Herding breeds make up some of the most popular dog breeds around the world.
These purebred canines tend to be exceptionally loyal, incredibly intelligent, and willing to take on just about any job that allows them to chase something.
But if you think you know everything there is to know about herding dogs, think again.
We are about to introduce you to 31 herding dogs you will want to get to know better. Some are familiar, but many are not. And, we are willing to bet, there are at least a handful of dogs on this list you have never “herd” of before!
Herding dogs have a unique bond with the livestock they tend. They are part stalking predator, part devoted protector. And it is a bond that dates back to the very first domestic stock.
One of the more popular of the herding breeds, the Australian Shepherd isn’t actually an Aussie at all. These loyal, bobtail herding pups were created in the USA and no connection to the Land Down Under has ever been established.
The Aussie makes a great family pet and is known for its affection, ability to lean, and willingness to please. They tend to do well with other dogs and pets as well as children. They are less nippy than the other “Australian” named breed on this list, but still prone to herding behavior.
Stout and long, the Corgi was made to chase and cut cattle across the rough terrain of the British Isles. Their long flexible spine and short legs helped them avoid the striking hooves of their much larger charges. And their tenacity gave them the gall to chase even the feistiest bull.
Seemingly always happy, the Corgi has burrowed its way into many an owner’s heart. They are spunky, lively companions that still show some of their instinctual herding traits.
The Corgi comes in two distinct breeds: the petite Pembroke and the bat-eared, tailed Cardigan. Both breeds make great pets for active families who can take charge to make sure this herder’s tenacity is focused on the right things. They are much more likely to bark (a lot) at something moving than to nip it but, in either case, they will benefit from early consistent training.
Belgium has produced a lot of herding breeds. While not as well known as their fellow countryman the Malinois, the Tervuren still deserves some recognition. These elegant, almost dainty, shepherds were developed first as a herder and later as a police and military dog.
This breed is known for its sensitivity. They respond best to a gentle yet consistent hand. Like most shepherds, they need considerable mental and physical stimulation and do best when they have a job. Without enough engagement, these dogs can become destructive and anxious.
This Scottish pup was created by crossing the versatile Polish Lowland Sheepdog with local Scottish herding breeds. The result was a capable herder that was also affectionate and beautiful to watch. Their blue and white coat danced through the field as these dogs moved sheep over the rough Scottish highlands.
Always good for a laugh, the affable, energetic Beardie is adaptable to many environments and just the right size to fit into most active homes.
Today, few Bearded Collies are used to herd. Most are kept as companion animals, providing families with a huggable, graceful, and highly energetic canine to keep them active. Their smaller size and longer history as a pet make the Beardie a great choice for first-time shepherd owners.
The Berger Picard, one of the rarest shepherds, has a unique coarse coat that easily distinguishes them from other European herding breeds. Their history is not well known, but it is believed that this breed has ties to most Italian herding dogs as well as the popular German Shepherd and the Briard.
While hard to find, these dogs are worth the search. They have a mellow temperament and quickly pick up on new behaviors, but require a lot of early socialization as they tend to be skittish around people and situations they aren’t familiar with. Those who have had the pleasure of knowing this rare breed insist that these dogs have a highly developed sense of humor.
Originally bred to herd sheep in Scotland, both the Smooth and Rough Collie have become much more popular as companion animals in the modern age. Thanks to the famous TV pup, Lassie, these dogs are easily recognizable though less common today than they once were.
The Rough Collie, like this one pictured above, has a dense long coat that protects it from the cold and rain. The Smooth Collie, a distinct breed of its own, has a short coat and more pronounced features.
In the home, the Collie is confident and affectionate. With proper socialization, they rarely show any signs of aggression or nervousness and make great companions for children. Like most herding pooches, they tend to be vocal and require consistent activity to keep them happy and healthy.
