This is a square-proportioned, thick-set dog, combining agility with strength. The compact body of the Old English Sheepdog is broader at the rump than shoulders. A distinguishing characteristic is the topline, which is lower at the withers than the loin. The gait is free and powerful, ground covering, yet gives the appearance of being effortless. The dog may pace or amble at slower speeds. The ambling gait is sometimes described as a “bearlike” roll or shuffle. The coat is profuse, but not excessive. It consists of a waterproof undercoat and a hard, shaggy outer coat that is neither straight nor curly. The dog has an intelligent expression.
The Old English Sheepdog originated in the west of England, possibly from the Bearded Collie or Russian Owtcharka. The breed was the answer to the need for a strong dog capable of defending the flocks and herds from the wolves that existed at one time in England. By the middle of the nineteenth century, these dogs were used mainly to drive cattle and sheep to market. As working dogs, they were exempt from dog taxes, but their tails had to be docked as proof of their occupation. This custom continued in modern times and has led to their nickname Bobtail. The Old English was recognized by the AKC in 1905. Popularity as a pet was slower to grow, until the 1970s when the breed became a favorite media animal. The breed’s popularity exploded with pet owners wanting an exotic but lovable mop. Since then, the breed’s numbers have gradually declined, but the OES still remains well-known. The Old English is now more often seen as a pet or show dog than a working dog.
The amiable Old English is jolly but gentle. At home, the dog is a well-mannered house pet that often amuses the family with comical antics. The breed thrives on human companionship and is very much a homebody. Extremely devoted to the family and protective of family members, this dog will tend to children as flock members, and is generally friendly toward strangers. Some can be headstrong.
The Old English Sheepdog needs daily exercise, either a moderate to long walk or a vigorous romp. The breed of course particularly enjoys herding. The coat needs brushing or combing every other day or it may form mats.