Churras, Carea Leonés and Other Herding Breeds From a Common Root Contributed to the Australian Shepherd Dog

CONTINUING “AUSSIE HISTORY REVISITED,” CHAPTER 3

“When Spain colonized America, they introduced two kinds of sheep — Churras (Churros) and Merinos (known for their exceptionally fine wool and fleece). Spaniards brought Churras in large numbers to provide food and fiber. The flocks not only survived in their new environment, but they flourished and multiplied. The dogs, too, were hardy individuals, toughened by exposure, and they proved to be capable of withstanding many hardships in the rough, dangerous, and uncharted lands of the Southwest.

The Spanish Churra is an ancient indigenous breed raised throughout the plateaus and sierras of Castile and LeoÏn. This region in northwestern Spain is also where the enormous flocks of Merino sheep were trailed each spring to graze in the mountains during summer since the Middle Ages. In the autumn, around October—the shepherds began their trek back to their winter pastures in the south on the plains of Estremadura and Andalusia. It is estimated that thousands of dogs accompanied them, the smaller ones for tending the flock (Carea) and the larger for guarding (MastiÏn).

Each massive flock or cabaña numbered around 50,000 sheep would be divided into smaller bands averaging 1,000 head. The droves of sheep were tended by shepherds and their dogs. Traditionally, two herders, four dogs and a packhorse or mule were employed for every 1,000 sheep. The mules were used to pack salt for the sheep, cooking utensils, food for the shepherds and dogs, and any lamb born during the journey that was too young to endure the hardships of migration.

For hundreds of years, the quick and agile Carea LeonÈs has been used to tend flocks in the mountains of LeoÏn and bordering provinces. They were developed during the centuries old, cañadas (sheep walks to and from seasonal pastures) known in Spain as the trashumancia. They worked in alongside the Spanish Mastiff who protected the flocks against wolves and other predators. They also traveled the world with the Spanish sheep. However, as the immense flocks diminished with the decline of the trashumance on foot, so did large numbers of these dogs—many of them, including the Leon Shepherd Dog, becoming a rarity.

Recognizing they could be replaced or absorbed by other breeds and lost forever—the University of Leon in cooperation with the Leonese Canine Society put a recovery program in place. The Carea Leonés is making a comeback.

Careas are reserved with strangers. They are hardy, tough and versatile working dogs with strong herding and guardian instincts (a characteristic still seen in Australian Shepherds today). They are highly capable of handling sheep or cattle and are sought after by herdsmen. Their working style is based on the type of work needed when grazing livestock in cultivated areas, unlike when flocks and herds are allowed to graze freely on mountain zones. Careas help keep the animals in check in the same way shepherds in other parts of Europe do as they lead their flocks out to graze.

The Carea Leonés is approximately 18 inches (48cm) to 22 inches (55cm) tall. Their coat is either solid black, liver red or merle (arlequinados or “pintos”) with or without white and or tan trim (shepherds spots) and is moderate in length. The Spanish herding dogs in California and the Southwest have always been known and used by early Australian Shepherd breeders. For example, Maryland Little’s Honey Bun was considered “the Spanish type.” She was from the Graatz ranch in Colton, California, with several recorded generations preceding her. Maryland based her breeding program on both Basque and Spanish dogs.

While the Spanish Merino was developed in Spain—Saxony Merinos—the Ramboullet is a strain that originated from Merino sheep taken from Spain in the 1700s across the Pyrenees Mountains to Germany and then later on to Australia with German settlers.

Eliza Forlonge, who is considered to be the mother of the Australian Fine Wool Industry, made several walking journeys (averaging 10 to 12 miles a day) throughout Germany and one to the top Merino breeding farm in Rambouillet, France. On her journeys she purchased the finest sheep she could find. Later, she retraced her journey, collected the sheep and drove them to be shipped to New South Wales Australia.

