The Old English Sheepdog (OES) was developed as a drover’s companion that could work in the climate of the English countryside. His thick, double coat makes him instantly identifiable, and he is a loving, family pet that needs plenty of human attention. Here are ten interesting facts about this member of the Herding Group.
1. The Old English Sheepdog isn’t that old or really English, and isn’t technically a sheepdog
Compared to some ancient breeds, the OES is a relative newcomer, being only a few hundred years old. It 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. And, rather then herding sheep, the breed’s job was primarily as a drover, driving sheep and cattle to market.
2. The OES’s coat is highly functional
The distinctive, thick double coat adapted over the years to the environment he worked in and the sheep he worked with. The coat is insulating and waterproof, protecting the dog during chilly, wet winters and warm summers. His coat also gives him a woolly look that allows him to blend in with the flock of sheep.
3. 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. The properly groomed OES is beautiful, but it takes a fair amount of work to achieve that look, so be prepared for the commitment.
4. Another common name for the Old English Sheepdog 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.
5. When the OES first came to the United States, it was 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.
6. The Old English Sheepdog has a loud, distinctive bark
According to the breed standard, it 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.
7. Old English Sheepdogs are known for their “bearlike” gait
Although agile and plenty nimble at fast speeds, when an OES slows down, his 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.
8. These dogs love having fun
Old English Sheepdogs have a real sense of humor, and can be quite the clowns. But they are 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.
9. OES have 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 three-year-old was from Ontario, Canada and was best in show in his native country 20 times.
10. Old English Sheepdogs have been featured in popular culture
Disney’s 1959 comedy, “The Shaggy Dog,” was about a boy who is turned into an Old English Sheepdog. There are 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, the Beatles’ song “Martha My Dear” was written by Paul McCartney about his Old English Sheepdog.
Old English Sheepdog products you may like:
Now your OES can actually be a help in the kitchen, at least when his breed image is printed on this witty oven mitt and pot holder set. They’re quilted and heat-resistant and each has a handy hanging loop. $34.99
It may not be quite as fluffy as your OES, but this robe is almost as snuggly. Light and warm, the robe has two patch pockets. Even better, it sports an embroidered image of your favorite breed. It’s offered in three colors: bright pink, gray, and white. $64.99