The Old-fashioned Black and Tan English Shepherd

A brief modern history of the Old-fashioned Black and Tan 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]Some Farm Dogs Said True English Shepherds, The Rutherford Courier, Smyrna, Tennessee, January 23, 1953 states that Stodghill “came back to Middle Tennessee last week, this time trying to find … 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 Some Farm Dogs Said True English Shepherds, The Rutherford Courier, Smyrna, Tennessee, January 23, 1953, Tom Stodghill is quoted as saying “Some Middle Tennessee families owning … 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 Tennessee newspaper.[8]Some Farm Dogs Said True English Shepherds, The Rutherford Courier, Smyrna, Tennessee, January 23, 1953

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.[9]An Incomplete Timeline of the old-fashioned Black and Tan English Shepherd, Farm Shepherds Illustrated


English Shepherd Frequently Asked Questions

The Old-fashioned Black and Tan English Shepherd is a breed of working dog native to the United States. The English shepherd is an all-purpose farm dog capable of working with any species of livestock. Rural families have favored these dogs for generations due to their grit, loyalty, and desire to please. ES activities include hunting, tracking, search-and-rescue, agility, obedience, companionship, and guard dog duty.

What is an English shepherd a mix of?

The English Shepherd is believed to have resulted from a combination of dogs native to the British Isles with sheep and cattle dogs that Caesar brought to the British Isles when he invaded in 55 BC. These dogs assisted the Romans in herding livestock that were brought to help feed the troops.

How much does an English shepherd cost?

You should budget anywhere from $400 upwards to $800 or even more for an English Shepherd with top breed lines and a superior pedigree. The average cost for all English Shepherds sold in the U.S. is about $600.

How big do English shepherd dogs get?

English Shepherds are medium-sized dogs. Male English Shepherds will grow to be about 19 to 23 inches in height while female English Shepherds will be about 18 to 22 inches in height.

Do English shepherds make good pets?

English Shepherds are some of the friendliest, most loving dogs you’ll meet. … Many of these dogs can make excellent companion dogs, provided they get enough physical and mental stimulation. They’re loyal and devoted pets, and they want to spend time at their master’s side if they’re not out rounding up cattle.

Can I shave my English shepherd?

As a natural breed, they require little trimming. Their vibrissae (whiskers) should not be cut, as this is a breed that often works stock and relies on those sensory hairs to do their job properly

How common are English shepherds?

English Shepherds are not very common, so you will probably have to go on a waiting list.

How long do English shepherds live?

English Shepherds can live as long as 14 years. Some longer.

Are English shepherds hypoallergenic?

English shepherds shed constantly. Routine brushing will help. Be prepared to vacuum often!

What color are English shepherds?

Black & Tan, Black & White, Sable & White, Tri-color.

Do English shepherds bark a lot?

Yes, English shepherd dogs tend to bark.

What is the difference between a border collie and an English shepherd?

Border collies have very strong herding instincts, making them excellent to control sheep and other animals. On the other hand, while English Shepherds are also great herders, they are better suited as a multi-purpose working dog.

Do English shepherds have rear dew claws?

A dewclaw on the inside of each front leg is the norm in English Shepherds, as it is in all domestic dogs. Shepherds believed these working dogs’ double dewclaws provided stability and kept them from sinking too deeply into the rugged terrain’s snow and mud.

At what age do English shepherds stop growing?

Around 16 to 18 months old

What kind of coat does an English shepherd have?

The breed has a long, straight or wavy double coat with feathering on the legs and tail, traditionally it has four different color combinations, black and white, black and tan, sable and white or tricolor (black, white and tan), although shades of fawn and red tan to white are also seen in the breed.

Do English Shepherds have double coats?

English Shepherds have a double coat, with a soft dense undercoat and a silky outer coat.

Are English shepherds good guard dogs?

Yes, English shepherds make some of the best guard dogs.

How much do English shepherds weigh?

44 – 66 lbs

Do English shepherds’ ears stand up?

Ears typically wide apart, stand slightly outward at the base with a sharp bend and lie close to the head when relaxed, raised up slightly when alert. Variation in ear set is common and of trivial significance.

Do English shepherds get along with cats?

English Shepherds make great family pets because they are gentle and patient with kids. They are also tolerant of other animals, including cats.

Is an English shepherd a good family dog?

English shepherds are great family dogs! Most of these dogs will be gentle and patient around kids, but, given their herding instinct, though, they may try to herd children by nipping at their heels or chasing them around. Firm, consistent training will help with discouraging this behavior in your English Shepherd.

Are English shepherds aggressive?

Most English Shepherds do not tend to stray or wander away from the home. An English Shepherd should never be aggressive (bite) without provocation, however he may demand that unfamiliar visitors “halt!” until you say otherwise.

Are English shepherds stubborn?

Due to his high intelligence, the English Shepherd also requires as much mental stimulation as he does physical. Without proper training and socialization, he can become stubborn and bossy.

Do English shepherds have blue eyes?

English Shepherds usually have brown eyes but blue eyes (either one or both) can happen with any color ES.

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References

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 Some Farm Dogs Said True English Shepherds, The Rutherford Courier, Smyrna, Tennessee, January 23, 1953 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 Some Farm Dogs Said True English Shepherds, The Rutherford Courier, Smyrna, Tennessee, January 23, 1953, 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 Some Farm Dogs Said True English Shepherds, The Rutherford Courier, Smyrna, Tennessee, January 23, 1953
9 An Incomplete Timeline of the old-fashioned Black and Tan English Shepherd, Farm Shepherds Illustrated