How the English Shepherd Became a Cattle Herder

The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) · 1 Dec 1957

by Guy Gordon

Worthy candidates for “Your Pet” Dog-of-the-Week honors this time out of the barn is the English Shepherd, a breed with a growing following in rural areas of the South and Southwest.

Hailed as “King of the Cattle Dogs” by his fans, this dog is also sworn and attested to be an outstanding companion and pet, particularly good at playing with and protecting small children.

In general appearance, the English Shepherd is a medium sized, long-haired dog with a distinctive silky black and tan coat. The most desirable specimens are marked with a horizontal tan bar across the chest, tan dots over the eyes and tan marking on the feet and under the mouth.

Most desirable height and weight is considered 20 inches and 50 pounds, the the breed standard allows some leeway in each direction. Variations on the small side, however, are considered preferable to oversized pooches.

Little know in California, the English Shepherd is a good example of a breed in the transitional stage between semi-mongrelization and the snooty purebreds recognized by the American Kennel Club.

English Shepherd presently are unrecognized by the AKC and, in fact, adherents of the breed say they have no interest in AKC sanction. The do have a breed club, though, the English Shepherd Club of America,[1]English Shepherd Club of America (ESCOA),Farm Shepherds Illustrated organized in 1950.

Largely as a result of the Club’s efforts, English Shepherds are being bred more and more true to type. The club now has representation in 32 states and has registered nearly a thousand dogs.

Since the dogs are raised primarily for farm work, rather than looks, there remains a certain amount of laxity in their breeding, resulting in off-color specimens. And up-to-standard dog, however, is decidedly a handsome, intelligent canine.

English shepherds, it turns out, come by their working skills as the result of centuries of experience. The breed’s historians say it first came to England with the Roman invasion of 55 B.C., along with the Rottweiler, which also herded the Romans’ cattle.

The silky-coated shepherd stayed on after Caesar’s legions shoved off again for the mainland, and proved itself to be adept not only at herding but also at tracking and retrieving game.

So the story goes, the earliest pilgrims brought along some of these shepherd dogs to America, where they came to be known in due time by their present name of English Shepherds.

Their forte today remains herding work, particularly of cattle. They can also be trained to work sheep, however. (Saw a smart pair of them working a herd of sheep near Bakersfield not too long ago.)

The breed also comes highly recommend as a watch dog. Though friendly to properly introduced strangers, your English Shepherd will bark, and keep on barking, at an interloper.

As they say about him down in Texas, he’s got a lotta grit, too. Ready to drive off coyotes or wolves that threaten the flock, any snake or snake-in-the-grass type human who threatens your youngster.


1 English Shepherd Club of America (ESCOA),Farm Shepherds Illustrated