20 herding dog breeds (with pictures!)

border collie herding sheep

Rex and Lassie are just two examples of the admiration and expectation that herding dogs can evoke. Their intelligence, beauty and loyalty are a few characteristics that pique the interest of herding dog owners.

That’s why in this article we’ll tell you all the most important details about the best herding dogs and reconcile all your doubts about this breed.

Border collie

border collie portrait

These herding dogs are known for their excellence. The border collie is considered the best dog for herding sheep and cows. Their incredible intelligence not only allows them to understand their owner’s commands immediately, but also to manage livestock alone.

With their medium size and lightweight, speedy build, the Border Collie belongs to a group of “working dogs”. As such, their ideal companion would be a dynamic person who can provide them with constant physical and mental activity and access to open spaces. Otherwise, these herding dogs could suffer from depression or neurosis.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

greater swiss mountain dog standing in a field

Large, muscular and with a tri-colored coat, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is hard to miss. They can weigh up to 70 kg and demand a high level of physical activity. These dogs tend to guard and care for cows when grazing, so lots of open space is a requirement.

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog can also be a companion dog, but remember you must provide them with a lot of movement, as they have incredible physical strength that must be utilized and exercised.

Irish Wolfhound

irish wolfhound sitting

Also called “wolf hunter” or Irish wolfhound, this herding dog is one of the most appreciated breeds in the Irish country. Recognized throughout centuries for their role in defending land and animals from wolf attacks, today they enjoy a more comfortable and less dangerous life. In fact, their docile and affectionate character has won over many animal lovers.

These “lambs at home, lions on the hunt” make excellent companion dogs. In addition to their courageous and protective personality, they are also friendly, calm and very loyal dogs.

German Shepherd

best collar for german shepherd

Traditionally used for herding sheep and cows, the German Shepherd is considered one of the best herding dog breeds. In addition to its ability to manage livestock, the German Shepherd boasts an astonishing intelligence, great concentration and an enviable physical strength. Because of this, they are often integrated into police canine units.

Bohemian Shepherd

bohemian shepherd standing

It is said that the Chodsky or Bohemian Shepherd is a herding dog that has existed for eight centuries. Predecessor breed of the German Shepherd, they differ from the latter by their smaller size. With their rectangular, elegant and compact body and a dark and shiny coat, they are excellent shepherds and guard dogs. Although energetic and very active dogs, they are also docile and calm.

The Bohemian Shepherd is often wary of strangers, but shows an unparalleled level of love and protection for their family. In fact, they have a fondness for small children and other animals.

Belgian Shepherd

belgian shepherd laying down in a field

No matter which of the Belgian Shepherd varieties we refer to, they are all exceptional herding dogs. The combination of intelligence and physical ability results in a breed suitable for herding sheep, being vigilant and guided by instinct.

Regarding their temperament, these dogs are very obedient and loyal, but also affectionate. Because of this, it is recommended that in addition to providing them with discipline, they should be offered a lot of affection.

Catalan Shepherd

catalan shepherd looking at the camera

The Gos d’atura Català is a breed of sheep and cow herding dog native to the Pyrenees. With an average weight of about 20 kg, the Catalan Shepherd is as brave, obedient and docile as it is playful and cuddly. Because of this, the breed stands out both as a herd driver and as an integral part of any family unit.

Croatian Shepherd

croatian shepherd standing

You may not have heard too much about this breed, as it is popular in its country of origin: Croatia. However, the Croatian Shepherd has exceptional qualities that make them great herding dogs, working dogs, and above all, fantastic companion animals.

Medium to small in size, they are strong, active and learn easily. In addition to this, they enjoy home life with their family, from whom they demand companionship, exercise and affection. Otherwise, they could become stressed and display destructive behaviors.

Beauce Shepherd

beauceron walking in a field

Hailing from France and with a rustic and strong appearance, the Beauce Shepherd or Beauceron is an ideal herding dog to take care of any type of flock. If this breed is chosen as a companion animal, it will be necessary to provide them with space and plenty of exercise so they can release their energy

Although they can be a bit stubborn at first, they are very patient and gentle with children. In addition to this, they boast a high intelligence; if properly harnessed, it can make an outstanding shepherd, guide, guard dog or companion dog out of this breed.

Shetland Shepherd

shetland sheepdog in a field

The Shetland Shepherd or sheltie is a breed of sheep-herding dog which originated in Scotland, the result of crossing different types of Collies. While they are hard workers, one of the reasons they have become popular is their elegant and small aesthetic.

Their beauty is not limited to their build however, as they are also very affectionate, smart and loyal animals, as well as shy with strangers.

Caucasian Shepherd

caucasian shepherd portrait

Among the best herding dogs is the Caucasian Shepherd, a large dog that can reach 50 kg. They are believed to be one of the oldest herding dog breeds and have been guarding herds since their emergence.

Like other breeds, it tends to be distrustful of strangers, so proper socialization is necessary. On the other hand, they are loving, attentive, protective and faithful dogs with their human family, and can become an excellent watchdog due to their extreme bravery.

Great Pyrenees

great pyrenees laying in a field

Known as one of the largest breeds in the world, they are capable of facing both wolves and brown bears. Due to their size and weight – they can weigh up to 60 kg – the Great Pyrenees is an ideal herding dog for guiding cows, although it is also suitable for herding sheep as well.

They are very affectionate with children, although not always aware of their strength. Because of this, their displays of affection may appear somewhat rough to human eyes.

