Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Shepherding Collies: A Collie by Another Name

Australian Shepherd

English Shepherd



There is probably too much to say about the similarity and differences between collies and shepherds to cover in one post. So today I'm going to focus on Collies that are called Shepherds - but are Collies. This may be a little confusing but bear with me.

What is a Collie and what is a Shepherd?

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense that with differences in geography we have differences in language and genetics. When two types of dogs are developed in two different geographic regions to do the same kind of work, we end up with two different families of dogs who do similar work. In other words, originally you could look at a dog and know if it was a Collie or a Shepherd.


Australian Shepherd

The Collie families developed first in Scotland.  The Shepherd families developed in mainland Europe, around the areas of Germany. Once people began migrating and taking their dogs with them, the names they applied to their dogs changed to reflect the job the dog was doing rather than the original family of dog it came from, blurring this original distinction between Collies and Shepherds.


English Shepherd
Thus we ended up with breeds called the English Shepherd and the Australian Shepherd -- named "shepherds" because they were 'shepherding' or watching over and moving other animals like sheep ...but also cattle, horses, and sometimes general livestock guardians...but genetically related to and descendants of Collies.

Aussie


I suppose it also makes sense that the people and country most responsible for creating some confusion between Collies and Shepherds were Americans in the U.S. With the mixing of people from many nations a "shepherd" became known as an animal, or person, who watched over livestock. Thus, the U.S. ended up contributing two dogs to the canine world that are Collies by genetics, and Shepherds by name.

English Shepherd


English Shepherd
The English Shepherd is a Collie breed developed in the U.S. by farmers who brought their working Collies with them when they immigrated.  These are practical dogs known for their intelligence, trainability, and flexibility. While some breeds of dogs were developed to be specialists - the Border Collie to work with sheep, the Blue Healer to work with cattle - one of the traits that English Shepherds are prized for is their ability to work with a range of animals and adapt as needed. This breed was developed to work on the American family farm that kept a variety of livestock and needed a multipurpose working dog. The members of this breed are also called Farm Collies.

English Shepherds


There are a handful of groups who keep registries of this breed, which is what makes this a 'breed' as opposed to a group of mixed breed dogs who live on farms. The United Kennel Club, the International English Shepherd Registry and the English Shepherd Club all keep registries - which is another reason you will find more differences amongst individual members of the English Shepherd family than you will tend to find amongst the members of the Australian Shepherd family.

English Shepherd, also called Farm Collie



Aussie puppy



Australian Shepherd

To add to the confusion, the Australian Shepherd is neither of German or Australian origin - these are Collies originally bred to work with cattle in - Colorado. Yes, the name does not give this away, does it? Aussies are also very trainable and do best when they have a job; the breed is showing up increasingly often in agility and obedience competitions. This is a very popular breed for Frisbee competitions for example.
Australian Shepherd

 Not too surprisingly, there are some visual similarities between English and Australian Shepherds but there are also some interesting differences. The Australian Shepherd is often born with a naturally bobbed or completely missing tail. The Aussie is also a more uniformed breed in appearance.

English Shepherd

Aussie
 English Shepherds are still primarily a dog bred for function and there is more variation amongst individual members of the breed. English Shepherds aren't showing up in show rings; Aussies are. Once bench trials became part of a breed's existence the 'look' of the breed starts to become more unified because some looks are more popular with judges than others. In theory, the bench trial judge is looking for a dog that is closest to the breed ideal. In practice, at different points in a breed's history certain aspects of the breed's look become more popular...but that is a rant for a different day and will come up when I do talk about those dogs which are genetically Shepherds, as opposed to shepherds in name and Collie by ancestry.

Australian Shepherd

In closing then, god bless the U.S.A. contributing shepherds to the Collie family. But a Collie by any other name, is just as sweet, trainable, and dedicated to their family as all Collies are.

English Shepherd


11 comments:

  1. Well that certainly helps - when you did your last post, I was reading the bit about border collies and thinking - they're collies? Oh, OK, it IS in the name... very confusing. I just looked up collie to see if it had some meaning underlying the dog breeds name - no, guess not... although I gather a collie man is a pot dealer in some places. Good to know if you're in Amsterdam. Kathy

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  2. Wow, this blog is so informative on so many levels :-)

    Collies originate in Scotland and the "collie family" all are in someway related to these early Scottish dogs - as are the Australian Shepherd and English Shepherd. Hope that doesn't confuse the matter too much.

