A strategy for preserving the Tennessee English Shepherd
If we continue to refer to the black and tan farm dogs of Middle Tennessee simply as black and tans, they will eventually become extinct. It may already be too late. The issue is that by calling them black and tans, a large amount of our breed’s community believes them to just be a coat color. Merely a color scheme, as I recently heard them referred to. The side effect of referring to these dogs as black and tans is that they are being trivialized, marginalized and absorbed into the larger population. There are various reasons why that idea may be appealing to some. One reason is to broaden the ES gene pool. Another reason is that the Rutherford County farm dog’s homogeneity is a threat to the faction of our breed community who never want to see the English shepherd join the AKC. And unfortunately, even jealousy may be at play by some breeders who don’t want to see the Rutherford county farm dogs flourish. There are some who unscientifically think the Rutherford County farm dogs all have bad hips and don’t deserve to survive. And there are some who simply don’t like Tom Stodghill. He was admittedly a polarizing figure. I’m not arguing for or against any of the positions. I’m not for joining the AKC or narrowing the gene pool. I am for intelligently and scientifically preserving the Tennessee English shepherd bloodline.
I believe there is a valid call for preservation breedings of the Tennessee English shepherd bloodline. Here is the case I would like to make. Today, the English shepherd is considered a rare dog breed. And within the ranks of these rare farm dogs, the black and tan Rutherford English shepherd is yet rarer still. Even here in the southern United States, where the black and tan Tennessee English shepherd originated, the true representatives of the bloodline have become hard to find. Sadly, along with these dogs, a part of rural southern history and culture is being lost. Here in the South, we know that black and tan is more than just a coat color. It is a type of farm dog that was used by our rural ancestors to sustain their way of life. There can be no question that the black and tan Rutherford English shepherd represents a piece of rural southern history. And that is why I am making a call for preservation breedings of these dogs.
In this endeavor, my primary mission is to sustain and preserve the true bloodline and rich history of our beloved black and tan Tennessee English shepherds. As a starting point, I’ve begun to collect the haplotypes and haplogroups which compose the bloodline I’m seeking to preserve.
In spite of the various headwinds, I am formulating a plan and an effort to head-off the extinction of the Rutherford County farm dogs. My preservation process for the Tennessee English shepherd would involve these high-level steps:
- Define scope by identifying haplotypes and haplogroups of the bloodline
- Identify dogs as breeding candidates within the defined haplotypes and haplogroups
- Whittle breeding candidates down by health checks and hip screenings.
- Breed healthy dogs of the right heritage
- Raise pups using enrichment methods so that pups fit in well with today’s society
- Engage puppy owners in closed feedback loop to determine success
- Repeat with successful pairings