Not all UK dog owners realise that as well as recognising each individual pedigree dog breed in its own right, the Kennel Club also assigns each dog breed that is eligible for pedigree registration to a broader group category. Each of these encompass a range of different dog breeds that all have a number of uniting factors in common.
These dog breed groupings often reflect different dog breeds with a shared working history in specific types of roles, which manifests as distinctive skills, personality traits and in some cases, physical traits too in the dogs that exhibit them. Whilst this is not the case for all breed groups (like toy dogs, which are dogs without historical working roles that share a small size and a range of lap dog traits) it is for many; and the pastoral group is one of them.
Some of the Kennel Club’s breed group titles are self-explanatory, like the gun dog group, which reflects dog breeds that were historically used for pointing, flushing or retrieving game for shooting hunters. Others, like the pastoral group, are less obvious unless you are in the know, but dogs from within the pastoral grouping are some of the most popular and well-known dog breeds of them all, and some such breeds are really popular as pets in the UK.
Dogs from within the pastoral group are dogs that were originally bred and developed to work with livestock, in a range of roles that might include herding, guarding or watch dog roles, or a combination of all three.
Knowing if any dog you might be considering buying falls within the pastoral group can help to give you an insight into the core traits that such a dog will possess, which helps you to better understand them and care for and manage them more effectively.
Knowing which of the various pastoral dog breeds are the most popular and in demand with puppy buyers can be helpful for other prospective puppy buyers too, helping them to determine which breed might be a good fit, and why.
However, everyone has their own views on what makes a great dog for their on requirements, and if you asked ten different dog lovers for their views, you’d probably get ten different answers.
Here at Pets4Homes, we are in a unique position in terms of the information we hold about the popularity of different dog breeds in the UK by virtue of being the UK’s largest and most-visited pet classifieds website, and we keep an eye on popularity trends within different dog breeds and wider dog type groupings as a whole.
Using data collated by Pets4Homes on pedigree dog breed adverts and prices, we have drawn up Pets4Homes’ own definitive list of the most popular pastoral dog breeds in the UK, which we will share with you within this article. We’ll begin by explaining in more detail what makes a pastoral dog, and how we determined the ranking of our popularity list.
We’ll then list the six most popular pastoral dog breeds in the UK in reverse order, alongside of information on their average prices, core traits, and level of popularity. Read on to find out the most popular pastoral dog breeds in the UK.
The pastoral dog group encompasses a large number of different dog breeds recognised by different international dog breed registries, and in the UK there are around 30 pastoral dog breeds that can be found offered for sale without too much trouble.
Some of the best loved and most popular dog breeds in the UK fall into the pastoral grouping, but what makes a pastoral dog, and what are their core traits?
A pastoral dog breed is a breed that historically (or currently, in some cases) was used to assist with livestock, in a range of different roles. Livestock herding is perhaps the most common and obvious working role for pastoral dogs, but it is not the only one.
Some pastoral dogs are also excellent watchdogs that would protect the flock or herd they were tasked with caring for from threats by predators such as wild animals, barking and sounding the alert to let their human handlers know that something is amiss.
Others are excellent guard dogs, which would proactively defend the animals in their charge from potential threats, seeing off or even fighting prospective threats to their flock or herd.
Some pastoral dog breeds are adept at carrying out all three of these roles, making them very versatile – and some dogs that are classed within the pastoral dog grouping are widely used in other working roles today that bear little resemblance to their livestock-related origins, such as police and security work.
The pastoral group is quite diverse and varied too in terms of the physical traits of the dogs within it, with a whole range of sizes, types and builds found within different pastoral dog breeds.
It is also worth noting that dogs classed within the pastoral group don’t need to have ever carried out a working role themselves, and some of the breeds within this group have not been widely used in the UK for working roles for many decades.
Whilst any dog may theoretically share many or all of the core pastoral dog personality traits and even be well suited to pastoral working roles, it is only dogs that fall within specific pedigree breeds classed as pastoral breeds that are considered to be pastoral dog types.
Before we share the list of Pets4Homes’ six most popular pastoral dog breeds in the UK, we’ll first explain how we reached our results, to ensure that you can draw accurate informed conclusions from the information that we will share.
