The full history of the Welsh Sheepdog is not fully known and has become more a thing of legend than something that can be relaibly tracked back to a specific source. It is believed that the Gellgi or "covert hound" is its earliest known ancestor. In the early days of this breed the Welsh Sheepdog would have fullfiled a dual role, in that it would have been both a herding dog as well as responsible for protecting its master and masters animals from rustlers and other wild animals.
Manuscripts relating to Welsh Law and dating back over 800 years make mention of herding dogs "The herd-dog guards the stock and goes before them in the morning and comes home behind them at night" it was also a common view in this time the the herding dog was just as valuable as "the most important beast of the stock he guards".
During the 1800's British Agriculture began to evolve and farmers would utilize herding dogs to send their stock hundreds of miles over wild, and open country from the moutains to be sold at the markets in England. During the journey it was paramount to keep the herds safe as reaching their destination was essential to the livelyhood of the drover as well as the owners of the animals back in Wales. It was not uncommon for just a few men and their dogs to move 300 or more cattle at a time. These early herding dogs were fundamental to this task and had to be both resourceful and hardworking to prevent stock from escaping and to guard the herds from rustlers and wild animals at night.
The most notable traits to be carried from these early herding dogs into the modern Welsh herding dog are strong guarding instincts and the instinct to circle a large herd of livestock.
Also during the 1800's Sheepdog trials were introduced in order to let breeds compete against each other to measure the overhall herding effectiveness of specific breeds. The result of this was a rapid increase in popularity for the Border Collie. The unfortunate bi-product of this rise in popularity for the Border Collie was that it resulted in cross breeding and the native Welsh Sheepdog lines became extremely dillutied to the point that only small pockets of purebred stock remained.
No historic record of the genealogy of the Welsh Sheepdog was ever kept, so the only reference to the purity of their breeding line was their true ‘Welsh’ manner of working.
In 1997, the Welsh Sheepdog Society was formed with the goal of preserving and promoting the ancient Welsh breed in its working context.
The Welsh Sheepdog is a collie type dog that is medium sized and well proportioned. They have longer legs, a broader chest and wider muzzle than the Border Collie. The coat can be rough or smooth in appearance and coloration will range from black, black and white, black and tan, red, roan or blue merle with or without white markings. The ears are alert and pricked and generally folded at the tips, these dogs are extremely intelligent working dogs and as such would require alot of exercise and mental stimulation if they were to be kept as a pet.
The intellgence of the Welsh Sheepdog combined with their natural herding instinct provides a breed that is extremely adaptable in their herding work. This dog is very capable of using its own inititive and making on the fly decisions as well as accepting direction from its owner when acting in a herding role.
In the field they can spring to flush sheep from undergrowth or rocks, or they can eaily use their tremendous agility,stamina and courage to turn a 1500lb+ cow. In the pen or on enclosed land it is not uncommon for the Welsh Herding dog to run across the backs of sheep if they become jammed, they are also capable of catching and holding full grown lambs or sheep on command.
The will of this dog is to work and as such would not be a good choice for those looking to keep them soley as a pet.
With a coat that is similiar to that of a Border Collie, brushing at least once a week to remove mats or tangles would be recommended. However, this is a working dog and grooming for this breed would realistically consist of cutting out mats or the occassional hose bath, the absolute minimum necessary to ensure they remain healthy and are able to perform at peak levels.
With the formation of the Welsh Sheepdog Society in 1997 and only 1000 puppies being registered as of 2004 it is still to early to tell what / if any congenital defects will or do accompany this breed. The main area of importance at this point in the breeds preservation would be a solid and regulated breeding program that strictly prohibits the breeding of siblings or relatives and ensures that breeding stock is properly tested for the presence of existing defects prior to breeding.