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The History of Australian Shepherds


Chapter II:  Timeline:  Breed Development From Obscurity Into Mainstream Popularity


- First sheep and Spanish Shepherd dogs introduced to the American west

- Don Juan de Onate, a Basque drove 2,900 sheep into the Chama River country



- “Little blue” dogs were identified in the American West with Basques and bands of sheep

- Basque sheepherders were working in Cahuenga Valley long before it became known as Hollywood

- The Basque people dominated the sheep industry from 1873 to 1973, a period of 100 years

- German Koolies (Coolies), very similar to Australian Shepherds reported in Australia

- Australian Shepherds imported to Western U. S. with flocks of sheep

- Kennon Goodrich, Dr. Heard’s great-grandfather leaves Texas headed to Oregon in a wagon train with two blue merle bob-tailed shepherds, Carlo and Towser




- Harold Mitchell (married to Ongiva Gibson) trailed sheep between Omaha Stock Yards and the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado using blue bobtails

Early 1900s


- Elsie Cotton’s uncle, Earl Babcock acquires 2 males and 3 females from Colorado or Montana

- Breed referred to as Australian Shepherds (Maryland Little, early California breeder and historian contends the name, Australian Shepherd may have become popular due to breaking away from Spanish domination and the resulting animosity towards them)

1915 - 1918


- Juanita Ely - is gifted Teddy, a little blue dog from Andorra (between Spain and France) that arrived in the United States with a boatload of sheep from Australia

- Neville “William” Gibson (Elaine Hartnagle’s father) acquires Bob from Basques

- Noel Heard (Weldon T. Heard’s father) buys Old Jim

- Roy Ritter uses Basque dogs to drive his stock out of Nevada into Northern California

William Gibson & Bob


- Russell Peer (Vicki Mistretta’s father) with a pup named Jimmy and a pig named Nancy. He worked for his father who owned three large ranches, two in Oregon and one in northern California where he ran thousands of sheep before the Great Depression

Russell Peer 1922

Elsie with her
Uncles female "Cotton"



- Bunk an Australian Shepherd from Australia is featured in several films between 1924 and 1932 with Silent Film star and owner, Jack Hoxie

- Earl Babcock, Elsie Cotton’s uncle acquired 2 males - one (maybe both) had been imported from Australia


Jack Hoxie & friends - 1930



- Breed Standard drafted for Pyrenean Shepherds (Berger de Pyrenees). All varieties are combined into two recognized types



- ASCA’s first President, Eloise Hart’s family acquires Blanco from a migrating family who came to California directly from the Basque country in Spain



- Thayer’s Padrick King - 1932-1949 is born who will receive the Red Heart Badge of Heroism at sixteen (16) years of age for saving his mistress, Marie Thayer’s life in Lolo Montana

Thayers Padrick King


- Ina Ottinger’s parents of Casper Wyoming started breeding their line of ranch dogs when they imported two dogs from Spain



- Cub and Harry Sandburg, Colorado ranchers use early versions of Australian Shepherds to work cattle near Montrose, Paradox and Cedaredge Colorado

- Jon Eckert (a Florida Aussie fancier and Sandburg’s grandson) introduced to Shepherds as a child in Colorado


Harry Sanburg & Bob

Cub Sanburg & Bob

Jon Eckert & Bob



- Don Breazeale uses Aussies on dairy farm in Modesto California

- Brezeale acquires dogs from Juanita Ely

- Jay Sisler gets his first blue dog




- Allie Clough acquires dogs from Parker Ranch in Hawaii early 40s

- Hundreds of Basques were recruited to western sheep ranches due to the severe labor shortage of the 40s and 50s. They were commonly brought in from Spain with their dogs to the western states including Nevada where the sheep industry was followed by cattle ranching



- 56 million sheep grazed on open range throughout the west

- “Little blue dogs” start gaining recognition when they started showing up in significant numbers as sheepherders brought them as tools of their trade

- The little blue dogs were strongly associated with the sheep industry in Arizona, California, Idaho, and Pacific Northwest and then was advanced as a breed in Colorado with the development of major foundation bloodlines in the 1950s and 1960s

- California and Idaho are two states with the biggest Basque population

- The largest community of Basques in North America exists in the greater Boise, Idaho area

- Between 1880 and 1930, Los Angeles had a flourishing Basque colony. During those years in the area around Alameda Street and Aliso Street was the home for one of the oldest and largest Basque communities in America




