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Old English Sheepdog Breed Standard

The early pioneers of the Old English Sheepdog were very wealthy Americans, who travelled to England. They were very educated about the Bobtail and his working abilities along with the farming and climatic environment he worked in. They originated in the Southwestern Counties, hence one of the first names they were called were "Sussex Sheepdogs" and they were also known as "Smithfields" because they helped taking New Forest Ponies to the Smithfield Market.  

The first English Standard was written in 1888 and the first US Standard in 1904. Two English dog men, Henry Arthur Tilley and Freeman Lloyd wrote the first US Standard and helped to found the Old English Sheepdog Club of America in 1904, which was accepted in 1905 by the American Kennel Club.

Click HERE for an interview with Caj Haakansson about the US OES standard and breed type.

Current (1990) OESCA Breed Standard

General Appearance: A strong, compact, square, balanced dog. Taking him all around, he is profusely,but not excessively coated , thickset, muscular and able-bodied. These qualities, combined with his agility, fit him for the demanding tasks required of a shepherd's or drover's dog. Therefore,soundness is of the greatest importance. His bark is loud with a distinctive "pot-casse" ring in it.

Size, Proportion, Substance: Type, character and balance are of greater importance and are on no account to be sacrificed to size alone.

Size: Height (measured from top of withers to the ground), Dogs: 22 inches (55.8 cm) and upward. Bitches: 21 inches (53.3 cm) and upward.

Proportion: Length (measured from point of shoulder to point of ischium [tuberosity]) practically the same as the height. Absolutely free from legginess or weaselness.

Substance: Well muscled with plenty of bone.

Head: A most intelligent expression.

Eyes: Brown, blue or one of each. If brown, very dark is preferred. If blue, a pearl, china or wall-eye is considered typical. An amber or yellow eye is most objectionable.

Ears: Medium sized and carried flat to the side of the head.

Skull: Capacious and rather squarely formed giving plenty of room for brain power. The parts over the eyes (supra-orbital ridges) are well arched. The whole well covered with hair.

Stop: Well defined.

Jaw: Fairly long, strong, square and truncated. Attention is particularly called to the above properties as a long, narrow head or snipy muzzle is a deformity.

Nose: Always black, large and capacious.

Teeth: Strong, large and evenly placed. The bite is level or tight scissors.

Neck, Topline, Body

Neck: Fairly long and arched gracefully.

Topline: Stands lower at the withers than at the loin with no indication of softness or weakness. Attention is particularly called to this topline as it is a distinguishing characteristic of the breed.

Body: Rather short and very compact, broader at the rump than at the shoulders, ribs well sprung and brisket deep and capacious. Neither slab-sided nor barrel-chested. The loin is very stout and gently arched.

Tail: Docked close to the body, when not naturally bob tailed.

Forequarters: Shoulders well laid back and narrow at the points. The forelegs dead straight with plenty of bone. The measurements from the withers to the elbow and from the elbow to the ground are practically the same.

Hindquarters: Round and muscular with well let down hocks. When standing, the metatarses are perpendicular to the ground when viewed from any angle.

Feet: Small and round, toes well arched, pads thick and hard, feet pointing straight ahead.

Coat: Profuse, but not so excessive as to give the impression of the dog being overly fat, and of a good hard texture; not straight, but shaggy and free from curl. Quality and texture of coat to be considered above mere profuseness. Softness or flatness of coat to be considered a fault. The undercoat is a waterproof pile when not removed by grooming or season. Ears coated moderately. The whole skull well covered with hair. The neck well coated with hair. The forelegs well coated all around. The hams densely coated with a thick, long jacket in excess of any other part. Neither the natural outline nor the natural texture of the coat may be changed by any artificial means except that the feet and rear may be trimmed for cleanliness.

Color: Any shade of gray, grizzle, blue or blue merle with or without white markings or in reverse. Any shade of brown or fawn to be considered distinctly objectionable and not to be encouraged.