In 1796, John and Elizabeth Macarthur, pioneers and founders of the Australian Wool Industry imported their first flock of Spanish Merino sheep.  The Merinos thrived in Australia because the dry, hot climate was very comparable to Spain’s. Records indicate in 1825, Elizabeth transported Joseph Pabts, a German, to New South Wales to care for her flocks. It has also been suggested that when he arrived he brought German herding dogs with him, very possibly a strain of Old German Shepherds (Altdeutscher Schaferhund) known as Tigers.

Tigers are primarily found in southern Germany and look like old foundation working Aussies. The shepherds (stockmen) referred to them simply as sheepdogs (no different than ranchers here who call their stock dogs either “cowdogs” or “sheepdogs.” regardless of the breed. Arbeitsgemeinschaft zur Zucht Altdeutsche Hutehunde (A-A-H) was developed by a group of shepherds for the preservation and registration of the old German herding strains that were in danger of extinction. And, yes, some of these dogs accompanied boatloads of sheep from Australia to America, hence the name by which we know the breed—Australian Shepherd.

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Australian Shepherd History Revisited, Part II: Documented Early Imports

Oral histories of the early breeders and ranchers provide a valuable context or framework for the breed. The pioneer breeders were not dog people. They were sheep ranchers whose livelihoods depended on the dogs. They didn’t care what color the dogs were or if they came from Spain, Timbuktu or Australia. There were unique qualities associated with the Basque and Spanish dogs that didn’t exist in other breeds.

Early foundation bloodlines were based on dogs from the Pyrenees Mountains. Both Spain and France grazed large flocks of sheep (and goats) on Andorra’s vast mountain pastures each summer. According to Roderick Peattie, writing in the Geographical Review, 1929, “The Pyrenees are not as sharp a divide between France and Spain as they are generally credited with being. At places along the summit of the range it is difficult to judge where the water divide may be. The flocks and herds of the two people mix here” (1929). 2

Juanita Ely, a sheep rancher and one of the oldest documented breeders of record affirmed, “The blue Australian Shepherd dogs first came to Australia from the Great Pyrenees on the Spain side, as it is a small country with Andorra, a little country lying between Spain and France of only 191 square miles. There isn’t much work [in Andorra] for the boys to do so they take their little blue dogs and go into Australia to herd sheep. A lot of these boys are Basque, coming from a region in north Spain.”

She also noted, “The wool from Australia was finer and much longer staple than we had here in the United States so we brought boatloads of sheep from Australia to Seattle, Washington. The Basque herder and his little blue dog coming over to care for the sheep on the boats and so started working in that vicinity, then located in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. As these dogs were brought to the United States from Australia, we speak of them as Australian Shepherds.”3

Those “little blue dogs” (les petits bleus) so to speak were associated with Idaho, the Pacific Northwest, California and Colorado. Teddy, the little blue dog Juanita Ely got in the 1920s, was the first blue dog she had ever seen. The teenager from whom she purchased Teddy was Andorran, but he identified himself as Basque.

It wasn’t until around WWII that the blue dogs started showing up in significant numbers and ranchers started breeding them in earnest. Feo was brought to the United States from Spain with a contract herder who worked for the Warren Livestock Company* in the 1950s. Juanita Ely bought the little blue dog. By 1960, our friend, Joe Fernandez got him from Juanita and was using him, along with our little Goody (Goodie), in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico, where he was running several bands of sheep consisting of 1,500 head per band. 4

According to Ken Duart, an early California breeder, he acquired Lita, an early foundation bitch, from a Basque shepherd who brought her directly from Spain. She was an attractive blue merle female (with one blue eye). She had a moderate coat and a long tail. He said a sheepherder who had a bunch of sheep at Rolf’s Ranch in the San Miguel area had friends that came to California from the Basque sector of the French and Spanish border. When they came to the United States, they brought two dogs, which they were allowed to bring as tools of their trade without quarantine. The time was either late 1959 or early 1960.

