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24 Herding Dog Breeds: History, Traits & Pictures

Written by: Ashley Bates

Last Updated on May 29, 2024 by Dogster Team

Brown Autralian kelpie dog breed standing in the sand

24 Herding Dog Breeds: History, Traits & Pictures

There are several different classes of dogs listed according to kennel club associations. Dogs are classified in different categories to show their strengths and breed purpose. When it comes to herding dogs, they could be useful for anything from chickens to cattle.

Naturally, with the domestication of canines, we tend to spoil our dogs rather than make them work these days. But that does not take away the natural instincts of each breed. So, without further ado, let’s discuss a little bit more about what herding dogs are and admire some of the most popular herding breeds based on the American Kennel Club classifications.

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How Are Herding Dogs Classified?

Herding dogs have a very special job. No matter what kind of animal a dog herds, humans have relied on them for thousands of years to help them guard and protect livestock. The herding dog is also classified as a working dog by the American Kennel Club (AKC) until 1983. With that said, to create this list, we primarily used the AKC standards and what they classify as a herding breed. Some of these breeds may also be classified by the United Kennel Club (UKC).

These dogs are supposed to carry traits such as:
  • Speed
  • Agility
  • Alertness
  • Discernment
  • Trainability

Many herding breeds also share personality traits and tend to be very spunky, alert, and energetic. Herding breeds are built for work, so they absolutely require homes that allow them to have active lifestyles.

The 24 Herding Dog Breeds

Below are some of the more well-known herding dog breeds based on the AKC.

1. Border Collie

a red border collie standing outdoors
Image Credit: volofin, Shutterstock

The impressive Border Collie is notorious for being a sheep herder, maybe even more so thanks to the film Babe. These dogs hail from the England-Scotland border, hence their name.

The Border Collie is one of the most intelligent dog breeds of all. They are incredibly sharp, mastering agility, herding, and several other tasks. Because they are so swift and alert, they make excellent service, emotional support, and tactical dogs.

On top of their unmatched intelligence, they make incredibly loyal, affectionate family companions. They tend to get along very well with other dogs and even cats if they are raised together. However, they are excellent for larger livestock, like sheep, cattle, and goats.

The Border Collie is generally pretty healthy. They have an incredibly high activity level, so they work best in families with active lifestyles. But if you nurture them correctly, they aren’t overly destructive or nervous.

2. Australian Shepherd

energetic australian shepherd dog running in a flower field
Image Credit: lightman_pic, Shutterstock

The Australian Shepherd certainly has a misleading name. Rather than coming from Australia, as it implies, they actually came from the western United States. Like most shepherds, these dogs were originally used for herding and farm work purposes.

These dogs are very aware of their surroundings. They tend to be extremely glass-half-full-type canines, cheerfully exploring their surroundings. This dog is certainly not one for a sedentary lifestyle. If you want a more relaxed dog, you should certainly seek others.

The Australian Shepherd is one of the most common dogs in the United States because of its personality and interesting appearance. Many Aussies are merle or multi-colored with two different colored eyes.

This particular trait is called heterochromia and it is also shared with other dogs such as the Siberian Husky. Aussies tend to be incredible family companions, and they also make excellent service and emotional support animals.

3. Australian Cattle Dog

a red australian cattle dog standing on a field
Image Credit: cynoclub, Shutterstock

The modern-day Australian Cattle Dog descended from wild dingoes in Australia. Eventually, they were crossbred with Dalmatians, Kelpies, and Collies to develop favorable traits. Colonist and farmer Thomas Simpson Hall is responsible for mixing multiple Collie strains with the dingo.

The Australian Cattle Dog was built for life on the farm. These herding dogs take their tasks very seriously. In fact, if they don’t have a job to do, this particular pup can get restless. These dogs are often described as being cautious, obedient, loyal, and tenacious.

These smart dogs are highly alert to their surroundings and can make excellent watchdogs for families. These dogs require constant mental stimulation, or they are not satisfied. Even though physical outlets are non-negotiable for this breed, mental stimulation is equally important, or they can develop unwanted tendencies.