Pets4Homes is the UK’s largest and busiest dedicated pet classifieds website, with more dogs for sale advertised here and more visitors viewing ads placed here each year than can be found on any other pet classifieds portal.
Whilst our pastoral dog popularity listing is based on the data and statistics that we’ve collated here on Pets4Homes only rather than across the internet at large, we can be sure of the accuracy of our own figures. Our position as the largest and most widely used pet classifieds site in the UK enables us to build up a snapshot of the state of play that reflects the wider market in the UK as a whole.
When adverts are placed for dogs for sale on Pets4Homes, we collate anonymous information from them on the breed of dog advertised, the asking price per dog, and whether or not the dog in question is a Kennel Club registered pedigree.
Putting this information together across the site as a whole enables us to tell which dog breeds are the most popular in terms of the number of adverts placed for them in any given year, and allows us to rank the popularity of different dog breeds within specific Kennel Club groupings, like the pastoral group.
To determine which pastoral dog breeds are the most popular in the UK at present, we’ve used data collected by Pets4Homes for the complete year of 2018, the most recent year for which the whole year’s data is available.
Our pastoral dog breed popularity list is based on the total number of adverts placed for each respective pastoral dog breed in 2018. Please note that the figures given for each breed reflects the number of adverts that were placed here, and not the specific number of individual dogs advertised during that period of time.
This caveat is worth remembering because many dog breeders use one advert to advertise an entire litter of pups for sale, rather than drawing up a new advert for each puppy on its own. Ergo, the total number of dogs of each listed breed will be higher than the number of placed adverts, but as this trend is consistent across each breed, reflects the accuracy of the ranking itself, if not the exact number of dogs for sale.
We’ve also included information on how many dogs of each listed breed were Kennel Club registered pedigree dogs and how many were non-pedigrees, to determine the popularity or onus placed on pedigree status within each breed too.
Finally, we’ve included guideline pricing information on the average advertised prices for each breed listed too, including the figures for pedigree dogs versus non-pedigrees.
To determine these average prices, we first discounted any dogs listed with no asking price stated, as well as dogs advertised at under £100 or over £8,000, to ensure that missing or inaccurate pricing information or dogs whose prices are very anomalous do not artificially alter the true picture of the average asking prices.
It is also worth bearing in mind that whilst we can tell you the average asking prices for dog breeds where this information is supplied by the seller, these figures are asking prices only, and may vary from the eventual sale prices achieved by the dog’s sellers.
Now that we’ve got the technical information out of the way, here’s Pets4Homes’ list of the six most popular pastoral dog breeds in the UK, in reverse order.
The Old English sheepdog – or “Dulux dog” to many of us – is a large and highly memorable dog breed from the pastoral group, and one that most of us can call to mind instantly thanks to their distinctive appearances and massive, shaggy coats.
The Old English sheepdog is a pastoral dog breed that originated within the UK, and which was originally bred and developed for working herding roles with flocks of sheep. This is a large, stocky dog breed that requires a large home in order to be comfortable, and whilst the dog almost seems to move in slow motion and is often rather ponderous in nature, they have incredibly high energy levels and lots of stamina, and so need to spend lots of time every day outside stretching their legs.
The breed is around the middle of the pack in terms of their intelligence, and they can have a tendency to be stubborn, sometimes wilfully ignoring commands if something more interesting is going on elsewhere!
However, they are very affectionate, loving and loyal dogs that have a reputation for being rock steady and reliable, and they can also be quite comical and playful too. This is a breed that usually gets on very well with children, and soon learns which family members are most likely to play with them or slip them a treat!
The breed is not very tolerant of being left alone and needs company with them for the main part of the day, but they do actively enjoy family life and are well behaved at home as long as all of their needs are met. The breed is considered to be quite a vocal one too, and they do have a tendency to bark a lot.
Taking care of the Old English sheepdog coat can be quite challenging, and this is something that no prospective owner of a dog of the breed should overlook. Many Old English sheepdog owners elect to have their dogs clipped or partially clipped to make their coats easier to manage, but an Old English sheepdog with a full coat needs a significant amount of daily care and grooming, and their fringes grown very long and obscure the dog’s eyes if not tied up or trimmed to a more practical length.
