History of the English Shepherd

The English Shepherd (ES) is also called a farm collie. These were very popular farm dogs in the early to mid- 1900’s. Walk into almost any antique store and you will find an old painting of an English Shepherd protecting children and livestock.

While these dogs originated in England, they spread across America’s farmland for good reason. The English Shepherd is an intelligent, versatile dog that helps with many jobs around the farm. The “breed” is actually called a landrace. This means, in part, that the dogs’ traits developed differently in different parts of the country depending on the farmers’ needs.

While other dog breeds have evolved into specialists, the ES has been an all-around dog. English Shepherds are very good herding dogs— primarily cattle herding— but they are not obsessive herders. They should have an off switch, making it safe to leave an ES loose with your livestock.

English Shepherd herding
An English Shepherd herding in the upright style.

English Shepherds herd a bit differently than other dog breeds. Many breeds, like the Border Collie, operate in a modified prey drive to move the livestock. This is evident in their crouching movement and “strong eye” stare.  In contrast, the English Shepherd herds from his dominant position in the “pack”, ie. he moves livestock because he is in charge of the farm animals. Consequently, ES’s generally herd in an upright, loose-eyed manner.

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These dogs are excellent hunters of vermin. Ours have caught more mice, voles, and pocket gophers than any cat we’ve owned. Some people even use ES’s to tree predator animals.

English Shepherds are diligent guardians of the livestock and the family. They will clearly let you know when a stranger is approaching or if something is amiss on the farm. That said, it’s important to make the distinction between English Shepherds and Livestock Guardian Breeds. The latter bond with the livestock and live with the herd. English Shepherds view their people as their pack. They will be happiest if they can stay with you.

Furthermore, English shepherds should be “biddable”, meaning they should do your bidding quickly when asked. A biddable dog is easily trained. This is probably my favorite characteristic of the breed. They want to know what the rules are and they enjoy enforcing those rules (for example, no chickens are allowed in the garden). If rules are not set by you, they may make up their own.

My parents in the 1970's with "Bingo", Uncle Anton's dog. Dad being silly for the camera.
My parents in the 1970’s with “Bingo”. Dad posing funny for the camera.

Sadly, as small family farms disappeared from the American landscape during the latter half of the 20th century, so nearly did these dogs. By the 1980’s it was difficult to find an English Shepherd if you wanted one. We are part of the conservation effort to keep alive the traditional ES bloodlines.

English Shepherd Puppies for sale

See our 2017 litter.