After putting in a request to Wrights English Shepherds and waiting over a year for her, Miss Reilly the Farm-Pup has arrived! She's a tri-color girl with interesting markings and some really cute freckles on her snout. Born on a horse ranch in the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia, she and her sister, Korie, came home with me this past Saturday. Korie is a very pretty clear-sable color with a nice blaze on her forehead and a bossy attitude to go with it! She'll be going to live and work on Kelley Creek Farms in Birmingham, AL where she'll be managing horses, chickens and geese... we will keep up with her activities in the blogosphere.
While Flynn The Wonder Moose Mastiff girl has been a very good protector here and she makes her rounds of the fencelines like a good guardian should. However, I'm very excited to have a traditional farm dog to help me work the livestock and look forward to doing some farm-trials herding ducks with Reilly also. I know that she'll very quickly become an indispensable part of getting the work done around the home-place!
The girls together their first week at the farm:
English Shepherds are a heritage American breed of farm collie valued for their intelligence, spirit, and loyalty. The traditional "all purpose farm dog", they're known by many names: Farm Shepherd, Scotch Collie, Old time Collie. They're intelligent, alert, responsive working dogs; exceptionally devoted, and have a strong desire to work in partnership with their owner, whatever the task.
In the 18th and 19th centuries English Shepherds were the most popular working dogs as they make wonderful companions and were bred to independently perform various tasks around the farm, such as hunting, herding, and guarding. But since the 1930s, agriculture has shifted to high productivity Big-Ag and the number of small family farms has declined sharply... as a result, so too has the number of English Shepherd dwindled.
Unlike some other herding dogs, English Shepherds haven't been specialized to work only one species of livestock. In fact, this breed is a real friend of the small homesteader on a small diversified farm where this dog's innate versatility can really shine. English Shepherds are very quick to learn farm routines and will work independently with little training; they're capable of using their own initiative as well as being directed.
"Energetic, intelligent, very active, agile, courageous and gritty. Fearless for their purpose"Photo: robinfollette.com
Hard Working Farm Dog
An English Shepherd's style of work is far less flashy than that of a Border Collie. This breed is so good at what they do that they make the most challenging work look easy. But only to those not paying close attention. What looks simple is the result of the breed's commitment and loving dedication to work hard and work smart in a quiet, orderly fashion. No matter your livestock: cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, or fowl (or all of the above), this breed's stout hearted perseverance can handle it.
To the casual observer, English Shepherds can be misidentified as Border Collies. However, English Shepherds are larger than other collies, have long tails, and a less rounded head. But the quickest way to tell the two apart is to put them on stock. Border Collies tend to herd with a distinctive strong eye contact and a crouching, prey-driven stance, while English Shepherds have a pack-driven upright, loose-eyed herding style. This is represented by an attitude toward the stock as a superior pack member enforcing rules on an underling. English Shepherds can work all types of stock -- from the meanest bull to baby chickens. Compared to other collies, they are prized above specialty herding breeds for being as gentle as possible or as tough as necessary with the stock.
This ability to rate their stock stems from the great empathy they have for their family and livestock. With the right upbringing, this empathy makes the English Shepherd a wonderful family dog. However, the same bossy nature which this breed excels in keeping order on the farm can cause havoc in the local dog park where the English Shepherd often appoints himself as the leader or alpha dog.
An accurate description of the English Shepherds character is summed up by one owner as, "Energetic, intelligent, very active, agile, courageous and gritty. Fearless for their purpose. Acting immediately when commanded; very responsive to the master's voice. Adapting themselves almost at once to working commands around farm stock. Working characteristics include: strictly low heeling; and very free with the use of their teeth. Also very watchful as guards of the home. Companionable to their master."
Because English Shepherds aren't show dogs, there can be some variation in appearance.
The English Shepherd is a medium sized dog, is somewhat longer than they are tall, have balanced proportions and are the same height at the shoulders as at the hips. Weight for males is 45 to 60 pounds and females are 40 to 50 pounds. Height for males is 20" to 21" and females are 19" to 20".
Special thanks to codenamefarmcollie.blogspot.com
A few portraits from an owner of these wonderful farm dogs detailing what it is like to live with an English Shepherd. Great descriptions of the breed's character and work ethic:
Overlook: My Taste in Dogs
There are two English Shepherd club websites you might be interested in: the English Shepherd Club (ESC), and the United English Shepherd Association (UESA). The ESC is older and has a larger membership. The UESA was formed when the ESC broke with the United Kennel Club over the question of conformation showing. Many English Shepherd folks don't agree with showing because they believe it undermines breeding for working characteristics. The USEA club is primarily interested in conformation showing.
The American Working Farmcollie Association (AWFA) is a multibreed performance registry dedicated to recognizing the traditional working characteristics of the farmcollie breeds. It is not specifically for ES, but many of its members have ES. The American Working Farmcollie Association (AWFA). The AWFA has also outlined the traditional "farmdog" jobs where the English Shepherd excels
Registries can be complicated when it comes to English Shepherds. There are four legitimate registries; the United Kennel Club, the International English Shepherd Registry, the Animal Research Foundation, and the English Shepherd Club Registry. Breeders may register with one or all of them. The ESC Registry is the newest of the registries, and was created in response to the needs of the breed community for a comprehensive database of the English Shepherd population, and because the registration of litters with parents from different registries was difficult.
United Kennel Club
International English Shepherd Registry
Animal Research Foundation
English Shepherd Club Registry