About This Breed
The Old English Sheepdog (OES) originated in 19th century England. They were used to drive herds of sheep to different grazing areas and as livestock herders and guardians. It is thought that OESs were descended from the Scotch Bearded Collie and the Russian Owtchar.
Old English Sheepdogs are large bodied dogs with drop ears and bobtails (naturally short). Dogs born with tails any longer than the preferred bobtail length are docked (surgically shortened).
The Old English Sheepdog is most commonly seen in shades of gray, grizzle, blue, or blue merle, with or without white markings.
The Old English Sheepdog’s outercoat is very full, long, and shaggy, with a rough texture. The full coat extends to the head and often covers the eyes. The undercoat is dense and waterproof.
Personality and Temperament
The Old English Sheepdog is very affectionate and happy, and can be quite goofy at times. They are non-aggressive, very good with kids, and get along with other dogs. The breed is very smart and enjoys learning new things, and excels at canine sports.
Things to Consider
Old English Sheepdogs need to be groomed on a regular basis to prevent tangling and matting. As herding dogs, they are known to herd children and other animals. In addition, owing to their very full coats, they do tend to shed a lot.
Ideal Living Situation
As large dogs, Old English Sheepdogs do well in the country with lots of space to move around.
Old English Sheepdogs need daily exercise, and they do shed quite a bit. Regular brushing may help to control the amount of hair that is shed inside the house.
The following conditions are commonly seen in Old English Sheepdogs:
Progressive retinal atrophy
History and Background
The origins of the Old English Sheepdog cannot be verified, but many believe it was introduced to the western part of England nearly 150 years ago. Its ancestors are believed to have been the Russian Owtcharka and/or the Bearded Collie.
First developed for its strength and ability to protect herds and flocks from wolves, by the mid-1800s, the breed mainly functioned as a cattle and sheep driver, able to get the herds to market for sale. Because they were considered working dogs, their owners did not have to pay taxes on the breed, as people did with other, non-working breeds. To prove their “working” status, it was customary to have their tails docked, or “bobbed,” a custom still prevalent today and the reason the breed’s nickname is “bobtail.”
By the early 20th century the Old English Sheepdog had become a popular European show dog. In 1905, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed. Many early Sheepdogs brought to the United States were brown in color, but color restrictions were later put in place to produce dogs with gray and white coats. The modern Sheepdog also has a more compact body and profuse coat.
As its popularity grew, the breed integrated itself into popular culture. Some of its more famous “roles” include Paloming in 101 Dalmatians, Elwood in The Shaggy D.A., Barkley in Sesame Street, and Max in The Little Mermaid.
The breed is considered a great show dog and lovable family pet.
Image via Shutterstock