The Old English Sheepdog is a large, squarely proportioned, agile dog with a profuse shaggy coat. The body is stocky, well balanced, and muscular. The topline slopes upward from the withers to the loin. (This unusual topline is an important breed characteristic.) The brisket is very deep and the chest broad. The forelegs are straight with small, round feet pointing directly forward. The large, rather square head is covered with hair and has a well-defined stop. The small ears lie flat. The dog may have blue or brown eyes, or one of each color. The nose is large and black. The teeth should meet in a level or tight scissors bite. This breed is either born tailless or the tail is completely docked. The Old English Sheepdog has a long double coat with coarse guard hairs and a soft downy undercoat that insulates the dog. The accepted coat colors are blue, gray, blue gray, or blue merle, often with white markings. Sometimes white is the predominant color with markings of the above-listed darker colors. This breed has a rolling, bear-like gait.
The Old English Sheepdog might have been created through crosses between Bearded Collies and animals brought to England from Russia, the Baltics, or France. In England, he was used primarily to drive sheep and cattle to the marketplace. Sometimes called “Bobtail,” the Old English Sheepdog’s tail was customarily docked in the eighteenth century as a way of identifying tax-exempt herding dogs. Farmers sheared their dogs each spring when they sheared their sheep, and then used the dogs’ hair to make warm blankets and clothing. The Old English Sheepdog is a fine sheep herding dog, but he also has been used for reindeer herding (because he tolerates cold weather so well), retrieving, and guarding. The Old English Sheepdog makes a fine family companion because he loves children.