The English Shadow

Despite its name, the dog nicknamed, “the English Shadow,” isn’t English at all, but American made, making it’s other nickname, “America’s Heritage Farm Dog,” more apt.

Depending upon one’s source, the English Shepherd is either a descendant of dogs brought to the New World by English and Scottish colonists, or the result of a combination of native dogs of the British Isles bred with cattle dogs brought by Caesar when he invaded in 55 B.C.  Either way, the dog developed into a multi-purpose farm dog that could move sheep with an upright, loose-eyed herding style, control vermin, guard the homestead, bring home the cows, hunt squirrel, and be a fine companion to children.

The English Shepherd has a breed standard and a breed club, but it’s never been a flashy show dog, nor is it accepted by the AKC or FCI (it is recognized by the UKC). Many working “Sheppies,” in fact, are registered with the National Stock Dog Registry or Animal Research Foundation. Where things get confusing is that many other names have been applied to this breed, including Scotch Collie, Victorian Collie, Shepherd’s Dogs (their name in the “old country”), American Farm Shepherd, and Old Time Farm Shepherd. It’s been suggested that the “English” in the breed’s name was probably given to the breed by the Amish people who refer to anything not Amish as “English.”  To add even more confusion to the mix, the United Kennel Club had another registration going for a type of “farm shepherd” that was separate from the English Shepherd which, to our knowledge, it recognized in 1934 (though some sources state that date to be 1927).

It’s important for “Sheppie” owners to be aware that recent research at Washington State University has found that approximately 15% of the English Shepherd population is subject to the MDR1 gene mutation. This means that dogs that test positive (determined by a simple cheek swab) have increased sensitivity and adverse reactions to a number of common canine drugs. Talk to your vet about this before giving your dog Ivermectin or having him or her undergo any procedure involving anesthesia.

“Wanna Play” by Alecia Underhill is available as a print here

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