11 Types of Shepherd Dogs you May have Herd (Heard) of!

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: November 27, 2021
Image Credit MirasWonderland/Shutterstock.com
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Shepherd dogs are known by several names; sheepdogs, cattle dogs and herding dogs. The American Kennel Club used to include all herding dogs in the Working Dog group, but in 1983 they created a new group because they found these dogs, “share an instinctual ability to control the movement of other animals.” That is what these dogs do best! In the list below, we’ll detail 11 types of shepherd dogs that originate from all over the globe!

On farms and ranches these dogs play an important role in maintaining the care of the sheep, cattle and other livestock. Some breeds herd from the back, driving the herd forward from behind. Other breeds tend to lead the group from the front and give stern looks to anyone that gets out of line. Some breeds are guard dogs that treat the herd like their pack and protect them with vigor. These are usually larger dog breeds that can tolerate extreme weather conditions. The AKC recognizes 31 breeds in the Herding Group including the popular Border collie, Collie and Corgi, but we will take a look at 11 that officially have “shepherd” or “sheepdog” in their title.

1. German Shepherd

German Shepherd laying in grass with tongue out
The German Shepherd was first used for herding sheep.

iStock.com/VictorRicoFoto

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These may be the first dogs that come to mind when you think of shepherds. They are frequently trained to be police dogs or military dogs because of their intelligence and loyalty, but they were originally bred as sheep herders. A German officer, Captain Max von Stephanitz, was determined to breed the best German herder and in the 1800’s he started developing this breed. They have grown to be a versatile dog that still has the herding instincts it was originally bred for. German Shepherds are large dogs weighing 50-90lbs and grow up to 26 inches tall at the shoulder. They have coarse fur with the most common coloration being rust with a black face and back. 

AKC Breed: Herding Group

Type of work: Sheep herding, police dogs, military dogs

Make good pets: Yes! They are very loyal and easy to train.

2. Australian Shepherd

Blue merle Australian Shepherd dog with a red harness staying in the forest
An Aussie in a forest

Eudyptula/Shutterstock.com

Australian Shepherds, or Aussies, are actually not from Australia! A group of shepherds that were originally from Europe, the Basques, spent some time on the land in Australia. While there they bred their dogs with other European dogs that had been imported like Border collies. They then moved to California, bringing their new breeds with them where Californians took interest and further refined the breed landing on what we know now as the Australia Shepherd. Their popularity lies in their trainability and agility.

They are known to be amazing cowboy dogs and continue to this day to herd sheep, cattle and other livestock. They are also used in rodeos and as therapy dogs. Aussies are a medium dog with some having a unique coat referred to as merle, a coloration that has a base coat color and patches of multi-colored blue-gray or reddish tint. Aussies can also have different colored eyes! They can grow to be 40-65lbs and are about 23 inches tall. 

AKC Breed: Herding Group

Type of work: Sheep herding, cattle herding, service dog, therapy dog, rodeo worker

Make good pets: Yes!

3.  Pyrenean Shepherd

Shepherd Dog -  Pyrenean Shepherd
A Pyrenean Shepherd laying on the grass

lynea/Shutterstock.com

The Pyrenean Shepherd comes from the Pyrenees mountain area on the border of France and Spain. These herding dogs can still be found working in the mountains of that area today. Two of these dogs working together can manage a herd of 1000 sheep!  They are smaller than a Border collie weighing between 15-30lbs, but are quick and tough. There are two different kinds of coats, one that looks like they are having a bad hair day and another with shorter hair that is more well-kept. The “rough faced” have coarser fur and the “smooth faced” have finer hair that comes in a variety of colors. 

AKC Breed: Herding Group

Type of work: Sheep herding

Make good pets: Yes! 

4. Anatolian Shepherd

Profile of Anatolian Shepherd
Profile of Anatolian Shepherd

Liza de Bie/Shutterstock.com

These dogs are a large breed of flock-guarding dogs. They are not used to herd the flock as much as they are to stand guard and protect the flock from any predators and with 150lbs of dog they are good at it. Anatolian’s are an old breed from an area in southwestern Asia. The climate of this area included extremes with dry hot summers and frigid winters, so these dogs were known to be extremely hardy. They have a double coat of fur that is light tan in color with a black muzzle and ears. They are focused protectors so they make good guard dogs. As pets they are very loyal but be prepared for a dog that is reserved.

AKC Breed: Herding Group

Type of work: Flock-Guarding (sheep, goats, llama, etc.)

Make good pets: Maybe. They are very loyal but more reserved.

5. Miniature American Shepherd

Types of Shepherd Dogs - . Miniature American Shepherd
A Miniature American Shepherd in a forest

MirasWonderland/Shutterstock.com

These are a smaller version of the Australian Shepherd although when you see the word miniature do not think of a 12 inch 12lb miniature poodle. Miniature American Shepherds are 13-18inches tall and can weigh as much as 40lbs, ranging from 20-40lbs. So plenty of dog to feistily get a herd of sheep in line! They are still used to herd sheep and goats and are also great companion pets, they are affectionate, get along well with children and other dogs. Their coats are similar to the Australian Shepherd with longer coats that come in a variety colors including the unique blue merle and red merle.

AKC Breed: Herding Group

Type of work: Herding (sheep and goats)

Make good pets: Yes! Great with children and other dogs.

