“America’s Heritage Farm Dog”

The English Shepherd was one of the most common breeds in America throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s, but despite its name, this is an American breed, a descendant of the Shepherds’ dogs of England and southern Scotland that came into North America with early settlers; long before that, its ancestors were the descendants of native dogs of the British Isles bred with Roman dogs brought to the British Isles by Caesar in 55 B.C.  The Romans used these dogs to herd the livestock brought to feed the troops, and as livestock dwindled, surplus dogs were left along the way. Locals interbred the dogs with their own dogs with similar herding talents to heighten herding instincts.

“Old Timers” might remember the breed from their youth when the dogs were simply referred to as a good old farm collie, or even a Farm Shepherd. Indeed, the English Shepherd Club’s tag line is, “America’s Heritage Farm Dog.” In the south and parts of the midwest, the breed – or variations of it – were known as the Treeing Shepherd. Farm families couldn’t afford to buy a “high falutin” hunting dog from Europe, so they used what they had to hunt game, and that was their herding dog.

Enthusiasts maintain that the breed has stayed true to its working heritage, and indeed, one infers a bit a pride that these dogs aren’t promoted or exhibited, but sustain their numbers through word of mouth. Others go so far as to say that these dogs gave rise rise to modern “show” Collies and Border Collies, but English Shepherds differ from their cousins in having been bred primarily for an upright, loose-eyed herding style. What is consistent is their versatility, a calm and steady nature, a strong work ethic, cheerful demeanor, and wonderful companionship to children.

Most breed members remained unregistered, but the English Shepherd is recognized by the United Kennel Club which is the original registrar of the breed, and has recognized the breed since 1927.

Image: “Donut” by Alicia VanNoy Call – dawgpainter

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