The Man Who Was Known as
The Pioneer King of The English Shepherd Breeders
Mr. O. O. Grant
The following information was gathered from old articles out of UKC Bloodlines from 1938 to 1961.
Mr. Grant and his family lived in Willow Springs, Missouri, where they raised working breed dogs prior to the 1920’s. Their Kennel name SEMYKENNEL, which was SEE MY KENNEL put into one word, originated in 1920 when he began raising “purebred” dogs. It wasn’t until the mid 1920’s when he started raising registered dogs after contacting the United Kennel Club. Mr. Grant wrote many articles for UKC’s Bloodlines magazine and was friends with Mr. Bennett the founder of UKC and the editor of UKC Bloodlines. After the passing of Mr. Bennett he worked with his daughter Frances Bennett (Fuhrman) who took the helm of the United Kennel Club and continued working towards the betterment of Purebred Dogs. Mr. Grant felt what the United Kennel Club was towards purebred dog breeding would stand as a monument to the canine loving people. He felt his kennel name Semykennel would also stand as a monument for the type of working class of dogs they had founded.
One of the working breeds Mr. Grant raised was the English Shepherd and had been with the breed since 1898. Growing up as a child Mr. Grant had several shepherd dogs he named Old Touser. The 3rd Old Touser was a great stock dog. He lived and breathed heeling stock. When Old Touser 3 was less then a year old he’d lay under the feet of the horses and mules while they drank at the water tank near the house. Touser would nip at their heels while they kicked over his head. For years Mr. Grant had looked for a replica of this dog.
Mr. Grant and his family raised English Shepherds from the 1920’s to the late 1940’s when he had to cut back on his breeding due to his sons going off to war. Some time in the 1940’s he raised Bluetick Coonhounds and helped founder the Bluetick Breeders Association in 1946. Mr. Grant was a well known and highly respected breeder. He wrote the first breed standards for both the English Shepherd and the Bluetick Coonhound for the United Kennel Club.
Mr. Grant registered some of the first English Shepherds with the United Kennel Club, which was the first club to register the English Shepherd breed. The first English Shepherds he owned came from farmers and stockmen in Howell County, Missouri, either around Willow Springs or West Plains , Missouri. He did more to get the United Kennel Club registered English Shepherds a perfect working dog than any other pioneer breeder.
Mr. Grant was adamant about breeding quality, registered, purebred low heeling stock dogs. The dogs had to be tough enough to work the rankest cattle yet gentle enough to be with the children. They should not sulk and run to the house when scolded and should be a calm heeler when commanded. Mr. Grant was known to of had hundreds of English Shepherds in his kennel and worked and evaluated each of them. He felt a good English Shepherd should be a good “heeler”, but not just a backend biter. They should be what he referred to as a “Strike Heeler”. A genuine Strike Heeler will grip low, above the hoof and on the fetlock.
For a dog to stand stud at his kennel they had to be a “Strike Heeler”; striking at the fetlock of a cow or horse standing or running. He had a nasty mule he would test some of his dogs on, if they strike the heels of the mule without getting kicked they would stand stud at the kennel. Another quality they must have is to respond readily to commands, be tough when need be or gentle and calm. He was more particular about his stud dogs then his females. He felt so few females are really Strike Heelers they would cull out some each year and replace them with Strike Heeling females.
In a 1938 article Mr. Grant wrote, he mentions taking another 10 years for his kennel to produce 50 genuine Strike Heeling females and expected by that time his females would produce 50% Strike Heeling puppies. Some breeders were concerned that the Eastern breeders were selecting for fairly good drivers since eastern cows are stabled most of the time and are easy to drive, so any good dog that will follow behind and bark is called a good dog for breeding purposes. The dog’s purpose was found to be different in various parts of the country.
The majority of buyers Mr. Grant had were men who wanted their dogs to drive 50 to 100 range cattle and go out alone for horses and mules. He said there is only one dog in the world that can perform these things and that is the old genuine Strike Heeling Shepherd dog.
