Farm Dogs: 10 Breeds That May Surprise You
Published on February 28, 2017
It takes a lot of helping hands — and paws — to run a farm.
In her new breed guide, Farm Dogs, author Janet Vorwald Dohner describes the working traits and history of a whopping 93 herders, guardians, Terriers and other canine farm workers, many of whom were first bred for their jobs centuries ago.
These days, some of the breeds in the book are better known as beloved house pets, so their heritage might come as a surprise. We’ve picked 10 of the breeds Dohner describes for the gallery below, including some familiar faces and others you may not have heard of before.
Jack Russell Terrier
The typically smart and clever Jack Russell Terrier can also be assertive, which can make training him a challenge. He generally has an extremely high energy level and needs lots of exercise and mental challenges to keep him from becoming bored and destructive. He was bred in England to be courageous enough to drive a fox from its den — but not to kill it. Once his veterinarian gives him a clean bill of health, he can be a good competitor at dog sports like agility and flyball.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
This favorite of Queen Elizabeth II might not be the first breed you’d think of on a farm. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is usually independent and strong-willed, but she also tends to be affectionate and willing to learn. Believe it or not, this little dog has historically been able to drive cattle and sheep and is known as a good all-around helper on the farm.
These days, the Puli might be familiar as the family dog of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. But this Hungarian dog with a corded coat has a history of working closely with shepherds to move sheep or cattle from villages out to plains for grazing. Pulik (the plural for Puli) are often serious and deeply suspicious of strangers and need consistent socialization. Without training, this generally intelligent guy has been known to outwit his owner.
This typically intelligent dog usually likes calm and routine and can be deeply loyal to his family. The Tibetan Mastiff generally has the independence needed to be a livestock guardian dog, which is a category of breeds who generally live outdoors and protect their farm from predators and other threats, patrolling farm buildings and animal enclosures, according to Farm Dogs. However, even though the Tibetan Mastiff was bred for his deep, distinctive bark, many breeders say these days he fares better as a guard around the home than as a remote livestock guardian. Some owners say he does well on smaller farms where he has more interaction with his owners.
Hailing from northern Italy, the Bergamasco can be an alert watchdog who usually forms close ties and wants to spend lots of time with her owners. She has hair that forms into flocks, which tend to be more irregular in shape and sometimes flatter than the cords on the Puli. She’s a generally a protective and territorial herding breed. Today, she’s primarily a show and companion dog, though some Bergamascos still herd sheep and cattle.
The Dachshund was bred in Germany to hunt badgers, and the breed can be helpful at hunting down vermin around farms. He is known to be tenacious and independent-minded — which can get him into trouble. The Doxie also tends to be a talented digger and an alert watchdog who will bark at disturbances. He’s been one of the most popular breeds in the U.S. for decades.
The versatile French Briard has been known to work with her shepherd to move stock out to graze, keep them out of crops and return them to their barns at night — and she can also pitch in with general farm chores. She uses her size and strength to bump and shoulder stock to herd them. This striking breed tends to be a courageous and loyal dog who will often follow her owner from room to room around the house.
The giant but generally amiable Newfie is native to Canada. His large size and loud bark can make him an excellent protective guardian to his people and property. Newfies tend to be strong cart dogs who can be hardy helpers around the yard and farm. He’s also earned a reputation as an expert at water rescues. His typically sweet temperament is considered the breed's most important characteristic.
The Rottweiler is known for her excellent work ethic and can be highly territorial. This German working breed had the job of driving cattle to market and guarding the stock and owner against theft, being forceful with stock if needed. She typically needs a fair amount of mental stimulation daily, after which she'll likely be content and fairly quiet around the house.
The Schnauzer, who originated in Germany, is a multipurpose farm dog. He’s considered a general helper on the farm who can protect the house and yard, hunt rats and assist with moving cows around the farm or cattle to market. The breed tends to be a companion and loyal protector who often forms close relationships with his family’s children. He’s known to be dominant and strong-willed and will probably take charge if his owner doesn’t establish leadership using consistent positive reinforcement.