-back, oval-shaped, never barrel-chested or slab-sided.
Tail: Set neither high nor low on the croup, the tail is a natural extension of the dog’s topline. It is thick at the base and tapering toward the tip. Carried in accordance with the dog’s mood and energy level, but never tucked or carried up over the back. Tail may be left natural (preferred), docked short, or naturally bobbed. Natural long tails are of a medium length, with the tip of the last vertebrae extending to the hock joints when held down. The tail may be straight or gently curved. Natural tails are elegant and straight, or may form a graceful curve. Docked tails are cut short, no longer than four inches. Naturally, bobtails may be any length as long as they are straight and without kinks.

Forequarters and Hindquarters

Forequarters: Forequarters are always in balance with the hindquarters. Forequarters are well-angulated with well-laid-back shoulder blades. Shoulder blades are approximately equal in length to the upper arm and forearm.
Elbows: Elbows are close to the body. The point of the elbows is approximately half the dog’s height at the withers.
Forelegs: Frontal View: Straight, of good muscle and bone, and parallel to one another.
Side View: The forelimbs appear straight with strong pasterns.
Pasterns: Never weak or broken.
Hindquarters: Upper thigh and lower thigh are equal in length, strong, sturdy, of good bone, and well-muscled.
Rear View: When viewed from the rear, the rear pasterns are parallel to one another.
Side View: Good angulation will allow the rear toes to align with the point of the rump or within one paw-length behind the point of the rump, with the rear pasterns remaining perpendicular to the ground and parallel to one another.
Stifle Joint: Well-angulated with a good bend to well-let-down rear pasterns.
Angulations: Angulation of hindquarters is always in balance with angulation of forequarters.
Feet: Oval to round, compact, with well-arched toes and tough pads.

Coat

Skin: Well-fitted, yet supple. The skin should never obstruct the outline of the dog.
Coat Type: The Australian Shepherd comes in two coat varieties: the standard (rough) coat, which is popular in cooler climates, and the smooth-coat, which is more popular in hot climates.
Smooth coat variety: The outer coat is weather-resistant, short-medium in length, lies flat against the body, and is smooth and close. It may be straight or waved. A soft, dense undercoat is present. Some fringing on the tail, and backs of the forelegs and hindlegs, as well as a slight ruff and mane are permissible. The texture is harsh to the touch.
Standard variety: Outer coat medium texture and length, straight or slightly waved, weather resistant, undercoat soft, density varies. Head, ears, front of legs, lower hocks short and close. Backside of legs and breeches moderately feathered with mane and frill. Individuals with a natural tail will have a richly plumed tail.
Coat Color or Pattern: CKC recognizes two color varieties of the Australian Shepherd breed: the standard color and nonstandard color variety.

Standard coat color variety: Black or liver, all with or without sable, all with or without merle (referred to as blue or red merle), all with or without tan points, saddle markings, or creeping tan, all with or without white Irish piebald markings, including: the neck, the chest, the muzzle, the center of the forehead or topskull, undersides (chest and underline) and the lower portions of the legs, and the tip of the tail. Note: White should not exceed beyond the withers. White body splashes behind the withers, predominantly white heads and asymmetrical heads, with white over the eyes or ears. Large patches or amounts of white indicating homogenous merle genotype/phenotype are undesirable.

Nonstandard coat color variety: Any color or pattern other than the standard. Large patches or amounts of white indicating homogenous merle genotype/phenotype is undesirable.

Movement

Effortless, efficient, energetic, indicative of great agility, power, and stamina. The characteristics of healthy structure are evident: when moving away, the forelegs and rear pasterns should remain parallel to one another. When viewing movement from the front, the forelegs should remain parallel, with elbows and paws moving neither in nor out. From the rear, the back pads should be visible when the rear legs are extended. As speed increases, the forelimbs and hindlimbs will converge to the center line of gravity. From the side, the topline should remain firm and level. Good reach of movement in the front allows the forepaw to extend out in a line with the nose. The width between the forefeet when extended should be approximately equal to the width between the hindfeet when extended, indicating balance, good reach, and good drive. Dogs that exhibit any sign of breathing or locomotive difficulty shall be disqualified from the show ring.

Temperament

The Australian Shepherd is a confident, energetic, and intelligent dog that loves a job. His even disposition, good nature, can-do attitude, and devotion to his family make him a great family pet. As with many herding dogs, his original purpose required him to have a sense of ownership and control for his flock or herd, which can carry over to other things, for example, his truck, his yard, his toys, and his family. Adult dogs are not expected to be overly friendly toward strangers, and a healthy reserve or aloofness is not to be penalized. However, any unprovoked aggressive or fearful behavior toward people is incorrect for this breed.

Faults

All dogs should be in proper healthy condition, free from disease or defect. Any departure from this description is considered a fault. Unless altered, all male dogs should have two fully descended testicles.