In the late 1930’s Mr. Grant had offered $100 for a male pup or young dog that had at least a three-generation pedigree with UKC that would develop into the genuine Strike Heeling class. Mr. Grant would drive several thousands of miles cross country to locate this class of dog. He felt there was still some of this blood out there although he believed very little at that time was UKC registered.
One of Mr. Grants stud dogs from his Semykennel was Ozark Mountain Tip (UKC 241-892) from the late 1930’s. He was a genuine Strike Heeling dog he offered at stud for $10 to only well bred females. He guaranteed at least one pup to be born a genuine Strike Heeler. He said that pup would be worth $100. If no Strike Heeling pup was produced he would refund the stud fee. Ozark Mountain Tip is one of the foundation dogs for the well known Guy Wilson line. Other Semykennel foundation dogs for the Wilson line were: Wilsons Ozark Tim, Wilsons Tim JR and Wilsons Dave. The “Miller’s” dogs like “Millers Klank” were also from Mr. Grants breeding and can be found in the Guy Wilson pedigrees.
Mr. Grant felt that the reason why the English Shepherd had gradually taken place of the Scotch Collie of the American farm was in the south and west the Collie could not bring in range stock. And the only reason the English Shepherd was less popular then the Collie was because no one bred and pushed them before the American farmers. But more American farmers had noticed them and their granddads knew of them. When talking with the old farmers about stock dogs they soon would talk about the greatness of the Old English Shepherd dog, sometimes referred to as the Shepherd dog, Old Time Shepherds and the Old Scotch Shepherd.
Mr. Grant took every chance he could to learn more about the English Shepherd. He even looked them up during a stay in England and continually read and studied the breed. He would spend hours listing to old farmers talk about their past experience with the Old English Shepherd dog.
The following are comments from 1945 by Harry B. Brock, President of Brock Oil Co., Ala, one of Mr. Grant’s customers.
“I am glad to say that Jiggs is all I could expect in a young dog. He is 100 percent satisfactory. He is the smartest and most friendly dog to his own people I have ever seen. He really has dogability. He saves about two hours per day (man hours) in handling 80 head of cattle. They make a farm home more livable, teach children friendliness and to be useful. The lusty greeting they give a man every time he comes home is worth the price of such a dog.”
Comments about Mr. Grant from the 1945 UKC Bloodlines editor:
Mr. Grant has been one of the foremost breeders of English Shepherds and his kennel and dogs have made history in the breed. We are sorry that he is going to have to cut down on his breeding, but it is a very big responsibility and a great deal more work than one person can do alone. He has been one of the UKC greatest contributors to Bloodlines Journal to the English Shepherd news and we sure hate to loose him. We hope that someone will take Mr. Grant’s enthusiasm and devotion to this great breed. Mr. Grant deserves a great deal of credit and we know he has filled a life time and one packed full of fine experiences and satisfaction derived from the English Shepherd, besides the many friends he has made all over the US with his fine dogs.
From 1948 English Shepherd News UKC Bloodlines; Leonard J. Tauber, prop. Of Badger State Kennels, Wisc. Wrote:
My last stud dog “PR” Semykennel Black Mack came from O. O. Grant, Willow Springs, Mo. And I want to say that he is a really good heeler and will go a half mile one way to get the cows alone every night and morning. He brings them home on a walk as good as any man could. I guaranteed every puppy raised from him, and I am proud to say that I still have the first one to replace yet. An English Shepherd is the best all around dog that a farmer or anyone else who likes dogs could own. Here is a breed that will never die out as long as good cattle dogs are in demand and I do not think that we will ever see the day that they are not.
From 1957 UKC Bloodlines comments by C.P. Armstrong, South Carolina:
The English Shepherd breeders lost the best when O.O. Grant of Willow Springs, Mo quit. He knew the dog he bred and the people got what they bought. We still have some good breeders left: Mr. Taylor of Mo, Mr. Babel of Michigan, Mr. Leslie Poe of Ark, Mrs. Pegg of NY and several others.