Because of their overall character, these dogs typically do best with children 6 years of age and older.

4. Belgian Malinois

belgian malinois standing outdoor
Image Credit: BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock

As you can gather from the name, the Belgian Malinois is from Belgium. Greatly resembling the German Shepherd, the Malinois is a bit sleeker and more straight-backed. German Shepherds tend to have more of a curve on their backside.

You could consider this breed a jack of all trades. The Belgian Malinois is a highly impressive, athletically brilliant dog with keen intelligence. They started as herding dogs but quickly developed into more serious roles. Today, they are often used as task force dogs used by police, special rescue forces, and military operations.

The Belgian Malinois can make an amazing family addition to the right circumstances. However, you have to train them thoroughly and give them a task to do, or they will not be happy in their home life.

A Belgian Malinois that does not have the correct training or stimulation can get very bored or stir crazy, leading to destructive tendencies, separation anxiety, and even aggression.

5. Beauceron

Beauceron dog in the forest
Image Credit: Vera Zinkova, Shutterstock

The sleek, impressive Beauceron originated from the plains of central France. These able-bodied, strong dogs were originally used for guarding and herding sheep or cattle. Even though their purpose began to decline thanks to industrialization, they picked up quickly as police or military dogs.

Over the years, the Beauceron has excelled at several different duties. Not only did these dogs make amazing work dogs, they can also make incredible family companions. If you are looking for a protective dog that will loyally defend your family at every turn, this is certainly one to consider.

The Beauceron is a little more serious, not getting quite as rowdy or playful as some other breeds. Because of their straight-faced nature, they often do best with children 6 and older. If they aren’t socialized and trained early, they might even develop suspiciousness or aggressive tendencies towards other pets or people.

6. German Shepherd

German Shepherd standing on the grass
Image Credit: cvop, Pixabay

The German Shepherd, hailing from Germany, is one of the most popular dogs, and for good reason. This herding breed is very useful for its original purpose but has taken on the role of several different job titles over time.

Today, the German Shepherd makes an amazing family companion all over the world. These dogs still hold their place among the top five most popular dogs in the United States. You can see them taking on roles in service or simply as family pets.

Unfortunately, these dogs also make up a very large quantity of shelter pets. Because they are so loyal and devoted to their families, transitional rehoming can be challenging for them. German Shepherds often get a bad rap because they can be territorial or even aggressive, especially if they are not socialized early in life.

However, a well-trained, properly bred-German Shepherd can bring unmatched devotion and protection to your family unit. These dogs are incredibly trainable as well, so you can get them to do just about anything if you set your mind to it.

7. Bearded Collie

a bearded collie standing on grass
Image Credit: Sue Thatcher, Shutterstock

No one is exactly sure where the Bearded Collie came from because it is such an old breed. However, it is speculated that it likely came from Scotland. These shaggy, long-haired working dogs were very much depended upon for their herding capabilities, generally with cattle.

The Bearded Collie is known for being both intelligent and lively. They have spunky personalities that will keep you laughing, as they have clownish tendencies and adorably sweet faces. As you might have already guessed, grooming this dog can be challenging.

They have very long hair that needs daily maintenance to avoid mats or tangles. When it comes to being part of the family, these affectionate dogs make wonderful additions, permitting they have space to explore. As with just about any herding breed, they don’t take kindly to downtime and require having a job to do.

8. Berger Picard

berger picard running
Image Credit: TMArt, Shutterstock

The Berger Picard is a unique-looking dog with a sandy-colored coat. These pups are very lanky but sturdy. Their wispy coats require daily brushing, but they are not unmanageable. These dogs are athletic and active, having an incredible drive to get things done.

This is a very high-energy breed that requires extensive exercise throughout the day, including a variety of activities like walks, jogs, and yard games. This is not the kind of breed that will work well in city or apartment living situations.

They need room to expand their five senses and typically require pretty extensive training. If they are stimulated enough, they make perfect family companions. Their energy levels tend to match well with younger children, permitting they are old enough to be respectful of animals.

These dogs tend to be very good-natured, observant, and loyal to their families.

