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  • Welcome to Sheep 101. The purpose of Sheep 101 is to teach 4-H and FFA members, students, teachers, beginning shepherds, and the general public about sheep, their products, how they are raised, and their contributions to society. The site uses simple language and pictures to illustrate the various topics. To begin learning about sheep, click on a link in the menu bar or choose a topic from the drop down menu above.

  • About the author. The author of Sheep 101 is Susan Schoenian, Sheep & Goat Specialist at the University of Maryland's Western Maryland Research & Education Center. Susan has been with University of Maryland Extension since 1988. She raises Katahdin sheep on her small farm, called The Baalands, in Clear Spring, Maryland. Susan has B.S. and M.S. degrees in Animal Science degrees from Virginia Tech and Montana State University, respectively.

  • Susan Schoenian
    Sheep & Goat Specialist
    W. MD Research & Education Center
    University of Maryland Extension - (301) 432-2767 x343

Border Collie
Border Collie

Keeping sheep away
Keeping sheep away

Working dog
A working dog
Photo courtesy of Trial & Error Acres

Fetching the sheep

A watchful eye
A watchful eye
Photos courtesy of Pipedream Farm


    A shepherd's best friend

  • Going to the dogs
    There are two types of dogs used on sheep farms: herding dogs and guardian dogs. Herding dogs are used to manage sheep. They are also called stockdogs or working dogs. Guardian dogs are used to protect sheep from predators.

    Learn about guardian dogs =>

  • Partnership
    A well-trained herding dog works in partnership with its handler and obeys commands to perform its job. Properly trained, the dog is able to move the sheep just about anywhere. Good herding dogs control sheep with calm authority and without excessive "commotion." A poorly trained dog has the opposite effect on the sheep.

  • Breeds
    Not just any breed of dog is used for herding. Common herding breeds include the Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, Australian Kelpie, New Zealand Huntaway, and Australian Cattle Dog. Other breeds with herding instinct include Corgis and Shetland Sheepdogs.

    The Border Collie
    The most popular breed of herding dog in the U.S. is the Border Collie.The Border Collie originated in the border country between England and Scotland. It is considered the world's premier sheep herding dog. The Border Collie is noted for its intelligence, work ethic, and desire to please. Since Border Collies are bred for working ability and intelligence rather than for physical beauty, conformation varies widely.

  • For the love of dogs
    Many people get their start raising sheep because of their love and interest in training herding dogs. They raise sheep so that their dogs have sheep to work. Some people keep flocks of mosty wethers whereas others develop productive sheep flocks that they simultaneously use to work their dogs.

  • Not ideal pets
    Border Collies are not ideal pets for people who have no plans to spend a lot of time with them. These dogs are too intelligent to lie around the house all day with nothing to do. These lively little dogs have boundless energy and thrive on hard work and play. Prospective owners who are looking for just a family pet should consider other similar, but calmer breeds, like show line Australian Shepherds and Shetland Sheepdogs.

  • An intelligent dog
    One of the most trainable breeds, the Border Collie also serves well as a narcotics and bomb detection dog and is a frequent high performer in obedience, agility, Frisbee(TM) trials, police work, search & rescue, Flyball, performing tricks and competitive obedience.