The Herding group is made up of breeds with an innate ability to control the movement of livestock, and protect them from predators. These dogs are smart, confident, loyal, free thinkers, independent, and workaholics, with a steady focus on the task at hand. Their work ethic is to be admired. Because they can follow directions from their handler/owner, these dogs excel at agility and other dog sports. Breeds like the German Shepherd Dog and Belgian Malinois have found a place in law enforcement, and search and rescue. Herding dogs need a job to be completely happy, and they require a lot of exercise to stay healthy in body and mind. Six breeds from the Herding group have been gaining in popularity over the last 10 years. The first number in parenthesis is the American Kennel Club’s 2002 ranking and the last number is the current ranking.
Australian Cattle Dog (71-59) was developed in the 1800’s by Australian settlers who wanted a strong, smart, and capable dog with plenty of stamina to control large herds of cattle owned by ranchers. The breed was bred to work in the harsh Australian climate. The ranchers got the hardy dog they needed, and the Australian Cattle Dog is credited with the expansion of the cattle industry in that country. Also known as the Australian Heeler, Blue Heeler, Queensland Heeler, or Halls Heeler. The heeler label is due to the way Australian Cattle Dogs work. To move cattle, the dog runs behind nipping at their heels.
Australian Shepherd (35-22) At the height of the wool industry in Australia, Basque shepherds migrated to Australia from Spain, and they took their shepherd dogs with them. During the 1840’s, Basque shepherds immigrated to the American West to work with imported sheep from Australia. The name of the breed comes from its association with the Basque shepherds, but the Aussie is an American made dog, developed in the American West by ranchers and farmers who were impressed with the working ability of the dogs. Like other herding dogs, the Aussie “eyes” his charges to move them.
Belgian Malinois (90-71) is one of four types of Belgian sheep herding dogs. The Malinois, pronounced mal-in-wah, is named after the city the breed was developed in during the late 1800’s when all four varieties of herding dogs were separated into their own type, and given their breed name. It’s likely the Malinois had been assisting shepherds with their flocks long before the 1800’s. This breed is often confused with the larger German Shepherd Dog. Both breeds are intelligent, which makes them ideal to do police work, search and rescue, obedience, conformation, herding, tracking, agility, and Schutzhund competitions.
Border Collie (63-44) hails from the border region between England and Scotland. Collie type working dogs have been around for centuries, but it wasn’t until after WW I that the Border Collie picked up its name to distinguish working dogs from show dogs. This breed is considered the most intelligent of all breeds, and is a world class sheep herder, second to none. He controls livestock by stalking them with an intimidating, intense gaze. The “eye” of a Border Collie is his trademark, and he’s capable of working on his own to do his job. This dog has an innate desire to herd and you can not train him to not herd anything that moves.
Cardigan Welsh Corgis (82-75) is an old breed that traveled to Wales with the Celts around 1200 B.C. to a region known as Cardiganshire. The Cardigan is an older breed than the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and is the one with a long tail. The original job of the dog was to run out in front of a herd of cattle to clear a path, chasing off predators or trespassing cows so the Cardigan’s herd had plenty of grazing opportunities. It wasn’t until later in their history when the Cardigan was retrained to run behind cattle and herd them. Farmers used the breed as a drover dog to drive cattle out to field and to market. This working dog was a valued member of the family and so crucial to the livelihood of Welsh farmers, anyone who stole or harmed a farmer’s Cardigan found themselves facing harsh penalties.
Norwegian Buhund (165-163*) is a Spitz-type dog that can be traced back to the year 900 A.D. when a Viking grave in Norway was found with six dog skeletons in it. The grave was found during the Gokstad excavation in 1880, which is the largest known Viking Age ship burial ever found. When Vikings died, they were buried with supplies for the afterlife, and their most valuable possessions. Their dogs were prized for their herding ability, loyalty, and protection, and would be needed in the afterlife to assist their owner. Vikings took their dogs with them where ever they traveled, on land or sea. The Norwegian Buhund was bred in western Norway along the muggy coastal area to herd sheep, protect farms, and hunt wolf and bear. Their name comes from a Norwegian word “bu” that means farm stall, homestead, or shed, which describes the earthy shanty homes shepherds inhabited during the summer when they were tending their sheep. The Norwegian Buhund wasn’t recognized by AKC until 2009. The first stats on this breed wasn’t published until 2011.
Picture: Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, and Norwegian Buhund.
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