Black and Tan English Shepherds in Mid-Twentieth Century America

Tom D. Stodhill was a polarizing figure, and like most such men, had a knack for bringing out the worst in some people. Stodghill had a habit of making unfounded, controversial, and non-falsifiable statements like:

“…black and tan English Shepherds are recognized as the world’s most beautiful dog … the black and tan are the best working dogs and the most intelligent of all English Shepherds…the black and tan English Shepherd with long, glossy hair is the GENUINE Pre-Historic English Shepherd of long, long ago.”

– Tom D. Stodghill

Presumably, he intended for such statements to help him sell dogs.  But longer term, this behavior fostered a great deal of animus among other English Shepherd community members.  So much so that, after his death, many people wanted not only to forget him but his dogs as well.  Some of Stodghill’s writings, which I won’t quote here, even took a misogynistic slant.  As you might expect, this didn’t go over well with a good portion of the community.  Many reasons were used to mask the underlying animus for Stodghill: the dogs are too gritty; the dogs have bad hips; the dogs are inbred; the dogs are crossbred with other breeds.  The net result has been a dramatic decrease in black and tans over the past 40 years. 

But if we try to put emotions aside, and just deal with the facts, we might be able to see more clearly what remains of our black and tan English shepherd bloodline.  I have several black and tans, I’ve bred dozens and met at least a hundred decides.  They are not gritty or mean.  Their OFA hips results come back mostly Good – I’ve had one Fair.  They are not inbred, the dozen-and-a-half I have tested genetically (Embark) have an average Genetic COI of about 9%.  That’s barely above the breed average.

The creation of regional subisolates in dog breeding refers to the development of distinct subgroups within a breed that emerge due to geographical isolation or selective breeding practices concentrated in a specific region. These subisolates can develop unique characteristics due to the local breeders’ focus on certain traits, whether they are physical (like coat type) or behavioral (such as herding ability). Over time, these focused breeding efforts can lead to genetic, phenotypic, and behavioral differences that distinguish the subisolates from the main population of the breed. This process is influenced by factors like the breeders’ goals, environmental conditions, and the genetic diversity available within the regional breeding pool.

The collaborative breeding efforts started by Tom D. Stodghill, followed by John and Pauline Blankenship, and continued by decades of downstream breeders, especially in the southeastern United States, illustrate a significant case of bloodline development within the English Shepherd breed. The concentration of these breeding efforts in the south and southeastern United States suggests a regional influence on the sub-type’s development. Regional breeding practices such as those that occurred within the English Shepherd population in the mid-twentieth century can lead to variations within a breed, reflecting the specific needs, preferences, and environments of a particular area. This divergence is what creates a distinct sub-type, in a specific region, with unique characteristics that set it apart from other lines or types within the breed.

If you’d like to learn more about our black and tan English shepherd bloodline, you are invited to read my book:

The King of the Cattle Dogs: English Shepherds in Mid-Twentieth Century America

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Tony Bierman, "Black and Tan English Shepherds in Mid-Twentieth Century America," OBTESA, Accessed July 12, 2024,