Like many breeds, the origins of the Old English Sheepdog are not clearly known. Over the years, different breed historians have offered their own theories on how this breed came to be, each theory being arrived at through much research. Each of the theories one is likely to read has a tendency to differ, one from another, in regard to dates, places, and likely ancestors. Still, while no one can point to any one shred of evidence and say conclusively "This is where and how and from what ancestry the Old English Sheepdog came to be," something is known about the types which are believed by most historians of the breed to be among its progenitors.
According to some old histories, the Old English Sheepdog is said to have sprung from the Himalayan herd dog which, while bearing some resemblance to our bobtail, was a much larger dog, and had more of the wolfhound about him. As well, the Old English Sheepdog is said to be an ancestor of the Russian Sheepdog, again a larger breed than ours, but similar in two important ways: type and coat color.
Indeed, the matings of various sheepdog types that resulted in the bobtail breed were not planned in any way or charted by breeders. Still, while the breedings resulting in the bobtail were not documented, we do have some early evidences of the dog's appearance through artifacts. Paintings of a period give us an idea of what the breed looked like in its early days.
Perhaps the earliest claim of a bobtail's appearance in a painting is in a Gainsborough work dated 1771, depicting the Duke of Buccleuch with his arms about an Old English Sheepdog-type of dog. There is some controversy about whether the dog in this painting is actually a bobtail- some have said that it appears to be merely an untrimmed dog of terrier type.
A painting done in the next century, however, portrays a dog that is undeniably a bobtail- artist Sidney Cooper painted a dog said to possess true Old English Sheepdog type (type refers to those characteristics that set one dog apart from another).
They were used largely for driving sheep and cattle to markets of the metropolis. The drovers dogs were exempt from taxes and to prove their occupation, they were docked. Some believe that the nicknames "bob" and "bobtail" trace to this custom. It is not true that the practice of removing the tail ever produced a breed with naturally bobbed tails or tailless dogs. Very few dogs were ever born without tails, or with very short tails. The tail is removed at the first joint around 3 days old.
There are those breeds of dog that have been arrived at through definite plans- some of our tiny breeds have been bred down selectively by breeders from their larger counterparts-the Miniature Poodle is an example of this. Another type of selective breeding is responsible for creating a dog that suits the breeder's purpose- as an example, the Doberman Pinscher was developed by a German who wanted a breed of staunch guard dog.
There have also been breeds that evolved naturally, performing specific functions for man and adapting to the climates and tasks they found themselves confronted with. One of these natural breeds is the Old English Sheepdog, which originated quite simply from old stock that nobly served man in his control over livestock and protection of farms and homesteads.
The heavy, long coat of the breed can be said to be a natural adaptation, serving the dog in icy winters as insulation from cold and precipitation, and in the hot summers from the blistering rays of the sun. Had the dog evolved in a climate that was hot all year long, nature would have accommodated aptly, giving the bobtail a thinner, shorter coat.
As with many breeds whose origins found them serving in a working capacity to man, be it as a hunter, guardian, draught dog, or herder, the bobtail eventually was given its own category at dog shows, thanks to its rising popularity. The first show appearances by bobtails occurred in their native England, and the breed's natural beauty quickly became apparent to British dog fanciers. It was in the second half of the 19th century that the bobtail caught on at the English shows. A month the first of the dog's official show appearances in its native land was at the Agriculture Show in Islington.
Existing records show that the first Old English Sheepdog to have been imported from his native England into the United States was one "Bob", bought by the Glencho Kennels of East Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1885. Soon after, Bob was exhibited at a show in Philadelphia. By 1890, just five years after the first bobtail appeared in this country, the breed was in the Westminster Kennel Club Show. At this show, a grand total of 56 Old English Sheepdogs was entered into competition, showing the breed was beginning to catch on in popularity among American fanciers. The bobtail had been accepted officially as a breed with the American Kennel Club two years earlier.
The dog has great intelligence, affection, and makes an ideal house dog. It has a tender mouth and can be trained as a retriever and they make great sled dogs as well.
