Before they became our favorite companion, dogs were first used for work in agriculture. These intelligent, sturdy, agile and alert animals protected livestock and poultry from predators and herded them out to pasture to graze. Some dogs were used to keep pests including rats, mice, raccoons and weasels from destroying crops. Farmers continue to use dogs today to protect their livestock and fowl, to herd them to pasture and safely home, and to keep vermin and unwanted critters from stealing their harvest and eggs. What are the best farm dogs? Here are 10 we think make the cut:
The Border Collie is one of the hardest working dogs there is. The breed is tireless and will not stop until its job is done. The dog is extremely agile. It will not stop and guiding its flock. The Border Collie’s cousin, the Rough Collie (think the character of “Lassie”) has many of the same skills that make it a great herder and one of the best farm dogs there is. The Border Collie will also herd livestock and fowl into pasture and back to the pens safely. The breed is certainly one of the most used and most reliable of all farm dogs.
Certainly all types of Shepherd breeds were meant to protect and herd sheep and other livestock. Shepherds tend to be intelligent, highly alert and very protective. The English Shepherd, in particular, makes a wonderful farm dog. Bred in England, this Shepherd is related to the German Shepherd and the Border Collie. The English Shepherd became popular among farmers in the United States during the nineteenth century. The breed does just about everything necessary on a farm. It acts as a protective guard dog, a herder and an eradicator of vermin.
Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Cattle Dog or “Heeler” was bred to drive cattle over rough terrain and long distances. These dogs aren’t imposing but do a great job at herding. The Australian Cattle Dog will nip at cattle’s heels to push them along. The breed is intelligent and is easily trainable. It is also a high energy working dog that won’t tire while performing its duties. The Australian Cattle Dog is also protective of its owners, its property and the livestock it is in charge of.
Old English Sheepdog
The Old English Sheepdog was bred in England as a herding dog in the eighteenth century. The dog is large, sturdy and is recognizable for its long hair. It can easily blend in with the sheep it herds, adding to its qualities that protect its herd from predators. The dog is strong and sturdy. It’s agility adds to its strengths as an agricultural breed.
Farms need pest control. Whether to protect crops, to protect harvested crops or to protect fowl from losing eggs, a “ratter” or pest control dog breed is vital. While all terrier breeds are adept at protecting a farm from unwanted intruders like rats, mice, raccoons, and other vermin, the Rat Terrier was specifically bred to do the job. These dogs are tenacious. They are alert and adept at digging. They will make noises to scare unwanted critters away from the farm and protect the farm’s goods from intruders. Other great “ratters” include the Jack Russell Terrier, the Dachshund and the Miniature Schnauzer.
They may seem small and cuddly but the Welsh Corgi makes a wonderful and effective farm dog adept at herding. Both the Pembroke and the Cardigan Corgi were bred in the United Kingdom as herding dogs. Like the Australian Cattle Dog, the Welsh Corgi is a great “heeler”. In other words, these small yet persistent dogs nip at the heels of cattle to push them along into pastures to graze and back home safely into their pens. The dogs don’t tire easily and are dedicated to their chore.
The Anatolian Shepherd is a strong, alert and protective breed and perfect for watching over livestock. The breed originated in Turkey to protect all types of farm livestock. The dog is depicted in artifacts as a protector of property and livestock dating back to 2000 BC. The extremely sturdy, imposing and intelligent breed was not introduced to the United States until the early twentieth century when ranchers saw the great qualities as a farm protector. In fact, the US Department of Agriculture introduced the breed in America as part of a program to determine the best breed to watch over sheep flocks. The Anatolian Shepherd is also used to protect endangered species and to protect Cheetahs in Namibia.
Like the Old English Sheepdog, the Komondor is large, strong and blends in with the sheep it was bred to protect. This is one of the largest breeds of dog. It is not only large and sturdy, it is hardy and can withstand nearly all sorts of weather. It’s dread lock like hair helps it blend in with a herd of sheep so it can slyly protect its herd from predators like wolves. The dog is also a great protector of other types of livestock and very good at protecting fowl from predators.
The powerful Tibetan Mastiff was bred in the harsh terrain of Tibet and China to guard livestock such as sheep. The sturdy and large Mastiff can withstand all types of weather and terrain. These vigilant and protective dogs will stop at nothing to protect their responsibilities. These dogs were bred by nomadic tribes to protect their flocks from predators such as wolves, leopards, bears and tigers. The Tibetan Mastiff remains a strong protector of farm animals throughout the world. They make excellent guards over livestock including fowl.
The Maremma Sheepdog was developed in the mountainous regions of Italy to protect and guide livestock. Originally bred to protect sheep from wolves, the Maremma Sheepdog remains a valuable farm dog throughout the world. These dogs were originally meant to protect livestock from predators throughout central and eastern Europe. The dogs are strong, hardy, intelligent, alert and protective. The Maremma Sheepdog remains an important farm dog throughout the world today.