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English Shepherd: All about the rare American breed

brown and white english shepherd sitting by lake

English Shepherds are little-known, yet have so many great qualities!

© Jennifer McCallum - Shutterstock

Never heard of the English Shepherd? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one! Yet, this breed has so much to offer and deserves more attention! 

By Justine Seraphin

Published on the

Not to be confused in name with the Old English Sheepdog and in looks with the Border Collie or Australian Shepherd, the English Shepherd is a breed of its own! 

Reaching 18-24 inches in height and 35-65 pounds in weight, English Shepherds are medium-sized dogs that come in a variety of colours, including red and tan, sable and white, and tricolour. 

Known as the original American farm dog, or the Old Style Collie, these pups are incredibly rare today. But if you’re purchasing or adopting one soon, you’ll need to do your research. Here’s everything you need to know about these beautiful dogs:

History: What breeds make the English Shepherd?

The English Shepherd is a mish-mosh of various types of collies brought to the New World by early settlers from Britain and Ireland. As such, it shares ancestors with the Border Collie, Rough Collie, Scotch Collie, and Australian Shepherd. 

Contrary to the name, they were not originally bred in England. The breed was originally used for herding, vermin hunting, and as a guard/watchdog. 

Personality: Are English Shepherds aggressive?

English Shepherds are extremely affectionate with their owners. In fact, they are known to follow their owners everywhere, and as such, can be described as ‘velcro dogs’. They are sociable with people and other animals, and make great companions for children. 

English Shepherds are not known to be aggressive, however they can be territorial and are very protective of their families. They make great watchdogs and will always alert you if someone is approaching the house. 

Socialisation is paramount to make sure an English Shepherd doesn’t become too shy around strangers. Because of their herding instincts, they may also try to herd your family, which may result in some ankle-nipping.

Training: Are English Shepherds easy to train?

Like many Collies, English Shepherds are very intelligent and eager to please. They learn things quickly and as such, are very easy to train. They are often described as equally as smart as the Border Collie, but with a less obsessive personality. This makes them easier to live with. 

English Shepherds are perfect dogs if you’re looking for a companion to do trick-training, agility, flyball or other ‘brain’ activities with.

Exercise: How much exercise does an English Shepherd need?

English Shepherds are active dogs that need a lot of exercise. They are best suited for people who like to go running, biking, or hiking and have the time to do so. 

If English Shepherds don’t get at least 2 hours of vigorous exercise a day, they can become destructive inside the house. However, if their needs are met, they can become real couch potatoes.

Environment: What’s the best environment for an English Shepherd?

English Shepherds would be happier living in a rural environment where they could go for long walks. They’re also happier living in a house with a garden where they can stretch their legs out whenever they want. 

A good fence is essential. Although English Shepherds don’t have a tendency to run away, they have strong chasing instincts and could bolt if they saw a bird or squirrel.

Grooming: Do English Shepherds shed a lot?

English Shepherds have medium-length double coats which require at least a weekly brushing to avoid matts and tangles. The coat is likely to pick up a lot of mud and debris during walks, so you shouldn’t be too house proud if you’re interested in owning one of these dogs. Shedding is moderate throughout the year, but can become heavy during the spring and fall. 

Health: Are English Shepherds healthy dogs?

Because they are so rare, English Shepherds have not suffered from overbreeding, and as such, are relatively healthy dogs. They have a life expectancy of 12-15 years. As with many medium-sized to large dogs, watch out for common joint problems such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and luxating patella. 

Puppies: Where can I find English Shepherd breeders?

English Shepherds are extremely rare in the UK, with only a little over a hundred registered per year. The breed is recognised by the United Kennel Club, but not by the American Kennel Club or the Kennel Club. This is because members wanted to keep the breed looking natural, and didn’t want to transform it into a show dog.

Because you won’t be able to rely on the Kennel Club, finding a breeder in the UK may be difficult. Jackie and Jim Graves seem to be the only English Shepherd breeders in the UK to this day. As with any dog that you are considering purchasing from a breeder, make sure you do your research to ensure you’re buying a happy and healthy puppy from responsible people. 

So what do you think? Is this the breed for you?

Frequently asked questions

Is an English Shepherd a good family dog?

What are English Shepherds known for?

What are other names for English Shepherds?

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