A farmer’s helper, a loyal companion, a child’s shadow: The English Shepherd.
Illustration courtesy of the Swedish Kennel Club
About this Breed
English Shepherds, despite their very deceiving name, are in fact an American breed of herding dog. While they are most certainly the descendants of the dogs brought over by English settlers in the 17th century, they were created and developed in the United States and used to herd cattle and sheep. They look similar to Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, which is evidence of their common ancestry.
English Shepherds are truly multitalented working dogs. They herd, guard, hunt vermin, and hunt in the fields with their masters. They were not created to herd or deal with a specific type of livestock, as many herding breeds are today. Instead they were bred to be multifaceted dogs—a farmer could have one dog to do all the different jobs around the farm.
English Shepherds were extremely common, perhaps the most popular dog in the United States, during the 19th and 20th centuries. Their population dipped after the industrial revolution when American families left the countryside en masse and relocated to cities and, later, suburbs. Today they are less popular and are often mistaken for other breeds, such as Australian Shepherds.
English Shepherds are intelligent, docile, and loving dogs. They are well known for their love of children and would do exceptionally well in a family with children of all ages. They like other common household animals, such as dogs and cats, and can be trusted with livestock and horses. However, they should be well supervised with rodents, as they have a high prey drive.
English Shepherds have a bossy streak that will need to be controlled. They are independent workers and were bred to be self-directed and self-sufficient, which doesn’t make for a dog that is especially easy to train. In fact, they require a special type of training because they are so clever—owners will have to convince them that what they want them to do is worth doing.
English Shepherds are not well suited to city and apartment living. They will fare much better in the suburbs or a rural home where they have a job to do and plenty of space to run. If kept in an apartment, owners might want to consider enrolling them in a dog sport where they can expend their energy and tire themselves out. They also require vigorous daily walks. By neglecting their exercise needs, owners will have a bored and smart dog on their hands—a recipe for disaster!
English Shepherds on Embark
Explore some Embark dogs that share English Shepherd ancestry.