Herding Dogs in the British Isles

The Shepherd’s Dog (Curr) by Samual Howitt published in Memoirs of British Quadrupeds by Rev. W. Bingley – 1809

It is generally believed that the development of British herding dogs is tied closely to the historical migration of the group of Indo-European tribes referred to collectively as the Celts—who, according to DNA evidence and scholarship in archeology and linguistics, share a genetic ancestry with the Basques. When they journeyed to the misty westward islands, they took their flocks and herding dogs with them. 

The Shepherd’s Dog (colley) is the original ancestor of the true British breeds. What we know of early herding dogs in Great Britain is recorded in the work of British naturalists and authors such as Johannes Caius, Thomas Bewick, James Hogg, and the Reverend John George Wood. Wood’s Natural History describes the Shepherd’s Dog as the most useful variety of the canine species. The welfare of the flock was dependent on the sagacity, talent, and energy of the Shepherd’s Dog. The classic work A General History of Quadrupeds by Thomas Bewick (1790) suggests that this type was preserved in its greatest purity in the northern regions of Scotland, “where its aid is highly necessary in managing the numerous herds of sheep bred in those extensive wilds.”

To learn about herding breeds from around the world, their temperaments, working styles and how to train them please refer to the book Stockdog Savvy (Alpine Publications) by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor:


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