English Shepherd is an old American breed. They are
the "Old Shep" dogs that our ancestors had on their
homesteads, they herded livestock, hunted game for the
table, eradicated pests and protected their homes and
livestock from predators and human intruders.
English Shepherds descend mainly from the British
landrace known as the
Shepherd's dog described by Thomas Bewick in A
General History of Quadrupeds, Printed at
Newcastle upon Tyne, 1790.
Today individuals from almost every different line of working English Shepherd
farm dogs (and
the breed is quite diverse) still look and behave like this
one, long body, tail with a swirl at the end.
Different lines were selected for different kinds of
livestock and different geological environments.
English Shepherd hog dogs
from Texas differ from hog dogs in Iowa. Sheep and goat
lines differ from lines that were selected exclusively for beef cattle.
The English Shepherd breed has never
been bred for an ideal, "total dog", "cookie cutter ", "my
dog is better than yours" competition, but rather for
whatever individual farmers felt was the best dog for them.
Unlike the breeds defined by the AKC English Shepherds
not a standardized breed with a narrow standard (and
associated genetic problems). Most English Shepherd
enthusiasts insist that the narrow selection priorities of
AKC breeds must never be applied to our breed, as we
think that this major difference in selection priority is
what makes English Shepherds so superior! Indeed many
farm families who breed English Shepherds are also involved
in conservation of heritage livestock breeds!
The English Shepherd breed was first registered in the late
nineteen twenties with UKC. This
was in response to the AKC show collie breed splitting off, and
subsequent to the arguments against selection for looks
discussed in magazine articles in
Country Life in America- published a century
ago! Today the UKC is still the most recognized
registry for English Shepherds, although other registries
also recognize the breed.
In the forties the ARF (Animal Research Foundation) was
created specifically to register English Shepherds and efforts in that association were made to
develop a more standardized, uniform breed with AKC
recognition as a final goal. This
effort to create an AKC standardized breed failed and
another new registry sprang up for dogs with looks and working
characters that differed considerably from those favored by the ARF.
This new registry was called the IESR (International English
Shepherd Registry) and soon it began to register Australian
Shepherds (under the name National Stock Dog Registry)
In my experience and Linda Rorem's considerable research, Aussies
are for the most part, an offshoot of the bob-tailed lines
of English Shepherds:
The English Shepherd breed has undergone a loss of habitat
with the disappearance of the small farm, but today hobby
farms, agility enthusiasts, and people just wanting a great
intellligent companion and family dog have discovered the
wonderful diversity of this breed, and English Shepherds are
now experiencing a burst of popularity! Due to
too many breeders many fine dogs and pups are ending up in
rescue. The National
English Shepherd Rescue is a great organization working
to identify these wonderful dogs and find them homes.
Centuries of selection for independent thinking farm
partners has resulted in modern English Shepherds, one of
the most intelligent and versatile working breeds ever
known. Hank is a great example of the utility of this
breed in a family farm situation:
They thrive on this bond with a human who makes the rules
and gives commands. When raised like a border collie (in a
pen most of the time) (or an LGD- out with the stock and
away from human interaction) they seldom develop into a satisfactory
farm dog. Ten years ago some friends and I started theAmerican
Working Farmcollie Association to help people
find the dogs they need for their particular situation and learn to raise and train them
properly. The AWFA recognizes three categories of
farm dog work- herding, guardian and hunting.
Many different breeds of farmcollie dogs have been evaluated
by AWFA, and the English Shepherd continues to be a favorite
of people seeking a great all round working family farm dog!
The selection of English Shepherds over the last millenium for
their keen instinct to partner with and work with people
while retaining their intelligence and independent thinking,
has resulted in a breed that is very versatile in a great
number of off the farm venues.
The English Shepherd Standard
This standard for the English Shepherd was written
and approved by the membership of the English Shepherd Club, the largest
English Shepherd organization, in 2004.
English Shepherds have been bred for generations as all-purpose, working
farm dogs. Their responsibilities have ranged from herding and protecting
stock, to dispatching vermin, guarding the home, and watching over children.
The unique ability to handle all types of livestock and a variety of tasks
is the defining feature of this breed.
The English Shepherd is a dog of medium size, presenting a picture of sturdy
balance and harmonious proportions. He is alert and his face shows a high
degree of intelligence. Since working and tending livestock are the primary
functions of the English Shepherd, his physical make-up should be such as
will enable him to fulfill those duties with maximum efficiency. Evaluation
of type must be subordinated to evaluation of soundness, character, and
ability when determining the value of an English shepherd.
