Old English Sheepdog
The Old English Sheepdog comes from the very old pastoral type
dogs of England, but no records were kept of the dogs, and everything
about the earliest types is guesswork. A small drop-eared dog seen
in a 1771 painting by Gainsborough is believed by some to represent
the early type of the Old English Sheepdog. In the early 19th century
a bobtailed drovers dog, called the Smithfield or Cotswold Cor,
was noticed in the southwestern counties of England and may have
been an ancestor. Most fanciers agree that the Bearded Collie was
among the original stock used in developing today's breed.Some speculate
that the Russian Owtchar was among the breed's ancestors.
The Old English Sheepdog was at first called the "Shepherd's
Dog" and was exhibited for the first time at a show in Birmingham,
England, in 1873. There were only three entries, and the judge felt
the quality of the dogs was so poor that he offered only a second
placing. From that beginning, the breed became a popular show dog,
and, although the shape of dog itself has changed very little over
the years, elaborate grooming including backcombing and powdering
the fur were recorded as early as 1907. The breed was exported to
the United States in the 1880s, and by the turn of the 20th century,
five of the ten wealthiest American families bred and showed the
Old English Sheepdog. The breed continues to be a popular showdog
The Old English Sheepdog is a large dog, immediately recognizable
by its long, thick, shaggy grey and white coat, with fur covering
their face and eyes. The ears lie flat to the head. Historically,
the breed's tail was commonly docked (resulting in a panda bear-like
rear end), but tailed Old English sheepdogs are now common, as many
countries have outlawed cosmetic docking. When the dog has a tail,
it has long fur (feathering), is low set, and normally hangs down.The
Old English Sheepdog stands lower at the shoulder than at the loin,
and walks with a "bear-like roll from the rear".
Height at the withers is at least 61 cm (24 in), with females slightly
smaller than males.The body is short and compact, and ideal weights
are not specified, but may be as much as 46 kg (101 lb) for large
Colour of the double coat may be any shade of grey, grizzle, black,
blue, or blue merle, with optional white markings. The undercoat
is water resistant. Puppies are born with a black and white coat,
and it is only after the puppy coat has been shed that the more
common grey or silver shaggy hair appears.
The breed standards describe the ideal Old English Sheepdog as
never being nervous or aggressive. The New Zealand Kennel Club adds
that "they are sometimes couch potatoes" and "may
even try to herd children by gently bumping them."This breed's
temperament can be described as intelligent, social and adaptable.
The American Kennel Club adds that the breed has "a clownish
energy" and "may try to herd people or other objects."
With wide open spaces being the ideal setting for an Old English
Sheepdog, the breed is a natural fit in a rural setting, such as
working on a farm; although they are perfectly comfortable with
a suburban or urban lifestyle (with proper exercise). Their remarkable,
inherent herding instincts, sense of duty, and sense of property
boundaries may be nurtured and encouraged accordingly, or subdued
by their owners. Old English Sheepdogs should not be deprived of
the company and the warmth of people.
The Old English Sheepdog's long coat requires a thorough brushing
at least once weekly, which may take one to three hours. Without
regular care, the coat can become "a trap for dust, debris,
fecal matter, urine and moisture."Matting may become painful
to the animal, such as in between the toes, and can restrict movement
in severe cases. Although Old English Sheepdog puppies are cute,
prospective owners may be deterred by the level of care required
if long hair is desired.
The preferred method of grooming involves starting from the base
of the hairs to keep the thick undercoat hair mat- and tangle-free.
The brushing should be started at a very young age to get the dog
used to it. A hairband may be used to keep a dog's fur out of its
eyes. Many people trim their dogs' coats to a more manageable length.
A professional quality electric shear reduces time spent trimming.
However, dogs that are being shown in conformation must retain their
Some people shave their Sheepdog's hair and spin it into yarn.
Vet school data shows the Old English Sheepdog to have a life expectancy
of 10 years, but data collected from owners in the US estimates
the life expectancy as 15 years.
The Old English Sheepdog Club of America sponsors investigations
into diseases encountered in the breed in order to assist breeders
in selecting healthy dogs for breeding, and breeders of Old English
Sheepdogs who are members of the Old English Sheepdog Club of America
must support its Code of Ethics in breeding and selling sheepdogs.
Some diseases being investigated include hip dysplasia, cataracts,
glaucoma, entropion, thyroid problems, deafness, diabetes, HD, PRA,
allergies and skin problems. There is no data on how many dogs are
affected, or what percent of the breed is affected by any of these
ailments. Heatstroke is also a serious concern in full coated dogs.
Cancer is a major cause of death amongst Old English Sheepdogs.Puppy
buyers should ask breeders if they have tested for these disorders
in their breeding dogs. The underside of the ears should be kept
clean, and matted hair in the ear canal should be removed periodically
by a veterinarian.