Gait: When trotting, movement is free and powerful, seemingly effortless, with good reach and drive, and covering maximum ground with minimum steps. Very elastic at a gallop. May amble or pace at slower speeds.

Temperament: An adaptable, intelligent dog of even disposition, with no sign of aggression, shyness or nervousness.

Approved February 10, 1990
Effective March 28, 1990

Previous OESCA Breed Standards

1888 OESCA Breed Standard

This first Standard was first published in 1888 A History and Description of the Collie or Sheepdog in His British Varieties by Rawdon Lee.

SKULL: Capacious and rather squarely formed, giving plenty of room for brain power. The parts over the eyes should be well arched an the whole well covered with hair.

JAW: Should be fairly long and square. The "stop" should be define, but not to a great extent.

EYES: These of coarse vary in different colours of dogs. In the dark blue shades they should be dark brown. In the lighter colours they will be found to follow them, and become paler in shade, while where white predominates a wall or marble eye may be considered very typical.

NOSE: Always black in colour, fairly large and capacious.

TEETH: Strong and firm, and should be evenly placed in the jaw. Working dogs often have their incisors broken off. This is in no way detrimental.

EARS: Medium size and carried close to the head coated with hair of moderate length.

LEGS: The forelegs should be straight and possess plenty of bone. They should remove the body a medium height of the ground without approaching legginess. They should be well coated with hair.

FEET: Moderately large; round; toes well arched and pads capacious and hard.

TAIL: This is the most important point in the Old English Sheepdog. Without a doubt many dogs are bred without the slightest approach to a caudal appendage, while on the other hand, some litters will be found with, half, three quarters and whole length tails. The breeding of those with out tails should be encouraged and persevered with and given preference to in judging, providing dogs are good elsewhere. A tail of any length takes away the appearance and corkiness of the dog. A docked dog can generally be detected by the bluntness at the end of the stump.

NECK AND SHOULDERS: The neck should be fairly long, arched and graceful and well coated with hair. The shoulders should be set on sloping, and the dog generally found to stand lower at the shoulders than on his hindquarters.

BODY: Rather short and very compact. The ribs should be well sprung, and brisket deep and capacious. The loin should be very stout, and to a certain extent arched, while the hindquarters should be bulky, and the hams densely covered with coat, very often of a softer and more wooly description than is to be found on other parts of the body.

COAT: Profuse and of good texture, i.e.,fairly hard and strong. There should be a double or undercoat.

COLOUR: Varies, but preference should be given to dark blue, light or pigeon blue or steel grey dogs. These colours are generally intermixed with white, which imparts to the dog a more attractive appearance. White collars, legs chest and face should be encouraged.

HEIGHT: Fair stand and measurement of the shoulder from 20 inches and upwards. The bitches of course, smaller than the dogs. Great height is not to be encouraged, for it takes away the corkiness and cobbines of the dog.

GENERAL APPEARANCE: He is a strong, compact looking dog, profusely coated all over. He generally gallops with his head down, having a peculiar springing style of movement, and his whole make and shape of body would strike one as being very much after the style of a bear. An animal which people not conversant with the breed, will generally quote as an analogy.

Scale of points 1888

  • Shape of head and colour of eyes 20
  • Teeth 5
  • Ears 10
  • Neck and shoulders 5
  • Legs and feet 10
  • Back, loins and hindquarters 10
  • Coat 20
  • Colour (any shade of blue, grizzled or mirled, with or without white markings) 10
  • Size (weight from 45lb. To 60lb.) 10

1905 OESCA Breed Standard

SKULL: Capacious and rather squarely formed, giving plenty of room for brain power. The parts over the eyes should be well arched and the whole well covered with hair.

JAW: Fairly long, strong, square and truncated. The stop should be well defined to avoid a deerhound face. ( The attention of judges is particularly called to the above properties, as a long narrow head is a deformity.)

EYES: Vary according to the color of the dog, dark brown preferred, but in a glaucous or blue dogs, a pearl, wall or china eye is considered typical. (A light eye is most objectionable.)

NOSE: Always black, large and capacious.