The English shepherd typically works stock in an upright, loose-eyed manner
rather than crouching and showing strong eye. He is generally a natural low
heeler and will gather or drive as is needed. He will be forceful if
necessary, but not be too rough, discerning the amount of force needed and
handling stock accordingly.
The seamless combination of independent working ability and a desire to work
in partnership with his master is a hallmark of the English shepherd. His
natural instincts enable him to carry out his work with a minimum of
direction; his confidence, purposefulness, and a deep commitment to rules
compels him to maintain order in his environment even in his master's
absence. At the same time, he is intensely loyal to and ever aware of his
master and possesses a willingness to obey.
The English shepherd is not obsessive about herding and is capable of
resting quietly at his master's feet when there is no work required. He can
be trusted to not bother livestock and does not require kenneling when
chores are done. Indeed, the English shepherd frequently develops a bond
with, and displays a nurturing attitude toward, his owner's livestock and
will keep them in their place while guarding against unwanted predators and
The English shepherd is agile and quick, sturdy and muscular, with the
stamina and grit to cover many miles over all types of terrain. He has keen
senses, and can trail lost or injured animals. Calm in disposition, the
English shepherd will withstand the pressure of long hours of demanding
Physical Characteristics: HEAD - Medium length with moderately defined stop. Broad and slightly
rounded between the ears. Distance from tip of nose to stop roughly equal to
the distance between stop and occiput and to width across top of skull
between bases of ears. Teeth full dentition with scissor bite. Note: no penalty for teeth
broken or missing due to trauma. Muzzle moderately broad, neither pugged nor pointy. Flews straight
with no sloppy droop. Nose fully-pigmented, generally solid black; "clear" sable dogs may
have brown nose. Eyes brown and moderately round with a slightly oblique set. Eyes
should express character with a strong, intelligent look. Ears typically wide apart, stand slightly outward at the base with a
sharp bend and lie close to the head when relaxed, raised up slightly when
alert. Variation in ear set is common and of trivial significance. NECK - Strong and arched. BODY - Back strong and level, loins strong and deep with slight
muscular arch. Shoulders well laid back. Ribs well sprung and chest
extending down in depth approximately to elbows. Body slightly longer than
tall. Chest moderately broad. LEGS - Forelegs straight when viewed from front. Pasterns are short,
thick and strong, but still flexible, showing a slight angle when viewed
from the side. Back legs well boned and muscled, placed well apart, with
moderate angulation. Feet oval and compact, toes together and well arched,
well padded and tough. Rear dewclaws common but may be removed. TAIL - Moderately long with sweep toward end. Carriage may vary, but
preferably held low when standing relaxed. Natural bobtails are acceptable.
Bobtails may be up to eight inches long. . GAIT - Viewed from the front at a fast trot, the front feet track
close together but do not cross over. The gait should give the impression of
ability to change direction instantaneously. The dog moves ahead in a
straight line with effortless motion and without a rolling gait. Viewed from
the rear, the hind legs are straight and converge as pace increases so as to
take the weight under the center of gravity. The gait is smooth without
choppiness. COAT - Medium length and texture, straight, wavy or curly, weather
and dirt-resistant, with an undercoat that sheds seasonally. Hair is short
and smooth on the head, outside of ears, front of forelegs and below the
hocks. Backs of forelegs are moderately feathered; breeches are moderately
full; tail is plume-like. Excessively heavy manes and heavy frills on
underside of neck and on breast are not desirable. A correct English
Shepherd coat should require minimal grooming. COLOR - The four predominant color patterns are: black and tan,
tricolor (black, tan, and white), black and white, and sable and white.
A sable dog may have black-tipped hairs, or may have a solid black saddle
pattern, or may be "clear" -- without black pigment in the coat. Sable may
appear as shades of brown from a pale honey-gold color through a deep
White markings are typically distributed in an "Irish" pattern, with or
without a white collar.
A black mask is acceptable in any of the color patterns.
In none of the color patterns is white permitted to be unbalanced to a
degree of being splotchy-looking or of covering more than 30% of the body.
Solid white coats or piebald markings are not desirable. Merles do not
appear in the English shepherd. SIZE - Range:
height: 18 - 24", preference for 19 - 22";
weight: 35 - 65#, lean and fit condition
males larger than females
Sturdy balance and harmonious proportions are more critical than absolute
size. DISQUALIFICATIONS - Natural reserved attitude toward strangers is
acceptable, however viciousness or excessive shyness/ fearfulness are
disqualifications; cryptorchid or monorchid adult dogs; merle dogs.
English Shepherd history and standard according to