Old English Sheepdog

Old English Sheepdog
Old English Sheepdog
A show-standard Old English Sheepdog
Country of origin England
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The Old English Sheepdog (OES) is a large breed of dog which was developed in England from early herding types of dog. The Old English Sheepdog has very long fur covering the face and eyes. Obsolete names of the breed include Shepherd's Dog[1] and bob-tailed sheep-dog,[2] and it is still nicknamed the Bob-tail (or Bobtail), since tail docking was (and in some places remains) traditional in this breed, and some are actually bred to be bob-tailed at birth.



The Old English Sheepdog is a large dog, immediately recognizable by its long, thick, shaggy grey and white coat, with fur covering their face and eyes. The ears lie flat to the head. Historically, the breed's tail was commonly docked (resulting in a panda bear-like rear end), but tailed Old English sheepdogs are now common, as many countries have outlawed cosmetic docking. When the dog has a tail, it has long fur (feathering), is low set, and normally hangs down.[3] The Old English Sheepdog stands lower at the shoulder than at the loin,[4] and walks with a "bear-like roll from the rear".[5]

Height at the withers is at least 61 cm (24 in), with females slightly smaller than males.[5] The body is short and compact, and ideal weights are not specified, but may be as much as 46 kg (101 lb) for large males.[6]

Colour of the double coat may be any shade of grey, grizzle, black, blue, or blue merle, with optional white markings. The undercoat is water resistant.[7] Puppies are born with a black and white coat, and it is only after the puppy coat has been shed that the more common grey or silver shaggy hair appears.


Undocked Old English Sheepdogs are becoming a more common sight as many countries have now banned docking. The Kennel Club (UK) and The Australian National Kennel Council breed standards do not express a preference for (legally) docked or un-docked animals, and either can be shown.[5] [8] The American Kennel Club breed standard states that the tail should be "docked close to the body, when not naturally bob tailed",[7] even though the practice of cosmetic docking is currently opposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association.[9] It is believed that the practice of tail docking came about in the 18th century as a result of taxation laws that required working dogs to be docked as evidence of their working status,[1] but nowadays, in places where the practice is still legal, tail docking is mainly performed for purely cosmetic reasons.


Ch. Slumber, best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 1914, the only time an Old English Sheepdog has won there.

The Old English Sheepdog comes from the very old pastoral type dogs of England, but no records were kept of the dogs, and everything about the earliest types is guesswork. A small drop-eared dog seen in a 1771 painting by Gainsborough is believed by some to represent the early type of the Old English Sheepdog.[10] In the early 19th century a bobtailed drovers dog, called the Smithfield or Cotswold Cor, was noticed in the southwestern counties of England and may have been an ancestor. Most fanciers agree that the Bearded Collie was among the original stock used in developing today's breed.[11] Some speculate that the Russian Owtchar was among the breed's ancestors.[1]

The Old English Sheepdog was at first called the "Shepherd's Dog" and was exhibited for the first time at a show in Birmingham, England, in 1873. There were only three entries, and the judge felt the quality of the dogs was so poor that he offered only a second placing.[11] From that beginning, the breed became a popular show dog, and, although the shape of dog itself has changed very little over the years, elaborate grooming including backcombing and powdering the fur were recorded as early as 1907.[11] The breed was exported to the United States in the 1880s, and by the turn of the 20th century, five of the ten wealthiest American families bred and showed the Old English Sheepdog.[1] The breed continues to be a popular showdog today.


Vet school data shows the Old English Sheepdog to have a life expectancy of 6.9 years, but data collected from owners in the US estimates the life expectancy as 11.19 years.[12] The Old English Sheepdog Club of America sponsors investigations into diseases encountered in the breed in order to assist breeders in selecting healthy dogs for breeding, and breeders of Old English Sheepdogs who are members of the Old English Sheepdog Club of America must support its Code of Ethics in breeding and selling sheepdogs.[13] Some diseases being investigated include hip dysplasia,[13] cataracts, glaucoma, entropion, thyroid problems, deafness, diabetes, HD, PRA, allergies and skin problems. There is no data on how many dogs are affected, or what percent of the breed is affected by any of these ailments. Heatstroke is also a serious concern in full coated dogs.[14] Cancer is a major cause of death amongst Old English Sheepdogs.[15] Puppy buyers should ask breeders if they have tested for these disorders in their breeding dogs. The underside of the ears should be kept clean, and matted hair in the ear canal should be removed periodically by a veterinarian.


The breed standards describe the ideal Old English Sheepdog as never being nervous or aggressive. The New Zealand Kennel Club adds that "they are sometimes couch potatoes" and "may even try to herd children by gently bumping them."[16] This breed's temperament can be described as intelligent, social and adaptable. The American Kennel Club adds that the breed has "a clownish energy" and "may try to herd people or other objects."[7]

With wide open spaces being the ideal setting for an Old English Sheepdog, the breed is a natural fit in a rural setting, such as working on a farm; although they are perfectly comfortable with a suburban or urban lifestyle (with proper exercise). Their remarkable, inherent herding instincts, sense of duty, and sense of property boundaries may be nurtured and encouraged accordingly, or subdued by their owners. Old English Sheepdogs should not be deprived of the company and the warmth of people.


