Most Common Herding Dog Breeds

One of the most popular varieties of dog breeds are  herding dogs. This group was actually created in 1983 by the American Kennel Association (AKC). Prior to this classification, many of the breeds that are now considered herding dog breeds were grouped with working dogs. The AKC eventually created two separate categories to distinguish regular working dogs and breeds that were also used to herd livestock. This guide will give you a brief history of herding dogs and provide a list of the most common breeds found in this group today.

A Brief History of Herding Dogs

In order to understand the history of herding dogs, it’s important to first define the main characteristics of these canines. Herding were mainly used to group, herd, and move livestock from one place to another. They also had to look over the livestock and protect them from potential danger. This is why some herding dogs contain the word “shepherd” in their title, one of their main duties was to shepherd livestock. Over time, the natural prey drive found in all canines were adapted to help farmers.

Common Herding Dog Breeds

Herding breeds are some of the most sought-after dogs due to their intelligence, excellent demeanor, and ability to be trained. Below are a handful of the most common herding dog breeds and their characteristics.

Australian Cattle Dog

One of the most common herding breeds is the Australian Cattle Dog. This breed is known for their strength, agility, and intelligence. When Australian Cattle Dogs are born, they have a white coat that transitions to a distinct blue-gray or red hue with spots. When full grown, Australian Cattle Dogs typically stand between seventeen to twenty inches high at the shoulder and weigh between thirty-five and fifty pounds.

Australian Cattle Dogs are known for having a high work drive and for being ideal companions for chasing, hunting, and/or herding livestock. They are loyal to their owners, which makes them wary of strangers at times. Due to their intelligence, they have a tendency to misbehave if left alone or bored for long periods of time.

Australian Shepherd

Another popular herding dog is the Australian Shepherd. These dogs grow between twenty and twenty-three inches tall for males and eighteen to twenty-one inches high for females. Recognized for their distinct coloring, each coat varies slightly in appearance and usually displays a mottled pattern.

Australian Shepherds are tireless, intelligent, and trainable for sports with a strong work drive. They also have an overwhelming impulse to herd, whether they are herding livestock, human beings, children, other dogs, or anything else. Because of their strong impulse to work and herd, Australian Shepherd’s need to be exercised and given tasks that will challenge them both mentally and physically.

Border Collie

One of the most well-known herding dogs is the Border Collie. Known for being affectionate, smart, and energetic, Border Collies are an excellent breed for families and children. These athletic dogs have a medium build and thrive on working.

Border Collies stand between eighteen and twenty-two inches at the shoulder and come in a variety of different colors and patterns. This muscular breed is designed to move effortlessly, perfect for herding work and shepherding. They are also adept at agility training due to their nimble movements and desire to work.

Bearded Collie

Pet owners looking for a herding dog with a charismatic and lively personality may want to consider the Bearded Collie. With its history rooted in Scotland, the aptly named long-haired Bearded Collie grows to between twenty-one to twenty-two inches for males and twenty to twenty-one inches for females. Bearded Collies are covered in a double coat with a long, shaggy appearance.

Bearded Collies can be boisterous, energetic, and rambunctious, which means they need extra training and stimulation to prevent them from getting bored. This breed is also known for being incredibly affectionate and silly, making them the perfect companion for owners with an active lifestyle.


With a distinctly unique appearance, the Beauceron is an obedient, faithful and gentle companion. These dogs can stand as tall as twenty-seven and a half inches tall at the shoulder and are recognized for their muscular, powerful, and imposing appearance. Beaucerons have dark colored coats that have lighter red accents on them, though some varieties can have a black gray, and tan coats as well. Because these dogs can be dominant and difficult to deal with, they are not recommended for first-time dog owners. When Beaucerons have the training and socialization they need, they can be an ideal protector and watchdog for a household.

Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois is a herding dog that is confident, versatile, and intelligent. These dogs are around twenty-four to twenty-six inches tall for males and twenty-two to twenty-four inches tall for females. Belgian Malinois are known for having distinct black ears and a black mask across their face that highlights their dark and curious eyes.

Belgian Malinois can have coats that range from mahogany to fawn and are recognizable for their muscled build. Belgian Malinois are known for their unshakable commitment and bond with their owners. Their hardworking and eager to please attitude makes them an excellent breed for tasks and jobs. Owners that do not exercise their Belgian Malinois or give him the attention he needs will often see behavioral issues.


Perhaps one of the most distinctive and loved herding breeds is the Collie. Males average height is twenty-four inches and females average between twenty-two and twenty-four inches. Collies are among of the most beloved dog breeds for their graceful appearance and devoted personalities. This breed comes in both a “rough” and a “smooth” coat, and can come in a variety of colors.

Because of their sweet and gentle disposition, the Collie makes for an excellent family companion. They thrive on having close relationships with their family and can be easily trained. As long as they get regular exercise and plenty of attention, this breed will be the perfect pet for years to come.

German Shepherd

One of the most popular and commonly owned herding dogs is the German Shepherd. German Shepherds are recognized for their distinct black and tan coloring and their beautiful build. Known for being intelligent, protective, and courageous, these dogs are able to excel at many jobs. German Shepherd Dogs can stand up two twenty-six inches and weigh between fifty and ninety pounds on average.

One of the most well-known attributes of this breed is their personalities. German Shepherds are loved by many due to their high intelligence, loyalty to their owners and family, confidence, and their ability to be trained for many different tasks. German Shepherd Dogs are willing to lay down their lives for those they love and are gentle guardians to their owners. German Shepherd Dogs are a favorite of police and military units all over the world because of these admirable qualities.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a herding dog that’s both small and lively. Pembroke Welsh Corgis typically reach a height of ten and twelve inches and can weigh up to thirty pounds, but don’t be fooled by their small appearance. Pembroke Welsh Corgis are one of the world’s most popular herding breeds because of their fast and determined personalities. Pembroke Welsh Corgis have a long and short build with muscular legs that allow them to have the agility and speed for excellent herding.

Pembroke Welsh Corgis can have a range of colorings, such as sable, fawn, red, black and tan. Once properly trained, these dogs can make excellent companions and family dogs. Though they are small, Pembroke Welsh Corgis were bred to herd cattle and are independent and brave in the pursuit of accomplishing their given tasks.

Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdogs, also known as Shelties, are playful and bright herding dogs that hail from the Shetland Islands in Scotland. Shetland Sheepdogs are related to Collies, which is why they have a similar appearance. Standing between thirteen and sixteen inches, Shetland Sheepdog’s are a small herding dog, but what they lack in size they make up for in agility, intelligence, and obedience.

Shetland Sheepdogs weigh between fifteen and twenty-five pounds on average and are known for their long, straight coasts that come in sable, blue merle, and black with distinctive white markings. Shetland Sheepdogs are eager to please their owners and are impressively obedient, making them wonderful herding dogs to train. Best of all, this breed is affectionate and kind, making them a great option for families with children.

While these are some of the most common herding dog breeds, there are many other dog breeds that are grouped in this category. With the proper training and care, a herding breed can serve as an excellent addition to any household.



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