9. Briard

briard dog outdoors at the park
Image Credit:, Shutterstock

In their homeland of France, the Briard goes by a few names, including the Chien Berger de Brie. These dogs were bred to protect and herd sheep in the dairy belt of France, growing their popularity initially.

These dogs are incredibly friendly and never meet a stranger. They are generally very good with all they encounter, including small children. But supervision should still be taken seriously.

The Briard is a very playful breed, although they only have moderate activity levels. That means romping around with the kids and cuddling up with you after. Because of their instincts, they do best in homes with large, fenced-in backyards or acres to roam.

Remember, they love having a job to do, so don’t let them get bored!

10. Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie)

sheltie dog in the snow
Image Credit: Eudyptula, Shutterstock

The Sheltie came from the Shetland Islands of Scotland—hence their telling name. Originally, breeders used a Scottish Collie and a King Charles Spaniel. Shelties were originally sheepdogs, helping to herd the flock.

Since their days of herding, they also excel in a variety of other tasks, including work and service. These dogs are typically incredibly obedient, good-natured, and affectionate.

They make wonderful family additions, and they are small enough to fit the weight requirements of most living quarters. The Sheltie will certainly make a best friend for your child and will be a docile companion toward other pets as well.

11. Corgi

cardigan welsh corgi dog standing in the grass
Image Credit: Lyntree, Shutterstock

The fun, loving, adorable little Corgi hails from England. This English breed has short legs and a long body, with the personality to brighten the darkest days. Despite their small size, Corgis were actually used to herd cattle, geese, chickens, and other barnyard residents.

Today, the cheerful little Corgi lives in homes across the world. These popular dogs are very sought after because of their happy-go-lucky demeanor and compact size. Corgis make wonderful pets, playmates, and companions. They generally get along well with other dogs, cats, and children.

There are two kinds of Corgi, the Pembroke and the Cardigan Welsh. Both are simply different variations of the same breed, but are recognized separately.

12. Belgian Tervuren

Image Credit: S.M, Shutterstock

As the name implies, this herding breed hails from Belgium, where they took roles in herding and guarding. This is a rather serious canine, constantly alert and ready to act if danger is present.

The Terv can be possessive but very, very loyal to its owners. This dog will stay fiercely devoted to its family packs and will always do its job of guarding the home.

Because they are a little serious, they typically make the best additions to homes with children 6 years and older. However, most dogs get along fine with children when they are raised alongside of them, and the child has learned to respect the animal.

These dogs don’t often do well in smaller, living spaces like apartments or condos. They need room to run and explore, so they work best with folks who have an active lifestyle. This dog fares best when it has a job to do, so remember, the training is very crucial to overall satisfaction.

13. Canaan Dog

Canaan dog
Image Credit: Yousefsh, Shutterstock

The Canaan breed comes from the influence of the ancient Israelites. This is an incredibly old breed and was used to protect and guard flocks from predators. This medium size dog is known for taking their role very seriously and not playing any reindeer games.

The Canaan takes its role in the family to heart, and they might be aloof with strangers or outsiders. So, once you are on the Canaan’s side, you don’t have to worry. If not, they might give you a cold shoulder, and that’s OK too!

Most Canaan dogs today have re-entered the feral state, living on their own or in packs across the Middle East. However, it is still a breed that you will see as pets today.

14. Finnish Lapphund

Portrait of Finnish Lapphund dog in nature in autumn or fall
Image Credit: Lindaze, Shutterstock

The little furry Finnish Lapphund is a reindeer herder! Because they’ve spent several years before they were domesticated pets dodging reindeer antlers, they tend to be very quick and alert.

This is certainly not the type of breed that you can leave alone. They will get very lonely quickly, and it can lead to separation anxiety and other unwanted behaviors. So definitely don’t get one if you plan to be gone for long periods of time.

Their cheery, Spitz-like expressions speak for themselves. These dogs are incredibly interested in human beings, and as a whole intend to be extremely lovable. However, it is a hit or miss sometimes with other pets.

Sometimes they’re incredibly welcoming other times. They are very particular about who they let in their circle.

