Intelligent, energetic, and affectionate are the terms used most often when describing dog breeds from the herding group, so it’s no surprise that this group has some of the most popular dogs on the planet. Many of these dogs have been bred for centuries for the express purpose of herding livestock, and this has made them extremely adept at doing this type of work and incredibly loyal and dedicated to their owners.
With this herding history comes supreme athleticism, and these dogs have seemingly inexhaustible amounts of energy that can be too much to handle for novice owners. It’s important to take this into consideration if you are thinking of adopting one of these dogs, because if they do not get the required mental and physical stimulation, they can quickly turn to problematic behavior. These are certainly dogs for owners who have a ton of time, space, and dedication.
If you are looking for an athletic running partner or a true working dog, we compiled this list for you! Here are 15 of the most popular herding breeds around.
The 15 Best Herding Dog Breeds
1. Australian cattle dog
Sturdy and powerful yet small and highly athletic, the Australian Cattle dog was developed by Australian settlers to drive and herd cattle on the massive ranches of Australia. They are still used for that purpose today. They are hardy animals that can run for hours in scorching temperatures. Besides this, they are loyal, intelligent, and affectionate animals that make great family dogs and love being as close as possible to their human companions.
2. Australian Kelpie
The Australian Kelpie is a small to medium-sized dog that was bred expressly for the job of herding cattle without much need for human intervention or supervision, and the breed still retains this independent nature. This of course makes these dogs a challenge to keep in urban environments, and they require a ton of dedication and consistency in training. However, that means they take well to training and make great family pets if given adequate exercise.
3. Australian Shepherd
Despite the misleading name, the Australian Shepherd originated in the United States and was developed as a working dog to herd livestock. Like most herding breeds, these dogs have a ton of energy that needs to be channeled into specific jobs; otherwise, they can quickly become bored and potentially destructive. These beautiful animals make great family pets and are as loyal, affectionate, and protective as they come.
4. Bearded Collie
Developed in Scotland to herd sheep in harsh terrain and cold temperatures, the Bearded Collie is a medium-sized, long-haired dog that is known for their intelligence and affectionate personality. They are generally easy dogs to train, making them great for novice owners, and have an inexhaustible enthusiasm, upbeat nature, and lust for life that is contagious. They are highly social dogs that make fast friends with everybody and are wonderful family pets.
5. Belgian Malinois
The Belgian Malinois is a medium-sized dog that is commonly used in police and military work but was initially bred for herding and driving livestock in Belgium. They are athletic, energetic dogs that are often described as being intense, due to their potent work ethic and willingness to please their owners. They are often confused with German Shepherds and share many similarities, but the Malinois is smaller, more agile, and highly sensitive, making them a challenge for novice owners to train. That said, they are quick learners that love the process and thrive off of having a job to do.
6. Belgian Shepherd
A versatile breed that was developed in Belgium for herding, the Belgian Shepherd is commonly used for police and military work, as well as being service dogs and involved in many dog sports. These dogs have a beautiful long coat and a somewhat imposing appearance but are gentle, affectionate dogs that bond closely with their owners. They are fairly easy to train and make great family dogs, although their high energy can be a bit much for small children, as they can easily accidentally knock them over.
7. Bergamasco Shepherd
An Italian breed most famous for their unique, curly, and often dreadlocked coat, the Bergamasco Shepherd is a large, muscular, and powerful dog with the heart of a lapdog. These intelligent, gentle animals are supremely affectionate and loving and exceedingly loyal to their owners, with a friendly and social nature that enables them to make fast friends with everyone. They are athletic and energetic dogs, but they certainly don’t need as much exercise as many other herding breeds — an hour or two per day is perfect.
8. Border Collie
The most famous and popular of all herding breeds, the smart, friendly, and extremely energetic Border Collie is the epitome of a herding dog. These dogs are among the most intelligent in the world and can be trained to learn unique tricks and commands numbering into the hundreds and even thousands. They make wonderful family animals due to their affectionate nature, but they need a massive amount of exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy.
9. Cardigan Welsh Corgi
The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is an ancient breed that has been around for thousands of years. They have a distinguished look about them that makes them seem like lapdogs, but in reality, these animals are highly adept herding dogs that have been developed as such for centuries. One important point to note about the breed is their tendency for vocalization — these dogs bark at anything and everything! They may be small, but they need plenty of exercise and can quickly become overweight and badly behaved without it.
10. German Shepherd
Mostly known for their work with the police and military, the German Shepherd was originally developed for herding and is still commonly used as such today. Their supreme intelligence, energy, stamina, loyalty, and versatility have made them one of the most popular breeds on the planet, and they make wonderful family pets. Whether you need a loyal companion, a hard-working herding dog, or a dedicated family protector, the German Shepherd can easily fill any of these roles.
11. Great Pyrenees
The large and majestic Great Pyrenees was born to protect, whether it be livestock or human family members. These dogs are highly intelligent animals that are accustomed to working independently, which can make training a real challenge for novice owners. With a dog this size with so much power, good training is essential, so owning a Pyrenees requires a great deal of dedication, time, and patience. That said, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more loyal, loving, and devoted dog.
12. Old English Sheepdog
A large, powerful dog with a gorgeous shaggy coat, the Old English Sheepdog is a truly unique animal with a gentle, loving temperament. These dogs were initially developed for herding and driving cattle and are still used as such today, but they are more commonly kept as playful and somewhat comical family pets. As you’d expect, these dogs need a huge amount of grooming and maintenance, but they are highly adaptable and provided that they get adequate exercise, they can happily live in apartments.
13. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Small in size but large in personality, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi was developed as a herding breed but is far more commonly kept as a loving family pet nowadays. They have gained notoriety due to their association with the Royal Family, where they are popular and a common sight around Buckingham Palace. Like their close cousins, the Cardigan, these dogs have a tendency for vocalization, and this can be problematic for apartment living.
14. Rough Collie
The Rough Collie originated in Scotland and was bred primarily for herding. They are most recognizable for their gorgeous long coats and were made famous by the classic “Lassie” TV show and films. These animals are highly intelligent and loyal and bond strongly with their owners, making for wonderful family pets. While they are generally good-natured and friendly animals, they can be wary of strangers but are never aggressive.
15. Shetland Sheepdog
The Shetland Sheepdog originated in Scotland and is similar in appearance to their cousin, the Rough Collie, although they are much smaller. They are also similar in character and are highly intelligent, friendly, and affectionate animals. They are far less wary of new faces and a little more attention-demanding on their owners. They are also highly protective of their family, making them excellent watchdogs, and are supremely athletic and exceedingly energetic.
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Featured Image Credit: Jan Havlicek, Shutterstock