Entlebucher Mountain Dog
This rare shepherd is one of many that fall into the category of a Sennenhund–working dogs utilized by the Senn herders of the Swiss Alps. This breed has a short tricolor coat that closely resembles the Swiss Mountain Dog, but with shorter legs. It is used both to herd and guard livestock.
Like many guardian breeds, the Entlebucher is loyal and loving with family but suspicious of those they don’t know. They are active, independent, and require plenty of early socialization and lots of room to roam.
>>>Like mountain dogs? Learn more about the more popular Bernese Mountain Dog.
This easy-going Finnish spitz-type herder has been used for centuries to herd reindeer in the far north. Their thick coats, heavily insulated ears and feet, and incredible drive made them the perfect companions for these working Scandinavians.
With rounded features and a stare that can melt your heart, the Finnish Lapphund looks like the kind of dog that needs to be cuddled. But don’t mistake it, this dog was built for working.
They are known to be incredibly intelligent and capable of thinking through behaviors before they perform them. While rare outside of Finland, these dogs do make excellent companions and good watchdogs. They excel at many dog sports and make great partners for winter outdoor sports.
>>>Like that twisty spitz tail? You’ll love these breeds with adorably curly tails.
Similar to the Picard, the Belgian Laekenois has a coarse coat that resembles a terrier’s more than a shepherd’s. They were originally developed in Belgium as an intelligent, versatile sheepdog and property guardian. During World War I and II, they served as messenger dogs.
Today, the Laekenois can still be found on farms in their native land. Their ability to easily adapt to different jobs and learn new behaviors has also gained them some new professions as watchdogs and police canines. They also do well as companion dogs for active families.
This Pariah dog has been used for millennia as a herder and livestock guardian by the Bedouin people in the Middle East. It is said that when their owners were driven out of Israel in ancient times, huge numbers of these dogs were left behind. They remained there as semi-wild scavenger dogs until an animal behaviorist came to the area and discovered their amazing intelligence.
Pariah dogs, like this one pictured above, are feral canines of a specific phenotype, or look, common to areas of India, the Middle East, and Africa. Pariah dogs found in Jerusalem largely descended from the original Bedouin herding canines, a breed which has since been restored and named the Canaan Dog.
After seeing the adaptability of these feral dogs, Dr. Menzel began catching, taming, and breeding them for use as service animals in the early 1900s. Today, Canaan dogs are still rare outside of their home region. But their unique disposition and independence make them an incredible breed to own.
The petite Pyrenean Shepherd was developed in the French Pyrenees mountains to help drive sheep over the steep slopes. They often worked alongside the larger Pyrenean Mountain Dogs who were responsible for protecting the sheep and the smaller dogs from predation.
>>>Learn more about the most popular Pyrenean dog, the Great Pyrenese.
These dogs remain rare today but are kept as working and companion animals in their native lands. They are extremely active, possessing a sort of nervous energy that must be maintained through heavy physical exercise and mental work.
Bouvier des Flandres
The name of this large herding dog directly translates to “cow herder of Flanders.” Their large size, terrier-like tenacity, and intense work ethic made them perfect for many jobs within monasteries, including herding cattle and guarding property and livestock. They were even used to pull carts.
Big enough to pull cargo and protect flocks, the Bouvier is one of the larger herding dogs still around today. They are known in America, but far more popular in their native region of Europe.
As driving cattle across long distances on foot became less common, the Bouvier adopted new jobs. They have been used by police forces, as military dogs, and, most commonly today, as companion animals. They are loyal, protective, and one of the few large dogs that don’t shed.
Polish Lowland Sheepdog
After being brought to Scotland, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog was used to create the Bearded Collie. The similarities between these two breeds are striking, but the Lowland retains some unique traits, including a broader head, thicker musculature, and greater color variations.
They are confident dogs and tend to have a dominant personality. Both in the home and in the pasture, they require a firm owner who sets consistent boundaries. They have excellent memories and are capable of learning and performing an unlimited number of new behaviors.