15. Icelandic Sheepdog

icelandic sheepdog
Image Credit: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH, Shutterstock

Originally, the Icelandic Sheepdog was designed to herd livestock in the mountains of Iceland. These dogs have a Spitz-type look, with a fox-like face and fluffy tail. While they are fantastic at their intended purpose, they have much more to offer as well.

The Icelandic Sheepdog makes an extremely fantastic companion for basically everyone in the home. They are generally very agreeable dogs that get along well with other canines, cats, and children. Their spunky personalities allow them to run around in a playful way with everyone they encounter.

You will certainly have lots of toys around, as these dogs enjoy variety. While the Icelandic sheepdog is quite happy with its family companions, it will also enjoy life outdoors. If you live in a rural area, you might find that they enjoy being outside almost more than being inside.

Apartment living is really not a suitable situation for this dog as they need more time outside than an apartment could provide in most cases.

16. Lancashire Heeler

Lancashire Heeler
Image Credit: hansbenn, Pixabay

The Lancashire Heeler is another dog with an unknown origin. It is believed that they came from Welsh or English descent, but there are some discrepancies in the details. Bred to be a herder, these dogs helped out on farmlands across English countries.

The Lancashire Heeler is known for being incredibly intelligent and quick to act. These cheerful little pups are very clever, so don’t let them get the best of you. They are very smart and can outwit people and other pets with their agility.

The Lancashire can make an amazing family companion, permitting you’re giving them the right amount of exercise. Since they are small, a couple brisk walks a day and some play sessions should do it.

However, if you have more of a sedentary lifestyle, these dogs can quickly get bored and become destructive. So keep in mind how much stimulation they will get before you ever commit to the dog.

17. Old English Sheepdog

old english sheepdog
Image Credit: Svetlana Valoueva, Shutterstock

The name tells it all—this dog is a sheep herder from England. These large, docile dogs were a joy to have around farms as they were practical, useful, and even-tempered. Still today, they much prefer life on a farm.

The Old English Sheepdog is classically known as being unable to see, as its hair tends to sprawl over its eyes. So, if you ever get an Old English Sheepdog, it is important to keep this hair out of its vision field.

In the home, these gentle giants are known for being incredibly loving, very connected with family, and good with everything! They are not known to be major barkers and would make a much better family companion than a guard dog. So, despite their intimidating size, they are very chill.

18. Puli

puli, dog, hungarian
Image Credit: kidsnewshu, Pixabay

The Hungarian Puli is certainly a dog of interest. With its natural dreadlocks, it has a very unique appearance that will stand out among the crowd. While it might seem this trait was planned, it’s actually for their protection, as the coat is dense, weatherproof, and protective.

If you think that grooming will be a huge task when owning this dog, you couldn’t be more correct. While this breed will naturally have dreadlocks with no help from you, you will need to keep it trimmed and tidy. These sections of hair can hold bacteria, making it very common for owners to trim their coats to a manageable length.

While the Puli can be headstrong and sometimes easy to train, they are incredibly loving and affectionate. Because they are so alert, they make fantastic watch dogs, letting you know if anything funky is going on around the house.

The Puli tends to be incredibly great with children and other pets, although they can be a tad bossy at times. Because of their small, compact size, they work well in most living conditions, although they do love being outside!

19. Pyrenean Sheepdog

Purebred Pyrenean Sheepdog outdoors in the nature on grass meadow on a summer day
Image Credit: BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock

The Pyrenean Sheepdog hails from the Pyrenees Mountains in France. Due to its physical structure, this medium-sized dog will remind you a lot of the Collie at first glance. However, its overall appearance and markings are very different.

This dog still mostly lives in their native land of France. They are exquisite at their jobs of herding and continue to do this task today. The Pyrenean Sheepdog also makes an incredible family companion, although they do best in places where they can roam and run around.

They do not do well with confinement and tend to get very bored or stir crazy when left alone. So always make sure this dog has something to do. This dog is incredibly rare and hard to find outside of their native country.