- Jay Sisler acquires Keeno

- By end of WWII, sheep number less than 40 million

- Breed recognition increases with popularity in Western riding




- Maryland Little develops Mr. Robert’s line out of Basque and Spanish dogs in California



- Gene Sisler buys Blue Star



- Vicki Mistretta receives Tubby, a long-tailed black tri for Christmas

- Keeno and Blue Star produce Stub and Shorty

Peers Tubby


- Jay Sisler’s first public performance. (Photo from later show)

- Fletcher Wood buys Jay


Woods Jay

Jay Sisler



- Basque sheepherders are imported into the US through government program to ease labor shortage at the end of WWII

- Bob and Jean Carrillo, Casa de Carrillo, acquired their first Aussie, Cookie (from Don Breazeale’s breeding in Modesto, California)


The Carrillo Family



- Ernie and Elaine Hartnagle acquire Snipper from the Bar Cane Ranches



- Juanita Ely acquires Feo from a herder working for the Warren Livestock Company who brought him from the Spain


Ely's Feo

Jay Sisler - Circa 1954



- Hartnagle’s purchase Goody who is a daughter of Ely’s Feo and Ely’s Blue and Badger, a son of Blue



- Disney releases "Cowdog" with Jay Sisler, a live action short film by Walt Disney Productions; Buena Vista nominated for an Academy Award

- Steve Mansker acquires Freckles from Jay Sisler

- The Drumheller Ranch in Washington employs Gregorio Zorrozua, a Basque who contracts exclusively Basque sheepherders from Spain

- Lois George acquires Cricket from Basques

- Audrey and Muriel Hays acquire Poco Lena


Georges Cricket (1956)

Gregorio Zorrozua

Klarers Poco Lena



- The Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) is founded to recognize Australian Shepherds (or Sheepdogs as it appeared on early registration certificates) as a true and distinct breed

- National Stock Dog Registry, a division IESR becomes the official registry

- Hart’s Panda (female) first Aussie registered with NSDR through agreement with Ed Emmanuel

Hart's Panda



- First ASCA Show - April in Himmel Park in Tucson Arizona with Judge Eloise Hart


1958 Himmel Park ASCA's 1st Show




- Fletcher Wood acquires Dandy from Moreno family who brought dogs to the United States from Spain

- Jay Sisler acquired Panda (by Wood's Jay and out of Ely's Blue)

- Juanita Ely acquires Spike, a harsh coated dog from Gene Sisler who originally came from the Pyrenees with a Basque sheepherder

- Ken Duart acquired Duart’s Lita from a Basque sheepherder at Nelson’s ranch in Bakersfield who brought her from the Basque sector on the French and Spanish border


Woods Dandy

Sisler's Panda

Duarts Lita




- Harper’s Old Smokey - Janeane Harper, Kansas

- Stevenson’s Kate with litter - Gwen Stevenson, Northern California

- DeGreen’s Smokey - Lucie DeGreen, Arizona

- Lee Thornton establishes foundation bloodline in Arizona

- Spencer’s Jerry - Harold and Pauline Spencer, 5S Ranch - California


Harpers Old Smokey

Stevenson’s Kate with litter

DeGreens Smokey

Spencer's 5 S Ranch

Spencers Jerry




- ASCA Incorporates in Washington State

- August 1962, the ASCA BOD selects a sketch of Ely’s Blue to be representative of the breed as the Ghost Dog on the Gold IESR Registration Certificates

- Ina Ottinger purchased a little red merle from a Basque sheep shearer during the World’s Fair in Seattle Washington who brought him from Spain


IESR Gold Certificate



- Roy Ritter injured on horseback when his horse fell down an arroyo - pinning him beneath the animal - while working stock on his ranch outside Reno Nevada, Ritter’s Streak traveled for miles to get help for his master

- Stanley and Laurel Ronsely of Carson City Nevada continue Ritter’s bloodlines

Ritters Streak



- Dr. Heard establishes Flintridge bloodlines in Colorado

- Jerry and Sharon Rowe and Dick Sorensen form J Bar D Kennels in Colorado


Flintridge established



- A well-known, foundation sire, McConkey's Tiger Britches in California tracing back to old Basque and Spanish ranch dogs

McConkey's Tiger Britches



- Orthopedic Foundation (OFA) established

- First OFA Certificate (AS-1) issued to Nelson's Samantha CDX who traced back to Roy Ritter’s Nevada ranch dogs including Ritter’s Streak

- IASA (International Australian Shepherd Association) starts registry


Betty Nelson

Smedras Blue Mistingo




- Australian Shepherds still being tested by the uncompromising yardstick of performance