Carpathian Shepherd

carpatian shepherd laying down

Halfway between a wolf, a bear and a dog, the Carpathian Shepherd is a magnificent animal. Courageous, devoted and loyal, this herding dog can perform both livestock handling and protection functions as well as home guarding.

Due to their enormous amount of energy, they are not usually chosen as companion animals. However, if their owner can provide them with enough open space to play and run, they will be faithful companions.

Pyrenean Shepherd

pyrenean shepherd laying on a dock

A herding dog if ever there was one, this dog – both short-haired and long-haired – is an excellent protector of cows. In fact, when cattle sense danger, they take refuge around the Pyrenean Shepherd, who will not hesitate to attack, regardless of the animal in question.

They can be nervous, shy, independent and reluctant to interact with other people. However, they are very caring with their handler.

Australian Cattle Shepherd

australian cattle dog running in a field

A result of crossing the dingo and the Dalmatian, the Australian Cattle Dog is a modern breed of herding dog suitable for the care and protection of both cows and sheep.

They have a very peculiar coat that combines blue, brown, black and white tones. But if this dog stands out for any particular trait, it is for their dangerousness as a guard dog. The Australian Cattle Dog will not tolerate any kind of attack on his family. It will only accept strangers in the home when its owners allow them to enter.

Dutch Shepherd

dutch shepherd in a field

Guiding and directing flocks of sheep, preventing them from wandering beyond the farm, guarding chickens and herding cows during milking are some of the functions performed by the Dutch Shepherd. However, this herding dog also boasts wonderful intelligence, muscularity and courage, qualities that make them excellent watchdogs and police dogs.

They are an extremely active breed that should be given a good dose of daily exercise. Once their physical needs are met, you will have a very affectionate, docile and patient dog with children, the elderly and other animals.

Majorcan Shepherd

majorcan shepherd portrait

The Ca de bestiar or pastor mallorquín (Mallorcan Shepherd) is a Spanish breed of dog native to Mallorca. With a completely black coat and an average weight of 40 kg, this is one of the most skilled herding dogs: it guides, protects and herds sheep, cows, pigs and horses. In addition to this, their intelligence, loyalty and distrust of strangers make them a superb watchdog.

Don’t worry. This beautiful shepherd dog is affectionate and very loyal, so you can enjoy their affection when they aren’t busy herding or protecting the home.

Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog

Pastor rumano de Mioritza tumbado mirando a la camara

The Romanian Mioritic Shepherd is another extremely large breed of herding dog, ideal for guiding and protecting both sheep and cows. It can weigh up to 65 kg and has a thick and warm coat, ideal for cold climates.

This is a calm and disciplined dog that accepts orders immediately. For this reason, and because of its need for high levels of activity, the Mioritza Romanian Shepherd will find their place in rural or very stimulating environments.

Australian Shepherd

australian shepherd in nature

Although mainly bred on American ranches, it was Australia that designated them as herding dogs. Since then, the Australian Shepherd has been trained to control the most unusual livestock: from sheep and cows to buffalo, ducks, rabbits and geese. As such, they need a large dose of daily exercise.

They are faithful dogs, intelligent and very patient with small children. In fact, they often participate in programs for children with special needs.

Old English Shepherd

old english sheepdog running in a field

Finally, this docile and playful sheepdog was conceived in Great Britain to guard and protect herds of cattle and sheep, especially in cold climates.

The Old English Shepherd Dog must be given a lot of mental stimulation, because when they get bored they can turn into very destructive dogs. However, they are very loyal canines who enjoy socializing and spending time with children.

What is a herding dog?

four german shepherds in a field

A herding dog is any dog that is responsible for guiding and protecting herds of sheep, cows and goats from attacks by predators. Because of this, they are characterized by sharing similar traits, such as remarkable agility, intelligence and the ability to solve unforeseen situations with ease.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many breeds of herding dogs are there?

According to the Royal Canine Society of Spain (RSCA), the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) and the American Kennel Club (AKC), there are more than 60 types of herding dogs.

Which herding dog is the best choice for an apartment?

Herding dogs are usually characterized by being large and having a constant need for physical activity. These animals demand access to the outdoors and ample space to run and play. In fact, rejecting their active and independent nature will result in undesirable behaviors for their human family and possible psychological illnesses in the herding dog. 

However, smaller breeds of sheepdogs can adapt to smaller spaces as long as their owners provide them with long walks and numerous excursions. The miniature Australian Sheepdog may be an ideal choice.

Are herding dogs good with children?

As we have seen, shepherd dogs are very loyal and protective of their family, so the companionship of an animal with these characteristics can be ideal for living with children. However, there are breeds that feel a certain preference for small children, such as the Bohemian Shepherd, the Australian Shepherd and the Dutch Shepherd.

What are the best herding dogs?

It depends on your objective. For example, if you are primarily looking for dogs with herding qualities, you will first need to know what kind of livestock you want to protect. However, any of the herding dogs we have chosen for our list have excellent qualities to take care of both sheep and cows.

I am adopting my first dog. Is a shepherd dog right for me?

Many shepherd dog breeds have a complex character that requires proper discipline. Added to their size and special needs–they demand a lot of physical activity. Therefore, adopting a shepherd dog as a first dog should be a thoroughly thought-out decision. However, if you are still interested in these animals, we recommend you choose a calm and sociable breed. 

Is there such a thing as a white herding dog?

Yes, the White Swiss Shepherd is a herding dog native to the United States and Canada, large in size and very attentive to their family. 

What is the largest herding dog breed and the smallest?

The largest breed of herding dog is the Bernese Sheepdog, while the smallest is the Shetland Shepherd. 

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