History of the Breed


The origin of the Old English Sheepdog remains a question of keen interest to Bobtail fanciers, and is still open to new theories and discoveries. However, there are traces of evidence which place its origin in the early nineteenth century, centered in the Southwestern Counties of England. Some maintain that the Scottish Bearded Collie had a large part in the making of the Old English Sheepdog. Others claim the Russian Owtchar as one of its progenitors.

Writings of that time refer to a "drover's dog" which was used primarily for driving sheep and cattle to market. It is speculated that these drover's dogs were exempt from taxes due to their working status. To prove their occupation, their tails were docked, leading to the custom of calling the sheepdog by the nickname "Bob" or "Bobtail." Although this dog has been used more for driving than for herding, the lack of a tail to serve as a rudder, so to speak, has in no way affected its ability to work with heavier kinds of sheep or cattle.

The Old English Sheepdog FAQ, Copyright 1996-1998



General Appearance

A strong, compact, square, balanced dog. Taking him all around, he is profusely, but not excessively coated , thickset, muscular and able-bodied. These qualities, combined with his agility, fit him for the demanding tasks required of a shepherd's or drover's dog. Therefore, soundness is of the greatest importance. His bark is loud with a distinctive "pot-casse" ring in it.

Size, Proportion, Substance

  • Size- Height: Dogs: 22 inches and upward.
                          Bitches: 21 inches and upward.
  • Proportion-- Length: Practically the same as the height. Absolutely free from legginess or weaselness.
  • Substance-- Well muscled with plenty of bone
  • Head- A most intelligent expression
  • Eyes- Brown, blue or one of each
  • Ears- Medium sized and carried flat to the side of the head.
  • Jaw- Fairly long, strong, square and truncated. Attention is particularly called to the above properties as a long, narrow head or snipy muzzle is a deformity.
  • Nose- Always black, large and capacious.
  • Teeth- Strong, large and evenly placed. The bite is level or tight scissors.

Neck, Topline, Body

  • Neck- Fairly long and arched gracefully.
  • Topline- Stands lower at the withers than at the loin with no indication of softness or weakness. Attention is particularly called to this topline as it is a distinguishing characteristic of the breed. Body-- Rather short and very compact, broader at the rump than at the shoulders, ribs well sprung and brisket deep and capacious. Neither slab-sided nor barrel-chested. The loin is very stout and gently arched.
  • Tail- Docked close to the body, when not naturally bob tailed.


Shoulders well laid back and narrow at the points. The forelegs dead straight with plenty of bone. The measurements from the withers to the elbow and from the elbow to the ground are practically the same.


Round and muscular with well let down hocks. When standing, the metatarses are perpendicular to the ground 

when viewed from any angle.


Small and round, toes well arched, pads thick and hard, 

feet pointing straight ahead.


Profuse, but not so excessive as to give the impression of the dog being overly fat, and of a good hard texture; not straight, but shaggy and free from curl. Quality and texture of coat to be considered above mere profuseness. Softness or flatness of coat to be considered a fault. The undercoat is a waterproof pile when not removed by grooming or season. Ears coated moderately. The whole skull well covered with hair. The neck well coated with hair. The forelegs well coated all around. The hams densely coated with a thick, long jacket in excess of any other part. Neither the natural outline nor the natural texture of the coat may be changed by any artificial means except that the feet and rear may be trimmed for cleanliness.


Any shade of gray, grizzle, blue or blue merle with or without white markings or in reverse. Any shade of brown or fawn to be considered distinctly objectionable and not to be encouraged.


When trotting, movement is free and powerful, seemingly effortless, with good reach and drive, and covering maximum ground with minimum steps. Very elastic at a gallop. May amble or pace at slower speeds.


An adaptable, intelligent dog of even disposition, with no sign of aggression, shyness or nervousness.



  • To properly maintain your dog's coat you will need some basic grooming supplies. These include a good quality steel pin brush, coarse steel comb, soft slicker brush, nail clippers, a good pair of trimming scissors, and a hemostat (to remove the hair from inside the ears). A grooming table will make your job a lot easier and prevent your back from aching. Once you have the proper equipment, you will need to learn the correct method of brushing. Many reputable breeders will offer you assistance in learning correct coat care.

  • To groom your dog, position him on his side on the grooming table. Using your pin brush start at the withers and brush against the grain of the hair so that you can see the skin. Brush in a line, a few hairs at a time, always getting down to the skin. Remember, this is a double coat consisting of a soft undercoat and a coarse outer coat. Correct brushing lifts and fluffs the hair as the brush removes loose undercoat and debris. Correct brushing should be a slow and gentle motion to avoid pulling out too much coat. A great hint to prevent the coat from splitting: lightly spray the dog's coat with water or hair conditioner before brushing!

  • When you have a line the length of the dog, go back and start a little further with a new line, again getting down to the skin. Now, brush the legs, starting at the foot and brushing in the direction of coat growth. Use the comb for more difficult areas and the slicker brush for the ears and muzzle. The slicker brush may also be used to fluff the legs. Once that side is complete, flip the dog over and start again with a new line running down the length of the dog. When finished, stand the dog on the table and trim the coat on the feet so that it is even and barely touches the table. Use your scissors to trim between the pads and to trim the rear for cleanliness.