TEETH: Strong and large, evenly placed and level in opposition.

EARS: Small, and carried flat to side of head, coated moderately.

LEGS: The forelegs should be dead straight, with plenty of bone, removing the body a medium height from the ground, without approaching legginess, and well coated all around.

FEET: Small, round; toes well arched, and pads thick and hard.

TAIL: Should not be any. When not natural born bobtails, however, puppies should be docked at the first joint from the body and the operation performed when they are three to four days old.

NECK AND SHOULDERS: The neck should be fairly long, arched gracefully and well coated with hair. The shoulders sloping and narrow at the points, the dog standing lower at the shoulder than at the loin.

BODY: Rather short and very compact, ribs well sprung and brisket deep and capacious. The loin should be very stout and gently arched, while the hindquarters should be round and muscular and with well let down hocks, and the hams densely coated with a long thick jacket in excess of any other part.

COAT: Profuse and of good hard texture, not straight but shaggy, and free from curl. The undercoat should be a waterproof pile, when not removed by grooming or season.

COLOR: Any shade of gray, grizzle, blue or blue-merled with or without white markings, or in reverse. (Any shade of brown or sable to be considered distinctly objectionable, and not to be encouraged.)

HEIGHT: Twenty-two inches and upwards for dogs and slightly less for bitches, Type character and symmetry are of the greatest importance, and are on no account to be sacrificed for size alone.

GENERAL APPEARANCE: A strong compact looking dog, of great symmetry, absolutely free from legginess or weaselness, profusely coated all over, very elastic in his gallop, but in walking or trotting he has a characteristic ambling or pacing movement, and his bark should be loud with a peculiar pot casse ring in it. Taking him all around, he is a thickset, muscular, able-bodied dog with a most intelligent expression, free from all Poodle or Deerhound character.

Scale of points 1905

  • Head 5
  • Eyes 5
  • Color 10
  • Ears 5
  • Body- loins and hindquarters 20
  • Jaws 10
  • Nose 5
  • Teeth 5
  • Legs 10
  • Neck and shoulders 10
  • Coat 15

1927 OESCA Breed Standard

The early Bobtails in the late 1800s worked in the southwestern counties of England and Wales. Most of these dogs were between 17 and 23 inches and 45 to 60 pounds. Through the careful breeding of early fanciers such as Freeman Lloyd and the Tilley brothers from the 1880s on, the breed became firmly established. Their influence continued all through the 1950s. The Tilleys Shepton Kennels existed for over 100 years, carried on by Henrys daughter Florence Tilley. Freeman Lloyd was instrumental in bringing some of the best breeding stock into the US. He founded the Old English Sheepdog Club of America in 1904 and it was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1905.

In the 1920s, new fanciers came into the breed, who were unfamiliar with the Bobtail as a worker. Although the breed was never used in the US as a farm worker, the founding club members all had complete knowledge of the Bobtail as a worker and his working environment. Due to this circumstance, it was decided at 1926 Meeting that they would take a closer look at the 1905 Standard. This was not approached lightly. There was concern that the breed was getting too big and loosing its type. In Cassells Book of the New Dog (1924), in the Old English Sheepdog chapter, this was discussed: "Height is a crucial question which has led to much controversy. Some years ago the attempt to gain additional bone and substance led to the breeding of many large sized animals, who gained these desirable adjuncts at the expense of general symmetry. Breeders, in securing size, frequently lost compactness, and the prize lists for a season included animals too long in the back, too slack in the loin, and too high off the ground." A special meeting was held at Westminister 1927, and a Committee was formed to review the Standard. It was Chaired by Mrs. Wilbur Kirby Hitchcock. The committee members were P. Hamilton Goodsell, Morris Kinney and Walter Graham, all breeders and judges. Freeman Lloyd, who had authored the 1905 Standard was asked for his views as well as breeder here in the US and England. Freeman Lloyd wrote in a letter on March 23, 1927 about the breeds background in the late 1800s in England. He wrote "I have observed that Bobtails have been getting very big, not to say oversized during the last 15 years, or perhaps more. I declare that many Bobtails are oversized, and there is no reason for a big Bobtail."