The Basque and Spanish dogs in California and in Arizona figured significantly in the breed’s early foundation. Eloise Hart, ASCA’s first president, was ten years old when she acquired her first dog in 1930. Eloise said, “He was a stocky, bob-tailed, brown dog with an infinite capacity to learn. Blanco came to California from the Basque sheep country in Spain. His owner was forced to forfeit him, as payment for some minor violation, to a lawyer neighbor of ours when we lived near Wilshire and Vine in Los Angeles.”

Wood’s Dandy (Finley’s Texas Bob X Moreno’s Blue Bitch AKA Valdez Female) was bred by the Moreno family from the dogs they brought to California from Spain. Fletcher acquired Dandy from Chule Valdez. Maryland Little’s Honey Bun was considered “the Spanish type.” She was from the Graatz ranch in Colton, California, with several recorded generations preceding her. McConkey’s Sir Blue Silver was from the Ortega dogs and McConkey’s Tiger Britches was from Maryland Little’s dogs. Maryland based her breeding program on Basque and Spanish dogs.

Ina Ottinger of Casper, Wyoming, stated that her parents imported two dogs from Spain in 1937. She had the original shipping certificates. She continued breeding that line of Wyoming ranch dogs into the middle seventies. She also acquired a little red merle male that looked just like Las Rocosa Sydney that was brought to the United States by a Basque sheep shearer during the World’s Fair in Seattle. When the herder left to go back home he couldn’t take the dog with him so she bought him. Some of the offspring are found in pedigrees as Wyoming Ranch dogs. 4

By 1974, there were only 16.5 million sheep in the United States. The sheep industry continued to decline and Basque herders were no longer recruited from Spain. However, the foundation for the breed was already established from a relatively small group of dogs including Ely’s Feo, which is documented by registration. Feo went on to sire Hartnagle’s Goody, the beautiful little blue female (later registered as Wood’s Blue Shadow) who is behind the pedigrees of countless Australian Shepherds today, including the Dr. Heard’s Flintridge, Hartnagle’s Las Rocosa, and Fletcher Wood’s foundation bloodlines.

Unfortunately, as we’ve explained before, under the old registry system, each time that a dog changed ownership, the previous owner’s name was deleted and the new owner’s name was entered as the prefix to the dog’s name. Thus, part of history becomes obscured. Take Ely’s Spike for example. On some pedigrees, Ely’s Spike is listed as being sired by Sisler’s Spike, when in fact; Sisler’s Spike and Ely’s Spike are one and the same. Juanita Ely got Spike from Gene Sisler (Jay’s brother). Spike’s sire and dam are listed as “Unknown.” The old-timers may not have known the name of the sire and dam, but they knew where they came from. Spike came to this country from the Pyrenees Mountains with a Basque herder. Spike had a harsh coat very much like the dog pictured with the sheepherder on the Drumheller ranch on page 32 in The Total Australian Shepherd: Beyond the Beginning.4   Sometimes when the dog changed hands it became foundation registered with a totally different name and “Unknown” ancestry. This activity all took place in the early years from the 1940s to the 1960s when the foundation dogs were first being registered as a breed. Even though their names appear in pedigrees, many of the early dogs weren’t registered. They had already lived and died.

For more on the Australian Shepherd see also: All About Aussies: The Australian Shepherd from A to Z (Alpine Publications).

Sources
2. Peattie, Roderick, “Andorra: A Study in Mountain Geography,” Geographical Review, vol. 19, no. 2, 1929.
3. Douglass, William A., Basques in Australia, Basque Studies Program Newsletter, issue 18, 1978.
4. Hartnagle, Carol Ann, Hartnagle, Ernest, The Total Australian Shepherd: Beyond the Beginning, Hoflin Publishing, 2006.  http://www.lasrocosa.com/totalaustralianshepherd.html.

Copyright © 2010 by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ernest Hartnagle. All rights reserved.

