Once upon a time, the English Shepherd was likely the most popular breed in America. This high energy, medium size, herding dog was then and still is the complete package. On the farm, this is a dog that has high tenacity, but at home, is caring and affectionate with family.
Yet, not a lot of people are familiar with this breed of dog. You won’t find them at dog shows. And the fact that the breed has no recognition with the AKC sort of diminishes their celebrity.
So what is it about this breed that makes them such a wonderful choice as a family dog?
Here is what you need to know about the English Shepherd.
The colloquial names for this breed throughout time have been “Farm Collies,” “Old Time Collies,” and “Farm Shepherds. That’s because the English Shepherd shares ancestry with the Collie breed. They also share the same location, which is Northern England/Southern Scotland.
Many believe that the breed is a cross between the native canines of the British Isles with a mix of the sheep and cattle dogs from the Romans. This would put the English Shepherd with the same lineage as the Aussie Shepherd and Collie.
At some point, most likely the turn of the 19th century, the English Shepherd came to the United States. By then the breed had a reputation as a multi-dimensional talent at herding and farm work. They were brought by the first settlers, the British, to work the farm, homestead, herd pastures and guard livestock. That the English Shepherd did. In fact, the famous author, Leon Whitney, once said that the English Shepherd was as American as a dog gets in the states. Moreover, Whitney was very complimentary on the breed’s skills as an all purpose dog, that was alert and trustworthy.
In the late 1800’s, the arrival of conformation and dog shows began giving other breeds much more luster and recognition. However, the Farm Shepherd was never meant for the beaming bright lights of dog shows. This has a lot to do with the breed never gaining with the American Kennel Club. Instead, in 1927, the breed was given recognition by the United Kennel Club. To this day, the English Shepherd belongs to the club’s Herding Dog Group.
While not a lot of historical events and items of interest pertain to this breed, there is a sense of exclusivity with Farm Shepherd. Although they aren’t part of the American Kennel Club’s popularity rankings, the breed does fare well with four registries. The UKC, the English Shepherd Club Registry, International English Shepherd Registry and the English Shepherd Club of America all participate in registering the Farm Collie.
Today, the breed enjoys working the pastures mainly in the United States. The breed uses the “loose eye” style, which means not constantly locking eyes on the livestock. This allows them to be react and share cooperative attention to the other roaming animals along the pastures. Their upright posture and loose eye method has done well for the breed for well over two centuries in the U.S.
The breed belongs to the medium size bracket, but could qualify as a smaller large breed. That’s because the English Shepherd male ranges between 45 to 60 pounds. Females fluctuate between 40 to 50 pounds.
A male should stand between 19 and 23 inches, where females should range between 18 to 22 inches. Important note: the preference for female height is between 19 and 20 inches.
Personality and Temperament
The English Shepherd generally does wonderful around children they know. That is, with proper socialization and training, the breed is usually a patient and gentle breed. At times, as a herding dog, the English Sheepdog may exude a bit of herding mentality traits. These are traits that can be broken, of course, with a bit of elbow grease as puppies.
With strangers, the English Shepherd is typically aloof at first. You must earn their trust. The breed may showcase a bit of territorial behavior towards strangers, who they deem as a possible threat. Typically, the breed is friendly and easy to get along with.
As far as other pets, the Farm Shepherd tends to get along well with other dogs and smaller pets. Some may showcase a bit of protective nature, but usually, this is a breed that is mellow with others at home.
Welcome to one of the more versatile breeds around. The American made English Shepherd. This is a breed that can do what coonhounds do with treeing coons, possums, squirrels and others. They can track and use their wonderful senses to find a hot lead on the trail. Of course, their true talent is working as a herding breed. The Farm Shepherd has the ability to work intelligently. They are fierce and courageous. Their instincts and intelligence allows them to use enough force to get the job done without causing physical harm to the livestock or prey.
Perhaps this breed isn’t the best fit for an apartment or perfect for a novice. This is a breed that needs a firm hand. A space to run around and exert their high energy and talents. All in all, this high stamina dog is great at providing meaningful companionship with their master during a hunt or at work. At home, they are respectful, calm, loving, protective and tolerant.
There are some conflicting expectations as far as life expectancy goes. Some believe that the English Shepherd will live on average between 10 to 13 years, and other believe between 12 to 15 years. That said, the breed is a relatively healthy dog. Few issues seem to affect the breed.
To get the most out of your English Shepherd, you should only deal with a reputable breeder, who can provide you with the right documentation and health clearances you’ll need to make a sound decision. In addition, you should schedule regular visits with your veterinarian to ensure proper health practices.