The committee thought that the Bobtail should be taller than 22 inches for dogs and 20 inches for bitches, and no taller than 25 inches. They first suggested that a dog more than 25 inches was objectionable. That was then changed to that any dog over 26 inches was a disqualification. The final sentence added in the 1927 Standard was "A height of twenty-six inches or over for dogs or bitches to be considered objectionable and not to be encouraged."

The Committees recommendations passed unanimously at the 1927 Meeting. This decision had an immediate impact on one kennels top winning dog. Mrs. Laura Dohring bred two litter brothers, Ch. Cliffwold Sweet William and Ch. Cliffwold Minstrel Boy. In December 1926, Mrs. Hitchcock wrote "I believe that Minstrel Boy on account of his smaller size, is more the the desired type Sheepdog, than his better known brother Sweet William." At the time of this decision, Sweet William was a multiple BIS winner. He was 26 inches at the shoulder and his litter brother Minstrel Boy was 24 inches. Breeders of the day considered both brothers to be very good dogs, but considered Minstrel Boy to be the better of the two, considering Sweet William to be of incorrect type because of his size. If not for Sweet Williamss good qualities, the Standard committee would have recommended a height limit of 25 inches or to disqualify any dog over 26 inches. Even though Sweet William would not have been disqualifyable by the addition of a height limit, Mrs Dohring decided to stop showing Sweet William, bringing him out only at Specialties. She then showed Minstrel Boy, who also went on to become a BIS winner as well. She also never used Sweet William.

SKULL: Capacious and rather squarely formed, giving plenty of room for brain power. The parts over the eyes should be well arched and the whole well covered with hair.

JAW: Fairly long, strong, square and truncated. The stop should be well defined to avoid a deerhound face. ( The attention of judges is particularly called to the above properties, as a long narrow head is a deformity.)

EYES: Vary according to the color of the dog, dark brown preferred, but in a glaucous or blue dogs, a pearl, wall or china eye is considered typical. (A light eye is most objectionable.)*

NOSE: Always black, large and capacious.

TEETH:Strong and large, evenly placed and level in opposition.

EARS: Small, and carried flat to side of head, coated moderately.

LEGS: The forelegs should be dead straight, with plenty of bone, removing the body a medium height from the ground, without approaching legginess, and well coated all around.

FEET: Small, round; toes well arched, and pads thick and hard.

TAIL: Should not be any. When not natural born bobtails, however, puppies should be docked at the first joint from the body and the operation performed when they are three to four days old.

NECK AND SHOULDERS: The neck should be fairly long, arched gracefully and well coated with hair. The shoulders sloping and narrow at the points, the dog standing lower at the shoulder than at the loin.

BODY: Rather short and very compact, ribs well sprung and brisket deep and capacious. Slabsidedness highly undesirable. The loin should be very stout and gently arched, while the hindquarters should be round and muscular and with well let down hocks, and the hams densely coated with a long thick jacket in excess of any other part.

COAT: Profuse, but not so excessive as to give the impression of the dog being over-fat,** and of good hard texture, not straight but shaggy, and free from curl. Quality and texture of coat to be considered above mere profuseness. Softness or flatness of coat to be considered a fault. The undercoat should be a waterproof pile, when not removed by grooming or season.

COLOR: Any shade of gray, grizzle, blue or blue-merled with or without white markings, or in reverse. (Any shade of brown or sable to be considered distinctly objectionable, and not to be encouraged.)

HEIGHT: Twenty-two inches and upwards for dogs and slightly less for bitches, Type character and symmetry are of the greatest importance, and are on no account to be sacrificed for size alone. A height of twenty-six inches or over for dogs or bitches to be considered objectionable and not to be encouraged.

