Country of Origin: Great Britain
Height: Males 22–24 inches and up/females 21–22 inches and up
Weight: 60–100 pounds
Coat: Double coat with not straight (but shaggy and free from curl), harsh, profuse outercoat and waterproof pile undercoat
Colors: Any shade of gray, grizzle, blue, blue merle with or without white markings or in reverse
Other Names: Bobtail
Registries (With Group): AKC (Herding); UKC (Herding)
Origin and History
Developed in England’s West Country, the origin of the Old English Sheepdog (“OES”) is not known for sure, but theories suggest the Briard, the Scottish Deerhound, the Russian Owtchar dogs, and the Bergamasco as possible contributors to the breed. The Bearded Collie may have been crossed in at some point, as might have any of the dogs brought over by Russian or French merchants. His original name—and one still commonly used today—is Bobtail, which he received due to the custom of docking his tail in the 18th century. It is speculated that drovers’ dogs (dogs who helped drive herds to market) were exempt from taxation, and the docking so marked them. Because the Old English Sheepdog did not need to handle his flocks by making quick turns, docking didn’t hinder his abilities. His profuse coat protected him in damp, raw conditions and was sheared in the summer along with the sheep’s coats.
The Old English Sheepdog was first shown in Britain in 1873 and was an instant hit with audiences and fellow exhibitors. This large, shaggy, happy dog continues to draw crowds, turn heads, and be a special part of family histories.
The Old English Sheepdog never misses a beat when it comes to protecting his flock, yet when he’s not working, he’s a gentle old soul. Today’s OES is serious about protecting his charges and keeping them in line and will “herd” small children by bumping them to keep them together. Yet he is even-tempered and wise, loving children especially but all who treat him with kindness. He is playful, yet he quickly quiets down in the house. A devoted family friend with a great sense of humor, he also appreciates alone time. His “cracked-bell” voice and large size make him an excellent watchdog.
Although the OES doesn’t need intensive exercise, he is a large, athletic dog with a need to explore the great outdoors. He thrives with long walks and opportunities to play and run in safely enclosed areas.
The OES needs a lot of attention in the grooming department. He is a heavy seasonal shedder (usually in the spring), but all year, his thick undercoat needs to be brushed and combed to keep it from forming mats. These mats can aggravate the skin and cause infection. Dogs who aren’t being shown can be clipped every few months to keep the hair short and more manageable, but the coat still needs regular brushing and combing.
The average life span of the Old English Sheepdog is 10 to 12 years.
Bred to be an independent thinker, the OES can be strong willed. However, he wants to please his family, and if trained with respect and patience, he is amazingly responsive.
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