- Sisler’s Silver stars in Disney’s "Run, Appaloosa, Run"


The "yardstick"

Sisler's Silver in
Run, Appaloosa, Run




- Rich Ruddish paints Christmas greeting for Hallmark using Aussie

- Ernie Hartnagle elected President of the ASC of Colorado




- ASC of C Logo Designed by Judy Kelley based on Wood’s Jay’s image




- ASCA registers first Kennel Names (Las Rocosa and Maywood) - this is significant for record keeping (to keep track of Australian Shepherd ancestry)

- Honorable Mention - Las Rocosa Veil of Tears is first Australian Shepherd to receive IESR Registry Certificate documenting 3 full registered generations (both sides) of ancestry


Las Rocosa Veil of Tears & her certificate



- ASCA offers conformation, obedience and tracking titles

- ASCA’s first Champion/CDX of record - Champion Wildhagen’s Dutchman CDX

Champion Wildhagen’s Dutchman CDX



- ASCA establishes Independent Registry March 10

- 26 ASCA kennel names registered in 5 states

- Prior to ASCA’s formation, breed activity was limited to the western states primarily in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and the Pacific Northwest




- Disney releases "Stub: Best Cow Dog in the West", an updated version of Cow Dog

- Decisive meeting to determine ASCA’s future held in Redding California

- ASCA Stock Dog committee formed

- Colorado Stock Dog Fanciers host first all-breed trial with ducks sheep and cattle


Jay Sisler with John, Joker, Greta & Silver



- 16.5 million sheep in the United States

- Basque herders no longer recruited from Spain, but the underpinning for the breed was laid

- Aussies started finding their way into suburbia

- 1,518 Aussies registered in ASCA, 397 litters registered

- ASCA pilot Stock Dog Trials held in Colorado on May 11, 1974


A few of the 16 million sheep in the USA




- ASCA appoints the Colorado affiliate to draft Breed Standard

- Ernie Hartnagle elected ASCA President

- ASCA Stock Dog Program put into effect

- Australian Shepherds recognized in Mexico

- Australian Shepherds compete at 176 shows in 22 states - resulting in 38 Champions, 35 CD titles, 6 CDX titles, 3 UD titles earned


Las Rocosa Cooter




- Aussies are still the breed of choice on western ranches

- 3,000 Aussies registered in ASCA

- 29 Championships were earned, 44 CD titles, 8 CDX titles, 4 UD titles, 1 TD title

- Mab du Hic, a natural bobtail blue merle Pyrenean Shepherd - living proof of a variety of Pyrenean Sheepdogs with a smooth face and copper trim (bred by M. Perrot) existing in the Pyrenees in the 70s and of the type that were brought to the U.S. through the Western Range Association

- When Ernie Hartnagle took office in January, he had the books audited - and to his surprise discovered there was a total sum of $15.00 in the treasury

- CERF (Canine Eye Registration Foundation) introduced


Mab du Hic



- ASCA's Official Breed Standard Adopted to describe the physical characteristics of the ideal specimen of the breed as a judging and breeding guideline

- Champion Copper Canyon Caligari CD selected BOB at National Specialty

- Junior Showmanship Program initiated

Junior Showmanship



- 6,000 ASCA registered Australian Shepherds

- National Finals – High in Trial / Champion Las Rocosa Heck’s Hud

- Breeder Judge Program established




- ASCA and IASA merge their registries under one umbrella

- ASCA Yearbook, 1957 - 1977 Twenty Years of Progress published



~~ Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor, © November 2008


No part of the material covered by this copyright may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author.


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Chapter I:

The Australian Shepherd and Breeds From a Common Root

Chapter II:

Timeline:  Breed Development From Obscurity Into Mainstream Popularity

Chapter III:  Australian Shepherd History Revisited: Part I: Influence of the Basques  
Chapter IV: Australian Shepherd History Revisited, Part II: Documented Early Imports  
Chapter V: Australian Shepherds and Sheep Ranching on the Open Range  
Chapter VI: Jay Sisler  

For more historical information about Aussies, click on any of the links below:

The History of Las Rocosa Aussies

The History of the Australian Shepherd Club of America


For a much more detailed account of the origin and history, richly documented with historic photos, please see the book:

The Total Australian Shepherd:  Beyond the Beginning
by Carol Ann Hartnagle & Ernest Hartnagle


Telephone: 303.659.6597
Fax: 303.659.6552
Breeding Sound Versatile Aussies Since 1955
Founding/Lifetime Members ASCA and USASA

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