Despite their size, these dogs are common as apartment pooches in Poland. Their energy levels and exercise needs are lower than many shepherds and their tendency to lounge around when inside makes them a great choice for those with less space.
Australian Cattle Dog
This native Australian pup was bred for work in the outback. Their short, dense coat protected them from the harsh desert environment while their tenacity and drive made them perfect for driving cattle across long distances. Also known as “heelers,” Cattle Dogs move large livestock by nipping at their heels.
Like the Aussie and Border Collie, the Cattle Dog is a common sight at fast-paced doggy sporting events. They excel at frisbee, flyball, and agility.
This nipping behavior still exists in companion Cattle Dogs to this day. While they do make great family pets for the dedicated owner, some care needs to be taken to restrict herding behavior with children and guests. Cattle Dogs are great candidates for trick training and a number of high-octane dog sports.
Official recognition of this rare herding breed is less than a decade old and they have yet to be recognized by the AKC. Furthermore, a lack of physical standards makes recognizing a Huntaway difficult. Instead of focusing on visible attributes, the breed is defined by its specific herding traits.
These tall, short-coated shepherds are uniquely qualified to muster sheep on the rocky hillsides and open ranges of New Zealand where following the dogs closely is difficult. Huntaways are capable of responding to commands and whistles at great distances and use their own voices to drive sheep without having to get close to them. This tendency toward incessant barking and an intense work ethic make this breed ill-suited to life in the home.
Probably the most well-known of the shepherds, the Border Collie was first recognized as a separate breed in 1915 in the county of Northumberland, Brittan. While similar in look to many collies of the area, they utilized a unique herding method that set them apart: instead of barking and nipping the sheep, they used a quiet, hard stare to move them off.
Herding sheep at great distances from their owners meant Border Collies had to learn a long list of different commands. This ability has allowed many creative owners to teach their BCs hundreds of different behaviors and even to retrieve different objects by name.
Most Border Collies kept today are kept as pets. They are widely considered the most intelligent breed and can learn an endless number of behaviors. This intelligence comes with a price, though, and great care must be taken to wear them out mentally to avoid unwanted behaviors from developing.
This spitz-type shepherd is native to Iceland and has been helping ranchers there move sheep and cattle for centuries. The forebears of the breed likely accompanied Vikings to the island and performed the same jobs for them long before Iceland was known to the other peoples of Europe.
Their thick coat and unyielding determination help these dogs work even in the harshest weather conditions. They are also known for their affectionate personalities and playful demeanor, even with strangers. They are energetic and, like most shepherds, need a job to do in order to be happy.
Spanish Water Dog
This all-around ranch dog is closely related to the Portuguese Water Dog and Poodle, two breeds that were primarily used for retrieval. While the Spanish Water Dog retains the curly hair and general look of these relatives it also possesses a unique herding instinct. They were used by Spaniards to herd sheep and goats, but also to herd fish and fetch nets on lakes and in the ocean, and to retrieve downed game when the rancher went hunting.
Spanish Water Dogs are jack-of-all-trades in the herding dog world. They are one of very few breeds capable of herding livestock, retrieving downed foul, and aiding fishermen in the open water.
In the home, these dogs are loyal, diligent, and loving with family. Their broader background makes them better candidates for a wide range of lifestyles. They thrive when they have a job to do, but that job can be anything from agility and guard work to flyball, dock diving, and, of course, herding.
Another spitz-type herder from Scandinavia, the Norwegian Buhund is unique in that it possesses a much shorter coat and a tendency toward guarding behavior with property and people. In addition to herding livestock, they were commonly used as nanny dogs to protect and watch over children.
This trait, specifically, makes the Buhund a great family companion. They are always affectionate and loving with those they know. But their tendency toward overexcitement, endless energy, and high intelligence can make them a tricky pet for the ill-prepared owner.
The Puli is a small, dreaded shepherd that hails from Hungary. The more famous and larger dreaded dog, the Komondor, is also a Hungarian breed, and the two were often used together to move and protect livestock. The Puli would herd and guard the animals during the day while the larger, fiercer Komondor would protect the herd overnight.
