Shepherd Breeds: The Origin and History of the Herding and Guarding Dogs

March 28, 2019
As a dog owner with over 25 years of experience, I can attest that having a dog is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life. The companionship and joy they bring is incomparable.

Around the time of the California Gold Rush and the American Civil War, the need for clothing made of wool to keep warm on the homefront led to the introduction of a breed of dogs called the Shepherd. This dog was to become not only a guardian for man but also a guardian for a very much prized possession, the sheep.

The Australian Shepherd

The origin of the Australian Shepherd originated either in Australia and could have also developed in Spain. The Spanish sheepdog was used in New Mexico and were often larger with a yellowish-white color. The breed served mankind by guarding livestock and was characterized as having plenty of energy; after all, it had to run after the sheep and other animals

Among the early breeds of shepherd dogs was the blue merle, a marbled gray and black dog. There were also black and white dogs with no spots or blending of colors. These dogs were called either the English or Australian Shepherd.

According to Linda Rorem in her article A View of Australian Shepherd History,1987, there existed another breed of Shepherd from Spain and France, or the Basque region, which was employed to guard sheep and assist in the fields.

An interesting fact is that the tails of these dogs took on different appearances. It was the English Spepherd that had the natural bob tail, but the Australian Shepherds had longer tails.

The herding Basque dog which came from Spain and France could have both a shaggy face or a smooth face.

The Welsh Heeler

A breed of dog developed in Germany and was called the Koolie. This dog soon was introduced by German settlers into Australia. It was within this continent, that it interbred with the shepherds of Britain to form the Welsh Heeler. The dogs from England were called English Shepherds; whereas, the dogs from Australia were called Australian Shepherds.

A Miniature Shepherd

There is also a very cute variety of Shepherd called the miniature Australian Shepherd which is suited as a house dog. It is quite lovable and agile. There are so many varieties and colors of Australian, but they are all beautiful, intelligent. and sociable creatures.

The German Shepherd

Like the Australian shepherd the German shepherd had its origin as a guardian dog or working dog, but it also exhibited other fine attributes such as strength and keen intelligence.

In 1899 Captain Max Von Stephanitz introduced a dog which was to be the first German Shepherd. The dog was named Horan and was a composite of different varieties of shepherds including the long hair and short hair varieties. Von Stephanitz wanted to develop the breed for its intelligence and strength.

According to the website, breeders began calling the German Shepherd the Alsatian Wolf Dog due to the war with Germany and the reputation of the wolf. This changed in 1977 when the dog was once again called the German Shepherd.

The German Shepherd variety originated with wolf breeds, but it is a strong breed of dog devoted to its human and wary of strangers.

Both breeds are used today in many ways including guide dogs, ranch dogs, police work, and family dogs.

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