Shetland Sheepdog Breed Spotlight

The Shetland Isles are a group of Islands north of Scotland, now part of the United Kingdom. The isles are renowned for their barren, rugged landscape and sub-polar climate. Due to the living conditions on the island, only the hardiest creatures survived. Nature favored hardiness over size, so many of the islands’ domesticated animals are diminutive in size, but extremely resilient. These animals include the small Shetland Sheep, Shetland Cattle, the famous Shetland Pony, and, of course, Shetland dogs.

It is believed that the original Shetland dog descended from pre-existing native type dogs, which were recorded living on the island as far back as the late 1400s, as well as Spitz-type dogs brought to the island by Norse settlers in the eighth century to watch over their sheep and cattle. For this reason, it is believed that the early ancestors of the Shetland Sheepdog actually resembled Spitz-type dogs, not unlike the Greenland Dog or Icelandic Dog. Shetland Isles natives claim that the original dogs barely resembled the modern day Shetland Sheepdog, being smaller than a Collie, but not as small as today’s Shetland Sheepdog. They were also almost always black, or black and white, with a flatter coat. Island natives claim that the original Shetland dogs were bred out. Some argue that the original Shetland island dogs were not herding dogs at all, but were actually just companion and watchdogs that accompanied the herdsmen into town.

Ironically, the breed that we call the Shetland Sheepdog today is not used for herding in the Shetland Isles, nor is it a common breed in that area. However, the Shetland Sheepdog has climbed its way to being one of the most recognizable breeds in the world. They are well-known for their even temper, great disposition, and durability. They can be trained in many disciplines, such as obedience, agility, and some people even use them for herding.

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