    And thanks much for the info on collie men - I had no idea!

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  3. The names Australian Shepherd and English Shepherd are terribly confusing, especially when you see what they actually look like! There are a few people out there crossing Rough Collies with the English Shepherd to create a hardier dog and to do away with the eye problems.

    You could also do a post on Mini Aussies. Aussies smaller than the normal size - eg under 18 inches, preferred height between between 14 and 16 inches at shoulder. Some are even smaller but quite often those are crossed with other breeds by backyard breeders. The smaller ones are more portable but have the same attributes as the larger ones and are better suited as pets in suburbia. There are only a few people in this country - the UK - breeding them.

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    1. Thanks for taking time to comment Cate!

      I agree, the names are confusing - hearing the name "Shepherd" I tend to picture a prick eared dog of German heritage.

      And you are right, there are a number of other members of the Collie family that should be addressed in further posts - including the Mini Aussie. I feel I also need to give some time to some of the German family of Shepherds. Eventually I would also like to talk about - and hear from - people who have lived with some of the other European livestock guardians and shepherds like Komodores, Pulis, and Kuvasz.

      People have developed so many interesting breeds to work with livestock; this certainly indicates how traditionally important moving and guarding livestock has been to humans.

      I'm interested Cate in hearing more about the dogs you have run into in the UK that began as livestock guardians/shepherds and how they are being adapted to more urban lifestyles.

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  4. What about the Havanese/Silk Havanese? Originally they were herding and companion dogs in Cuba. Now developing health problems so a new 'branch' of the breed has sprung up - the Silks. Again, not too many over here.

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    1. Ah, yes!

      Keep going Cate :-) You're generating a good list for future discussion.

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  5. Interesting note for you. The reason so many of the collie lineage is misnamed 'shepherd' is because of the modern rough and smooth coated 'scotch' collie breeders. They insisted that their dog was the only one to be referred to as collie. The Shetland Sheepdog was going to be called the Shetland Collie but the Collie people got involved and stopped it. The English Shepherd suffered the same name fate.

    Interestingly enough, when the English Shepherd first was attempting to get AKC recognition there was a big push to make sure the standard stressed colors other than classic collie colors. The AKC collie people would have loved for the English Shepherd to be nothing but black-and-tan.

    Partly because the AKC Scotch Collie people were so hard to please, the early attempts to move the English Shepherd into the AKC fold were abandoned along with the drive to have only black-and-tan dogs, so now many of these great dogs are yellow and white, black and white, and tri-color...but black and tan are very common.

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  6. Just wanted to say that I have an English Shepherd and she is incredible! Besides being very loving and the star of her obedience class, she has protected me from a mentally ill neighbor, woken me in the night when the water line sprung a leak and passed her therapy test on the first try. That being said, I believe they are not that popular because they do have needs. She requires daily (and I mean daily!) exercise -- give her a 2 mile walk and a fetch session or two everyday and she is calm and quiet in the house. These dogs are difficult to find but worth the effort if you are an active person and enjoy activities in which the dog can participate (ie: hiking) and looking for a buddy to join you. Some tend to be shy so socialize them early. The dog of my dreams -- truly!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your personal experience! I agree, as great as English Shepherds are, they certainly are not a breed that is suited to everyone. These dogs are still wired to work and need an outlet for their energy and intelligence. Great to hear you're putting these attributes to good use :-)

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    2. You are so right about her "need" to work but I think, to some degree, all dogs want to be useful to their pack!

      We achieve that with games like frisbee and fetch or even hide and seek (on cold rainy days we'll hide her toys -- she knows their names -- while she waits patiently. On signal we tell her to go find one of them -- and she hunts it down like her life depends on it wagging her tail like mad the whole time) She believes it is her "job" to GET that frisbee (or ball or toy) and she goes after it with eagerness and determination. (Perhaps I imagine it, but I could swear she seems proud when she achieves her goal.) It is great exercise for her, fun and great bonding -- because an English Shepherd, more than anything in the world, just wants to be with her people! Like many dogs, they don't do well at home alone all day.

      Also, these dogs learn new things very quickly and it is fun to teach such eager students!

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  7. It is really important to have a pet which is well behaved. For those pet owners who are new to the experience of taking care of a dog, obedience training must be applied
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