Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Today is the Fourth of July, which means that it's time for me to write a nice, patriotic blog entry about some breed of dog that was invented right here in the USA.  So this year I have chosen the Old Time Farm Shepherd, which I have to admit I had never heard of before, and neither had Mom.  But now that I have done my in-depth research, I am ready to tell you all the interesting things I have learned about this sort of dog.

Back in the old days, like in the late 1800s and the early part of the 1900s, lots of Americans lived on family farms, and they often had a family dog that looked kind of like a border collie, but not exactly.  These dogs were mostly descended from shepherd dogs brought over from Scotland by immigrants in the mid-18th century, after the Battle of Culloden.  They were good farm dogs because they could herd sheep or they could hunt squirrels or they could be watchdogs or do whatever the family needed them to do.  But after World War II, people started leaving the farm and living in the city, and a lots of these people decided they wanted purebred dogs.

Heritage Majestic Shasta
from Little Boy Blue Farm
Anyway, in the early 1990s, a man named J. Richard McDuffie started wondering what had become of those good old farm dogs that everybody had when he was growing up.  And he decided to try to find some and start breeding them again.  So he advertised in a hunting magazine called Full Cry, and after a while, he found an old lady in Tennessee whose family had kept a line of these farm collies pure for many generations.  He went there and bought her last litter, which had 4 puppies in it.  Later, he found 2 females in western Tennessee, and with these 6 dogs, he started the Old Time Farm Shepherd breed in 1994.  He registered his dogs with the National Kennel Club.

If you don't want to say Old Time Farm Shepherd every time you talk about this breed, you can just say OTFS for short, or you can call them farm shepherds.  They are medium-sized dogs, with the males weighing 45-60 pounds, and the females 35-50 pounds.  Their height is usually between 18" and 24".  Farm shepherds have a coat that is moderate in length, and it can be either straight or wavy.  The usual colors are sable, tricolor or merle.  Tails can be long or naturally bobbed.  Bobtails are a genetic thing, and a pup has to have at least one parent with a bobtail in order to be born with one.

When Mr. McDuffie was developing this breed, he wanted them to be really good at hunting and treeing raccoons, squirrels, and opossums.  On small farms, the dogs may also be used for herding, guarding, and pest control.  And of course, they are good companions and fun dogs for kids to play with.

Here's what Mr. McDuffie himself said about OTFS dogs in a letter to Linda Rorem:

They have almost human intelligence – being able to figure things out and respond appropriately to unusual situations. They are very people oriented but distrustful of strangers. They are territorial and natural protectors of property. They are natural stock dogs (however, I do not allow mine to work any kind of livestock. I break them off all livestock because I hunt them among livestock and I don’t want them being distracted by it.) They are natural heelers but do not have the tight-eyed, crouching style of the Border Collie.

The breeding of Old Time Farm Shepherds was continued after J. Richard McDuffie's death by his son, Rick McDuffie.  The younger Mr. Mcduffie has carefully crossed some other breeds with the OTFS, but mostly he has tried to keep the working instincts of the farm shepherd as pure as he can.  Show dogs are never bred with farm shepherds because OTFS are meant to be bred for their working and hunting ability, and not for looks.  

Anyway, that is the patriotic story of a very American breed, the Old Time Farm Shepherds.  Mom and I were very excited to find pictures of these dogs because now we think that Bruno, the dog my Grandpa Claude's family had on their farm in Arkansas, was an OTFS.  I told you all about Bruno in a previous blog entry, and now I'm glad to finally know what kind of dog he is!


  1. I had a dog like this once and now cannot find another. Any ideas in central Washington state? I got my last one in Oregon and the mother has since passed. No leads. Think you, Wendy

  2. There was a dog just like these in our neighborhood when I was a kid. Possibly the best friend I ever had. Very smart, he did have human like intelligence.

  3. And then we have the English Shepherd, but that's another story!!!