Dogs that herd sheep: 10 sheep herding dogs reviewed
Dogs that herd sheep: an overview
One of the most valuable qualities that dogs possess is their ability and desire to guard and protect. From ancient times, people used this ability to their benefit, by “employing” dogs to help with guarding and protecting cattle as well as family possessions and people themselves.
A good dog could not only control a large herd if cattle, but also protect the animals from predators such as bears, wolves, or even lions. The dogs were trained intentionally to work with herds, especially sheep. Over the centuries, several sheep herding breeds were developed and they are still used today in many parts of the world.
Sheep herding dogs: Australian Kelpie
This is one of the original Australian herding dogs with a unique genetic composition that makes them so well-suited to herding work. Unlike many other breeds, kelpies have wide-angle eyesight which helps them see the whole herd at once and allows for better control of the animals. They are also excellent at focusing their attention on objects far away from them and keeping them insight.
With these unique qualities, Kelpies are some of the most sought-after herding breeds out there and have been invaluable for farmers.
Today’s Kelpie is not only a farmer’s right hand but can also be “employed” in many sports, agility, and obedience events for dog lovers that enjoy involving their dogs in such pursuits.
The first mentions of these sheep herding dogs can be found in literature in the 19th century. There isn’t a solid opinion as to how exactly they were first selected and bred. Some people think Kelpies came from Collies that were brought to Australia by the first European settlers.
Others say that Kelpies ancestors were the first English Collies from the English area of Rutherford. There is even a theory that Australian wild dogs, Dingo, are a part of the Kelpie genetic family.
What we do know is that a lot of effort and the intentional selection were invested into the improvement of this breed.
Australian Kelpie is one of the most valuable sheep herding dogs in the world. It is a highly active strong and muscular dog with endless endurance and high intelligence. They are attentive, active, biddable and obedient, highly energetic, loyal, dedicated, and very hardworking. They have an inborn instinct of guarding and herding cattle and they are the happiest when they get to do their job.
Sheep Herding Dogs: White Swiss Shepherd
White Swiss Shepherd is another wonderful example of sheep herding dogs. This is an intelligent, outgoing breed with excellent working qualities, strong guarding and herding instincts and love and loyalty for their family.
There are two types of the White Swiss Shepherd breed: short-coated and long-coated. Long-coat White Swiss Shepherds are more popular and widespread in Europe, while short-coated Shepherds can be more often found in the US.
This is a happy and outgoing but not extremely high-energy dog. They are attentive and watchful, suspicious of strangers but not anxious or aggressive. This is a very reliable and loyal dog. They are highly devoted to their owner and families and strive to listen and obey, provided they have a strong, authoritative owner.
They are very easy to train and can grasp a large number of various commands as well as tricks. White Swiss Shepherds are outgoing, sociable and affectionate dogs that will get along with all the family members as well as other animals. At the same time, they are watchful and have strong protective instincts.
These are large dogs and they thrive most in large homes or in a rural environment. This would not be an ideal dog for an apartment! They like being active, and if they don’t have an actual herding job to do, they require active playtime in the park or in nature.
Being highly intelligent, these dogs are easy to train and are quite obedient. At the same time, they don’t do well in a hostile environment and should never be treated with rudeness or physical punishment. This can make the dog intimidated, nervous, and potentially aggressive, which is not at all in their nature.
Sheep herding dogs: Portuguese Sheepdog
As is obvious from its name, the place of origin of this sheep herding dog is Portugal. This dog has been highly valued for centuries for its excellent shepherding and herding skills. They are also very sturdy, strong, healthy and non-demanding dogs. They thrive in rural settings and excel at their job guarding and protecting herds of cattle and sheep.
This is a very intelligent and curious dog. They are watchful and suspicious of people they don’t know, but they are not inherently aggressive and will not bark without a reason. This breed is very owner-oriented and extremely loyal to their families.
This is also a very hardworking dog that thrives best when it has things to do on a daily basis. They don’t do well when they don’t have a job to do. This is why this would be a perfect dog for a family living on a farm or perhaps for a breed enthusiast heavily into dog training, agility, obedience and other active pursuits.
Dogs that herd sheep: Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dog is the hero of our whole website so you can read plenty of articles about it here. This is one of the most popular sheep herding dogs out there. They are strong, well-tempered, friendly and sensitive dogs with an excellent, balanced temperament.
They are suspicious of strangers but devoted and loyal to their owners. They will protect and guard your family, your property and your cattle herds if you happen to be a farmer. Aggression is not really in the nature of this dog, and they do not bark much.
They thrive in the circle of their family and do not do well alone. Bernese Mountain Dogs are very easy to train due to how smart they are. But, as a lot of large dogs, they mature somewhat slowly and only reach official “adulthood” by the age of 18-24 months.
As many other large dogs, Bernese Mountain Dogs can be susceptible to a few health issues. Some of the more common ones are heart disease, eye issues, musculoskeletal issues, with hip dysplasia being the most common.
Despite the fact that this breed has been carefully selected and bred for many decades, this is still a very strong, healthy dog. In the past decade, the amount of Berners with hip dysplasia has been on a steady decline due to the thorough efforts of breeders to exclude affected animals from their breeding programs.
Sheep herding dogs: Border Collie
Border Collie is another highly popular breed of sheep herding dogs. They originated in Great Britain, and are said to be the smartest breed on the planet. Border Collie ancestors have been documented all the way back in the 1500s. A system of evaluation of this breed has been developed as early as the 1880s, while the first Border Collie was registered in 1915. Before that these dogs were called Working Collie, Farmer Collie, English Collie as well as some other names.
