The Old English Sheepdog is the archetypical shaggy dog, famous for his profuse coat and peak-a-boo hairdo, distinctive bear-like gait, and a mellow, agreeable nature.
The origin of the Old English Sheepdog remains a question of keen interest to “Bobtail*” fanciers, and is still open to new theories and discoveries. However, there are traces of evidence which place its origin in the early nineteenth century, centered in the Southwestern Counties of England.
Some maintain that the Scottish Bearded Collie had a large part in its making; others claim the Russian Owtchar as one of the progenitors of the Old English Sheepdog. Writings of that time refer to a “drovers dog” which was used primarily for driving sheep and cattle to market, and it is speculated that these drover’s dogs were exempt from taxes due to their working status.
Since this dog has been used more for driving than for herding, the lack of a tail to serve as a rudder, so to speak, has in no way affected its ability to work with heavier kinds of sheep or cattle.
*To prove their occupation, Old English Sheepdog tails were docked… leading to the custom of calling the sheepdog by the nickname “Bob” or “Bobtail.”
The Old English Sheepdog is a big, agile dog who enjoys exploring and a good romp. Although they move with a bear-like shuffle, they are famous for their nimbleness afoot. Regular exercise is required for these strong, able-bodied workers. Equally famed are their many fine housedog qualities: watchfulness, courage, kindliness, and intelligence. Great with children, Old English Sheepdogs make patient, protective playmates. They are sensible watchdogs, known for a loud, ringing bark. Also called a bobtail, the Old English Sheepdog is sometimes referred to as the clown dog.
- Families who can give their dog a lot of attention, and prefer to involve their dog in all activities.
- People who are able to exercise their dog regularly.
- People who have time for regular brushing, and can afford the expense of regular grooming.
- Homes where the dog is typically not left alone for long hours.
- People who need to leave their dog alone all day.
- People who are not willing to provide daily exercise.
- People who are not willing to brush their dog regularly and have them groomed.
- Loving people dogs who will follow you wherever you go.
- Perfect companion for children.
- Equally at home in an apartment, city, or country home.
- Intelligent and quick to learn.
- Sensible watchdogs.
- Requires a high level of maintenance with regular brushing and grooming—approximately 2 hours a day, twice a week for coat upkeep.
- Likes to “herd” other people and animals.
- Can be stubborn and determined to be the center of attention.
- Does not like to be left alone.
Females: Average 21+ inches at the shoulder, and roughly 70 to 80 pounds.
Males: Average 22+ inches at the shoulder, and roughly 80 to 90 pounds.
Any shade of gray, grizzle, blue, or blue merle—with or without white markings, or in reverse. Most Old English Sheepdogs are grey and white.
They are adaptive in their activity level—they can be laid back or go to work herding sheep.
They are good with children but tend to “herd” both children and adults alike.
As a herding breed, they can be intimidating to other animals.
The Old English Sheepdog can compete in agility, barn hunting, canine good citizen, conformation, coursing, herding, obedience, rally, and tracking.
Although they don’t “shed” their coat as some other breeds, they do require a high level of maintenance to keep their coat from matting.
Old English Sheepdogs are susceptible to a number of diseases, including but not limited to hip dysplasia, auto-immune diseases such as Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia, and Hemolytic Anemia. The good news is there are many tests that reputable breeders can now use to filter out many previous diseases, such as Degenerative Myelopathy, Exercise Induced Collapse, Multi-drug Resistance, Primary, Ciliary Dyskinesia, Cerebellar Degeneration and others, which helps deter these diseases in the breed.