The Old English Sheepdog can compete in dog agility trials, obedience, Rally obedience, Schutzhund, showmanship, flyball, tracking, and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Old English Sheepdogs that exhibit basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.[17]

Fictional Old English Sheepdogs

Coat care

An Old English Sheepdog in a shorter coat clip.

The Old English Sheepdog's long coat requires a thorough brushing at least once weekly, which may take one to three hours. Without regular care, the coat can become "a trap for dust, debris, fecal matter, urine and moisture."[13] Matting may become painful to the animal, such as in between the toes, and can restrict movement in severe cases. Although Old English Sheepdog puppies are cute, prospective owners may be deterred by the level of care required if long hair is desired.

The preferred method of grooming involves starting from the base of the hairs to keep the thick undercoat hair mat- and tangle-free. The brushing should be started at a very young age to get the dog used to it. A hairband may be used to keep a dog's fur out of its eyes. Many people trim their dogs' coats to a more manageable length. A professional quality electric shear reduces time spent trimming. However, dogs that are being shown in conformation must retain their natural coat.[5]

Some people shave their Sheepdog's hair and spin it into yarn.[13]

Dulux Dog

The Old English Sheepdog is the brand mascot for Dulux paint. The dog was first introduced in Australian advertising campaigns in the 1960s. Since then they have been a constant and highly popular feature of Dulux television and print advertisements in both Australia and the UK, and people in those markets refer colloquially to the breed as a "Dulux dog".

Over the years, different dogs have appeared in the advertisements, all very similar in appearance, as most of them have been selected from a closely related line of pedigree dogs. The first Dulux dog was Shepton Dash, who held the role for eight years. His successor, Fernville Lord Digby, was the most famous Dulux dog and also made his owner, Cynthia Harrison, famous. When filming commercials, Digby was treated like a star and was driven to the studio by a chauffeur. Barbara Woodhouse was employed to train Digby and his three stunt doubles, who were used whenever specific tricks or actions needed to be filmed.[18]

Apart from Dash, all the Dulux dogs have been breed champions. Five of them have won 'Best of Show' prizes. The most recent Dulux Dog, Don, is Crufts Qualified.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Breed History, Old English Sheepdog Club of America
  2. ^ Barton, Frank Townend (1908). "The Siamese—Abyssinian—Manx". The Cat: Its Points and Management in Health and Disease. London, England: Everett & Co. p. 31. http://books.google.com/books?id=2yBIAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  3. ^ Fédération Cynologique Internationale Breed Standard
  4. ^ Canadian kennel Club breed standard
  5. ^ a b c d The Kennel Club (UK) Breed Standard
  6. ^ "PetPlanet Breed Info"
  7. ^ a b c "American Kennel Club Breed Standard
  8. ^ Australian National Kennel Council breed standard
  9. ^ AVMA.org
  10. ^ Greater London Old English Sheepdog Club Breed History
  11. ^ a b c Clark, Anne Rogers; Andrew H. Brace (1995). The International Encyclopedia of Dogs. Howell Book House. pp. 326–328. ISBN 0-87605-624-9. 
  12. ^ Dog Longevity by Dr. Kelly M. Cassidy, 2007
  13. ^ a b c d Buying and Owning an Old English Sheepdog
  14. ^ The Old English Sheepdog, by Kim D. R. Dearth, Dog World Magazine, March, 2001 online
  15. ^ Old English Sheepdog Club of America Health Website
  16. ^ New Zealand Kennel Club breed standard
  17. ^ Hartnagle-Taylor and Taylor, Jeanne Joy, and Ty. Stockdog Savvy. Alpine Publications. ISBN # 978-157779-106-5. 
  18. ^ MyPets.net Old English Sheepdog

External links

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  • Old English Sheepdog — n a large dog with long thick grey and white hair …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Old English sheepdog — noun count a large dog with long thick hair that is gray and white …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Old English sheepdog — n. any of a breed of stocky, muscular, medium sized dog, originally bred in England as a drover s dog, with a profuse, shaggy coat, usually gray or bluish gray, and a docked tail or no tail …   English World dictionary

  • Old English sheepdog — noun large sheepdog with a profuse shaggy bluish grey and white coat and short tail; believed to trace back to the Roman occupation of Britain • Syn: ↑bobtail • Hypernyms: ↑shepherd dog, ↑sheepdog, ↑sheep dog * * * ˌOld ˌEnglish ˈsheepdog f23… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Old English sheepdog — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms Old English sheepdog : singular Old English sheepdog plural Old English sheepdogs a large dog with long thick hair that is grey and white …   English dictionary

  • Old English Sheepdog — Bobtail FCI Standard Nr. 16 Gruppe 1: Hütehunde und Treibhunde (ohne Schweizer Sennenhunde) Sektion 1: Schäferhunde Ohne Arbeitsprüfung …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Old English sheepdog — Old′ Eng′lish sheep′dog n. dch one of an English breed of large, stocky sheepdogs having a bobbed tail and a long, shaggy gray or blue gray and white coat that hangs over the eyes • Etymology: 1885–90 …   From formal English to slang

  • Old English sheepdog — noun a large sheepdog of a breed with a shaggy blue grey and white coat …   English new terms dictionary

  • Old English sheepdog — one of an English breed of large working dogs having a long, shaggy, gray or blue merle and white coat that hangs over the eyes, and a bobbed tail, originally developed to drive sheep and cattle. [1885 90] * * * Shaggy working dog developed in… …   Universalium

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