The average lifespan of the Old English sheepdog is around 10-12 years, which is reasonable for such a large dog breed. However, Old English sheepdog health can be complex, and the breed is associated with a long and diverse list of hereditary health issues that can affect individual dogs.
Choosing a pedigree Old English sheepdog puppy from a breeder that works hard to produce healthy litters and that undertakes the relevant pre-breeding health screening protocols on their parent dog stock is wise, in order to ensure that you have the best possible chances of choosing a healthy puppy.
Pembroke Welsh corgis are small pastoral dogs that originated in Wales, and which are very popular today as pets. Due to the corgi’s small size and unusual conformation, this is not a breed that everyone automatically associates with working roles – but these traits actually give the Pembroke Welsh corgi a number of advantages within working applications, which we will explain in more detail shortly.
The first thing you’ll probably notice from the above facts and figures is that the Pembroke Welsh corgi is quite an expensive dog breed to own, with average prices for dogs of the breed being over £1,000, and even non-pedigree specimens commanding almost £900 each.
Additionally, pedigree Pembroke Welsh corgis outnumber non-pedigrees by over three to one, which you will see as you work further down out pastoral popularity list, contrasts sharply with most of the other popular pastoral breeds, within which non-pedigree dogs are usually more common.
The Pembroke Welsh corgi is also the only small dog breed within the most popular pastoral dog breeds list too, and as mentioned, the conformation of these dogs is not one that most people automatically associate with a working role.
Pembroke Welsh corgis, like their Cardigan cousins, have long and fairly stocky bodies in proportion to their legs, which are small and short. This trait occurs due to a naturally occurring form of partial achondroplasia or dwarfism, which results in abnormally short legs with a normal-sized body.
Welsh corgis were traditionally developed as pastoral dogs for herding cattle, which is where the dog’s small size and low profile to the ground really comes into its own. Being short of stature makes Welsh corgis much less likely to be kicked by the cows that they work with, meaning that the breed is an effective cattle herding breed that can nip in and out between the cows they work with more safely than a larger dog would be able to.
Today, the Pembroke Welsh corgi is much more widely owned as a pet and companion than they are kept for working roles, although dogs of the breed are still used to an extent as pastoral cattle herding dogs in the UK, particularly in their home country of Wales.
The small size of the Pembroke Welsh corgi means that they are a good fit for even smaller homes, but don’t let the low profile of the dog’s height fool you – these are energetic, outgoing working dogs and not lapdogs, and they need an active, fulfilling lifestyle in order to thrive within a domestic home.
The breed requires a significant amount of exercise in order to allow them to work off their excess energy and stay fit, but due to their small size and short legs, they are not as challenging in this respect as most other pastoral dog breeds to own. The Pembroke Welsh corgi is also a smart, quick-witted dog breed, which needs something to occupy their minds as well as their bodies.
The Pembroke Welsh corgi’s working pastoral origins make them highly responsive to training and keen to learn new skills, and dogs of the breed can learn and retain a wide range of different commands and exhibit them reliably with the right handler.
They are also generally very good with children, particularly active children that will play with them and spend time helping to keep them occupied and happy.
Pembroke welsh corgis are quite hairy little dogs that shed fairly heavily, and need brushing and combing regularly to clear shed hair from the coat and keep it from gathering around the house.
Like many well-established small dog breeds, Pembroke Welsh corgis tend to be fairly long-lived dogs, with an average lifespan of between 12-15 years. However, there are a number of hereditary Pembroke Welsh corgi health concerns that can be found in certain breed lines, with the most prevalent of these being Von Willebrand’s disease, degenerative myelopathy, hip dysplasia, and intervertebral disc disease, the latter condition being most common in dogs with a particularly long back in ratio to their legs.
The compact size of the Pembroke Welsh corgi makes them a good choice of pet for those seeking a smaller dog of the pastoral type, but their relatively high purchase prices can be a deterrent. If you are considering choosing this breed as your next dog, ensure that you research the breed’s health in detail first, and ask breeders plenty of questions about the health of their own breed lines and any health tests they may perform prior to breeding.
The Samoyed is a medium-sized dog breed of the spitz type, which falls within the Kennel Club’s pastoral dog grouping. This is quite a head-turner of a breed in terms of the dog’s looks, as these handsome, striking-looking dogs have a lovely conformation and very plush, thick and fluffy white coats.
