One thing, and one thing alone has made the English Shepherd the fine working dog he is today. His breeders have always given stock-handling ability first consideration.
The qualities that go to make an ideal cowdog are the qualities possessed by the English Shepherd. He is large enough to cover ground efficiently over long distances but small enough to be exceedingly agile. He is sufficiently strong and hardy to run for many miles over all types of terrain, and he has a coat which will protect him in all weather. His powers of sight, hearing and scent are nicely balanced, no one being developed at the expense of the others. This is a useful arrangement, as it gives the dog nose enough to trail lost or injuried animals, keen ears which will catch his master's voice at amazing distances, and eyes which will see a moving animal two miles away. The demands on the mental side are even more exacting. The ideal cowdog must have a calm disposition in order to withstand the mental strain of hour after hour of hard fast work. He must have quick intelligence and a strong desire to please his master so that a minimum of time need be spent in training him. In short, he must have all of the qualities which make for a natural worker; and not the least of these is the heeling instinct. A dog which goes to the head and barks is ineffectual. An English Shepherd goes to the heel and bites. He will attack nothing from the front except another dog or a wolf.
Above all else, a cowdog must have bred into him the desire to protect and drive his herd, for without this, he is worthless.
Since the English Shepherd is first and foremost a practical working dog, his type has developed naturally through selection of top working dogs with the best build for the job. He has the beauty of a trained athlete, powerful, yet graceful. He stands about 20 inches at the should and weighs about 50 pounds -- a sturdy, muscular dog and yet fast for short distances. He moves with an alert whole-body motion and can start, stop and dodge with great agility. The head is broad between the easrs, the jaws powerful. A glossy, water repellant coat protects his blocky body and his tail and the backs of his legs are well feathered. His ears are carried close to his head but slightly raised when alert. His brown eyes express good humor, confidence and steady concentration. The English Shepherd may be black and tan, tricolor, black and white or sable and white.
Ranchers, dairymen and general farmers all can improve the handling of their livestock through the use of a good English Shepherd. The rancher needs a dog that will round up his cattle and bring them out of any type of cover and he needs a dog that will keep his cattle bunched when the herd is on the move. The mere presence of an English Shepherd is enough to make the average "bunch quitter" want to stay within the protection of the herd because, after a dog has heeled a cow a time or two, her one desire is to escape those teeth. It is because cattle have such a marked tendency to band together in the presence of a heeling dog that one English Shepherd can replace two or three mounted men on a cattle drive.
The dairyman needs a dog that will get the cows and bring them to the barn -- a dog forceful when necessary, but not too rough. With only a little training, the English Shepherd will discharge this duty faithfully. He will know the difference between a cow and a calf and handle them accordingly. He learns where each animal belongs and takes on the responsibility of keeping each in its place.
The same qualities which make the English Shepherd a top cattle dog enable him to fulfill the duties of all-around dog for the general farmer. He will be quiet and gentle with his master's family -- a perfect playmate for the children. When a stranger approaches, his protective instinct comes to the fore and he becomes an aggressive watch dog. He learns to kill such chicken thieves and pests as possum, skunk and armadillo. With a little training, he often makes a good hunting dog. Many farmers have successfully used English Shepherds on sheep or goats. However, they are bred to bite, so if a combination dog is wanted, they should be started on the gentlest stock they will be called upon to handle. English Shepherds make excellent hog dogs and some will catch as well as drive.
The English Shepherd has an ingrained love for his master so that he will always be near when needed. Show him the job he is expected to do, and he will apply himself to it to the best of his ability.
His ancestors came from England where for countless generations stock dogs have been carefully bred. An outstanding worker would sire many pups in his locality, and in that way separate strains developed, each with distinctive type and working qualities. Some strains died out; some have been developed into breeds. Selected individuals from some found their way to this country, where they have been bred to suit this nation's stockdog needs. They have been registered for over 20 years (editor's note: this article was first published in approximately 1950).
Note from 1970:
"This article was written over 20 years ago by Terry Sanders, M.D., we believe. I feel sure that readers would not care to change a single line."
~ F.S. Halsell
The English Shepherd Club
Photos above: Bend's Pat, son of Halsell's Roger