That is the list of dogs with “Shepherd” in their name; let’s look at the “Sheepdog” breeds!

6. Shetland Sheepdog

Types of Shepherd Dogs - Shetland Sheep Dog
Shetland sheepdogs are smaller herding dogs

atiger/Shutterstock.com

Shelties come from Scotland’s Shetland Islands and have found their way into many farms, ranches and homes throughout the US. They look a lot like a collie but are smaller weighing 15-25lbs. Shelties were actually originally called Shetland Collies but their name was changed in the early 1900’s to Shetland sheepdog. They are still used today for herding sheep but also are great dog sport dogs, competing in agility and obedience competitions. 

AKC Breed: Herding Group

Type of work: Herding (sheep and goats), service dogs

Make good pets: Yes! Great with children and other dogs, love training and competing.

7. Old English Sheepdog

Gray Dog Breeds
The Old English Sheepdog is a large, athletic dog breed with an unmistakable shaggy coat. 

Crystal Alba/Shutterstock.com

Think of the Disney movie “The Shaggy Dog” staring a beloved Old English sheepdog. The original movie came out in 1959 with a remake back in 2006 staring another Old English sheepdog and Tim Allen. Both versions highlight the comical antics of these giant fluffy dogs. English Sheepdogs can get to be 100lbs although they are typically 60-80lbs. They have long fur all over their bodies and it even covers their eyes but this doesn’t seem to impede their work in the fields.

The original Old English sheepdogs were used as “drovers” meaning they would drive a flock of sheep or cattle to market. Today there are so few Old English Sheepdogs left that there is a risk they could become extinct. They are on the Kennel Clubs watch list, being concerned that in 2019 only 98 puppies were registered in the first quarter. The hope is that their popularity will be revived again to bring their numbers up to an acceptable level.

AKC Breed: Herding Group

Type of work: “Drovers”, driving sheep and cattle, no longer working dogs, mostly pets 

Make good pets: Yes!

8. Belgian Sheepdog

Belgian Shepherd puppy laying down with blurred background
Belgian Shepherds do not have quick tempers like many sheepdogs.

iStock.com/Ekaterina Gorokhova

The Belgian sheepdog was originally bred in Belgium where they are famous for their milk chocolate, so there were many cattle ranches that needed the assistance of these hard working dogs. Now these dogs are commonly used as police dogs, border patrol dogs and service dogs. They are known to be workaholics so pet owners need to keep them active and engaged. Belgians have beautiful long black coats and pointy ears. They have a medium build with the males weighing 45-75lbs and standing 22-26 inches tall. 

AKC Breed: Herding Group

Type of work: Were cattle herders, now police dogs, border patrol and service dogs

Make good pets: Yes, for the right owner that can keep them active.

9. Bergamasco Sheepdog

Black Bergamasco with its tongue out
Historically, the Bergamasco may have been used primarily as a sheepdog, but it’s clear this breed is also a great family dog!

magdanphoto/Shutterstock.com

These dogs are not from Jamaica even though they appear to be covered in dreadlocks! Their unique coats, a “flocked” coat, are a combination of three hair types woven together. These are very warm coats which helped these dogs stay warm in the Italian Alps where they are from. They are a large dog ranging in size from 55-85lbs and getting to be 23.5 inches tall. They were bred to herd and guard sheep in the Alps, but now they are primarily kept as pets.

AKC Breed: Herding Group

Type of work: Herding and Flock-Guarding of sheep, now companion pets

Make good pets: Yes!

10. Polish Lowland Sheepdog

A cute black and white <a href=
A cute black and white Polish Lowland Sheepdog puppy sitting on the grass.

KawaiiS/Shutterstock.com

Polish Lowland Sheepdogs look much like a miniature Old English sheepdog. They are shaggy dogs with fur that covers their eyes, but they are much smaller ranging from 30-50lbs. They were bred in Poland to help herd the sheep while larger breeds were put in charge of flock-guarding. There is a Polish legend of an honored Polish Sheepdog, Psyche, who could sense when air raids were about to come and she would bark to alert the people so they could get to shelters. Today these dogs make good shaggy pets!

AKC Breed: Herding Group

Type of work: Herding sheep, now companion pets

Make good pets: Yes!

11. Icelandic Sheepdog

white Icelandic sheepdog running through the snow
Two of the most distinctive features of the Icelandic Sheepdog are their bushy tails and fox-like face.

Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock.com

As the name suggests, this breed is from Iceland and is actually their only native breed. These dogs are “spitz dogs” that have a thick coat, pointed ears and tail that curls up over its back. They are one of the smallest dogs on our list weighing between 25-30lbs and reaching 16.6-18 inches tall. They were bred to herd and guard sheep, cattle and horses. There are still working sheepdogs in Iceland but they are also a popular pet because of their easy trainability and friendly demeanor.

AKC Breed: Herding Group

Type of work: Herding and flock-guarding (sheep, cattle, horses)

Make good pets: Yes!

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness and suggesting actions we can all do to help wildlife. As a former elementary school teacher I have a love for learning and teaching. My goal is to get kids fired-up about animals. Learning about the animals we share this earth with makes life better. When I am not writing I am living the good life with my husband and six kids (we are down to two that are still at home...and our giant labradoodle, Tango!).

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