The Australian Shepherd: Also known as Aussie

Origin: Western United States

Height at shoulder: 18–23 inches (46–58 cm)

Weight: 35–70 pounds (16–32 kg)

Coat: Moderate length, medium texture

Color: Black or red, solid or merle, with or without white and/or copper (tan) trim

Ears: Semi-erect

Tail: Natural bob or docked

Australian Shepherds were developed in a time when ranches were measured in sections (square miles), not acres. Sheep outfits like the Warren Livestock Company ran 25,000 head of sheep over 284,000 acres between Casper, Wyoming, and Greeley, Colorado. Ranches today can be compared to the size of a postage stamp on a football field. They were the preferred breed during the largest part of the twentieth century. They were favored by stockmen for their stamina, and intuitiveness to handle stock in the tough, demanding conditions of working large flocks in the American west. For all practical purposes the Australian Shepherd can be considered a post World War II breed. According to foundation breeders the breed was based strongly on Basque and Spanish dogs that were brought to the United States from Spain in the 1940s and 1950s.

This occurred in the time period when 40 to 50 million head of sheep were grazed in the open ranges throughout the western half of the United States. Many of the herders that came here were shepherds in their homeland. They arrived (on a three-year visa) under contract through the Western Range Association. When they got here, they wrote home and told their brothers to join them, which they did and brought their dogs. During that time in history hundreds of Basques and their dogs were recruited in to the western sheep ranches due to the severe labor shortage created during the 1940s and 1950s.

The “little blue dogs” started gaining recognition because they started showing up throughout the west as the herders brought them in. In response, the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) was founded. By 1974, there were only 16.5 million sheep in the United States. The sheep industry continued to decline and Basque herders were no longer recruited from Spain, but the breed’s underpinning was laid. See also: Australian Shepherd History Revisited.

And although all Australian Shepherds have the same basic appearance that sets them apart from other breeds, there is a distinct difference that occurred in the development of the show bloodlines. The original foundation working dogs were built with the structure to sprint and outrun sheep and cattle. In 1977, when ASCA, the Australian Shepherd Club of America adopted the current breed standard, a different kind of Aussie began to emerge. The standard aided by the show program saw the advancement of Australian Shepherds with greater front angulations and flatter pelvic angles ideal for trotting effortlessly for long distances. The trade-off for the development of the trotting Aussie was paid for with the sacrifice of speed and agility so crucial for herding to make abrupt stops and turns at full speeds necessary to outmaneuver livestock. For more on Australian Shepherd history please visit:

To learn more about Australian Shepherds please visit:

http://www.lasrocosa.com/education.html

Or check out the book All About Aussies: Australian Shepherds from A to Z, by Jeanne-Joy Hartnagle-Taylor.

Jay Sisler — A Life with Dogs

When Jay Sisler was a little boy, he wanted to be a sled driver in Alaska. He taught his father’s bird dog and some of the family’s cow dogs to pull him around the ranch on a cart. Jay’s professional career as a dog trainer began by accident. He was working with horses when he got stepped on and broke his ankle. While he was healing, he taught his two young cow dogs tricks.

He divided each task into small segments and used leftover pancakes, petting, and praise to teach the pups to balance on bars, stand on their heads, jump rope, walk on their front legs, play leap frog while hopping on their hind legs, and feign an injured leg, among countless other tricks. Stub and Shorty were eager to please. Though he trained many dogs over the years, Jay said, “If I hadn’t had real good dogs when I started, I probably never would have learned to train dogs. I’m sure that some of the dogs I’ve trained since would have discouraged me before I got started.”

Jay’s philosophy was to never force a dog to do something but to persuade it to do the behavior voluntarily. For example, if to teach a dog to stand, he wouldn’t lift him into position; instead, he coaxed the dog into position. He felt that you had to take the necessary time to teach a pup slowly. If you pushed a dog into something he couldn’t do or understand, he would become discouraged and wouldn’t be able to do what was expected of him.

