Shepherd Dogs for Herding Livestock

German shepherd dog lying on grass

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Many breeds are classified as shepherd dogs—also known as sheepdogs, cattle dogs, herding dogs, or collies. Shepherd dogs come in all shapes and sizes, but they all are adept at herding. They also are among the most intelligent and active dog breeds. They tend to be highly trainable but need ample mental and physical exercise. Here are 10 of the most popular shepherd dogs.


If shepherd dogs don't have an outlet for their energy, they might find their own entertainment (chewing, digging, barking, etc.). Keep your dog busy with dog sports, such as agility or herding trials.

  • 01 of 10

    Australian Cattle Dog

    red Australian cattle dog


    Australian cattle dogs were developed to herd in the extreme Australian Outback. Their background includes collies, Dalmatians, and even dingos. These dogs are smart, hardy, and energetic. They need vigorous daily exercise and make great jogging partners. They also require mental work from puzzle games, obedience training, and dog sports.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 17 to 20 inches

    Weight: 30 to 50 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Smooth double coat; colors include blue and red with black and tan markings

  • 02 of 10

    Australian Shepherd

    Australian shepherd


    Despite its name, the Australian shepherd was developed in the United States, but its predecessors came by way of Australia. Aussies are excellent herding and all-around ranch dogs. They are highly intelligent and athletic. They excel at almost any dog sport and enjoy hiking, jogging, flying disc, and learning tricks.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 18 to 23 inches

    Weight: 40 to 65 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Medium-length coat; colors include black, blue merle, red, and red merle

  • 03 of 10

    Bearded Collie

    A close-up of a bearded collie

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    Originating as herding dogs in Scotland, bearded collies are intelligent and have high exercise needs. They also can be somewhat stubborn, so it’s important to start obedience training at a young age and remain consistent with them. They prefer space to run off-leash and need lots of attention to thrive.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 20 to 22 inches

    Weight: 45 to 55 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Medium-length coat; colors include black, blue, brown, and fawn with white markings

  • 04 of 10

    Belgian Malinois

    Belgian Malinois with flowers in the background

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    The Belgian Malinois is one of four related Belgian herding breeds. Many Belgian Malinois work in law enforcement—and for good reason. These dogs are built for long days and hard work. They're extremely intelligent and will test their limits, so they need an owner who will properly train them.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 22 to 26 inches

    Weight: 40 to 80 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Short coat; colors include fawn, mahogany, and red with a black mask 

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Border Collie

    Border collie


    Border collies have been herding sheep in the British Isles for more than a century. These dogs are possibly the most intelligent breed and must have a job—whether it be herding or training for a competitive dog sport. It can be a challenge to keep a border collie entertained.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 18 to 22 inches

    Weight: 30 to 55 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Rough or smooth, medium-length coat; can be solid, bicolor, tricolor, merle, or sable

  • 06 of 10

    German Shepherd

    German shepherd in snow


    The German shepherd is perhaps the breed that comes to mind when you think “shepherd dog.” The breed was developed to herd livestock and work on farms in Germany, but this all-purpose dog is also highly prized in law enforcement. German shepherds tend to be very intelligent, loyal, and trainable.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 22 to 26 inches

    Weight: 50 to 90 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Medium-length double coat; colors include black and tan, black and red, solid black, and more

  • 07 of 10

    Icelandic Sheepdog

    Icelandic sheepdog panting

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    The Icelandic sheepdog is Iceland’s only native breed. Viking settlers brought its ancestors to Iceland more than 1,000 years ago. The medium-sized dogs are adept at herding livestock and capable of a range of farm duties, including protection. The breed requires lots of exercise and needs somewhere to run off-leash.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 17 to 18 inches

    Weight: 25 to 30 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Curled tail; bushy coat; colors include black and white, chocolate and white, gray and white, and more


  • 08 of 10

    Miniature American Shepherd

    Miniature American shepherd


    Like its larger Australian shepherd cousin, the miniature American shepherd (also called the mini Aussie) has lots of smarts and energy. But thanks to its compact size, it’s somewhat easier to exercise than a larger shepherd. Miniature American shepherds often get along well with horses and are popular with equestrians. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 13 to 18 inches

    Weight: 20 to 40 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Medium-length double coat; colors include black, blue merle, red, and red merle with tan and white markings

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Old English Sheepdog

    Old English sheepdog with its tongue out

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    Old English sheepdogs emerged in the 1800s in England, driving livestock to market. Known for their stamina and steadiness, they can make very loving and playful pets. But they are not lazy. These dogs need daily walks, as well as off-leash play sessions where they can be their bouncy selves. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 21 inches and up

    Weight: 60 to 100 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Shaggy coat; colors include blue and white, gray and white, and more

  • 10 of 10

    Shetland Sheepdog

    Shetland sheepdog standing on grass

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    Originating on Scotland’s Shetland Islands, Shetland sheepdogs (or Shelties) are active, agile herding dogs. Because they are so intelligent and eager to please, they tend to be easy to train. And they excel in dog sports, including agility and flying disc, which are helpful to drain them of some energy.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 13 to 16 inches

    Weight: 15 to 25 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Long double coat; colors include black and white, blue merle and white, sable and white, and more