Information about the English Shepherd
The English Shepherd is an extremely versatile breed of working dog of the collie lineage, developed in the United States from farm dogs brought by E 19th century before fancy pedigrees became fashionable around the turn of the 19th century. Many farmers appreciated the breed for their versatility and not for their flash or strict conformation to a standard of appearance. These dogs were bred to do various tasks around the farm and not for show.
Unlike some other herding dogs, as a breed English Shepherds have not been specialized to work one species of livestock. English Shepherds have primarily been used on small diversified farms that have a number of different livestock species, including cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, and fowl. English shepherds both herd and protect livestock.
English Shepherds are similar in appearance to Border Collies and Australian Shepherds. English Shepherds usually have tails and a less rounded head than many Aussies. English Shepherds are never merle and Aussies frequently are. They are generally not square in body like an Aussie. English Shepherds tend to be larger than Border Collies but are most readily distinguished from Border Collies by their very different upright, loose-eyed herding style.
The English Shepherd is a medium sized dog, usually somewhat longer than it is tall. It generally weighs between 40 and 70 pounds (20 to 30 kg) and is balanced in proportions. As a working dog on small farms, English Shepherds have been selected to fulfill a variety of needs. This has resulted in a wide range of regional variations.
The coat is medium length and can be straight, wavy, or curly. There is frequently feathering on the legs and tail. As a working dog, the coat should be easy to keep, requiring very little grooming. Dirt tends to just fall away. The primary coat colors are: sable and white (clear and shaded), tricolor, black and white, and black and tan. Other variations such as solid dogs of any color, brindles, and red nosed tricolors and sables also exist but are not common.
The English Shepherd temperament is the defining characteristic of the breed, with high intelligence and often a unique type of kindness for those in his home, both animals and people. The English Shepherd is often an independent worker. English Shepherds are adaptable and learn routines quickly. Some can be watchful of strangers and are more one-person dogs. However, once he accepts people or children or stock as his own, there are few better caretakers than an English Shepherd.
The English Shepherd frequently exhibits an independent, bossy or “enforcer of the rules” streak in his temperament. If the dog’s desire to enforce order is not channeled and directed to a suitable end by a strong, confident leader, he may exhibit many undesirable behaviors. Nevertheless, English shepherds can thrive as companion dogs in environments that provide sufficient mental and physical stimulation.
This breed was selected on diverse small family farms in the past and has been selected to work in a partnership arrangement with his master.
Because of their medium size and the fact that they have not been aggressively over-bred, English Shepherds are generally healthy dogs, typically avoiding problems (like hip dysplasia) that are more common in some other breeds. However, anyone contemplating getting an English Shepherd would be well advised to research the hip ratings (OFA or PennHIP) of the breeder’s stock as with any other breed.
English Shepherds are Roman in origin and were brought to the British Isles in 55 BC as part of Caesar’s invasion. These beautiful and durable animals worked Roman livestock – food for Caesar’s numerous troops. But as the cattle were depleted the dogs were abandoned. Some of these dogs were taken in by local residents who began to interbreed them with existing local herding dogs, thereby increasing their working qualities. Later, these dogs came with the first settlers to reach the American colonies. American farmers appreciated this versatile breed and used dogs to protect their farms and livestock. Quoting from Leon F. Whitney early in the 20th century (“How to Breed Dogs”, 1937, no ISBN) “It is known variously as the farm shepherd, the barnyard collie, the old fashioned shepherd, the cow dog, the English Shepherd, and other colloquial names. And while I doubt there is a more alert, trustworthy, or American dog, still no breed specialty clubs have organized to push it. It is the ordinary shepherd that one sees on farm after farm throughout the country.” ( Despite the publication date of 1937 given here English Shepherds were registered as a breed before that time through UKC (1927)) and probably the defunct Southeastern Kennel Club before then. UKC also apparently had another registration going on for a type of “farm shepherd” that was separate from the English Shepherd. Many times the names were confused but at other times they were distinguished as different breeds.) All of these names as well as Farm Collie were applied to the farm shepherds of the era. As there was no breed club or registry until later, there is some dispute over exactly which name applies to which dogs. The Australian Shepherd developed in the Western United States and may be related to the English Shepherd, as well as to herding dogs from Germany and Spain, The English Shepherd on the other hand was more common in the Midwest and East. These dogs are primarily descendants of the working farm dogs of England.
As the small diversified farms in the mid-western and eastern United States dwindled in numbers, many of them replaced by larger and less diversified operations, the English Shepherd became a rare breed.
English Shepherds are very quick to learn farm routines and will work independently with little training, but will benefit from some training and guidance. More than just a specialty herding breed, the English Shepherd is also a guardian of property and livestock, and a hunter of game and vermin on their territory. English Shepherds are also known for their ability to track and ‘tree’ raccoons and squirrels.
The modern English Shepherd is best suited for farm work, but they are used for hunting, search and rescue (SAR), therapy, and as competitors in dog agility, obedience, Rally obedience, tracking, and flyball.
English Shepherds are often larger than Border Collies, but the quickest way to tell the two apart is to put them on stock. Border Collies tend to herd with a distinctive strong eye contact and a crouching stance, while English Shepherds have an upright, loose-eyed herding style. English Shepherds can work all types of stock from the meanest bull to baby chickens. Compared to others, they are prized above specialty herding breeds for being as gentle as possible or as tough as necessary with the stock.
This ability to rate their stock stems from the great empathy they have for their family and livestock. With the right upbringing, this empathy makes the English Shepherd a wonderful family dog. However, the same bossy nature which this breed excels at in keeping order on the farm can cause havoc in the local dog park where the English Shepherd often appoints himself as the leader or alpha dog.