  • If you encounter a mat, first separate it with your fingers. Then, gently comb the hair a little bit at a time until the mat begins to separate. Continue with the same technique of pulling the mat apart and combing a little bit more until the mat has been completely removed. Remember, you must get down to the skin and remove all clumps of hair. Keep in mind that the dog who is having mats removed from his coat is not feeling comfortable about this process either. If you can not finish after a few hours, take a break and return when rested. It will benefit the both of you!

  • In general, a young puppy needs very little grooming; however, this is the time to teach him to lie on the table and stay still while you brush. This fun and easy grooming time early on will help prepare him and you for the weekly grooming sessions required by an adult dog. Regular grooming is extremely important in maintaining healthy skin and coat. Long-standing mats lead to serious skin and health problems and are extremely uncomfortable for the dog. A dog that is matted can take many hours to properly groom. Patience and a positive attitude are essential in caring for a dog with a matted coat. When a dog is heavily matted, it is often kinder to shave him and start over.

The Old English Sheepdog FAQ, Copyright 1996-1998

Temperament and Characteristics

 The Old English Sheepdog is a playful, affectionate, fun-loving "clown," who delights in frolicking with his family and neighborhood children. In fact, adolescence in the OES often extends to approximately age three and your adult OES will retain his playful demeanor well into his golden years.

An intelligent breed, the OES is a quick learner, always looking for something interesting and fun to do. OES are capable of performing numerous tasks - herding, agility, obedience trials, and search and rescue. This breed requires significant physical exercise as well as mental exercise. If your pup does not receive enough of either, you may come home to find the mischief he has so enjoyed in your absence.

A properly bred OES will be good-natured and kind and this is what makes the OES an excellent children's companion and great family dog. An old description of the breed refers to the OES as a "Nanny." This term of endearment arose because of numerous stories surrounding the role of the OES in the family. Some have said that the OES will supervise a young child by insuring that the child will remain in a particular area by herding him into it. Others have described the OES who acts as a means of support to the toddler learning to walk. Although the OES is excellent with children, it is extremely important to note that children should never be left unsupervised with any dog, regardless of breed or temperament.

When considering owning an OES, you must remember the two biggest requirements of the breed: grooming and exercise. If you cannot commit to both of these, you may want to consider another one of the many wonderful breeds available

The Old English Sheepdog FAQ, Copyright 1996-1998



  •  The Old English Sheepdog has a tradition in herding livestock going back to its origins. The breed was originally used to move livestock down the country road to market. This would generally be done with the dog (or dogs, depending on the amount of livestock) at the back or side of the stock. Unfortunately, today there are few OES that are used for this purpose. However, it is possible to find people that enjoy herding.

  • Herding can be a fun activity for both you and your dog. Most OES love the activity and the exercise. They greatly enjoy moving the sheep around from place to place. Herding is an activity that creates a very special bond between you and your dog. It takes what one might consider normal bonding to another level, especially when the dog appears to realize that this is what hundreds of years of breeding was meant for him to do.

  • OES have two different herding styles. Neither is more acceptable than the other. Some dogs are natural drivers, moving the stock away from the handler, while others are natural fetchers, taking the stock to the handler. The important thing is to encourage the dog to do whatever comes naturally. In the early stages of training, don't try to make the dog do anything that isn't natural. Later, your dog can be trained to do many kinds of tasks.

  • To get started in herding, find someone who is experienced with dogs and livestock so he or she can help you introduce your OES to the stock. Sheep are the best stock for this purpose. It is not recommended to put a green dog on cattle, and ducks might be too small. The introduction is best done in a small pen, generally 80' x 80' at most in size. With a small pen, the situation will be better under your control. It may be tentative at first - your dog has to figure out what to do. Once he does, he will generally take off running after the sheep! Don't be discouraged if your dog does not 'turn on' the first time he or she sees stock. Some dogs, including OES, need several exposures to start working. In fact, a top ranked OES in the AKC herding trial program didn't "turn on" to livestock until his tenth exposure.

  • What can you do with this hobby? First and foremost, HAVE FUN! It is an activity that can be exciting and rewarding for both dog and owner. In addition, there are several different trial programs that offer herding performance titles to people with herding breeds:
  • · American Kennel Club: The AKC has a test and trial title program available, with five different titles and six different levels. Each level requires more difficult work. The levels and titles are: HT: Herding Tested, PT: Pre Trial, HS: Herding Started, HI: Herding Intermediate, HX: Herding Advanced, and H.CH: Herding Champion.

  • American Herding Breed Association: The AHBA also offers tests, trials and titles. They are: HCT: Herding Capability Tested, JHD: Junior Herding Dog, HTD-I: Herding Trial Dog, level I (Started), HTD-II: Herding Trial Dog, level II (Intermediate), and HTD-III: Herding Trial Dog, level III (Advanced).

  • Australian Shepherd Club of America: The ASCA offers the following trials and titles as well: STD: Started Trial Dog, OTD: Open Trial Dog, ATD: Advanced Trial Dog, and RD: Ranch Dog.

  • A herding trial is basically an obstacle course set up with a series of chutes, pens, and panels through which you and your dog take the stock. Most of the time, sheep is the preferred stock. However, cattle and ducks are also used.

  • Trials are a great and fun way to test what you have done in training. They can also be an exciting way to spend time with other people who love doing the same thing - herding, no matter what the breed!

The Old English Sheepdog FAQ, Copyright 1996-1998