Nip n’ Duck

Back in the day, dogs were generally described by their job, and as herding breed owners know, a “heeler” refers to a dog that works by snapping at the heels of the stock it’s moving. At one time, every county in Great Britain has its own “brand” of heeler. Old timers didn’t call these dogs “heelers,” but “nip n’ duck” dogs because quite literally, they’d nip at the heel, then duck to avoid the blow of a forceful kick from a 1600 pound cow. A dog avoiding a swinging foot by flattening instinctively as the hooved foot cleared its head was not only a study of remarkable timing, but of cleverness: Experienced dogs would nip the rear foot that the cow was standing on, rather of the foot that was free to kick.

Sadly, the Norfolk Heeler and Northumberland Heeler are lost forever, and the only such British heeler to survive to today (besides the Corgi), is the Lancashire Heeler, and even that breed almost didn’t make it.

Half a century ago, these little dogs could be found on almost every farm, but the number of dogs plummeted as farming practices changed and modernized. A few loyal Heeler owners, led by Gwen Mackintosh of Norfolk, England worried about the distinct possibility of extinction, and worked hard to preserve the breed and get it officially recognized by The Kennel Club in Great Britain. The Lancashire Heeler Club was formed in 1978, and in 1981 the breed was recognized by the Kennel Club. By the end of 1988, 751 dogs were recorded in the Kennel Club’s registry.

Sadly, the Lancashire Heeler is listed on the Kennel Club’s list of vulnerable British breeds.  In 2022 (updated in 2022), only 149 Lancashires were registered, though that is up from the number registered in 2015 (119), so progress is being made.
Image: Three-year old Lancashire Heeler, “Elo” Marmalade’s Early Bird), shared with consent from Wendy Buurma-Annijas


One thought on “Nip n’ Duck”

  1. The United States Lancashire Heeler Club is working hard to educate breeders, pet owners and dog enthusiasts on this wonderful breed. They are agile, clever and very versatile. If you are interested in the Lancashire Heeler please reach out to me or any member would be happy to give you more information! Feel free to print the membership form and follow the instructions to become a member.

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