Dog Breeds

English Shepherd Breed Overview: All About This Dedicated Farm Dog

It’s common knowledge that dogs were used for farm activities and herding in the early days. That breed is actually known as the English Shepherd. If you’re wondering if this versatile and hardworking breed will suit your family and lifestyle well, let us take you through a more detailed guide about its characteristics and what you can expect.

What is an English Shepherd?

The English Shepherd has been regarded as an extremely versatile, loyal and intelligent dog. They are mostly used as a farm dog to protect livestock and herd them and are even known to be a good guard dog as well.

The English Shepherds were bred to take on many different types of tasks on the farm. This eventually earned them the name “Farm Dog,” with their ability to do many diverse tasks on the farm – this was especially so in the 17th century. That said, they are able to live alongside many types of livestock, such as sheep, cattle and goats.


We do not know much about the history of the English Shepherd before the 17th century, but we definitely know that they have been used to herd cattle, sheep and livestock for thousands of years. Brought in the 17th century by Scottish and English settlers, the English Shepherd is known to be a descendant of the Shepherd’s dogs of southern Scotland and England. In the 19th century, they slowly rose to fame, making them arguably the most common dog in America at that time.

The English Shepherd also gave rise to Border Collies and Collies, both of which are specifically bred for sheep herding. Compared to them, the English Shepherd has a loose-eyed herding style and they can also hunt and guard, making them the most versatile dog.

The surge in demand for Collies in the 20th century was due to the popularity of dog shows and sheepdog trials, where the dogs were put for showcase. However, know that the English Shepherds were not meant to be show dogs or trials dogs at all – their main purpose was still to work for farmers for practical means.

For the past few years, the popularity of the English Shepherd has seen a comeback. Although most of them are still used as farm dogs, there have been new roles for the English Shepherd as well.

Active families enjoy the companion of the English Shepherd and they provide sufficient exercise and mental stimulation for them. This makes them a pet with better health conditions and a longer lifespan than most modern dogs.


By now, you may be familiar with the versatility of the English Shepherd. As a highly intelligent breed, they often work very independently and alone, being adaptable to different environments and are quick to learn new skills and routines.

They often exhibit a dominating and independent temperament. Hence, they are a powerful leader that provides assurance, enforcing orders and rules. Despite their powerful presence and behavior, the English Shepherd can become a good companion in environments that allow them to exercise physically and mentally.

As a farm dog, subsistence farmers have valued them for their skillfulness and diversity to adapt in the farm. The English Shepherds are natural low heelers and they have stamina, nimbleness and perseverance. With their natural herding instincts, they can be trusted with farm livestock.

English Shepherd sniffing out Voles. Image from Wikipedia

You may recall that English Shepherds are very intelligent, which causes them to be very good at sports. They are also excellent in being rescue dogs in Search and Rescue and as certified therapy dogs too. They often visit homes and hospitals, providing good companion for all the residents and patients there. They can also be compulsive chasers, which can be helped with training.

General Appearance

The looks of the English Shepherd generally vary, but there is still a broad generalization about them. Although they are a medium size breed, they are often closer to large dogs. Even though the breed is Collie type, it has a more powerful build than the rest. Most English Shepherds also have longer chest to rump length than floor to shoulder length.

According to UKC, the ideal male English Shepherd weighs between 45 to 60 pounds and the female should weigh between 40 to 50 pounds. However, it is a rather common sight for them to weigh as low 30 pounds or even as much as 70 pounds, due to the extreme amount of exercise they do as well as their thicker legs and body.

Their head and face shape are similar to Collie dogs, but may be slightly bigger and thicker. They have a slightly raised neck so that you are able to take charge when herding livestock. Other than that, their muzzle is wide and deep, around the size of an average dog.

For their build, they usually look athletic and muscular instead of stocky. Their eyes are usually either dark or medium brown and round with a slightly oblique set. Most English Shepherds have intelligent expressions, making them look as though they have a good character.

If you look at English Shepherds, you will see that all breed members have thick and soft coats. Their fur may be straight, curly or wavy, depending on their breed and they tend to have short and smooth hair on the skull area, front area and leg area. However, they tend to have medium-long hair on the rest of their body.

The most common color patterns are black and white, black and brown and white and brown. However, the shade of the colors will differ very much from dog to dog. On the other hand, when it comes to dog shows, they should not have more than 1/3 of their body in white, solid colors only, or colored spots with white markings.  


