English Shepherd Club Breed Standard


English Shepherds have been bred for generations as all-purpose, working farm dogs. Their responsibilities have ranged from herding and protecting stock, to dispatching vermin, guarding the home, and watching over children. The unique ability to handle all types of livestock and a variety of tasks is the defining feature of this breed.

The English Shepherd is a dog of medium size, presenting a picture of sturdy balance and harmonious proportions. He is alert and his face shows a high degree of intelligence. Since working and tending livestock are the primary functions of the English Shepherd, his physical make-up should be such as will enable him to fulfill those duties with maximum efficiency. Evaluation of type must be subordinated to evaluation of soundness, character, and ability when determining the value of an English shepherd.

Working Characteristics

The English shepherd typically works stock in an upright, loose-eyed manner rather than crouching and showing strong eye. He is generally a natural low heeler and will gather or drive as is needed. He will be forceful if necessary, but not be too rough, discerning the amount of force needed and handling stock accordingly.

The seamless combination of independent working ability and a desire to work in partnership with his master is a hallmark of the English shepherd. His natural instincts enable him to carry out his work with a minimum of direction; his confidence, purposefulness, and a deep commitment to rules compels him to maintain order in his environment even in his master’s absence. At the same time, he is intensely loyal to and ever aware of his master and possesses a willingness to obey.

The English shepherd is not obsessive about herding and is capable of resting quietly at his master’s feet when there is no work required. He can be trusted to not bother livestock and does not require kenneling when chores are done. Indeed, the English shepherd frequently develops a bond with, and displays a nurturing attitude toward, his owner’s livestock and will keep them in their place while guarding against unwanted predators and pests.

The English shepherd is agile and quick, sturdy and muscular, with the stamina and grit to cover many miles over all types of terrain. He has keen senses, and can trail lost or injured animals. Calm in disposition, the English shepherd will withstand the pressure of long hours of demanding work.

Physical Characteristics:

HEAD – Medium length with moderately defined stop. Broad and slightly rounded between the ears. Distance from tip of nose to stop roughly equal to the distance between stop and occiput and to width across top of skull between bases of ears.

Teeth full dentition with scissor bite. Note: no penalty for teeth broken or missing due to trauma.

Muzzle moderately broad, neither pugged nor pointy. Flews straight with no sloppy droop.

Nose fully-pigmented, generally solid black; “clear” sable dogs may have brown nose.

Eyes brown and moderately round with a slightly oblique set. Eyes should express character with a strong, intelligent look.

Ears typically wide apart, stand slightly outward at the base with a sharp bend and lie close to the head when relaxed, raised up slightly when alert. Variation in ear set is common and of trivial significance.

NECK – Strong and arched.

BODY – Back strong and level, loins strong and deep with slight muscular arch. Shoulders well laid back. Ribs well sprung and chest extending down in depth approximately to elbows. Body slightly longer than tall. Chest moderately broad.

LEGS – Forelegs straight when viewed from front. Pasterns are short, thick and strong, but still flexible, showing a slight angle when viewed from the side. Back legs well boned and muscled, placed well apart, with moderate angulation. Feet oval and compact, toes together and well arched, well padded and tough. Rear dewclaws common but may be removed.

TAIL – Moderately long with sweep toward end. Carriage may vary, but preferably held low when standing relaxed. Natural bobtails are acceptable. Bobtails may be up to eight inches long. .

GAIT – Viewed from the front at a fast trot, the front feet track close together but do not cross over. The gait should give the impression of ability to change direction instantaneously. The dog moves ahead in a straight line with effortless motion and without a rolling gait. Viewed from the rear, the hind legs are straight and converge as pace increases so as to take the weight under the center of gravity. The gait is smooth without choppiness.

COLOR – Medium length and texture, straight, wavy or curly, weather and dirt-resistant, with an undercoat that sheds seasonally. Hair is short and smooth on the head, outside of ears, front of forelegs and below the hocks. Backs of forelegs are moderately feathered; breeches are moderately full; tail is plume-like. Excessively heavy manes and heavy frills on underside of neck and on breast are not desirable. A correct English Shepherd coat should require minimal grooming.

COLOR – The four predominant color patterns are: black and tan, tricolor (black, tan, and white), black and white, and sable and white.

A sable dog may have black-tipped hairs, or may have a solid black saddle pattern, or may be “clear” — without black pigment in the coat. Sable may appear as shades of brown from a pale honey-gold color through a deep mahogany.

White markings are typically distributed in an “Irish” pattern, with or without a white collar.

A black mask is acceptable in any of the color patterns.

In none of the color patterns is white permitted to be unbalanced to a degree of being splotchy-looking or of covering more than 30% of the body. Solid white coats or piebald markings are not desirable. Merles do not appear in the English shepherd.

SIZE – Range:
height: 18 – 24″, preference for 19 – 22″;
weight: 35 – 65#, lean and fit condition
males larger than females
Sturdy balance and harmonious proportions are more critical than absolute size.

DISQUALIFICATIONS – Natural reserved attitude toward strangers is acceptable, however viciousness or excessive shyness/ fearfulness are disqualifications; cryptorchid or monorchid adult dogs; merle dogs.