Originally published March 22, 1948
English Shepherd dogs are one of the oldest breed of dogs in the entire world. Long ago before there was any such country as England, these same dogs were known as Shepherd’s Dogs. The people who herded sheep were called shepherds and because these dogs were used by the shepherds they were called the Shepherd’s Dog.
In centuries past, there were no fences, and these Shepherd Dogs were used to hold the flock of sheep together and to keep them under control. There were no barns or anything to protect the sheep or the dogs from the cold winters or the hot summers. To endure such severe weather the dogs had to have long thick hair. Until this very day this same breed of dog can sleep out on the coldest night, and the weather doesn’t seem to hurt him. There is an oil in the dogs hair which the water will not penetrate; what I mean is, it can rain on a shepherd dog or he can swim in a river, and after getting out of the water, shake his body a few times adn his body is warm. This refers to a healthy dog raised out in the open. In those early days of long ago when man’s life almost depended on his flock of sheep there were all kind of wild animals which attacked both sheep and man. He had to depend on his shepherd dogs for protection. Dogs had to have plenty of courage, size and intelligence to fight off these vicious animals. Until this very day, this same breed of dogs still posesses the intelligence which it takes to kill animals much larger and stronger than they are themselves. The Shepherd’s Dog trick is this: if the wild animal is larger than he is, he will bay the animal and run around the animal in circles. If there are two or three of the dogs and one large animal which could easily kill one of the dogs if it could catch hold of him, the dogs will circle around the animal. Every time the dogs get a chance they’ll bite the animal’s heels, or at least they will work on the back side of the animal just as far from the head as possible. This action causes the animal to turn round and round in circles. It sure is interesting to watch two dogs work a wild animal over. the dog back of the animal will bite his heels, then the animal will turn around. The wild animal will then turn his back to the dog that is in front of him, and will attack the dog that bit him. While the beast attacks the dog that bit him the other animal will bite him on the heel. This doesn’t go on very long until the animal gets drunk form turning round and round. Regardless of what it was, (bear, bobcat. lion, or whatever) the shepherd dogs could hold it at bay until the dogs’ master got there to help with the fight. In those prehistoric days, man didn’t ahve anything to help the dog with except clubs and rocks. It is easy to see why the dogs had to have plenty of size and strength, yet be active enough to keep out of the way of the claws of these animals. After the dogs worried a beast down it was easy for a man to kill him with a club even if he did not have a gun back in those early times.
Back in those days the dog had to be on guard day and night to keep the wild animals fought off the sheep. Herding the sheep was the dog’s least job. There were also thieves who would drive off the sheep and the shepherd’s dogs had to keep them chased away.
It is easy to see why these dogs were called the shepherds’ dog; life itself almost depended on the skill and intelligence of these dogs. Until this very day these shepherd dogs will not holler when they get into a fight; they will die fighting; they will not quit. In raising shepherd pups you have to watch them or they will kill one another. Only yesterday I stopped two eight week old pups from fighting. One had caught the other pup by the throat, almost choked to death. I caught the pup on top by the back legs, and he held on to the other pup and picked the pup off the ground. When I pulled them apart, the pup which had been getting choked began fighting again with all his might. I had to separate the pups to keep them from killing each other. These pups were in pens; if they had been out in the open, they would have found something else to do besides fight! They have the grit; you very seldom have to hold shepherd dogs to vaccinate them. they will not move or holler when the vaccinating needle is stuck through their skin.
Those people of days gone bay bred the very best working dogs together, and a dog had to be an all-round dog to protect the people’s children sheep and homes. They bred their dogs dark colors; today’s black and tan dog with the long glossy hair is believed to be more like the genuine shepherd of the past.
People then wandered with their herds and flocks After they became educated to the fact that their lives could be made and they could have a more abundant food supply, they began to get larger herds. More people began to live together and the tribes began to prosper. They invented all kinds of tools and weapons and built boats in which to travel. Due to the fact that man and his dogs lived together every day, I am of the opinion that dogs in those days were much smarter than they are today. The more we keep our dogs like those first black and tan dogs of years ago, the better dogs we will have.
