Colorado was significant in birthing the development of the foundation bloodlines of the modern Australian Shepherd. Why? The Centennial State was an important hub for major horse and livestock events. Rodeos, horses, the National Western Stock Show, the Colorado State University, and the Western Horseman Magazine were common factors bringing together the early breeders.
- Fletcher Wood, a horseman, and cattleman and one of the first breeders, served as the Ring Master for the National Western Stock Show in Denver Colorado, one of the major livestock shows in the country. He was also the director of activities for the Jefferson Country Fairgrounds where some of the first Australian Shepherd dog shows and K-9 Khanas fashioned after the popular Gymkhana horse events were hosted.
Fletcher acquired Wood’s Jay, one of the breed’s foundation sires from Jay Sisler in 1949. He was a large, distinct blue (self merle with very little white trim) sired by Sisler’s Shorty and out of Sisler’s Trixie. Jay was a handy cow dog. Fletcher said, “Jay would heel cattle and worked the back end of cows, but didn’t like to go to the head of a cow until Fletcher started encouraging him to bark a little bit when a cow turned on him. Jay would bark in her face and turn her around and then he was fine, “he never did bark at the back ends, but he’d bark at the heads when they came to him.”
- Juanita Ely, who was the earliest documented breeder, had blue Australian Shepherds since the twenties. She and her husband ranched at Deer Trail, Colorado, which incidentally is where the first rodeo is believed to have been held. In 1950, they acquired Ely’s Blue, the famed Ghost Dog on the original IESR Registration Certificates. Ely’s dogs contributed to bloodlines from Colorado to California and the Pacific Northwest, including our bloodlines, Hartnagle’s Las Rocosa Aussies. Juanita was also my mother’s godmother.
-My family developed our bloodlines at the base of the Rocky Mountains where we raised sheep and cattle – hence the name, Las Rocosa. As fate would have it, our beautiful little Goody, a daughter of Ely’s Blue who was later registered as Wood’s Blue Shadow contributed not only to our bloodlines, but to Fletcher’s dogs and Dr. Heard’s Flintridge bloodlines.
- Green’s Kim AKA Mansker’s Kim was owned by Kenneth Green, a cattle rancher and veterinarian who’s rugged mountain ranch is now part of the Golden Gate Park.
- Steve Mansker, a race horse trainer, farrier and hunting guide became acquainted with Jay Sisler in the 40’s through rodeos, but it wasn’t until 1956 that he acquired Freckles from Jay. Later, in the early sixties while Steve was attending the Colorado State University he became associated with Joe Taylor who bought Taylor’s Rusty from him. CSU is also where Joe met the Petramalas who owned Tate, the dam of his beautiful Taylor’s Buena.
- In 1963, after Walt Lamar graduated from OSU with a degree in Agronomy (soils) he transferred to the Bureau of Reclamation at Grand Junction, Colorado. He met Steve Mansker at a rodeo in Meeker, Colorado, where he bought Lamar’s Scratch who was out of Freckles. Later on, after some stiff negotiations Walt was able to buy Lamar’s [Mansker’s] Turk from Steve.
- Another Colorado bred dog, Dale Martin’s Adobe Gypsy (out of two of Hank Weiscamp’s dogs) figures considerably in the pedigrees of hundreds of Aussies in the Pacific Northwest. Weiscamp’s dogs were mainly Joe Taylor’s breeding.
- The world-famous Flintridge bloodlines found in the largest percentage of modern Aussies were produced in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, by Dr. Weldon T. Heard. Heard, a veterinarian and sheep breeder used dogs from Wood and Ely bloodlines.
From these highly influential people and their Colorado bloodlines, breeders in other states began their own lines and Australian Shepherds were launched from relative anonymity to mainstream popularity.