Samoyeds are reasonably uncommon as a whole within the UK with just 162 dogs an litters of the breed advertised for sale here in 2018, but nonetheless they’re still one of the UK’s most popular pastoral dog breeds.
Samoyeds have a very long and well-established working history as pastoral dogs, and they have also historically been used for a range of other applications too, reflecting the adaptive and versatile nature of the breed as a whole. As well as being used traditionally for guarding and herding reindeer in cold climates, they have also been used as sled dogs, and they’re excellent pack dogs and working dogs that can turn their paws to all sorts of roles and activities.
Like most pastoral dog breeds, the Samoyed is both a highly intelligent dog breed and a very lively one too, which means that they need a huge amount of exercise and also, plenty of mental stimulation to keep them happy and fulfilled.
This is a breed that is loving, friendly and quite comical, all traits that have helped them to make an effective transition to life as pets, but they retain the working dog’s drive to do something. Like most pastoral dog breeds they need direction, something to concentrate on, and a role to fulfil in order to thrive within a domestic home.
Samoyeds need to spend several hours each day playing and walking, and exercise should be interesting, engaging and varied, allowing the dog to stretch both their mental abilities as well as their legs. Assuming that the Samoyed’s need for exercise is suitably met, dogs of the breed are usually well behaved and quiet within the home.
They are very affectionate dogs that tend to be highly social and keen to meet and play with other dogs and people that they meet out an about, and whilst they can make good watchdogs, they are not an overly dominant breed, nor one that is prone to aggression.
A bored Samoyed is quite likely to wander off if they see something interesting or diverting going on nearby, but they are also very loyal dogs that love their families and that particularly get on hugely well with children, often seeking them out as a reliable source of affection and entertainment.
It is also worth mentioning those plush, beautiful and distinctive Samoyed coats too; they are undeniably beautiful to look at and very tactile to touch, but they are also very high maintenance to care for. Samoyed have thick coats in distinctive layers, and they need regular brushing and grooming to keep them in good condition and to collect loose hair.
Like all spitz-type dogs, Samoyeds are also very heavy shedders, and sharing a home with one requires a sturdy hoover and plenty of grooming! Twice a year, Samoyed tend to blow their coats too, losing most of their existing coat over the course of just a couple of weeks and often, shedding clouds of fur everywhere they go.
Whilst the Samoyed population in the UK is relatively small, as a very long-established dog breed that has not changed significantly in terms of the breed’s appearance nor being one that has fallen victim to a lot of selective breeding, Samoyeds tend to be healthy and long lived.
The average lifespan of Samoyeds is between around 11-15 years, usually towards the upper end of the scale, which reflects the breed’s general tendency to good health.
However, there is a very long list of hereditary health issues that can develop within Samoyed dogs, and whilst the sheer number of illnesses that are considered to pose a risk to dogs of the breed as a whole can be daunting to prospective buyers, Samoyeds are not on the whole considered to be a chronically unhealthy breed, with a significant percentage of unhealthy dogs.
That said, it is important to research the breed’s health and potential health issues in depth before committing to a purchase – and to ensure that you are able to provide an appropriate lifestyle for a pastoral dog breed of this type.
The Belgian shepherd is also sometimes known as the Belgian Malinois or Belgian sheepdog, and this is an excellent all-round pastoral dog breed that is not hugely common within the UK, and that at first glance is often confused with the German shepherd by those unfamiliar with the breed.
Belgian shepherds are large, intelligent and very loyal dogs, but they are a working breed first and foremost, and require careful consideration in terms of their suitability as pets within domestic homes.
The Belgian shepherd is a pastoral dog breed that is very well established with a known history going back as far as the middle ages, although they have only really begun to become well known and in demand within the UK over the course of the last decade or so.
As you can see from the advert numbers above, non-pedigree Belgian shepherds for sale outnumber pedigrees by almost six to one, and those seeking a registered pedigree dog of the breed might find that it takes some time to find a breeder with an available litter, and potentially need to travel a reasonable distance to see it.
Belgian shepherds are large dogs with a long working history in pastoral herding and guarding roles, and they are also widely used today to work with the police and military in other applications, as is the case for several traditional pastoral dog breeds that have proven themselves to be very adaptive and versatile working dogs.
