The Old-Time Scotch Collie and the English Shepherd are closely related dog breeds with more similarities than differences. It is no surprise that the most commonly asked question from people is “what is the difference between Scotch Collies and English Shepherds?”
Here in this article I will lay out the differences, similarities and compare the dog breeds Scotch Collie vs. English Shepherd. What makes me qualified to write this? I am the founder of the Old-Time Scotch Collie Association and have been breeding and promoting Scotch Collies, English Shepherds and Farm Collies for over 12 years.
Centuries ago every area of the British Isles had their own regional styles of working dogs. The dog we call the Scotch Collie today was used for sheep herding in the Scottish Highlands. The English Shepherd was a sheep herding and drover dog from the north of England.
Because these two ancient working breeds were from similar areas and did similar work, they looked and acted similarly. In those days before registered dogs and dog shows, people would breed their dogs to another good working dog without concern for the “breed” of that dog. So it was that English Shepherds and Scotch Collies were occasionally cross-bred from the earliest days.
In the mid-1800s the Scotch Collie caught the eye of Queen Victoria and dog showmen and became wildly popular in England. The English Shepherd at this time was not so popular but continued as a working dog. At this same time both breeds were being imported to America to be used for farm work there.
In the early 1900s a different regional British working dog became popular. The Border Collie which originated in the English/Scottish border region, caught on and swept the world displacing working Scotch Collies and English Shepherds from their jobs on small farms worldwide.
By the mid 1900s the Border Collie had displaced most of the working Scotch Collies and English Shepherds from their jobs in the country. At the same time the pedigreed Rough Collie had displaced the Scotch Collie as a pet in the city. So both breeds were suffering from diminished populations.
As people began trying to revive and restore these old fashioned working breeds in the late twentieth century they coined the term “farm collie” to describe any working collie type dog. A farm collie can refer to any of a number of different dog breeds including; Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, English Shepherds, Scotch Collies or some combination thereof.
While the farm collie movement was working to save these dogs in the late 1900s the English Shepherd breed was far more numerous because it had a breed club which had been established in the 1950s. The far more rare Scotch Collie was almost extinct by this time so they were often crossed with English Shepherds and many Scotch Collies were registered as English Shepherds because their breed standard was suitably broad.
Many farm collies today, and indeed even registered English Shepherds are descended from mixed breed English Shepherd x Scotch Collie breedings during the time of the farm collie movement. Although these cross breedings were well intentioned to save a rare breed they almost wiped out the remnants of the Scotch Collie breed. While the English Shepherd got its breed club in the 1950s, the Scotch Collie Association was not not founded until 2010, so the Scotch Collie is still working at a disadvantage compared to their English Shepherd cousins.
There are definite differences when comparing Scotch Collies vs English Shepherds, but keep in kind that both are landrace breeds and have a wayside range of diversity. So remember that the differences listed here are just broad generalizations. Before buying a puppy get to know the temperament of the parents to give you a good idea of what you are getting.
English Shepherds tend to be more bossy, and in some cases were bred to be more aggressive to help with moving stubborn stock like range cattle. If you are raising one of the more strong-willed English Shepherd dogs you may need to be diligent to assert your dominance over the dog to avoid potential problems. There are more issues of biting among English Shepherds than among Scotch Collies because of this nature that breeders refer to as “grittiness”.
Scotch Collies are motivated by a strong desire to please their owners. The more time you spend with a Scotch Collie the stronger it will bond to you and other family members and the stronger the bond the more “biddable”, or eager to please, the dog will become. Because of this bonding issue Scotch Collies do better in families where people are home more than away, work-from-home, home-schooled and small farms often provide the best fit for a Scotch Collie. They are usually able to adjust their activity level to your situation, happy to sit at your feet one day and to go out in the field and work beside you the next.
Both the Scotch Collie and the English Shepherd are loose-eyed, upright herders (as opposed to the strong-eyed, crouching style of the Border Collie). They tend to be more low-energy than Border Collies too, able to sit around without getting antsy, often called “having an off switch”. They like keeping order around the farm and can fill a variety of roles, mouser, herder, watch dog and family play-mate, this makes them great for a small farm where one dog can wear many hats (so to speak).
Because certain lines of English Shepherd were bred for “grittiness” in working with range cattle in Texas, these lines may not make good family dogs. There are occasional stories of English Shepherds needing to be rehomed because of biting or dominance issue with kids. Because the English Shepherd is a landrace breed with a wide range of looks and behavior do not take this as an indictment of the whole breed, but before buying one for your family get to know the dog’s breeding.
|Scotch Collies||English Shepherds|
|Ears||erect or semi-erect, high set on head||Lower ear-set, often flop-eared like a bird dog|
|Head||Longer, more pointed muzzle||Wider head, shorter muzzle|
|Coat||Heavier, longer coat||Shorter, less-dense coat|
|Ruff||More pronounced ruff||Thin or no ruff at all|
Deciding on a Puppy
If you are looking for a Scotch Collie or an English Shepherd dog you should be made aware of what to look for. These are landrace breeds, which means that they were never bred to meet a rigid breed standard. Therefore they have a wide range of looks and behavior. Because of this you will want to carefully research the background and lines of any dog you are considering.
For English Shepherd puppies, the English Shepherd Club is a great resource for finding puppies from reputable breeders. Their website is located at www.englishshepherd.org They also have a great online pedigree database that you can learn a lot from browsing, access it here. You will need request a login in order to view the ESC registry.
If you are interested in a Scotch Collie puppy the Old-Time Scotch Collie Association is the place to begin your search. Their website at www.scotchcollie.org lists recent OTSCA registered litters. They also have a tremendous online breed registry and pedigree database which is free for anyone to browse, you can see it by following this link.
For more information on these amazing breeds of dog there are more articles on this website on similar subjects. Try these:
- Scotch Collies – 10 Surprising Facts About Scotch Collies
- English Shepherds – English Shepherds in their Native Habitat
- Farm Collies – Farm Collies, the Definitive Guide