Feature

The Australian Shepherd is from: A) Australia, B) England, C) Spain, D) None of the Above

The truth about how one of the smartest, most versatile dogs in the world came to be in Colorado.

February 2012

Footnotes

1. In places, the terrain was so steep that the men had to dismount their horses.

2. The idea that a dog would have a specific, traceable, documented lineage was an utterly foreign idea to Ernie, and probably most people, at the time.

3. There are currently just 11 U.S. states with an official state dog. The honor, believe it or not, requires an act of the state Legislature.

4. This stands in stark contrast to the majority of dog breeds, which were bred with very specific purposes in mind. The dachshund was bred, for instance, to crawl into holes and ferret out varmints, which is why it’s so feisty and prone to tearing small objects to shreds. Another popular ranch dog, the border collie, was refined by the English and Scottish for hundreds of years to work with sheep. It’s a champion of sheep herding, but it doesn’t want to do much else. If you buy a border collie and ask it to be your house pet, prepare for shredded carpets and herded children. That’s because, explains Carol Ann, “a border collie’s desire to please a handler is not greater than their desire to pursue their own instinct.”

5. In the years after World War II, a federal government program, in conjunction with the Western Range Association, granted three-year visas to foreign shepherds who could help fill in for the lack of able-bodied males in the United States. Many were Basque.

6. For instance, the bullmastiff was created by English game wardens to ward off poachers by mixing tenacious bulldogs with hulking mastiffs.

7. Including children. Aussies are famous among farmers for their ability to pitch in with babysitting.

8. Spanish for “the Rockies.”

9. “Foundation dogs” is breeder jargon for the most prominent specific animals in a pedigree. If you trace a modern Aussie’s family tree back far enough, there’s a very good chance you’ll find some Hartnagle dogs in there.

10. That’s a fancy word for dog shows of the kind you see at Westminster in New York City.

11. Numbering 38, Ernie’s flock is one of the largest in the region for this rare breed.

12. These events started, in large part, due to the efforts of Ernie and Elaine to increase interest in the breed.

13. When was the last time someone you knew bought a terrier, for instance, for the primary purpose of killing rats?

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