Jay got his first job in 1949, when a promoter offered him $10 to perform at a rodeo in Star, Idaho. That launched his rodeo career and opened the door into show business. Besides performing at many of the largest arenas in the United States and Canada, he toured with Roy Rogers and appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. His dogs were featured in several Walt Disney productions: Cow Dog (1956); Run, Appaloosa, Run (1967); and Stub: Best Cow Dog in the West (1973), featuring his Australian Shepherds, Stub, Shorty, and Queen, performing their trademark tricks and working an ornery 1,800-pound horned Brahma bull in the picturesque Santa Inez Valley.

In 1959 Jay purchased the 300-acre property he had worked as a boy and paid for it with the earnings from his highly successful rodeo act — he said it was “a ranch the dogs bought.” Part of the property is set on a plateau overlooking a valley bordered by the Payette River on the south. Jay was called to greener pastures in 1995, but his extraordinary way with animals will continue to inspire generations to come.

Copyright © 2010 by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

Australian Shepherds and Sheep Ranching in the 1930’s

We had as many as 25 dogs on the ranch. Usually a full-band herder would have two or more dogs with him throughout the year. Often he would also have a puppy in training by following another dog. The puppy would also learn discipline from the herder. On our ranch we found the Australian Shepherd breed were the best and most reliable sheep dogs. They were a fast, medium-sized dog that could work day and night without getting tired. ” Milan DeRuwe. The rest of the story originally published in The Pacific Northwesterner, Vol. 45, No. 2 (October 2002), from an issue titled “Gone Forever: The Sheepherding Life of the 1930s” can be found at:

http://www.washington.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=8971

WTCH Las Rocosa Charlie Glass CD, RDX

WTCH Las Rocosa Charlie Glass CD, RDX was highly influential in founding the breed’s modern working bloodlines.

Black tri with brown eyes and docked tail.
Sire: Hartnagle’s Hud
Dam: Las Rocosa Jacqueline (a half sister to Shiloh).
DOB: 10-28-1978
Height 20 ¾ inches
Weight: 55 pounds
OFA AS-1543 Good

Charlie was the pick of the litter. I named him Charlie Glass after a black cowboy who rode on the Colorado-Utah range in the early 1900s and was later featured in The Legend of Charlie Glass by Walker D. Wyman and John D. Hart.

Las Rocosa Charlie Glass went to work for Don Donham who was handling the sheep for the Fort Ellis Research Station in Bozeman Montana. Charlie was an authoritative header with a natural outrun. He exhibited natural wear and used grip on “rough or deserving stock.”

Once when working rams inside a barn a testy Suffolk ram charged and butted him against a wall. It broke his hind leg, but he never quit working until he was called off. They ended up putting a pin in his leg. After he healed up he went back to work.

Charlie was a really fun dog. He was good natured and quite a clown. He was also very gentle with kittens, bunnies and puppies.

Charlie is pictured on the timeline (1974) with a small flock below Mount Ellis:

http://www.lasrocosa.com/aussietimeline.html

http://www.lasrocosa.com/images/timeline/timeline1970-1979/1974-16millionsheep.jpg

A Few Good Aussies

Some of our greatest lessons in life come from dogs. Through the years we’ve been blessed with so many great ones. My mother always told us that our dogs were God’s way of demonstrating unconditional love and forgiveness. Always ready with a smile. Regardless if you have 5 cents in your pocket or $500.00…they love you just the same.

 My father has always said, if there was one dog he could bring back…it would be Hud. This is from a work my mother is putting together titled, A Few Good Aussies. 

A Dog Called Hud

By Elaine Hartnagle

 When Badger — our foundation stud dog — entered his twilight years, we traveled many miles across the country looking for a suitable replacement to follow in his footsteps. It would be no easy task as Badger exhibited so many exemplary qualities. 