Like most medium to large size breed, Hip Dysplasia is a risk with this breed. According to the survey done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, the Shepherd ranks 30th. This sandwiches the breed between the American Pit Bull Terrier and the Welsh Corgi. This malformation of the hip can be painful and result in discomfort and lameness. This breed has a 22.3 dysplastic rate with Hip Dysplasia.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy can be found with this breed. This is systematic failure of the rod cell in the retina with gradual deterioration leading to a slew of issues with the eyes. Another issue affecting this breed’s eyes is Collie Eye Anomaly, which is a genetic mutation that affects the sclera, retina and vascular layer of the eye. Blurriness to blindness is possible.
MDR1 is a problem affecting 15% of the English Shepherd population, according to the English Shepherd Organization. MDR1 is a genetic mutation that causes a reaction to certain medications. However, there is testing available to test if your English Shepherd possesses this mutation. Moreover, you should follow up or concur with your veterinarian to see if this is a possibility with your dog.
That said, a club representing the breed did a survey back in 2015. The results from this survey were about dogs from the United Kingdom, United States, Scotland and Canada. These results indicate that the breed’s biggest ailments are with the bone,muscles and joints at 19 percent. In a tie at 13 percent is infectious disease and allergies.
Before you go out and get a dog, you should make sure they are a proper fit. Furthermore, this is a breed that needs someone who can take on their high energy needs and provide them with adequate exercise. Moreover, you should provide the English Shepherd with two long walks a day. This is a dog that needs a purpose. More importantly, you should find them a role, so that they don’t fall to boredom. This breed needs plenty of physical and mental stimulation. Early socialization and training is a must.
While some dogs can be timid or shy, the English Shepherd shouldn’t be. This is a breed that is better when fearless and aggressive. They may exude a bit of prey drive, but with the proper socialization and training, this shouldn’t be an issue. You may need to break their over protective nature, that they naturally will exhibit.
This is a breed that does come with a bit of grooming needs. Trimming their nails is a great idea to help reduce the chances of overgrowth and splitting of the nails. Bathing the dog as necessary will help sustain a quality looking coat. Ultimately, this is a breed that needs to get out and stretch its legs. They need something to do.
All in all, with the proper amount of exercise and interaction with other animals, this is one of the more sweeter pets you can ask for, while commanding a great deal of respect on the herding and hunting trails.
As a breed that has a high energy need, the English Shepherd should eat a high quality formula with meat as the first ingredient. You should be able to get away with fish, venison, beef, chicken, turkey and fish. Fruits and vegetables are great for the breed’s coat and joints. Omega 3 and Omega 6 will help promote better heart and joint health.
While your dog may not need this much food depending on their activity rate, age, and metabolism, the general recommendation for the English Shepherd is 1 to 2 cups of dry food per day. This, of course, is more appropriate for a dog that weighs between 40 to 50 pounds. From 50 to 65 pounds, you may need to feed them 2 to 2.5 cups.
Top quality calorie replenishment is key as well. In fact, if you have a dog that weighs 40 pounds with a typical energy level, you’ll want to ensure they get 1109 calories. A 65 pound dog should get 1597 calories per day at a typical activity rate. Likewise, for a heavy duty working English Shepherd, between the same weight of 40 to 65 pounds, a daily intake of 2465 to 3548 calories will suffice.
Feeding your dog multiple times is best practice for reducing bloat. As always, you should provide your English Shepherd with fresh drinking water.
Most English Shepherd owners don’t have many complaints grooming their dogs. In fact, the Shepherd seems rather simple if you keep up. That said, you should brush either every other day or two to three times per week. This will avoid tangles and matting of their medeium length coat.
The English Shepherd does have a double coat, with a wavy or straight outside coat and a soft dense undercoat. Their double coat serves the breed weather protection.
The four colors of coat, according to the standards of the United Kennel Club are: black and tan, sable and white, black,white and tan, black and white.
The breed does shed regularly and will require regular upkeep.
Fun English Shepherd Facts
- Norman Rockwell, a famous artist, was said to have had an affinity for the English Shepherd. Historians maintain that Rockwell thought of the breed as the archetype farm dog in America.
- The breed belongs to only one major club in the sense of recognition, which is the UKC.
- The famous “Bobbie the wonder dog,” a dog that reportedly made a three thousand mile journey to return to his family was said to be a cross between a Scotch Collie and English Shepherd.
If we were to describe the English Shepherd with two words, it would have to be, “consummate professional.”
For over two centuries, this is a breed that has done so much for the American farm life. From treeing to tracking, hunting to herding, the old Farm Shepherd has made every contribution to American farm history you could ask for. Yet, they are a breed relatively rare and unknown.
Perhaps that was by design from the people who greatly love the breed to protect them from over breeding and impure breeding practices.
Regardless, if you ever need a dog, that is loyal and a trustworthy companion to help around the barn, the English Shepherd is that dog.