This is a breed that really needs a task to perform and something to do, and they are very focused dogs that give whatever they are doing their full attention and that are very hard to divert from doing so!
Belgian shepherds are highly intelligent dogs that also have very high energy levels, and these are two traits that make the breed excellent for active working roles, but means that they can be challenging to keep happy and well behaved in a domestic environment. They need to spend several hours every day walking and exercising, but this needs to be interesting and engaging for the dog in order to avoid boredom, and so simply letting the dog out into the garden for a few hours and providing a couple of short walks each day is not enough.
This is a breed that naturally possesses strong guard dog and watchdog skills, and they tend to be both very territorial and protective over their families. Dogs of the breed tend to be very good with the children that they live with and often, particularly protective of them, but they can be watchful or intolerant of boisterous children that they don’t know.
Belgian shepherds require intensive early socialisation with other dogs and regular opportunities to play with and meet other dogs, as otherwise they can be rather dominant and potentially intolerant of others. They also need to be exposed to and trained with plenty of different people too, as Belgian shepherds can be very speculative and wary of strangers, particularly those brought into the dog’s home and territory.
However, when appropriately trained and managed, Belgian shepherds are amongst the most reliable and responsive working dog breeds of all, and they are highly trustworthy and reliable in terms of their willingness to follow commands and directions, even in high-stakes situations.
For the right types of homes and owners, Belgian shepherds are one of the most rewarding dog breeds to own, and their loyalty, bravery and commitment to fulfilling the roles they are assigned to are second to none. However, it is vital that Belgian shepherds are handled by experienced owners who know the breed in-depth, and how to work with them and channel their energies in positive directions, to get the best out of a breed of this type.
The average lifespan of Belgian shepherds is between 10-14 years, which is around the median to good range for equivalent dog breeds of a similar sort of size and build. Whilst this isn’t a breed with a particularly long list of hereditary health conditions, there are still a number of risk factors that prospective buyers should be aware of when choosing a dog of the breed. These include hip dysplasia, epilepsy, and a variety of eye problems.
Some Belgian shepherd health conditions can be screened for in parent stock prior to breeding, and pre-breeding health screening is more commonly performed on pedigree dogs of the breed than non-pedigrees, which can incentivise the purchase of a pup from a registered litter.
However, pedigree status does not necessarily mean that breeders will have undertaken health testing on their parent dogs, and so this is something you should investigate and check carefully with any breeder you are considering buying a pup from.
The Border collie is arguably the best working dog breed of them all, and Border collies are also the most intelligent dog breed too, which helps to explain their popularity as pastoral working dogs.
This is also a breed that is still widely used for pastoral work today, and whilst there are more Border collies kept as pets in the UK than there are still within working roles, farm collies and working border collies are still a ubiquitous sight in most rural areas of the UK.
There are a couple of things that jump out about Border collie’s statistics that bear some consideration – first of all, this is quite an economical dog breed to buy with an average price of £380 per dog, and secondly, that non-pedigree or unregistered dogs of the breed outnumber pedigrees by a huge percentage.
The Border collie is perhaps one of the main dog breeds within which pedigree status is not considered to be hugely important for the majority of owners, and in many cases for working applications, farm collies or those bred from working lines rather than show lines are preferred. Additionally, the large number of non-pedigree dogs of the breed compared to pedigrees explains to some extent the comparatively low average price to buy a dog of the breed, and even the average for pedigree Border collies is quite competitive compared to most other dog breeds.
Border collies are medium sized dogs that are very common within the UK, but this is a complex breed that is very well suited to working roles, and that can be quite challenging to care for within a suburban domestic home.
Border collies are excellent working herding dogs that display a natural propensity to herd, and they have incredibly high energy levels backed up with masses of stamina and endurance, which means that fit dogs of the breed are almost impossible to tire out!
They are also incredibly intelligent dogs that can appear almost psychic in their ability to predict what their handlers will ask for next, and they’re also good at learning new things on their own simply by watching other dogs or people. Border collies pick up commands faster than any other breed – often within just a couple of repetitions – and they can retain and follow a wide range of commands, including complex chain commands required for working roles.
This also makes Border collies a great breed for canine sports like agility and flyball, and dogs of the breed often make up a large number of the dogs in the top placed rankings within sports of this type.
