Australian shepherds are active, medium-sized dogs that are bred to work. Despite their name, they originated in the United States. Native Americans referred to them as ghost dogs. Their ancestors may have been brought to America by Basque sheepherders via Australia, but they were mixed with other types of dogs in the southwest United States to create the modern breed.
The coats of Australian shepherds come in a variety of colors, including black, blue merle, red and red merle. Their eye color may be blue, brown or amber. They may also be bicolored, which means each eye is half one color and half another, or each eye may have a different color. Many of them have naturally short bobbed tails. Australian shepherds are highly intelligent and do well at ranch work, as seeing eye dogs, at sports and in competitions. They are easy to train. They need hours of exercise every day, or they have a tendency to become destructive and have behavioral problems. They do not make good apartment dogs but are good for active families who have large yards.
The genes responsible for their coloration also make them prone to problems with deafness and blindness. They sometimes have cataracts. The thickness and length of their coats can hide ticks and other parasites, so it is important to brush them frequently.