20. Pumi

Image Credit: Barita, Shutterstock

The Pumi is a perky-eared herding breed that might be as ornery as they look. This rather small breed hails from Hungary, and while it is very terrier-like, it doesn’t quite fall into the terrier category. It is one of three Hungarian sheepdogs next to the Mudi and Puli.

The Pumi tends to be very chipper, lively, and headstrong. They are both easy and difficult to train, because they are incredibly intelligent and quick, but they also have a mind of their own.

Still today, they are used for their original purpose, although they have made their way into homes in Europe. The Pumi is nearly impossible to find in their native country of Hungary, but it is the most popular dog in all of Finland.

21. Mudi

Image Credit: Joe Barti, Shutterstock

The merle-coated Mudi is another dog that hails from Hungary. Originally, these pups were driver dogs, helping farmers round up the herd. Many are still used for this purpose today. While very sturdy and able-bodied, these dogs tend to be a smaller herding breed, making them advantageous in certain regards, as they are quick and efficient.

The Mudi is certainly a dog you can find in the United States, but you might have to work for it. There are very few breeders in the States, although, you can do a quick Google and find the closest to you.

This dog is incredibly active and certainly requires homes with active lifestyles. These dogs are not for the weak of heart, although they’re incredibly affectionate and eager to please their people. If they are not reared correctly, the dog can develop unwanted behaviors.

If you plan to leave them alone a lot, separation anxiety is also a huge problem with the breed and can lead to destructive behaviors.

22. Rough Collie

rough collie dog barking at the beach
Image Credit: Adam Serba, Shutterstock

Rough Collies, like their Smooth Collie cousin, originate from Wales and Scotland. It seems both countries had a different influence on these dogs.

The ones from Scotland were notoriously more aggressive and task-based. The ones from Wales were a bit smaller and more friendly and social. Rough Collies today are certainly a combination of these traits, making them a very well-rounded canine.

You might recognize the Rough Collie from the old classic Lassie. You might also know from the show that these dogs are incredibly protective of those they love, but they are very friendly and sociable with people and other pets.

These dogs have very long hair, which requires regular grooming to prevent mats and tangles. Overall, the Rough Collie makes an amazing family dog, permitting you have the room and stimulation they require to thrive.

23. Swedish Vallhund

Swedish Valhound standing by driftwood
Image Credit: everydoghasastory, Shutterstock

The name might’ve given it away, but the Swedish Vallhund is a breed hailing from Sweden. This is a very old herding breed.

This breed is known for being very watchful, alert, and quick to act. However, they also have excellent discernment and are not typically considered aggressive whatsoever. So, if you’re looking for a dog that will fiercely protect your household without the extra aggression, this is a breed to consider.

These dogs do best when they have lots of room to explore, so make sure that you have the proper living conditions to keep them happy before committing. These are friendly, social dogs that love to play games! You’re certainly going to wear yourself out throwing a ball, frisbee, or playing tug-of-war.

24. Australian Kelpie

Chocolate brown and sable tan Australian kelpie dog
Image Credit: Lisjatina, Shutterstock

The Australian Kelpie is definitely a dog to respect. They take their duties very seriously and can herd with little or no guidance. This incredibly trainable breed hails from Australia, as the name implies, and was explicitly developed for herding sheep.

The Australian Kelpie falls into two categories: working or show. Both look different, depending on their purpose. The Kelpie is known for being a very good family companion who is both energetic and eager to please.

This dog is ready to be on the go, so they work best in homes that have a lot of territory to sniff out. This dog fares best when they have a job to do, so make sure that they’re not sitting idle in a house.

The Kelpie can develop nervous tendencies and destructive behaviors if they aren’t reared correctly. So always make sure you have the time to spend with them to correctly foster their amazing traits, making them the best dogs possible.

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As you can see, herding dogs are extremely versatile and unique. They look incredibly different from one another, even though they share a common purpose. Their personalities can overlap in many regards, but you can visibly see that a German Shepherd is much different from a Hungarian Puli.

There’s one thing for sure, each dog is completely exceptional in their own right. Of all of these delightful herding breeds, which one was your favorite to learn about?

Featured Image Credit: bazilpp, Shutterstock

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