 Finally, Hud came into our lives. He filled the bill beyond our wildest expectations. He was everything we had hoped for and more. He was bold and beautiful, a handsome rascal. He was a clown, but he was dependable and you could trust him with your life. If a mad mother cow or grizzly bear had you pinned to the ground he would protect you without any regard for himself and he never held a grudge. 

 As tough as he was, he was equally as gentle with babies. Late one night one of our imported Manx cats had a litter of kittens. The silence of the following morning was broken by the sound of slurping. Startled by the thought that Hud may be feasting on the newborn kittens, I jumped out of bed only to find that he was affectionately helping the queen wash them.  

Kittens were not the only babies he lent a hand to raise. He helped raise our five children. Hud was intelligent, loyal and fun to have around. He participated in all the family fun including holidays.  Every spring, the kids would recruit Hud for the Easter egg hunt. They put his marvelous tracking ability to the test. He would help them find the treats. One year in particular, we hid a banquet of chocolate bunnies and other such goodies nestled in the hay pile. When the children woke up, they called Hud to help them, but he was no where to be found, so they started the hunt without him. They soon discovered his location in a pile of wrappers as he was polishing off the candy. That was Hud.

 Hud passed his sense of humor on to his pups. Some years later, we sold one of Hud’s sons to a rancher.  One day while the man was working some really tough stock, caught up in the moment he got frustrated and threw a rock at the dog. The dog picked up the rock and took it back to his owner. Like Hud, the dog didn’t take offense against his owner. When that man saw the dog’s response to his thoughtless act — it humbled him. The dog never held a grudge. Another lesson learned from dogs.

Australian Shepherds and Open Range Sheep Ranching

By 1935, sheep raised in the United States were numbered at 51.8 million with 60 percent being raised in the western states. David Cook, who was the foreman for the Warren Livestock Company in Wyoming from 1920 to 1961, wrote, “From the time sheep were introduced into Wyoming, the dog has played an important role in the sheep industry.  If not for the assistance of these faithful animals, herding large numbers of sheep would have been impossible.  Many times the dog saved the lives of sheep and herders, especially in storms.  When a storm suddenly appeared, the herder could not have gathered the herd and brought them to shelter had it not been for the dogs.”

 

Raising good sheep dogs was a necessary part of any large sheep operation. The shepherds needed dogs that were fearless and could stand up to an obstinate ram.  It was customary to give each herder a pair of working dogs and a pup.  That way, if anything happened to one of the dogs, he would have another to fall back on. After many years of working almost all breeds of sheep dogs including the old fashioned farm collies, Cook, said, “For our purpose, the small blue and white Australian, often with a so-called “glass eye”, became the most satisfactory dog we used.” The ranch acquired their first pair, named Maggie and Jiggs. “These dogs turned out to be the breeding stock which was used to produce our future generations of sheep dogs.”

 

According to Cook, one of the main reasons Australian Shepherds were preferred over the old fashioned farm collie was due to their stamina and power to move large numbers of sheep in the harsh western conditions of the open range. In discussing the old-fashioned collie, sometimes referred to as Old Shep, Cook described them as good winter dogs. “It could stand the cold weather, but became sluggish in hot weather. However it was a good all around dog with the ability to work with changing herders. Pups learned fast, but due to big feet and heavy weight, were very susceptible to sore feet and required a lot of food.” Old Shep was reliable, but lacked staying power for wide-spread sheep ranching.

 

 

 

A Dog Named Bob – Additional History of Australian Shepherds in Colorado

After posting The Colorado Connection – Some Aussie Trivia, I received a fascinating e-mail from Col. Jon Eckert. He and his wife Elizabeth are Aussie fanciers living in Panama City, Florida.