A modern Border Collie is a gracious, well-built and well-proportioned, strong and muscular dog. They can have shorter and longer coats, but they always have a well-developed undercoat. Coat colors can somewhat differ between dogs.
Temperament-wise, these dogs are energetic, active, stubborn, goal-oriented and extremely smart. Due to how smart and energetic they are, Border Collies require constant challenges and, preferably, some work to do.
Among dogs that herd sheep, Rough Collie certainly stands out with its beauty as well as its intelligence. And no wonder, as they are a close relative of a Border Collie. As with Border Collie, this breed has been developed with cattle and sheep herding as its main purpose.
Even their jaws are uniquely shaped so that they can only “nip” at a sheep instead of a full bite! These dogs are extremely loyal, dedicated and hard-working. They have a very even, stable temperament, although they may be quite “talkative”. (They do make a lot of sounds, not necessarily barking).
Rough Collies are excellent family dogs and are very good with children. They can herd cattle, but they can also be babysitters, as well as thrive in service, search and rescue and police work.
Rough Collies are quite a sturdy breed (as are all sheep herding dogs) and do well in almost any weather, provided they have dry and warm shelter. It’s still not advisable for them to live outside as they do better surrounded by their people at all times.
Sheep herding dogs: Mudi
Mudi is another breed of dogs that herd sheep, and this particular one has originated in Hungary. They are energetic and fearless and are excellent at taking care of large herds. They are also often used as hunting dogs. Mudi are excellent guarding and protecting dogs as well as search and rescue and police service dogs. They are very versatile, due to their excellent physical qualities and high intelligence.
Mudi is quite an ancient breed: dogs resembling today’s Mudi are documented as early as Medieval times. The official timeline of the breed began in the 19th century. After WW2 the breed has almost disappeared, but it was so valuable that breed enthusiasts were able to restore it to previous numbers.
This is a strong, sturdy dog with endless amounts of energy. At the same time, they are highly people-oriented, obedient and easily controlled. They are very easy to train. The main life desire of this dog is to be near their owner and to make their owner happy.
The downside of it is that if you don’t have enough time to invest in this dog, they may become unhappy, frustrated and possibly destructive. Mudi are rarely aggressive towards people. This is not a good dog for apartment living, and it thrives best with families who are active and always on the go.
This is perhaps the most famous out of all sheep herding dogs on the planet. And yes, German Shepherds were extensively used as sheep dogs, before they found their “employment” in police work, as well as guarding and protecting. This is a working dog with strong motivation and high intelligence.
They are very owner-oriented, but they usually pick just one owner to really listen to, while everyone else are just seen as the other pack members. At the same time, German Shepherds can “switch” owners somewhat easier than many other breeds.
While it is very hard for some other breeds to get used to a new owner, it is less so for a German shepherd. This makes this breed so good for all types of service work, such as police, tracking, etc. Well-trained German Shepherds are extremely obedient and excellent at following the commands. Some though have minds of their own and will evaluate the situation before rushing into action.
German Shepherds are considered one of the three most intelligent breeds in the world (along with Border Collies). This is a universal working dog that can be successfully and happily “employed” in many various fields such as cattle herding, guarding, protecting, police work, tracking, search and rescue, seeing eye dog and many many others.
The one common thing for all German Shepherds, regardless their occupation, is that they require thorough training and a job to do!
Dogs that herd sheep: Central Asian Shepherd Dog
This is one of the few sheep herding dogs that has not been selected by humans but naturally developed over the centuries into what it is today. According to some sources, the breed development has taken place over four thousand years! Today, the Central Asian Shepherd Dog genealogy includes the DNA of several other breeds such as Tibetan Mastiff, Mongolian Shepherd, and even some African shepherding dogs.
Throughout their history, these dogs were used extensively for herding and protecting cattle as well as a guarding dog. Challenging environments in which these dogs had to learn to thrive made this breed sturdy, powerful, stubborn and fearless.
They are also very large, which only adds to their creed of a true guard dog. At the same time, these dogs are not aggressive. They only take action when there is an obvious danger to the people or property that they are protecting. In all other situations, these dogs tend to be calm and neutral towards people and other dogs.
Today, Central Asian Shepherd Dogs are still successfully used as guarding and protecting dogs both in the rural setting and in the urban areas throughout many parts of the world where this breed is popular. (Predominantly Asian countries).
As obvious from it’s name, this is a breed of sheep herding dogs that is highly popular in Croatia. It is also, however, quite a popular breed outside of Croatia, especially among sheepdog enthusiasts. These are dogs of medium size, usually with black short coats.
This is an attentive, intelligent, watchful and energetic dog, highly people-oriented and requiring close contact with their owners to be happy. They are very healthy and sturdy and are not an expensive breed to own. They were originally bred as sheepdogs, but today they are also often used as service dogs, police dogs, search and rescue and any other activity that requires intelligent, loyal and hardworking canines.
Like many other sheepdogs, the Croatian Sheepdog thrives when it has things to do and can be active. They are excellent in various dog shows and competitions such as agility, obedience, rally and others. In traditional rural settings, they thrive in their sheepdog role. According to some sources, Croatian Sheepdog is smart enough to learn the name of the sheep it works with and to differentiate the sheep by their names!
Croatian sheepdogs are highly people-oriented. This is a dog that will follow their owner anywhere and watch them closely to figure out what is expected from it before the owner can even give a command. This is one of the reasons these dogs have been valued so high throughout the centuries of their life along with woth people.