English Shepherds in America

In previous posts I have documented the existence the English Sheep-Dog or English Shepherd’s Dog, which appear as a close relative of the Scotch Collie but quite different from today’s Old English Sheepdog, as a separate and distinct breed in Britain. The articles I cited range from 1841 to 1887 and were all of British origin, which well document that the forerunner of the English Shepherd as found in America today, existed in England, separate from the Scotch Shepherd, long before dog shows and intensive breeding began to reshape that breed.

In this post I will set out to show a parallel history for this same breed of dogs in America, documenting that the English Sheep-Dog, or as it was more familiarly called in America, the English Shepherd-Dog, existed separately from the Scotch Collie throughout the nineteenth century. The sources quoted below are all American in origin and although they may not all describe the English Shepherd-Dog, they confirm that this breed was in existence and was in fact well known and fairly common in America during the 1800s.

One last point. I have published a lot of information here recently about the English Shepherd because I felt the record needed to be set straight about the origin of this breed as it related to the Scotch Collie. However, this site is about the Scotch Collie and unless some profound new information comes to light this is the last word on the English Shepherd as far as this website is concerned.

Memoirs of the society By Pennsylvania Agricultural Society – 1824

The first importations of Merino sheep, were accompanied by some of the large, and powerful dogs of Spain, possessing all the valuable characteristics of the English Shepherd’s dog, with sagacity, fidelity, and strength, peculiar to themselves.

American natural history, Volume 1 By John Davidson Godman – 1836

The Eskimaux dog bears a considerable resemblance to the English shepherd dog, but is much stronger and broader across the breast…

Army and Navy chronicle – 1839

The dogs were of the bloodhound, species, used in Cuba in hunting wild cattle. They are represented as being about the size of the English shepherd’s dog, with nothing at all extraordinary in their appearance.

Ohio Cultivator vol. 3 No. 1 Columbus, Ohio, January 1, 1847

Shepherd’s Dog Wanted
Any person having a good Scotch or English shepherd’s dog to dispose of, will confer a favor by informing us, stating particulars.

The following is from a late number of the Marrietta Intelligencer:

Shepherd’s Dog.—One of the greatest curiosities in town on the day of the late Agricultural Fair, was the shepherd’s dog, belonging to J. W. Dana, of Waterford. He had in charge a little flock of sheep, which he managed with wonderful skill, guiding them without the least difficulty wherever the shepherd, by a motion of the hand, desired.

Breeding, training, management, diseases, etc. of dogs By Francis Butler – 1860

The breeds best known and most in use in this country, are the Pointer, Setter, Spaniel, Fox-hound, Beagle, Greyhound, Bull-dog, Bull-terrier, Scotch and English Terrier, Newfoundland, St. Bernard, Scotch and English Shepherd-dog, Poodle, &c.

Facts for farmers; also for the family circle, Volume 1 By Solon Robinson – 1867

The English shepherd dogs vary considerably in appearance from the Scotch. The hair is smoother, and they do not appear so distinct a breed as the other. Both are of medium size, perhaps about fifteen inches high.

The practical shepherd, By Henry Stephens Randall – 1875

The Drover’s Dog, or English Sheep Dog, or Butcher’s Dog—for by all these different names is he known — is thus described by Mr. Theodore C. Peters, of Darien, New York, in third volume of the American Agriculturist, 1844 :

“I purchased a bitch of the tailless species, known as the English drover dog, in Smithfield market, some two years ago. That species is much used upon the downs, and is a larger and fleeter dog than the Colley. We raised two litters from her, got by Jack, [a Colley,] and I think the cross will make a very valuable dog for all the purposes of the farmer. They learn easily, are very active, and so far they fully answer our expectations.

“A neighbor to whom we gave a bitch of the first litter, would tell her to go into such a lot and see if there were any stray cattle there; and if there were any there, detect them and drive them down to the house. He kept his cattle in the lot, and it was full eighty rods from the house. The dog was not then a year old. We had one of the same litter, which we learned to go after cows so well, that we had only to tell him it was time to bring the cows, and he would set off for them from any part of the farm, and bring them into the yard as well as a boy. I think they would be invaluable to a farmer on the prairies. After raising two litters, we sent the bitch to Illinois. I hope farmers will take more pains in getting the shepherd dog. There is no difficulty in training. Our old one we obtained when a pup, and trained him without any trouble, and without the help of another dog. Any man who has patience, and any dog knowledge at all, can train one of this breed to do all that he can desire of a dog.”

Annual report of the commissioner and the Board of Agriculture and Immigration By Virginia. Dept. of Agriculture and Immigration – 1881

Shepherd dogs have not been much used in this country, but are coming more into use. These dogs, of different varieties, are used in Spain, France, Hungary, England, Scotland, Mexico, and South America. These varieties differ in size, fierceness, and other characteristics. The Spanish, Hungarian, Mexican, and some of those of France are large dogs, some as large as the Newfoundland tiog. Most of them probably came from the Spanish breed, which are large and very fierce, as is the Hungarian dog. The English’ shepherd dog, or drover’s, or butcher’s dog, for by all these names he is known, is considerably smaller than those just mentioned, but larger and stronger than the Scotch colley. For some reason the latter has been most imported and used in our country, and is getting quite common in the Northern States.

Biennial report, Volume 14 By Kansas State Horticultural Society – 1885

Since that time I have had a large experience with rabbits, and I am quite frequently interrogated in regard to the best manner of saving trees from these pests. While there are many ways, any of which may be partially successful in coping: with them, I really think most favorably of the remedy afforded by cats and dogs. A good, active English shepherd dog will readily take to hunting them, and his efforts are often rewarded by an ample meal of his own capturing.

The illustrated stock doctor and live-stock encyclopaedia By J. Russell Manning – 1890

The English sheep dog is found of many varieties, and so different are they, that we can only dwell upon the main characteristics of the leading one. He has a sharp nose, medium size head, small eyes, and well-shaped body covered with thick and almost woolly hair, growing full and strong about the neck and breast. Tail long and bushy; legs strong, and feet protected with hair for work on stony roads and hills. Sheep dogs are always found with dewclaws. Color grey, or black, or brown, with more or less white. Weight about 50 to 60 pounds.

American encyclopedic dictionary By Robert Hunter, John Alfred Williams, Sidney John Hervon Herrtage – 1897

The English Shepherd’s-dog has a longish head, with sharp muzzle, and good breadth over the forehead; his ears are slightly raised, and his coat is short and woolly; tail usually long and bushy; he is less faithful and sagacious than the Colley.

For information about English Shepherds in England during the 19th century see the post The English Shepherd Contrasted With the Scottish

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  1. The Smooth Collie was at onetime sometimes referred to as the English Sheepdog or Smooth Sheepdog. I have prints of the images and early references. Originally, I pulled this up several years back while doing research on Google Books which is, BTW, a VERY handy and useful tool for those doing research. My library runneth over!

  2. The English Shepherd appears to be just another name given to our Collie during the late 1800s and into the 1900s. Collies have had so many different names… Sometimes, one is given the impression that the Brits and the Scots were in competition to claim him as their own! I even had people here in the USA up trough the 1970s sometimes call my dogs English Collies! It’s still generally accepted that he is a Scotsmans dog. However, Iris Combe in her excellent book, British Dogs, Their Origin and development, gives strong credence to their origin in Ireland! If we look fiurther back than that, it is still frequently held that the origin of the breed may hail further back to the Roman times with ancestors coming with the troops across Europe and into the British Isles. That may account for so many breeds who descend, in whole or in part, to the Collie which is approximately 200 breeds!

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