After visiting and corresponding with him, I learned he was born in 1937 and raised in Western Colorado until after World War II. His mother was the 3rd generation who grew up in the ranching country near Paradox, Colorado – west of Montrose on the Colorado and Utah border. She had a shepherd as a child which later became the center of a great mystery.*

Jon’s grandfather, Harry Sanburg, was an experienced cowboy, ditch rider and the ranch manager for the Mormons in western Montrose County.** Later, in the mid-20s he bought a ranch near Cedaredge which was originally homesteaded by Ed Lavender.

Sanburg had cattle and a reputation for top herding dogs, some of the finest working dogs in the area. As Jon put it, he was “the man with the right dog.” The dogs they used were the type of dogs we identify as Australian Shepherds. “Now Bob may have been a little high in the rear end according to the Aussie standard but the head and ears are all Aussie. In addition Bob had a blue eye as can be seen as white in the black and white picture with my Grandfather,” writes Eckert.

You can see pictures of Bob on the Aussie Timeline (1938):

http://www.lasrocosa.com/aussietimeline.html

Interestingly, when you look at the photograph of Bob with Jon in 1938, he looks like he could have been a full brother to our Badger (Hartnagle’s Badger) pictured with Christine and I in 1957:

http://www.lasrocosa.com/badger.jpg

http://www.lasrocosa.com/hartnaglesbadger1.jpg

Jon’s uncle, Lynn, who currently runs the ranch, related a story about Bob. Apparently, a sheep owner came through the area and had heard of Bob’s reputation from some of his sheep herders who had seen the dog work cows. The guy immediately offered Harry Sanburg $75.00 for the dog. It was the middle of the Depression. In spite of the fact that was a significant amount of money – Sanburg refused. He “couldn’t let his buddy go,” said Eckert.

Lynn remembered Bob as always being right there when the horses were saddled up, ready to go. Eckert commented, “And when we say “go” we mean on foot all day; there were no trucks in the mountain or anything like that. I can also remember him and the other dogs going with Grandpa to irrigate every morning. They were always right there when you needed them and ready to work.”

When Jon got older, 8 to 10 years of age, he would go along on the rides in June taking the cattle to the Mesa. “It was Bob’s and my job to bring back the strays from the adjacent ridge as we worked the herd up the mountain. It kept me busy. Bob or Louie, (a light colored red merle that came after Bob), always took care of me and made me look good. Sometimes we would be a mile or so from the herd with some ornery cow that wanted to go her way. Bob or Louie took care of it for me and after a long absence we would finally end up back with the herd.”

The development of that type of dog in the region was facilitated by the annual cattle round up and sorting. Each year the cattle were pastured on Grand Mesa from June to October. “In the old days, the cattle were gathered and sorted in October and then driven home. It was a good opportunity for the dogs to show their stuff to the other ranchers and in the area there was always a demand for offspring of the best ones,” Jon related, and suggested the breed was refined based on performance and utility. He said, “I don’t know that Bob was in demand as a stud dog, but he certainly was one of the performing offspring.”

His uncle said in those days there were no other breeds but this type of dog in the ranch country at that time. The closest type would have been the Border Collie which was not introduced into that area until later on.

Jon also told me about one of his current dogs named Cory who has the characteristics of the old dogs. I asked him to describe him. “I guess the one word I would use is he is a teammate and always ready to work. I don’t think of him as a pet, but part of a team no matter what we are doing. I try to read his eyes, because that is how he communicates with me. He does bark and it is either out of frustration or joy depending on the situation. Yep, he is my teammate.”

The ranch is still going, run by Lynn and his sons. Even though Border Collies have taken over with the new generation of cattle ranchers, Jon still remains faithful to Australian Shepherds. At this time he has six Aussies. Although, he is out of the cattle business in Florida, he and his wife participate in Agility and Obedience with the breed. He says they are, “still the greatest dog.”

* When the dog died, she was ceremoniously buried in a Ute Burial Ground on the ranch.

