English Shepherds are working dogs, valued for their versatility, loyalty, and intelligence. They make wonderful companions and working partners in homes where their intelligence, spirit, and devotion are understood and appreciated.
Carol Greet's Lucas
English Shepherds have been bred for generations as all-purpose farm dogs. Their responsibilities have ranged from herding and protecting livestock, to dispatching vermin, to guarding the home and watching over children. John Holmes described the English Shepherd type in 1960 in his classic book, The Farmer's Dog, when he wrote:
"There are several other types of Collie quite distinct from the Border Collie in that they are "loose-eyed" workers... They were easy-going, level-headed dogs, useful but not flashy workers ... For all around farm work they were often far more use than the classically bred (trials type) dog."
General appearance: English Shepherds are of medium size, presenting a picture of sturdy balance and harmonious proportions, built for speed and maneuverability. They are alert and their face shows a high degree of intelligence. English Shepherds have a medium length, double coat, which affords all weather protection.
Color: There are four traditional color patterns: black and tan, sable and white, tricolor (black, white and tan), and black and white.
Variation: Because they have not been bred for the show ring, English Shepherds have retained much natural variation in features such as ear set, tail carriage, markings, and even build. These differences are appreciated by their owners as reflective of the care breeders have taken to preserve the essential character of the breed, rather than focusing on attaining perfect conformity to a "cookie cutter" ideal.
Honey & her brother Buddy
Belle (aka Peaslee's Sunshine Daydream)
Herding: English Shepherds are upright, free-moving stock dogs with strong herding and heeling instincts. They exhibit agility, stamina, and stout hearted perseverance and will use the amount of force necessary to accomplish the job. When raised and trained properly, they can be trusted to not bother livestock when help is not needed.
Tracking & treeing: English Shepherds are also valued for their tracking, hunting and treeing ability. Advertising brochures from the 1950s depict English Shepherds treeing squirrel, coon and possum, and note "English Shepherds will tree anything and everything."
Companions: With their blend of intelligence, athleticism, and trainability, English Shepherds excel as family companions and at many dog sports. They can also make outstanding partners in Search and Rescue and as Therapy Dogs.
English shepherds have a unique history. Although they have been registered for over 80 years, the population of English shepherds -- though small -- is more diverse than many breeds. There are several factors that have contributed to this diversity:
With all this variation, it can be difficult for a newcomer to get a handle on what it is that defines English shepherds. While the breed does have a standard, which includes a description of character and working ability as well as physical type, listening to stories about the dogs and looking at as many photos as you can find are the best ways to gain an appreciation for what this breed is about.
Finally, a friendly word of advice...
Suggestions that English Shepherds could be improved by conformation showing, stricter registration practices, and a centralized and competitive approach to evaluation are generally not welcomed by long time English Shepherd admirers! English Shepherd breeders are a friendly and supportive group but firmly convinced that English Shepherds have benefitted by avoiding these practices.
Click here to read some thoughts on Breed Conservation .