GENERAL APPEARANCE: A strong compact-looking dog, of great symmetry, practically the same in measurement from shoulder to stern as in height, absolutely free from legginess or weaselness, profusely coated all over, very elastic in his gallop, but in walking or trotting he has a characteristic ambling or pacing movement, and his bark should be loud with a peculiar pot casse ring in it. Taking him all around, he is a profusely but not excessively coated, thickset, muscular, able-bodied dog with a most intelligent expression, free from all Poodle or Deerhound character. Soundness should be considered of greatest importance. * Judges' attention-this refers to the yellow or amber colored eye ** Judges' attention-it must be remembered that our breed is a working dog. Too often a dog with a coat trailing on ground has been put over the dog of superior soundness with less but nevertheless the desired working coat.

Scale of Points 1927

  • Skull 5
  • Eyes 5
  • Ears 5
  • Teeth 5
  • Nose 5
  • Jaw 5
  • Foreface 5
  • Neck and shoulders 5
  • Body and loins 10
  • Hindquarters 10
  • Legs 10
  • Coat (Texture, Quality and Condition) 15
  • General Appearance and Movement 15

1953 OESCA Breed Standard

SKULL: Capacious and rather squarely formed, giving plenty of room for brain power. The parts over the eyes should be well arched and the whole well covered with hair.

JAW: Fairly long, strong, square and truncated. The stop should be well defined to avoid a deerhound face. (The attention of judges is particularly called to the above properties, as a long narrow head is a deformity.)

EYES: Vary according to the color of the dog, dark brown preferred, but in a glaucous or blue dogs, a pearl, wall or china eye is considered typical.(A light eye is most objectionable.)

NOSE: Always black, large and capacious.

TEETH: Strong and large, evenly placed and level in opposition.

EARS: Small, and carried flat to side of head, coated moderately.

LEGS: The forelegs should be dead straight, with plenty of bone, removing the body a medium height from the ground, without approaching legginess, and well coated all around.

FEET: Small, round; toes well arched, and pads thick and hard.

TAIL: It is preferable that there be none. Should never, however, exceed 1 ½ or 2 inches in grown dogs. When not natural -born bobtails however, puppies should be docked at the first joint from the body and the operation performed when they are three to four days old.

NECK AND SHOULDERS: The neck should be fairly long, arched gracefully and well coated with hair. The shoulders sloping and narrow at the points, the dog standing lower at the shoulder than at the loin. BODY: Rather short and very compact, ribs well sprung and brisket deep and capacious. Slabsidedness highly undesirable. The loin should be very stout and gently arched, while the hindquarters should be round and muscular and with well-let-down hocks, and the hams densely coated with a long thick jacket in excess of any other part.

COAT: Profuse, but not so excessive as to give the impression of the dog being over-fat, and of good hard texture, not straight but shaggy, and free from curl. Quality and texture of coat to be considered above mere profuseness. Softness or flatness of coat to be considered a fault. The undercoat should be a waterproof pile, when not removed by grooming or season.

COLOR: Any shade of gray, grizzle, blue or blue-merled with or without white markings, or in reverse. (Any shade of brown or sable to be considered distinctly objectionable, and not to be encouraged.)

HEIGHT: Twenty-two inches and upwards for dogs and slightly less for bitches, Type character and symmetry are of the greatest importance, and are on no account to be sacrificed for size alone.

GENERAL APPEARANCE: A strong compact-looking dog, of great symmetry, practically the same in measurement from shoulder to stern as in height, absolutely free from legginess or weaselness, profusely coated all over, very elastic in his gallop, but in walking or trotting he has a characteristic ambling or pacing movement, and his bark should be loud with a peculiar pot casse ring in it. Taking him all around, he is profusely, but not excessively coated, thick-set, muscualar  able-bodied dog with a most intelligent expression, free from all Poodle or Deerhound character. Soundness should be considered of greatest importance.

Scale of Points 1953

  • Skull 5
  • Eyes 5
  • Ears 5
  • Teeth 5
  • Nose 5
  • Jaw 5
  • Foreface 5
  • Neck and shoulders 5
  • Body and loins 10
  • Hindquarters 10
  • Legs 10
  • Coat (Texture, Quality and Condition) 15
  • General Appearance and Movement 15