Pastoral dog breeds belong to the “Pastoral” or “Herding” group, which includes dogs bred to work closely with humans in herding and guarding livestock. They have a lot of energy and need to be kept busy – whether at home or working.

Pastoral dogs are valued for their intelligence, versatility, and strong work ethic, making them excellent companions for active individuals and families with a dedication to providing mental and physical stimulation.

Old English Sheepdog

Pastoral Dog Traits

Key traits of pastoral dogs:

Constant Activity

Pastoral dogs are known for being active and energetic. They are bred to work outdoors, often for long periods, and have high levels of stamina.

Strong Bond with Owners

They enjoy close relationships with their owners and have a strong desire to work alongside them.

Intelligence and Agility

These breeds are often intelligent and quick to learn. They excel in various dog sports like agility, obedience, and flyball.

Herding Instincts

Pastoral dogs have a natural herding instinct and may try to herd people, animals, or even objects.

Eager to Please

They are eager to please their owners, which makes training relatively easy.
Hardiness and Resilience: These dogs are hardy and adaptable, often capable of working in various weather conditions and terrains.

Acute Senses

Many pastoral breeds have keen senses, including excellent vision and hearing, which aids them in their herding duties.


Due to their historical roles in working closely with other animals, pastoral dogs tend to be social and get along well with other pets.

Breeds Variety

Some well-known pastoral breeds include Border Collies, German Shepherds, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Welsh Corgis.

Border Collie

Pastoral Dog Types and Groups

Pastoral dogs can be split into two main types: livestock guardians and herding dogs.

Lifestyle Guardian Dogs

A livestock guardian dog (LGD) is a breed specifically developed to protect livestock from predators. These dogs are known for their size, strength, and protective instincts. They stay with the livestock, becoming an integral part of the flock or herd, and deter potential threats. Breeds like the Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherd, Akbash, Maremma Sheepdog, and Kuvasz are popular examples of LGDs, each with unique traits suited for different livestock and environments.

Lifestyle guardian dogs exhibit an interesting balance of aggression towards predators and gentleness with people and livestock. They have been historically used to guard sheep, goats, chickens, and other livestock animals. They play a crucial role in minimizing predation risks on farms and ranches, contributing to the well-being of both livestock and farmers

Herding Dogs

A herding dog, also known as a stock dog, shepherd dog, sheep dog, or working dog, is a type of dog that is either trained in herding or belongs to breeds developed for herding livestock such as sheep or cattle.

These dogs have a strong instinct to gather, guide, and protect livestock. Breeds like Border Collies, German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, and Corgis are common examples. Herding behaviours are deeply ingrained due to their historical roles.

These dogs are intelligent, energetic, and often make excellent family pets. They come in various sizes and shapes, each suited for different herding tasks. Through selective breeding, specific traits have been developed to aid in herding, such as agility, intelligence, and the ability to respond to human cues.

Blue Merle Australian Shepherd

History of Pastoral Dogs

The history of pastoral dogs is intertwined with the development of human agriculture. Around eight to seven millennia BC, in Western Asia, humans began to domesticate sheep and goats, giving rise to the need for dogs to help manage and protect livestock.

Pastoral dog breeds were specifically bred to assist in herding, moving, and guarding livestock. These dogs hail from various regions globally, and they played a crucial role in the evolution of human agriculture. Archaeological evidence traces the ancestry of herding dogs back around six thousand years, with joint remains of sheep and dogs found in early civilizations.

Over time, pastoral dogs have been essential companions for shepherds, assisting in the management of herds and demonstrating their adaptability and intelligence.

Kennel Club Classification

The Kennel Club classifies pastoral dogs as part of the “Pastoral” group. The Pastoral group was established in 1999 and includes breeds originally from the Working Group. The classification helps organize dogs with similar roles and characteristics, aiding breeders, owners, and enthusiasts in understanding and appreciating these breeds.

Maremmano-Abruzzese Sheepdog

Pastoral Dog Breeds