Our modern civilization of today started with the use of these Shepherd Dogs. After man got large herds of sheep they had plenty of meat, hides, and wool and began to trade with one another. They began to get rich; herds got larger and people needed more grass for their herds. They began to travel from the mainland to the islands they could see. The first people to cross the English Channel to the British Isles carried their sheep and their shepherd dogs with them. As the boats in those days were small and crowded, those early settlers who moved to the British Isles only carried the very finest shepherd goes with them. By this time they had come a long ways, and civilization was developing fast. It is very doubtful if England would have become the powerful nation it has been if there had not been for the use of these Shepherd dogs which made so many people rich and the sheep industry possible.
From the time the first people moved the shepherd dogs to England until Columbus discovered America, people had become much better educated, but the Shepherd Dog was just like he had been for a thousand years. The first settlers who moved to America from England brought the finest Shepherd Dogs to America with them, and it was in the United States where the shepherd dog got the name- “THE ENGLISH SHEPHERD”.
Man has tried and tried to develop a better dog than this fine breed, but he has failed in this. Most all these new breeds of dogs were crossed with the English Shepherd, trying to get the working qualities and grit of an English Shepherd. I knew a man who crossed his hounds with English Shepherds so they would kill wolves. He wanted 25% of the English Shepherd blood in his hounds. These dogs would outrun the regular hounds and would catch and kill a wolf. The purebred English Shepherds will catch and kill a wolf, but this man’s idea was to cross them with hounds so that they would bark on trail like a hound but catch and kill a wolf like a shepherd. Most all the long-haired working breeds of dogs carry more or less English Shepherd blood.
A genuine English shepherd has a different spirit to any other dog. You can abuse him and be just as mean as you want to be; you will only hurt his feelings, and with only oe kind word, he will forgive and for get and come running to you. In most instances the true English Shepherd will lay on his back at his master’s feet when he speaks kindly to him after scolding or whipping him. These dogs love affection and are unequaled as companions.
Always remember that a black and tan English Shepherd is the highest class of this breed. Tan should be on each foot and fade out up the leg, tan under the tail with the tan fading out near the end of the tail, tan spot over each eye and tan around the mouth. Also remember that an English Shepherd can be almost any color-blue, solid black brown, bright red, or red with white markings or golden sable. The golden sable is more the color of an orange. Most of these odd colored dogs also have a touch of white. These odd-colored English Shepherds always sell at a discount and are classified as the common shepherd. A litter of pups may be in 3-4 different colors, and there is most always a spotted pup. The black and tan most always breed true to color and true to type. If the black and tan male and female are bred together, as a rule the pups will all be black and tan or black and tan with just a touch of white. sometimes you’ll get an overflow of tan. Black and tan dogs always bring the top price as there is not any doubt about them being genuine English Shepherds which have been raised for thousands of years and are the same breed of dogs which were known as the shepherd’s dogs before the name was changed to the English Shepherd.
The average size for the black and tan English Shepherd is 20 inches high and 50 lbs. Standard size is not less than 18 inches and not over 22 inches. Twenty inches high and fifty pounds is the most desirable height and weight. The dog shouldn’t weigh less than 40 lbs nor over 60 lbs. Should be broad and well- built and weight should balance the height. Sometimes a male will be as much as 25 inches high and weigh 75 lbs; these dogs are above standard weight but are very valuable breeders to breed to small females and get pups that will be nearer to standard weight. Being a working type dog they need to be large enough to whip the average dog and to kill a wolf. A fifty pound English Shepherd can save a boy or girl form drowning. If water gets too deep, just holler “Shep” and he will be right by your side before you will have time to drown. Just catch his long hair and Shep will carry you to safety. I knew of a mother Shepherd dog jumping in the deep water on a dark night and grabbing a woman’s dress and pulling her to safety out of a swift stream. Dogs to herd sheep and goats should always be large enough to keep stray dogs and wolves fought off. The genuine English Shepherd of prehistoric days which has proven to be the world’s most useful dog, is a dog around fifty pounds, broad between the eyes, short muzzle (mouth), tail set on at a 45 degree angle, with a little curve near the end, and the hair should always be long on the tail, especially on the bottom side of the tail. Can also be natural bob tail. Tail of a natural bob should be set straight back with extra long hair on the tail.
Natural Bob English Shepherds usually will breed true if a bob male is bred to a natural bob female, but sometimes a long tail pup will show up. You can breed a long tail English Shepherd to a natural bob English Shepherd and still register the pups as English Shepherds, part of the litter being long tailed and part of the same litter being natural bob. The working qualities are the same, the only difference is the length of the tail.