Herding dog breed. A Short History of Herding Dogs
The herding dog has a long history, tracing as far back as Neolithic times in Europe when early farmers and domesticators in lands that are now Britain needed a more efficient, quicker way to move livestock from one place to another.
These early herding dogs were very large and powerful dogs. They were generally rough with the livestock and could be quite hard to control for their owners, but had an uncanny ability to gather and herd livestock.
By the nineteenth century, it became apparent that a dog that was both more versatile and more gentle with the animals was needed. Farmers could not afford to feed multiple large dogs for their needs.
They required a single dog who could not only nimbly gather and keep an eye on sheep and other livestock, but also hunt game and sniff out sheep that might have been buried in snow.
With a bond so close that required the farmer to trust his dog explicitly, he also needed an animal that was more cooperative and affectionate. It needed to be sensitive to the human voice, a whistle and hand gestures as it would be working alone, far away from the farmer in the field.
For that reason, there were multiple breeds introduced into the early strain of herding dogs.
The Whippet was selected because it was both quiet and quick. Pointers and setters were used to provide a good nose and a keen eye. Eventually, the perfect breed of dog developed -one that had a superior athletic inclination, light and fast movement, unmistakable livestock sense, and a good temperament that easily matched its handler.
The first modern herding dog, the Border Collie was introduced in 1894 in Northumbria, along the English and Scottish Border.
In other countries, the same early ancestors of that first Border Collie began to spread out, taking on work in the growing expanse of the United States West. Cattle herding dogs soon became common and immigrants arrived with other livestock that could live comfortably off of the land, along with their herding dogs.
Today, there are many breeds of herding dogs, all developed in the same manner or from the same breeding as the Border Collie, with the goal of creating a breed that was both quick and quiet, but able to bond well with its owner and seek out livestock easily.
Various types of herding dogs included the German Shepherd, Shetland Sheepdog, Australian Cattle Dog, Bearded Collie, and many more.
Each breed has become well known in the years since those early breeds were developed as a loyal, intelligent and highly trainable breed of dog. Today, most herding dogs are kept as pets by families rather than used in the field to herd sheep.
Because they were bred to connect with their owners so well and be so sociable, herding dogs make ideal pets, both gentle and familiar with children and playful with adults.
Herding dogs have a vast supply of energy and a seemingly human-like intelligence at times, all hallmarks of their careful breeding.