The Basque Shepherd Dog (Basque: Euskal artzain txakurra) is a breed of dog originating in the Basque Country and traditionally used by the local shepherds to help them take care of their cattle and sheep. Pastor Vasco or Perro de Pastor Vasco is the Spanish name, and Euskal Artzain Txakurra, is the Basque, by which they are known in their homeland. It is believed that they originated from Central European shepherd dogs.
Appearance These dogs are well proportioned, with strong, rectangular bodies and trotter features. Their eyes are oval and are brown or amber. Their ears are medium sized, triangular and sometimes show folds. The vivid yellow medium length rough coat is longer over the trunk than over the head and is shorter on the face, but does not hide the eyes. The relation between height and length is about 1/1.2. The head is rather light relative to the trunk, which is attached by a short neck and muscular. Of the two distinct types of Basque Shepherd Dog, the more outgoing Gorbeikoa is the more pure and ancient of the two. It is recognized by the distinct cinnamon colored moderate length hair coat.
History This sheepdog is one of the oldest dog breeds. Skeletal remains were found in Neolithic caves dated to 12,000 years ago. They are interpreted as demonstrating that the people living in the area of what is now Basque Country were shepherds. In frescoes and paintings of the sixteenth century there are representations of the Basque Shepherd Dog. Nevertheless, their recognition has required extensive research on records from throughout the Basque Country. Only after demonstrating their differences from other breeds such as the Pyrenean Shepherd and the Catalan sheepdog, did the Royal Canine Society of Spain recognize the Basque Shepherd Dog as a breed with two varieties: Iletsua and Gorbeikoa, in January 1996.
Activities The Basque Shepherd Dog can compete in dog agility trials, obedience, Rally obedience, Schutzhund, showmanship, flyball, tracking, and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Basque Shepherd Dogs that exhibit basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.
Basque Sheepdogs in America Some Basque herders brought their sheepdogs to the Western United States when they journeyed to the United States in the 1950s under sheep herding contracts with the Western Range Association in an agreement with the Spanish government.