The English Shepherd dog has been traditionally the working dog of England for centuries. Legend has it that the first examples of this breed came to the British isles with Roman soldiers during Caesars invasion in 55 BC. He used the dogs to herd the livestock that traveled with his army, which he needed in order to feed his men. As the size of the cattle and sheep herds dwindled over time, fewer dogs were needed to keep the livestock in line. Those dogs not needed were abandoned and happily claimed by local farmers and shepherds who recognized the great stamina, intelligence and dedication of this species. It is reckoned that little about the breed has changed over the years. They are still hard working animals. Their extreme loyalty and intelligence means they are able to herd sheep and cattle with and without the aid of human supervision. Though capable of defending the herd from predators, they are not at all aggressive, meaning human thieves are something which they are unable to cope with. The upshot to this is that they are great with families and completely safe around children, animals and other dogs. They are fast becoming popular in the United States, though they may not be readily recognized.
Start by trying to get an idea of the dogs dimensions and weight. Males are typically 22 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 45 and 60 pounds. As a rule, females are a few inches shorter and about ten pounds lighter. Females are typically between 4 and 6 inches longer from the chest to hind end than they are tall. The thick chest and stubby limbs erroneously suggests that the dog is not completely grown. Its tail should be short and heavily curved, though still pointing backward. Depending on the coloration its common to get an overall impression of a juvenile Rottweiler or adult Collie, though you will notice some differences if you pay attention.2
Examine the dogs coat. It should be thick and glossy, though much longer than the fur of a Rottweiler or Collie. You will likely see fringes along the belly and tail, though the legs, head and face will have much shorter fur. There are four common color configurations. Black and tan in mimicry of a Rottweiler is one, the tricolor patterning of a Collie is another. The other two are primarily white with either sable or black fur along the back, chest, or neck.3
Examine the dogs head. The skull should be thick and wide, though shorter than one would expect. This often adds to the impression that youre looking at a juvenile of another breed, as well as the short and very thick neck leading up to it. The primary difference is that the English Shepherds skull has a much larger dome. The muzzle starts out from the front of the skull very wide with a large circumference. This circumference does not taper as much as would be expected, stopping shorter than what seems normal or natural. The eyes are typically dark brown and the ears are wide, short, and flop over forward. They are placed very low on the sides of the head.