Since the English Shepherd is a natural breed, they do not require much grooming compared to other dogs. You do not need to cut their whiskers too, since it gives them their strong senses. For the ones that have long and heavy coats, trim it shorter and shape their ears to make them look neater. To do so, simply use scissors or chunkers to give them a natural look.  

Because they have a double coat, they should be brushed regularly. If not, there may be matting, but it can be removed with general grooming. To start off, use a good cleansing shampoo and remove the dirt from their bodies. Since they are in the outdoors often, two or more baths may be necessary to remove all the soil on their fur. You may also use a product that removes loose coat and untangles it. If you notice a buildup of undercoat, use a conditioner afterwards – this is especially helpful when the coat is thick.

After rinsing the shampoo and conditioner, use a drying product and brush through their coat. You have the option to use a high velocity dryer to dry their coat so that it will be smooth and close to their bodies when it is dry. To do so, direct the air from the dryer nozzle close to the skin and work towards the tips, allowing the air to push the dead coat up as it dries. This should give your English Shepherd a good shine and softness to its coat.

Then, use a slicker or pin brush to brush any remaining loose hair. Following that, use a fine comb to untangle their fur, making sure there is no hidden tangle and all the dead coat is removed. Remember to comb the areas behind their ears, armpits, tail and back of their thighs as well.

For the hair closer to their paws, get a trimmer to trim neatly any hair that lands over the pad area.  Then use a slicker to brush the hair between their toes; be careful not to hurt them in the process.

Ideal Environment

As we all know by now, the English Shepherd is a farm dog, so anywhere with a large space will be an ideal environment for them. They require a large yard to exercise and run to train their herding abilities. If you own a small apartment, then don’t consider owning an English Shepherd, as it will be harmful to them.

It is generally not recommended for first time owners to get English Shepherds, but if you are interested, make a mental note that they have been bred for many years to be farm dogs rather than domestic pets at home.

Possible Health Problems

With so much exercise on a daily basis, the English Shepherd generally lives a very long lifespan and a very healthy lifestyle as well. With the ability to work hard on farms, they have the stamina, especially because their breed has been bred with the primary purpose of working.

They live to an average of 12 to 13 years, but it is not uncommon to see some of them live up to 16 or 17 years as well. However, it does not indicate that they are free from genetic disorders and diseases – they just have a lower chance compared to purebred dogs. Unfortunately, the English Shepherd breed do suffer from two common health issues, namely hip dysplasia and drug allergies.

Hips Dysplasia

To determine if your English Shepherd has the condition, it is recommended that you send it to an X-ray hip screening. You have to note that it is impossible to observe hip dysplasia just by your dog’s movements. Since the problem is genetically complex, it is impossible to totally eliminate the risk of this disease just by breeding choices.

If you are a non-breeder, you must also let your English Shepherd through the X-ray just in case. By identifying their inheritance patterns, you will be able to discover the risk of hip dysplasia way earlier. To reduce the risks and symptoms of the condition, remember to give your English Shepherd tons of exercise and keep it lean and fit.

MDR-1 Mutation

It is also known that English Shepherds do have a high risk of carrying a genetic mutation called MDR-1. It is recommended that you get a test to see if your dog has this mutation, because it can affect what drugs they are able to take. This means that they may be allergic to certain drugs.


Exercise is an essential part of the English Shepherd’s life. Being born and bred for farming activities, they require at least 45 minutes of exercise daily. If not, they will start to exhibit extreme behaviors and this is unhealthy and dangerous for them.

If you are an avid jogger, the English Shepherd makes a good jogging partner as well, given that they like to run in large spaces such as parks.

Is The English Shepherd a Good Family Dog?

Although bred as a farm dog, the English Shepherds are good with children as well, making them a good family dog too. However, do take not that some breeds will be more suited for families than the rest. If you have young children, you have to look out for an outgoing but calm puppy.

If you want, you may always ask an experienced breeder to help you find the right puppy for your family and remember, do not just choose based on looks and color. This excitement will generally fade if the dog is not a good fit for you and your family.


With a natural instinct and ability to learn, English Shepherds are quick learners and will master anything given to them in a quick span of time. However, the challenge is to keep them challenged and prevent them from being bored.

For example, you are able to teach them more than commands and basic tricks. If you teach it to perform more useful jobs like carrying groceries or retrieving the mail, your English Shepherd will feel a larger sense of satisfaction.


In conclusion, the English Shepherd is a very versatile dog to have. Although they started out as farm dogs, the English Shepherd has found their way into many other roles in today’s society which can be attributed to their strength and companionate nature as well. There’s a dedicated rescue organisation if you’re looking to adopt one

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