Old English Sheepdog

"The Bobtail"

Photo of Old English Sheepdog


Like so many purebred dogs, the Old English Sheepdog's origins are a bit murky. Most historians believe that the breed's roots began in the nineteenth century in the rugged countryside of southwestern England, and that one of two now-extinct breeds, the Scottish Collie and the Russian Owtchar, were the progenitors of the Old English Sheepdog. The dogs were used to drive sheep and cattle to market. Their tails were cropped or bobbed completely to prove their status – which was particularly important to the farmers who owned them, since the dogs were exempted from local taxes. To this day, the Old English Sheepdog is known affectionately as the “Bobtail.” These dogs were brought to the United States in the late 1800s, and soon became the breed of choice for many of the country's wealthiest families. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885. In 2006, the Old English Sheepdog ranked 71st among the 154 breeds registered to the AKC.


A well-bred Old English Sheepdog is a placid, adaptable individual who is loving and loyal to his chosen people. The dog's exuberance may be too much for little children to handle, but older children and adults will find this dog to be an affectionate, shaggy, family member. This dog needs daily exercise to be a happy and well-behaved, but he won't take that exercise by himself. He needs his people to join him and provide exercise opportunities for him.


The Old English Sheepdog is a large, shaggy dog that ranges between 22 and 26 inches in height and weighs 70 to100 pounds. His copious coat comes in shades of blue, grey, and merle, and probably has white markings. The dog is muscular and square-looking.


Like many herding breeds, the Old English Sheepdog likes to chase other animals and children, and may even nip at their heels sometimes. Consistent, firm, but positive training that redirects the dog's herding to another activity will nip this problem in the bud. However, the breed can be stubborn, so any trainer should be not only positive, but also confident and consistent to help the Old English Sheepdog understand and conform to the agenda of his people.

Grooming & Care

To say that the Old English Sheepdog is not a wash-and-wear breed would be an understatement. Caring for the dog's shaggy coat can consume anywhere from four to six hours or more of patient brushing and combing each week. Many owners choose to either have the dog clipped a few times a year, or have a grooming pro take over.

Health Concerns

Like all purebred dogs, the Old English Sheepdog has some genetic health issues. The most common are hip dysplasia, glaucoma, cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, entroption (inward-turning eyelids), hypothyroidism, and wobblers (a malformation of the lower spine that causes the dog to have difficulty walking). Dogs intended for breeding should receive OFA and CERF screenings before embarking on pooch parenthood.

Famous Old English Sheepdog

Martha, owned by Paul McCartney, subject of the song “Martha My Dear” from The Beatles' "White" album released in 1968.

Ideal Owner
Activity Level 4
Schedule 34
Home 9
Children 48
Experience 55
Quick Facts
Grooming 56
Exercise 61
Challenges Extensive grooming needs will cost time and/or money.
Height 21 to 25 inches
Weight 70 to 100 pounds
Life 12 to 13 years
Home Alone 82
With Kids 86
With Strangers 22
Availability 95

This client information sheet is based on material written by: LifeLearn

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

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