Guild of Shepherds & Collies

The Original American Farm Dog

The Original American Farm Dog

An incredible breed that once graced farms across America, these dogs are now so rare that most people have never even heard of them. While they share ancestors with Border Collies and Rough Collies, this breed was developed in America and is something entirely its own. This is the original American farm dog.

american farm dog english shepherd








Meet the English Shepherd. Not to be confused with the Old English Sheepdog! English Shepherds are the All-American, “old-time farm collie” whose history is grounded in the daily work of family farms.

Bred to be the ultimate all-around helper of the farm, English Shepherds can handle a huge variety of tasks. They utilize their unique herding style to gently, but firmly, direct any animal their farm raises. They are often instinctive hunters and can track, hunt and tree game. And finally, they have intense protective instincts towards all of their charges. Whether animal or human or territory, these dogs will defend their own.


English Shepherds were registered as a breed in America by the UKC in 1927, but their prior history is much less easy to trace.

Their origins lie somewhere in the misty depths of farm history, when breed didn’t matter and performance meant everything. Dogs from northern England and Scotland were shipped to the US, likely to go with imported livestock. There’s some debate as to when they arrived, some saying with the early American settlers and others claiming sometime in the early 19th century.

There were several terms used to describe these dogs in the years before their registration. Scotch Collie, Farm Collie, Farm Shepherd, Barnyard Collie and Old Fashioned Shepherd are just a few of the names that identified early forms of the breed. Eventually, the English Shepherd began to take a consistent shape. Once officially registered, they have not changed much to this day.


English Shepherds are intelligent, biddable, laid-back and gentle dogs. Unlike many other herding dogs, they don’t have that “GO-GO-GO-GO!!!!” drive to herd that keeps them running nonstop. They can usually be trusted not to worry the animals outside of work time and are perfectly content to nap quietly while off-duty.

That said, they are still working dogs. English Shepherds, just like any other herding dog, still need some kind of job. If not given a job, these dogs will make one for themselves. And of course, it may or may not be a helpful one.

English Shepherds are very independent thinkers and tend to be bossy towards those under their charge. They love enforcing rules, no matter who is breaking them. Farm animals, other pets, even humans are not exempt from their gentle correction.

They are extremely loving and gentle with humans, especially children. In fact, they’re often referred to as “family dogs” and “English Shadows”, thanks to their need to be family pets and follow their owners around wherever they go. They want to live as near you as possible, for as many hours a day as possible.

Working Style

English Shepherds herd with an upright, loose-eyed approach. Crouching and intense stares are not their thing. They tend to be low heelers, but natural headers can be found as well. They like to herd using the absolute minimum amount of force necessary, but aren’t afraid to intensify their approach should the animals be stubborn.

With deeply entrenched natural instincts and a passion for following and enforcing the rules, English Shepherds are often able to independently handle livestock even without their master’s oversight. They can be found troubleshooting on the fly when unexpected events pop up. Yet they maintain an intense desire to please their masters. This creates a seamless and harmonious partnership between master and dog.

While English Shepherds can absolutely be trained to perform in herding events and competitions, their style is best suited to daily farm life. Where they really shine is on their own little kingdom, working under the master as Right Hand Man.


Unlike most breeds, English Shepherds do not have a strict guideline for appearance. Breed guidelines are instead focused on intelligence, instinct and athleticism. Thus appearances vary more throughout this breed than is usual. That said, here are the main characteristics for the breed.


A medium-sized dog, English Shepherd proportions and balance are more important than their actual size. However, they are usually 18 – 24” tall, and weigh 35 – 65lbs.


English Shepherds tend to have a “rectangular” appearance. They are lean and fit, but have square chests, square paws and are sturdy and well-muscled. Their heads, while similar to a Border Collie’s, have a more defined stop and have broad and square muzzles.


With a medium length coat, the exact texture of the English Shepherd’s coat is variable. It can be straight, wavy or even curly, but it must absolutely be one thing: weather and dirt-resistant. English Shepherd coats should be easy to care for, despite its length and plumes.


English Shepherds have 4 common patterns:

  • Black and Tan
  • Tricolor
  • Black and White
  • Sable and White

Solid white or piebald markings are not desirable. Merles hardly ever happen, but if they did, it would disqualify the dog.

Is This the Farm Hand You’ve been Looking for?

In today’s day and age, it’s nearly impossible to find an entire breed of dog dedicated purely to farm work. While English Shepherds are getting harder and harder to find, the breeders out there are utterly devoted to preserving this incredible breed.

If you’re looking for a Right Hand Man to help manage your farm, this may be the breed of your dreams.


Additional Sources

ESC Breeder Info: History
(Also an image source)

Wikipedia: English Shepherd

Article By:
Afton Jones

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