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The Old English Sheepdog (OES) was developed as a drover’s companion that could work in the climate of the English countryside. Their thick, double coat makes them instantly identifiable, and they’re a loving, family pet that needs plenty of human attention. Here are ten interesting facts about this member of the Herding Group.

The Old English Sheepdog Isn’t Technically a Sheepdog

Compared to some ancient breeds, the OES is a relative newcomer, being only a few hundred years old. They originated in the southwestern counties of England to drive sheep and cattle to market. The Scottish Bearded Collie may have played a large role in the development of the OES; others claim it was the Russian Owtchar. Rather then herding sheep, the breed’s job was primarily as a drover, driving sheep and cattle to market.

Their Coat Is Highly Functional

The distinctive, thick double coat adapted over the years to the environment they worked in and the sheep they worked with. The coat is insulating and waterproof, protecting the dog during chilly, wet winters and warm summers. Their coat also gives them a woolly look that allows them to blend in with the flock of sheep.

Old English Sheepdog head portrait outdoors.
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Grooming Will Be Part of Your Weekly Routine

Expect to devote about three-to-four hours a week grooming your Old English Sheepdog’s shaggy coat. A properly groomed OES is beautiful. It takes a fair amount of work to achieve that look, so be prepared for the commitment.

Another Common Name for the OES Is the “Bobtail”

The Old English Sheepdog, like the Bulldog and Collie, stands among the truly iconic dogs of the British Isles and is recognizable by its shaggy coat and bobtail.

They Were Initially a Wealthy Person’s Dog

William Wade, a Pittsburgh industrialist, first promoted the breed in the late 1880s, and less than 20 years later, five among the ten richest families in America owned, bred, and exhibited the breed, including the Vanderbilts and the Guggenheims.

Old English Sheepdog standing in a rocky landscape overlooking a bay.
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They Have a Loud, Distinctive Bark

According to the breed standard, their bark has a “pot-casse” ring to it, which in French means “broken jar” or “cracked bell.” It’s been compared to the sound of two pots clanging together. Expect to hear that bark whenever anything unusual is happening, as your Old English Sheepdog will likely want to let you know about the situation.

They’re Known for Their “Bearlike” Gait

Although agile and plenty nimble at fast speeds, when an OES slows down, their gait can be an ambling roll or shuffle that resembles that of a bear. Don’t let it fool you; he still needs plenty off regular exercise.

These Dogs Love Having Fun

Old English Sheepdogs have a real sense of humor, and can be quite the clowns. But they’re also very smart and versatile. Some consider them to be stubborn, but with proper training, they can take the dog sport world by storm. Consider competing with your OES in any number of performance events, from agility to conformation to herding to tracking.

Old English Sheepdog walking in the grass.
©raywoo -

They’ve Won Best in Show at Westminster Twice, 61 Years Apart

The first to win Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Dog Show was “Slumber,” in 1914. The judge said that Slumber “came closer to the accepted model of perfection than any dog he had ever seen,” according to the New York Times report of the event. The second winner was “Sir Lancelot of Barvan (Dudley)” in 1975. The 3-year-old was from Ontario, Canada and was Best in Show in his native country 20 times.

They’ve Been Featured in Popular Culture

Disney’s 1959 comedy, “The Shaggy Dog,” is about a boy who gets turned into an Old English Sheepdog. There are also animated Old English Sheepdogs in the cartoon classics “The Little Mermaid” and “101 Dalmatians,” and more recently, the “Cats & Dogs” movies had an OES character. And, Paul McCartney wrote The Beatles’ song “Martha My Dear” about his Old English Sheepdog.

Related article: Terrific Tricks to Teach Large and Giant Breed Dogs
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