Old English Sheepdog (Bobtail)

Country of origin:
Great Britain
Height (cm):
Weight (kg):
Life span (years):
blue merle, grizzle, blue, grey
Hair length:
Recognized by:
FCI code:
Good with kids:

The Old English Sheepdog (Bobtail) is a big friendly and careless creature with a bunch of shaggy and long fur. The dog’s homeland is England where it was used as protector and drover of the livestock fro many centuries. Nowadays it has changed its role to being a great family pet but it still takes part in conformation, obedience, agility, and herding contests.

There are numerous suggestions concerning the origin of the Old English Sheepdog. It’s been proved though that its history started in the south-western areas of England somewhere in the dawn of XIX century. One theory proposed that the the Barbet and the Deerhound are the main contributors in the dog’s lineage. Other claims that the breed is closely related to the Briard or the Bergamasco. Some scientists also believe that the Old English Sheepdog was interbred with the hairy Russian dog named «Owtchar» that was imported to the England from the Baltic region.

The truth most probably is that the Old English Sheepdog is the result of multiple crosses. They happened throughout England and Russia, particularly with the Bearded Collies and other canines imported from the Baltics and France. The breed was initially used by many farmers in western part of England and served them as sheep herder and stock driver. It spread all over the country during the XIX century and became a valuable worker for farmers.

The second name of the dog was «Bobtail» since it had just a short stump in the place of a tail. It was habitually docked in order to mark the herding dogs which were exempted from tax payment. The gorgeous coat of the Bobtail was sheared in spring and then it was used as filler for the blankets.

The Old English Sheepdog came into the spotlight in the late XIX century when it arrived to America with its first local owner named W. Wade. At the beginning of the XX century the dog was kept, bred and showed by just five affluent U.S. families. In the 1950s the exclusive owner of the breed still was a high-class people of the American society but by the 1960s its position shifted from being the sign of the status to a family companion. By the mid-1970s the registration of the dogs reached 15000 each year but now it’s much more moderate number since more people understood the level of commitment required to take care for the dog’s thick hair.

The English Kennel Club recognised the breed in the 1870's. The American Kennel Club (AKC) granted the Old English Sheepdog its recognition in 1885. This breed is still used in England as a working dog in some rural areas.

The Old English Sheepdog is a good-natured and calm dog that will make an ideal family companion. It tends to become very attached to people and strives to be petted and caressed. The owners of this dog portray its character as mischievous, adaptable, gentle and playful. This breed is prone to separation anxiety so it won’t be suitable for the people with hectic or unstable work schedule.

The Old English Sheepdog will make a wonderful buddy an older child and a great friend for moderately active grown-ups. This breed is famous for its careful and tender handling with even small children. It will become an avid participant of their games and can bear a pretty rough treatment while playing. The toddler though may be accidently traumatized as the dog can try to herd it by pushing and bumping.

The Old English Sheepdog is an very friendly dog that can be trusted with strangers, other animals and senior citizens. It will cheerfully greet the newcomer in your house and rarely bark even if it’s something suspicious. Nevertheless this vigilant and protective breed can be trained into being an acceptable watch dog. Essentially it lacks natural aggressiveness to become a good guard dog.

The Old English Sheepdog gets along well with other canines and can be introduced into households with the other dog. The breed may attempt to herd the fellow dog as well as every living creature (cats, small kids) but luckily only in the way of bumping and knocking them over, but not nipping. The early training should break that habit though.

Health Problems
The most common problems for the breed include:

• allergies;
• heart problems;
• autoimmune haemolytic anemia;
• eye problems;
• cervical vertebral instability;
• deafness;
• demodicosis;
• diabetes mellitus;
• hemophilia (factor IX deficiency);
• canine hip dysplasia;
• IMHA (immune mediated hemolytic anemia);
• immune-mediated thrombocytopenia;
• skin problems;
• thyroid disorders (hypothyroidsm);
• tricuspid dysplasia;
• von Willebrand's disease.


The Old English Sheepdog possesses long, rough fur that demands an immence amount of time and effort to take care for. Brushing and combing three times per week is a necessary minimum, since its thick coat is apt to draw debris, foods remainder and dirt. Poorly-attended dog is inclined to have skin problems because of mats and tangles. If you want to show your dog you should attend a professional groomer regularly.

It’s crucial to get rid of any tangles thoroughly and systematically so they won’t lead to major problems over time. There is a machine with which you can clip the dog’s hair every two month. The coat should be trimmed minimum for three cm all the way around and that will make the dog look neat and well-attended. Trimming around the eyes and the mouth requires an application of blunt scissors to avoid unintentionally cutting into the skin. The Old Sheepdog sheds most intensely in the spring time, particularly in April and May.

Other care practises as nail trimming and bathing can be done by a professional groomer simultaneously with coat clipping. The breed is pretty tolerant of bathing procedures although it’s important to habituate the dog to them from the puppyhood.

The Old English Sheepdog is an independent thinker so it is hard to train. The dog can disregard the commands if it’s not in the mood or thinks it can tackle the task in a better way. It requires sturdy and solid leader that will always hold the control over situation. The dog must know its place in the pack hierarchy so it will obey the rules and instructions from its senior human rather than decide what to do for itself.

In order to be successful the training should be initiated early in the dog’s life and based on motivational techniques and positive reinforcement. Rude treatment and screaming will not bring the desirable results. The Old English Sheepdog shows mild and kind character and any harsh treatment will destroy its good-naturedness and gentle spirit.

With steadfast training, solid and confident handler, and correct reward-based techniques the dog will succeed in such activities as obedience training, agility competition, herding trials, and conformation.


The Old English Sheepdog is an active and fun-loving dog and certainly not couch potato. It will be the most satisfied with its life when provided enough space to run, play and herd regularly. The owner should engage the dog in various kinds of physical activity at least for an hour each and every day.

It is a perfectly suitable breed for a person with such hobbies as walking, jogging, or hiking and will make up a joyful companion for him in these occupations. The dog has a powerful herding instinct therefore you should let it go off-leash only on the safely secured area otherwise it can run away attempting to bring back «strayed » member of the «herd» (usually a child).