Males should be 22 inches and up, females 21 inches and up. Their coat is profuse but not so excessive as to give the impression that the dog is overly fat. It has a good hard texture, not straight but shaggy, and free from curl. They can be any shade of gray, grizzle, blue or blue merle with or without white markings.
concerns in the breed include Portosystemic shunt which is a blood vessel that bypasses liver tissue, carrying blood from the intestines, stomach, spleen, and pancreas to the heart before it can be filtered and cleansed of proteins, sugars, bacteria, and toxins. Shunts are present in all fetal mammals and usually close down shortly before or after birth so that the baby's liver takes over the functions of filtration, storage, and production. In some individuals the shunt doesn't close down or develops in an abnormal place, and the animal's liver doesn't get enough blood supply to grow or function properly.Hip dysplasia which is a painful condition caused by abnormally formed hips and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) which is a degenerative disease of the retinal visual cells which leads to blindness are also problems that can occur.
As a breeder I´d like to tell you little more and something or our own breeding and thoughts of breeding. Our first bobtail came into our lives 1986 and ever since bobtails have been a big part of the living and going. I could say that we do know a lot of this breed, but still only a little part of the "mother nature" ;)
OLD ENGLISH SHEEPDOG has been imported to Finland late 1940th from England where it has been used as a shepherd, a herding and a drover dog. In those days (ever since the end of 1900´s) the tail have been docked for showing he is a working dog and free of taxes (government).
Breed in Finland is not very popular, and there is only few breeders who are still active in breeding scene. Less than 50 puppies/year is registerated, some year it has been (2009 only 18 puppies) less than 20! We have a breeding program which makes a standard for reg. into FKC; hips have to be x-rayed and no less than C will not be registerated, also elbows must be x-rayed - in my opionion this have never been a problem what comes to health of OES as a breed - scoring of elbows doesn´t matter. Also eyes must be clear of HCA or PRA when mating (valid 12 months until vet.check.)
Today in Europe there is few countries left which allow docking, Scandinavia has been the leader of docking banded because of the rules (it is against the law). This fluffy & very hairy, long, constantly waiwing tail has a white top (what we have seen) and I could say that it looks quite pretty and shows (every moment...) how happy he his to see you!
Old english sheepdog has the most gentle temperament what I have seen! He is a big dog, with a hugh & harsh & grey coat with a big heart with loyalty, love and sociality. He is an excellent partner for walks, for pet, for children. Because of the coat you have to have time to take care of it; once in a week is quite normal. If the coat is not taken care carefully, he can have problems with the skin and feeling not good. - Think about if you don´t comb YOUR hair for weeks!
Eye colour can be blue (both eyes), or so called "chinablue" (the other blue, other brown), or brown. As a breeder I like dark brown eyes with nice pigmentation but sometimes it takes a lot of time to see a full pigmentation around the eyes.
Coat can be any shadow of grey, darker or lighter but the shadow must be grey, black or coat in matured dog is not wanted and brown is a fault. Babies are born either black-white or blue-born (a newborn is silver) and when puppies get more age the coat starts to change it´s colour and it gets harsher and lighter. The coat will be "ready" when dog is around 4-5 years old. Offcourse this is very individual.
Old english sheepdog is not a trimmed breed, but naturally you want your dog to be clean and brushed, also you can clip the "dead" tops from the coat. It is quite common that the show-dogs are much more "done" than those who doesn´t go to shows. In my opionion a natural looking dog is a pleasure to eyes, but should be clean and brushed. ;)
Sizes varies as there is no uplimit in standard, but dogs are between 62-67 cm from withers and bitches between 56-61 cm. Weights are between 34-45 kg and 26-35 kg but there is naturally variations depending on muscles and bone structure.
Bobtail is a big dog, and it needs a lot of exercise; daily walks and sometimes longer walks outside the woods. Hair must be brushed every week, it has to be washed regulary, and most of all: TIME AND LOVE.
So, if you are thinking to have an oes, you have to make it clear that you'll have an extra time for him for grooming, for walking, for sharing. There is no matter either you'll have a pet or a show dog - what matters is that you are sure that you'll have that time for him. Perhaps you'll need some advices - that's what breeders are for! :-))