Obsolete names for the breed include Shepherd’s Dog and bob-tailed sheep-dog. The nickname Bob-tail originates from how dogs of the breed traditionally had their tails docked.
Old English sheepdogs are smart but independent dogs. They can be strong willed and need a firm hand to guide them along the right path. They do have a remarkable sense of humor and seem to enjoy their owner’s dismay at some of their antics.
They’re known for their iconic looks and general hairiness, along with their loveable and affectionate natures.
The average lifespan of the Old English Sheepdog is about 10 to 12 years.
It stands 53 to 66 cm (21 to 26 inches) and generally weighs over 25 kg (55 pounds).
Its dense coat is weather-resistant and long enough to cover the eyes, though it does not obscure vision. The coat may be gray or blue-gray, with or without white markings.
Their eyes (when you can see them) are dark brown, or blue, or one of each. The Old English Sheepdog breed standard says the skull is ‘capacious and rather squarely formed, giving plenty of room for brain power.’ move with a bear-like shuffle but are famous for their nimbleness afoot.
Experts speculate on the pedigree of the Old English Sheepdog, arguing over which breed it descended from in Europe. There are a handful of dogs, like the Scotch Bearded Collie and French Briard, that could play a role in the sheepdog’s ancestry, but a definitive bloodline hasn’t been decided.
The Old English Sheepdog is a fairly modern breed that first emerged in England in the 1800s. Farmers used them as “drover dogs,” driving livestock to market as well as pulling carts and wagons. Drover dogs are known for their stamina, steadiness, and courage.
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.
From that beginning, the breed became a popular show dog, and, although the shape of the dog itself has changed very little over the years, elaborate grooming including backcombing and powdering the fur was recorded as early as 1907.
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. The breed continues to be a popular show dog today.
These dogs get along well with kids and other animals when given proper socialization training during puppyhood. They have a friendly demeanor and are not typically seen barking or guarding their territory, but can be protective when necessary. In regards to other behavior training, Old English Sheepdogs are fairly responsive to training that gives positive feedback using rewards like treats or love.
These dogs typically have great inside manners, so their playfulness is not usually a problem when it’s time to wind down indoors. There’s a hard line between play time and relax time and Old English Sheepdogs know it well.
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.
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.” Matting may become painful to the animal, such as in between the toes, and can restrict movement in severe cases. Prospective owners may be deterred by the level of care required if long hair is desired.
Old English Sheepdogs have been featured in popular culture – Disney’s 1959 comedy, “The Shaggy Dog,” was about a boy who is turned into an Old English Sheepdog. There are animated Old English Sheepdogs in the
cartoon classics “The Little Mermaid” and “101 Dalmatians,” and more recently, the “Cats & Dogs” movies had an Old English Sheepdog character. And, the Beatles’ song “Martha My Dear” was written by Paul McCartney about his Old English Sheepdog.
Usually, the average price of an Old English Sheepdog puppy from a reputable breeder is between $1,800 and $3,000, while a top-quality Old English Sheepdog puppy can cost as high as $3,500. Their price depends upon the pup’s age, sex, quality, pedigree, and breeder’s location.