A Border collie requires an active lifestyle, which means several hours each day walking, exercising, and engaging their brains. This can be a challenge to provide within a domestic situation, so anyone considering buying a Border collie is cautioned to ensure that they are up to the task of meeting the dog’s need for exercise.
Border collies that receive enough mental stimulation and exercise are highly responsive, obedient and trustworthy, but this is a breed that is easily bored and that requires an interesting, engaging lifestyle in order to thrive.
Dogs of the breed are also usually good with children and calm and well-mannered within the home as long as they’re not full of excess energy, but they do tend to shed a lot of fur and require a moderate amount of grooming to keep this under control.
They also sometimes have a tendency to try to “herd” smaller family members like young children, and even potentially other pets like cats!
Border collies have an average lifespan of between around 10-14 years, and as a hugely well established and very popular working dog breed, they tend to be robust and healthy dogs that easily brush off the odd knock or scrape.
However, there are several hereditary health issues that can affect Border collies from certain breed lines, including breed-specific issues like collie eye anomaly, and conditions like epilepsy, which is more common within the Border collie breed than most others.
If you are considering buying a Border collie as your next pet, you should take your time making a decision and use this time to learn as much about the breed as possible, and the challenges of keeping a complex breed like this happy and fulfilled within a domestic home.
You should also research Border collie health and health conditions in detail too, and talk in depth with any breeder you are considering buying a puppy from to find out if they have undertaken any health tests on their breeding stock.
The German shepherd is a large dog breed that really needs no introduction, and this is one of the most best known and longest established dog breeds in the UK. Hugely versatile and well suited to a wide variety of different working roles, the German shepherd is also a very loyal and rewarding pet as well as an excellent pastoral dog.
German shepherds today might be more commonly associated with guarding and security working roles more than that of livestock dogs, but this was one of the first dog breeds to prove itself to be a very versatile pastoral dog, capable of performing herding, guarding, and watchdog roles equally well.
German shepherds are only rarely used to work livestock these days, but they can be seen performing a wide range of other working roles, and this is a very adaptable dog breed that thrives on having a job to do and a responsibility to uphold.
As you can see, there is a big jump up in advert numbers between the second placed pastoral dog breed and the German shepherd, and German shepherds are popular and common all over the UK. As a large dog breed, German shepherds aren’t a good fit for all types of homes, and they’re intelligent, alert and quick-witted dogs that require an experienced, forward-thinking owner.
German shepherds are excellent working dogs, but they can also make for great pets too with the right handling and management. They have very high energy levels and so require active owners that can provide them with plenty of walks and varied activity, and find ways to fulfil the dog’s need for mental stimulation as well as physical exercise.
The German shepherd’s high intelligence makes them a pleasure to train by owners who understand how to manage and get the best out of their dogs, and German shepherds are capable of learning and executing a wide range of commands, displaying reliable compliance when properly trained, even in high-stakes situations. However, German shepherds are also easily bored, and may learn new things simply by observation, whether you want them to or not!
They are also one of the most loyal and reliable dog breeds of all, and will do anything to please their owners. They form very strong bonds with their families, and are often very protective of them – particularly children, which they tend to get on very well with.
In terms of the German shepherd’s coat, these dogs have dense hair in distinctive layers, which require a lot of brushing and grooming. This is even more acute in longhaired German shepherds, and all dogs of the breed tend to shed hair fairly prolifically, particularly around the change of the seasons.
In terms of German shepherd health, dogs of the breed have an average life expectancy of between 9-13 years, and there is quite a long and complex list of hereditary health conditions that can affect individual dogs of the breed. Hip and elbow dysplasia and in male doges, haemophilia are the most commonly found hereditary health conditions within the breed, but prospective breeding stock can be screened and scored for these conditions prior to breeding, to ensure that they are not passed on to subsequent litters.
Anyone considering buying a German shepherd should consider first if they understand the breed well enough to be able to provide an appropriate lifestyle for their dogs, including ensuring that they can get enough exercise. You should also do plenty of research into German shepherd health issues, and talk to any breeder you are considering buying from at length about the health of their breed lines, and what health testing protocols they undertake prior to breeding.
As the most popular pastoral dog breed in the UK, the German shepherd has a lot to recommend them – but they are not a good fit for everyone.
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