The Tennessee English Shepherd

A brief modern history of the Tennessee English Shepherd

In the late sixties or early seventies, a young boy traveled with his family from their home in Kentucky to visit John and Polly Blankenship’s farm near Christiana, TN.  The boy’s mother purchased multiple black and tan dogs from Mrs. Blankenship.  While they were there, the family asked Mrs. Blankenship where the foundation dogs had come from.  Mrs. Blankenship told them that there were several breeders located in different towns and rural communities throughout Rutherford county.  They all bred farm dogs and would occasionally exchange them with each other to keep their bloodlines refreshed.  But they only bred a particular type of farm dog which was always black and tan.  They favored these black and tan dogs due to their grit, loyalty, and desire to please.  These rural breeders did not call them English shepherds. Mrs. Blankenship kept a few of the large black and tan males, estimated in the 80 to 90 lbs. range, which she got from the local, rural breeders.  She bred her males to smaller females that she also obtained from other rural breeders of Rutherford county.  From these origins, the Blankenship bloodline of dogs was founded.   This is the story Mrs. Blankenship told her visitors.[1]The article The Blankenships’ Best Friend by John Blankenship was published in the English Shepherd Club of America’s Who’s Who Breeder Manual. The article is republished on pages … Continue reading[2]In The Blankenships’ Best Friend, John Blankenship states that “Trotting beside my father, Charles B. Blankenship, as he rode to town on the old gray mare in Wilson County, Tennessee, … Continue reading[3]In The Blankenships’ Best Friend, John Blankenship states that “Mother, too, recalls mention of the Shepherd dogs that her father and her grandfather used to help in rounding up the … Continue reading[4]In The Blankenships’ Best Friend, John Blankenship states that “we bought a pair of Black and Tan pups to help herd the dairy and beef cattle, the sheep and hogs. The male was christened … Continue reading

In the mid forties, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Stodghill also travelled to Rutherford county to visit Mrs. Blankenship.  As a boy, Mr. Stodghill had moved from Rutherford County to Quinlan, TX.  He claims his grandfather had taken some black and tan farm dogs from Rutherford County with him when he moved to Texas sixty years prior.  Mr. Stodghill states that he replenished those lines by purchasing dogs from the rural folks of Rutherford County, Tennessee and returning to Texas with them.[5]English Shepherds in the News by Mrs. C.M. Bend was originally published in the English Shepherd Club of America’s Who’s Who Breeder Manual. The article is republished on page 2 of The … Continue reading[6]English Shepherds in the News states that Stodghill “came back to Middle Tennessee last week, this time trying to find other cattle dogs such as his grandfather took to Texas with him 60-odd … Continue reading

Both the Stodghills and the Blankenships sold and shipped the black and tan farm dogs of Rutherford County to all 50 states and even to other countries.  It seems like it was Stodghill who decided to start calling them English shepherds, but both he and Mrs. Blankenship are quoted as saying that the rural breeders of Rutherford County didn’t call their black and tan dogs English shepherds before that. [7]In the article English Shepherds in the News, Tom Stodghill is quoted as saying “Some Middle Tennessee families owning these dogs did not even know what breed the dogs were. Only that the dogs … Continue reading

“Some Middle Tennessee families owning these dogs did not even know what breed the dogs were. Only that the dogs were excellent for handling livestock and had been used in the families for this purpose for long years. But color, markings, and other features as well as the performance of these dogs show definitely that they are of the English Shepherd breed, and have bred true down through the years”

Tom Stodghill

Epilogue

In early 2020, I personally interviewed the man who was a young boy in this historical account. We spoke by phone about the Blankenship part of this history.  The Stodghill part of this history is from news articles in the now defunct “Nashville Banner” newspaper and an unnamed Murfreesboro, Tennessee newspaper.[8]The aforementioned English Shepherds in the News article does not specifically state which Murfreesboro, TN based newspaper is being referred to

One critical point that both John Blankenship’s and Tom Stodghill’s testimony agree upon is that the rural citizens of Middle Tennessee were using black and tan shepherd farm dogs prior to the turn of the twentieth century. Around that time, Polly Blankenship’s parents Altte Simmons Wilson and Aubrey H. Wilson were using a sturdy Shepherd to move stock in Cannon County. John Blankenship’s father Charles B. Blankenship was using a black and tan shepherd dog to drive stock in Wilson County. And Tom Stodghill’s grandfather George Dromgoole was packing-up his black and tan shepherds from Rutherford County and taking them with him to Texas. The timeframe for the use of these black and tan shepherds of Middle Tennessee pre-dates O.O. Grant’s registration of the English shepherd breed with the UKC by some thirty to forty years.

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References

1 The article The Blankenships’ Best Friend by John Blankenship was published in the English Shepherd Club of America’s Who’s Who Breeder Manual. The article is republished on pages 26-28 of The Book of Ole Shep Volume 1 by Tony Bierman.
2 In The Blankenships’ Best Friend, John Blankenship states that “Trotting beside my father, Charles B. Blankenship, as he rode to town on the old gray mare in Wilson County, Tennessee, some seventy years ago, the Black and Tan family pet was on hand to drive home cattle, sheep or other livestock purchased.” This statement by Mr. Blankenship establishes that his family was using black and tan farm dogs prior to the turn of the 20th century. Wilson County is directly north of and adjacent to Rutherford County.
3 In The Blankenships’ Best Friend, John Blankenship states that “Mother, too, recalls mention of the Shepherd dogs that her father and her grandfather used to help in rounding up the stock. My Wife’s people migrated to Cannon County, Tennessee, from Virginia and North Carolina. Both of her parents, Altte Simmons Wilson and Aubrey H. Wilson, (childhood sweethearts) were raised on the farmlands near Woodbury, Tennesssee. Her father’s helper in capturing the wild hogs that roamed the woods was Jack, a sturdy Shepherd.” Cannon County is east of and adjacent to Rutherford County. Woodbury, TN is located in Cannon County.
4 In The Blankenships’ Best Friend, John Blankenship states that “we bought a pair of Black and Tan pups to help herd the dairy and beef cattle, the sheep and hogs. The male was christened “Captain Ned”, in memory of the Ned my father once owned. Like his ancestor in color and type, the new Ned began in our hearts where the other left off.” Here again, Mr. Blankenship reaffirms that his family was using black and tan farm dogs prior to the turn of the 20th century.
5 English Shepherds in the News by Mrs. C.M. Bend was originally published in the English Shepherd Club of America’s Who’s Who Breeder Manual. The article is republished on page 2 of The Book of Ole Shep Volume 1 by Tony Bierman
6 English Shepherds in the News states that Stodghill “came back to Middle Tennessee last week, this time trying to find other cattle dogs such as his grandfather took to Texas with him 60-odd years ago.”  Sixty years prior to the article would be approximately the turn of the 20th century.
7 In the article English Shepherds in the News, Tom Stodghill is quoted as saying “Some Middle Tennessee families owning these dogs did not even know what breed the dogs were. Only that the dogs were excellent for handling livestock. But color, markings, and other features as well as the performance of these dogs show definitely that they are of the English Shepherd breed, and have bred true down through the years.”
8 The aforementioned English Shepherds in the News article does not specifically state which Murfreesboro, TN based newspaper is being referred to