“Later, in the 1970s, archeologists were excavating the site and were confused about the modern dog bones in the grounds. An article was published in the Grand Junction Sentinel about the find. Word got to his mother and she was glad to settle the mystery,” laughed Jon.

** Harry Sanburg was in the Colorado State Legislature in the 1930s and is responsible for many of the State’s original water laws.

The History of Australian Shepherds and the Spanish Shepherd Dog

 

 

The Spanish herding dogs in California and the Southwest have always been known to early fanciers and breeders. Maryland Little’s Honey Bun was considered “the Spanish type.” She was from the Graatz ranch in Colton, California with several recorded generations preceding her. Maryland based her breeding program on both Basque and Spanish dogs.

 

You might ask…what kind of dogs were the Spanish dogs? They were part of the landraces such as the Carea Leonés (Leon Shepherd Dog) developed during the centuries old, cañadas (sheep walks to and from seasonal pastures) known in Spain as the trashumancia. They worked in alongside the Spanish Mastiff who protected the flocks against wolves and other predators.  They also traveled the world with the Spanish sheep.

 

When Spain colonized America, they introduced two kinds of sheep — Churras and Merinos. Spaniards brought Churras in large numbers to provide food and fiber. The flocks not only survived in their new environment, but they flourished and multiplied. The dogs, too, were hardy individuals, toughened by exposure, and they proved to be capable of withstanding many hardships in the rough, dangerous, and uncharted lands of the Southwest.

 

The Spanish Churra (Churro) is an ancient indigenous sheep breed raised throughout the plateaus and sierras of Castile and León. This region in north-western Spain is also where the enormous flocks of Merino sheep were trailed each spring to graze in the mountains during summer since the Middle Ages. In the autumn, around October — the shepherds began their trek back to their winter pastures in the south on the plains of Estremadura and Andalusia. It is estimated that thousands of dogs accompanied them, the smaller ones for tending the flock (carea) and the larger for guarding (mastín).

 

Each massive flock or cabaña numbered around 50,000 sheep would be divided into smaller bands averaging 1,000 head. The droves of sheep were tended by shepherds and their dogs. Traditionally, two herders, four dogs and a pack-horse or mule were employed for every 1,000 sheep. The mules were used to pack salt for the sheep, cooking utensils, food for the shepherds and the dogs, and any lamb that was born during the journey and was too young to endure the hardships of migration.

 

For hundreds of years, the quick and agile Carea León has been used to tend flocks in the mountains of León and bordering provinces. However, as the immense flocks diminished with the decline of the trashumance on foot, so did large numbers of these dogs — many of them becoming a rarity including the Leon Shepherd Dog.

 

Recognizing they could be replaced or absorbed by other breeds and lost forever — a recovery program was put in place through the University of Leon in cooperation with the Leonese Canine Society. The Carea Leon is making a comeback.

 

Their temperament is characteristic of the old Spanish dogs. They are reserved with strangers. They are hardy, tough and versatile working dogs with strong herding and guardian instincts. They are highly capable of handling sheep or cattle and are sought after by herdsmen. Their working style is based on the type of work needed when grazing their livestock in cultivated areas unlike when flocks and herds are pastured on mountain zones and allowed to graze freely. They keep the animals in check in the same way shepherds in other parts of Europe do as they lead their flocks out to graze. They would not be able to manage stock without them as they have throughout the ages.

 

Leon Shepherd Dogs are approximately 18 inches (48cm) to 22 inches (55cm) tall. Their coat is either solid or merle (arlequinados or “pintos”) with or without white and or tan trim (shepherds spots) and is a moderate length. The connection between the Carea Leonés and old Spanish lines is clear.

 

Picture:

http://bp2.blogger.com/_FDQrFrM765E/RwiWS7Hpa0I/AAAAAAAAAgY/RKoFOyIqzGg/s1600-h/Villamoros+07+072.jpg

 

Article on the Carea Leonés:

http://caninaleon.com/art%20carea%201.htm

 

 

 

 

 

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