Herding Dogs and the Westward Sheep Movement

During the California Gold Rush Spanish sheep were trailed out of the New Mexico territories by the thousands to meet the huge demand for meat in the mining camps. Others were imported on the hoof from the Middle West. Thomas Flint and his two cousins had been merchants in the Gold fields and saw an opportunity to make some money. They returned to their home in Main and then took a train to Indiana, Illinois and Iowa where they purchased 2,000 sheep to drive overland to California. While sheepdogs were becoming commonplace in the east, they were difficult to acquire in the primitive farming communities of the Midwest which Flint noted in his diary: California to Main and return, 1851 – 1855. Flint had been trying to hold a mid-western farm flock on the prairie near Bloomfield, Illinois by himself from the back of a horse without the help of a dog. Two days before heading out on the journey to California he was more than relieved to finally acquire one.

Stockmen, like Henry More who ran sheep on 25,000 acres in Webster County Virginia sent to Switzerland for two sheep dogs. – The Journal of Agriculture, Vol. 3 (1860)

Sheepdogs in the Ohio Valley:


Herding Dogs in Colonial America:


Copyright © 2009 by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor. All Rights Reserved.