Shetland Sheepdog History



The remote Shetland Islands lie between the northern most tip of Scotland and Norway, these island were settled
in 920AD by the Norse (Vikings). These settlers brought with them cattle, sheep and dogs. Archaeological
remains of the dogs indicate they were of typical Spitz decent, resembling what we now know as Buhund and realted

The dogs were an all purpose dog useful on the Crofts or farms, pretty much an purpose dog, useful round the
Crofts or farms, but with no specific role, in what was a hard windswept environment where only low and sparse
vegitation could grow and few sheep, cows and ponies could exist. A hardand poor environment for man and
animals alike to survive.

It is thought that with the importation of some sheep to increase the vigourof the flocks in 1760, a dog (s) were
also introduced being of what then was called The Scottish Shepherd Dog, which is the ancestor in part of both
the Rough Collie and the modern day Border Collie.

It is known that following the Highland clearances, after Bonnie Price Charlie was defeated to make way for
large scale sheep farming – that an unproductive attempt was made to deal similarly with the Shetland Isles
in 1820 and shepherds and their dogs were imported from mainland Scotland.

By now the appearance of a 'Spitz' dog had been modified somewhat by these newer dogs and it is thought
probable that a dog not dissimilar from very early working sheepdogs – later to be called Border Collies and
were mostly Black and White and Black and Tan, occupied the Islands, still carrying out the non specific role
of a crofter's dog, and thought by many to spend rather more time driving pack of ponies than herding the
sheep which were grazed communally on the moorland of Shetland – being only gathered on two occasions
per year.

At the start of the 1900's Officer of the Royal Navy whose ships were stationed near Shetland had started
bringing back to England as pets for their families small fluffy puppies which were purchased from one source
in the port of Lerwick. It is believed that these dogs were the product of breeding the resident dog with
Papillion and Pomeranians know to be also in the ownership of the trader. Soon the friends of Royal Navy
personnel were also owning these dogs.

The first 'Shelties' appeared at a show in Glasgow in 1908 and were described by a respected authority of
the time as ''little more than mongrels, about 8'' high'' … Hardly an auspicious start !

The Ladies Kennel Association were the first English show to schedule the breed separately in 1909 which
generated huge interest – and particularly from the Rough Collie breeders at that time.


The first Breed Club had been formed at Lerwick in Shetland in 1906 but was not to prosper for very long.
In 1909 the Scottish Shetland Sheepdog Club was formed and exists strongly to this day, but it was not until
1914 that the English Shetland Sheepdog Club was formed.

The Breed was recognised in 1914 in the UK and the first breed standard approved. The preferred name
of these early pioneers for the breed was Shetland Collie, but campaigning by the Rough Collie breeders
resulted in the name Shetland Sheepdog.


Much development to standardise the wildly varying type took place over the next 20 years, with one faction
wanting to preserve the more 'traditional' Shetland dog and a rival faction whose aim was to produce a
Rough Collie in miniature. Inevitably the Rough Collie influence through repeated inbreeding won the often
acrimonious battle over the rather fewer in the number , 'traditional' dogs.

In 1914 a dog named Woodvold was shown to achieve his title in 1915, his dam was a rough Collie named
Greta and together with a dog called Wallace , whose unregistered sire was Butcher boy.

                                                                      ~ Woodvold ~

In 1915 the first ever Challenge certificate was won in UK buy a black and white bitch Frea, and in the same
year the tricolour male Clifford Pat became the breed's first Champion, winning the first CC at the breeds'
first appearance at Crufts in 1916.

In 1951 Ch. Helensdale Ace became the breeds first BIG winner, winning Best Male in Show at Birmingham
Championship Show and 3 years later Ch Riverhill Rare Gold became Best Bitch in Show at the Ladies Kennel
Association and her granddaughter Ch Deloraine Dylis of Monswood, became the highest placed dog to date
at Crufts, when in 1967 she was awarded Best Bitch in Show.


                                                                  ~ Helensdale Ace ~


                                                                ~ Riverhill Rare Gold ~






Contact Details


Club President : Helen Gordon: [email protected]

Website: Brooke Williams: [email protected]