The impenetrable corded coat of the Puli protected these dogs during fights with predators. It also gave them unique camouflage among the flock that would have been useful in surprising would-be sheep thieves.
As pets, Pulis can be headstrong and challenging. But for the right owner (and one willing to start obedience classes early) this intelligent shepherd can be a loving companion. They are incredibly intelligent and need consistent activity especially if they are kept largely indoors.
This short-coated shepherd was used to create the much more commonly known Doberman Pinscher and hailed from the same bloodlines as the Briard. Like the Briard, the Beauceron has double dewclaws and excels at herding sheep and cattle. They were also often used as livestock and property guardians.
In the modern era, Beaucerons are frequently kept as pets and have been used for a wide range of jobs including police and military work and as a search and rescue canine. They are calm and gentle with family and wary of strangers. They take longer than many breeds on this list to mature, so consistent short training sessions are key to healthy development for the first three years.
The Malinois is the most common Belgian herding dog. Similar to the German Shepherd in shape but slightly smaller in size, these dogs are quickly becoming the preferred choice for military and police work in the United States. They were originally bred to herd cattle and sheep and take on any other jobs that needed to be done on the farm.
Many Malinois have fought alongside soldiers in war. They provide added protection, landmine detection, and the ability to search out enemies even in the dead of night.
While popular as a companion dog, some caution should be taken before inexperienced owners purchase or adopt a Malinois. These dogs are driven and intelligent. Without a job to do, they can quickly become destructive, anxious, and aggressive.
Miniature American Shepherd
Once known as the Mini Australian Shepherd, the more correctly named Miniature American Shepherd was developed in California about sixty years ago. They were bred to retain the herding drive and buoyant personality of the Aussie but in a smaller, more convenient package. They have been used to herd small stock such as sheep and goats.
While initially bred as a working dog, it did not take long for this petite pup to be transported into the house. Many equestrians latched onto these small, loyal canines early on as a companion around the barn. This eventually led to the wider and still growing popularity of this affectionate, playful, and boisterous breed.
One of the most well-known dogs of any type, the German Shepherd, despite its name, is rarely thought of as a herding breed. Originally, these dogs were used to muster and drive sheep in their native Germany. But after the beginning of the First World War, their successful use as military dogs earned them new respect and new roles in the canine working world.
Fiercely devoted and capable of learning many behaviors, the German Shepherd has become a popular family pet. But, like all herding dogs, they require a lot of activity and mental stimulation to avoid unwanted and destructive behaviors.
Today, German Shepherds are used widely as police canines, service dogs, and kept as family companions. They are highly intelligent and trainable and driven to perform whatever task is given to them. With plenty of socialization and consistency, they make wonderful, energetic, and protective family pets.
The Swedish Vallhund is the Scandanavian version of the corgi. This short-legger shepherd has been herding cattle in the region for over one thousand years. The original dogs had a look similar to the Norwegian Elkhound but, at some point, the achondroplasia gene was introduced, giving the breed shorter legs and a better build for droving cattle.
During World War II, the breed almost went extinct but was carefully brought back from the edge by dedicated breeders. They are most popular today as companion animals and make great high-energy canines for people with less space to spare.
While they may look like a miniature version of a Collie, the Shetland Sheepdog is actually much more genetically diverse. They were first bred on the Isles of Scotland using spitz-type herding canines of the region, then later, by mixing in collies and other shepherds common in England. These small dogs were used to drive sheep as well as to run garden and field borders to keep livestock from eating crops.
The Sheltie brings a lot of spunk in a tiny package. These dogs were bred to use their voice and courage to move sheep. These same qualities can come through on walks and at the dog park, so consistent and early training is a must.
Most Shelties of today enjoy the pampered life as companion animals. Their small size, unbreakable attachment to their owners, and spunky personality make them a great fit for owners of all types. Like many shepherds, they need plenty of exercise and can be quite vocal if not trained and socialized early on.
