Old English Sheepdog illustration
Pastoral

Old English Sheepdog

Glamorously coated but still fit for working with the flocks

Breed characteristics

Size
Large
Exercise
More than 2 hours per day
Size of home
Large house
Grooming
Every day
Coat length
Long
Sheds
Yes
Lifespan
Over 10 years
Vulnerable native breed
No
Town or country
Either
Size of garden
Large garden

About this breed

Traditional theory suggests that the Scottish Collie or Bearded Collie played some part in the development of the breed and some breed historians suggests that the sheepdogs of Europe including the Ovtcharka might have played their part. The Old English is the most substantial of sheepdogs, and underneath the glamour of a crisp blue and white coat, there should be a dog still fit for working with the flocks. The Old English Sheepdog was until recent years customarily docked, but since tail docking is no longer allowed the traditional epithet ‘The Bobtail’ is no longer appropriate.

Indeed, the traditional docking of the tail in this breed is debated, one party saying that the Old English was docked for hygienic purposes as in the same way that sheep are docked. Another party suggests that the practice was started as a ruse to avoid tax as at one time drover’s dogs were exempt from tax and a mark of this was the docked tail. Note that it was seen as a drover’s dog for driving cattle, hence calling into question the title of the breed as sheepdogs, which were not docked because they needed their tail to act as rudders and balance in their quick athletic turns and movement. The slower moving cattle dogs did not require the tail. An interesting debate.

So too is the name of the breed – Old English – and theories exist to suggest that Scottish Bearded Collies were crossed with European sheepdogs including the Ovtcharka to produce the breed.

So here in the debated history of the name and origins of the Old English Sheepdog is illustrated the fact that very little is certain in the origins and development of any breed, except perhaps in the more recent ones where breeding programmes have been recorded in detail. There is a lot of supposition and the theories are fascinating.

Read the breed standard

Images for this breed

The Pastoral breed group

The Pastoral Group consists of herding dogs that are associated with working cattle, sheep, reindeer and other cloven footed animals.

Usually this type of dog has a weatherproof double coat to protect it from the elements when working in severe conditions. Breeds such as the Collie family, Old English Sheepdogs and Samoyeds who have been herding reindeer for centuries are but a few included in this group.

 

Breed standard colours

Breed standard colour means that the colour is accepted within the breed standard and is a traditional and well-known colour in this breed.

Breed standard colours in this breed include:

  • Black & White
  • Blue & White
  • Blue Grey & White
  • Grey
  • Grey & White

Other colour/s

'Other' means you consider your puppy to be a colour not currently known within the breed and one that does not appear on either the breed standard or non-breed standard list. In this instance you would be directed through our registrations process to contact a breed club and/or council to support you on identifying and correctly listing the new colour.

Non-breed-standard colours

Non-breed-standard colour means that the colour is not accepted within the breed standard and whilst some dogs within the breed may be this colour it is advised to only select a dog that fits within the breed standards for all points.

Colour is only one consideration when picking a breed or individual dog, health and temperament should always be a priority over colour.

Health

Whether you’re thinking of buying a puppy, or breeding from your dog, it’s essential that you know what health issues may be found in your breed. To tackle these issues we advise that breeders use DNA tests, screening schemes and inbreeding coefficient calculators to help breed the healthiest dogs possible.

More about health

Priority health schemes and tests

The Kennel Club's Assured Breeders must use the following schemes, tests and advice. All other breeders are strongly advised to also use these.

Important health schemes and tests

We strongly recommend that all breeders, both assured breeders (ABs) and non ABs, use the following schemes, tests and advice.

Find out about a particular dog's results

Please visit our Health Test Results Finder to discover the DNA or screening scheme test results for any dog on The Kennel Club's Breed Register.

You can also view the inbreeding coefficient calculation for a puppy's parents, or for a dog you're thinking of breeding from.

Got any questions about health in your breed?

If you have any concerns about a particular health condition in your breed then you may wish to speak to your vet or you could contact your breed health co-ordinator.

Breed health co-ordinators are individuals working on behalf of breed clubs and councils who are advocates for the health and welfare of their chosen breed. They acts as a spokesperson on matters of health and will collaborate with The Kennel Club on any health concerns the breed may have.

Contact the breed health co-ordinator for the Old English Sheepdog.

Breed watch

Category 2

Particular points of concern for individual breeds may include features not specifically highlighted in the breed standard including current issues. In some breeds, features may be listed which, if exaggerated, might potentially affect the breed in the future.

Read more

Breeding restrictions

There are a number of The Kennel Club's rules and regulations that may prevent a litter from being registered, find out about our general and breed specific breeding restrictions below.

More about breeding

In October 2008, our board agreed to record puppies that are born with naturally bobbed tails on registration certificates. The decision was made in order to help breeders identify which dogs or lines carry the tailless gene. The word bobtail is the only description of the tail which is accepted. The description of any other tail length or tails which are not naturally bobbed, such as full tail or legally docked will not be recorded. Confirmation of the tail status of puppies must be accompanied by veterinary certification (on practice headed paper) and sent with the litter registration form. As veterinary certification is required to record the status, this service is not available online.

More information

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