The Pumi is another Hungarian herder that arose after crosses between Pulis and French and German herding breeds. They have a coarse, curly coat that resembles that of a terrier’s and work using quick, excited movements. These two characteristics have earned the breed the nickname “Hungarian herding terrier,” but genetically speaking, this name may not be completely accurate.
As a family companion, the Pumi is loyal, protective, and always entertaining. They require early training and socialization and a job to focus their energy toward. They excel at many dog sports including agility, flyball, and rally.
Old English Sheepdog
This easily recognizable shepherd has been used in England to herd sheep for at least two centuries. The famous puffy, white and blue coat and rounded, tailless bum of the Old English Sheepdog separates them from other closely related herding breeds. It is believed the tradition of docking within this breed came about in response to early English laws that required working dogs to be docked or cropped in some way to distinguish them from taxable companion animals.
Take a look at those adorable blue eyes because this might be the last time you see them! The fluffy Old English is famous for having a furry face and long hair that covers the eyes. This feature was thought to help protect the eyes from debris and the sun. It remains part of the breed standard to this day.
As a pet, the Old English is calm and prone to laziness, though they will still try to herd children running in the yard. They should not be aggressive or shy but, like many shepherds, can be less trusting of strangers. They tend to be more adaptable than others on this list but still require plenty of exercise, especially when young.
Similar to the Turveren in look and temperament, the Belgian Sheepdog is not considered a separate breed by many national kennel clubs. In America, however, the four Belgian shepherds are distinguished by color and coat type–features that breed true in all purebred lines. The Belgian Shepherd has long, thin hair that only comes in black.
These intelligent animals have been used as border guards, military dogs, and police canines. In the home they are playful protectors capable of learning many behaviors. With proper socialization, they are highly adaptable and loving pets.
This ancient French herder was used both as a livestock guardian and as a shepherd. Indeed, they are larger in size than many herding breeds but still swift and agile enough to muster large flocks. They were often required to work without the input of their owners both at night to protect the sheep and during the day to move the sheep between croplands to designated grazing areas.
Briards come in both tawny, like the one above, and black. Unlike the Old English, which has straight hair covering the eyes, the Briard’s hair naturally parts above the muzzle.
These same traits show through in Briards that are kept as family pets. They tend to be especially protective of their family and all introductions with strangers need to be done carefully to avoid incidents. They are affectionate with children and trainable, though, their independence means consistency and firm boundaries are a must.
The Bergamasco is a breed with a very unique coat made up of three layers of hair. As these dogs mature, this unique combination of coat textures weaves together to form “felted” flat mats that protect the dogs from weather and predators. They originally descended from Middle Eastern stock but were refined on the high slopes of Italy where they were responsible for herding and protecting livestock.
Though rare, the Bergamasco is slowly making a comeback after their numbers dropped to near extinction following World War II. They are known to be unflinchingly courageous and form strong bonds with their owners. Their unique, non-shedding coat requires special attention, though they will never look well groomed.
Sara Seitz has spent most of her life in the pet industry and has a bachelors in animal behavior from Colorado State University. Sara started working with dogs and cats as a high schooler at a rural boarding kennel. There she learned a lot about the bad and the ugly of the pet service industry. But not even the toughest day at that job would dissuade Sara from following her dream of working with animals.
In college, Sara got a job at a dog daycare and boarding facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. Her new career provided even more opportunities for learning about dog behavior than her classes did. As general manager of the daycare, Sara helped the company launch a new in-home pet sitting branch and trained to become a certified dog trainer. Between shifts taking care of peoples pets in-home and supervising dogs during playtime at the daycare, Sara organized and taught obedience classes.
Sara has always been passionate about bettering the lives of our canine companions. She soon found that advocating for and educating owners in the power of positive reinforcement training was one of the best ways to help dogs and their owners live happier lives.