History of the Dutch Shepherd

In the last century you could find many shepherd dogs all over Europe working with the shepherds and the sheep. The shepherds were not very interested in the exterior of the dogs, just their working capacity was important. In times gone by, shepherds and farmers needed a versatile dog.

Let us now take you back to The Netherlands, some time before the 20th century. The countryside still boasts moors and an abundance of small farms. Agriculture abounds. In order to fertilise the land, the farmers kept sheep, which grazed on the moors. Early morning could see a shepherd collect sheep from the various farms that employed him. Each farm would turn out its own flock, to be added to the collective. The shepherd was entrusted with their care during the day and returned the sheep to their respective owners in the evening. In order to do this work properly, good dogs, which were versatile, accompanied the shepherd. The dogs needed to be able to herd, goad and guard, and even if necessary defend the flock from predators. They needed to be sturdy, hardy, obedient yet independent and most of all; they needed to be reliable.

A medium sized dog, fiercely loyal to its pack, highly intelligent and independent, yet totally trustworthy and reliable. It's coat black with streaks of grey or gold, big enough to ward off any predators, yet light enough to be carried on the shepherd's shoulders if necessary. Hardy and weatherproof, erect ears, intelligent, alert eyes. This was a true working dog, on which the shepherd relied for his livelihood, his safety and companionship.

The origins of the breed that is known today as the Dutch Shepherd Dog can be found in its suitability for this type of work. Suitability bred conformity, and soon the shepherds on the Dutch moors were working with dogs that not only had the same skills, but also shared a common look.

At the end of the 19th century the country was in the grips of industrialisation. Chemical fertilisers were used more and more, and development of moors and replanting of forest grounds were the order of the day. Sheep, shepherds and their dogs almost all disappeared, they were no longer necessary.

Fortunately this was not the end of the Dutch Shepherd Dog. With the advent of more prosperity, more people could afford to keep a dog for the love of the dog, instead of only for work.

Fearful that the breed would die out with the last of the shepherds, a group of enthusiasts came together and set up the first Breedclub for a Dutch breed. On June 12th, 1898, the Nederlandse Herdershonden Club (NHC) became a fact and the first Standard of Points was laid down. Thanks to these enthusiasts, the breed is still alive today.

A true working dog

True to its origins, the Dutch Shepherd Dog has established itself alongside such well-known working breeds as the German Shepherd Dog and the Belgian Shepherd Dog. The Dutch Shepherd Dog (Hollandse Herdershond for the Dutch) can be found herding sheep, guarding home and hearth, in rescue work, police work and as drugs detection dogs in international ports and airports.

Development of the breed

After the Nederlandse Herdershonden Club was set up in 1898, the breed became "official". The oldest known Dutch Shepherd Dog that was entered into the Studbook was born in 1896. The NHC set itself the task of structuring breeding activities. Before the advent of the breedclub, the dogs were bred solely for their working capacities. And although the breed had evolved into a type on its own, there were no strict rules regarding type.

Over the years the standard of points as first established has changed several times. These changes in the standard however, only served to refine what was already a known and established type. Such changes included the inclusion of too much white as a fault and the allowance for a gradual increase in the size of the breed.

However, as photographs from the end of the last century and today will show, the type was already well established and has changed so little that it is often only the quality of the photograph that gives away the fact that it is over 100 years old. The dogs themselves have remained true to form, and many of them would do well in the show ring today.


According to the standard of points, the Dutch Shepherd Dog is an ideal dog. The qualities the dog required for its work with the shepherds have been retained. However, proper training and education is required to allow this dog to develop its character to the fullest.

This breed is very social, has a great sense of the natural order in the pack and loves being in company, or rather, in its pack. The Dutch Shepherd Dog usually gets along well with children. This breed has an independent nature, can be slightly obstinate and has a mind of its own. This means that the owner has to give stable, strict guidance to the dog.

It is a family dog. Although it will equally consider each family member its own, it will be most loyal to the person that raises him. A consistent, gentle attitude to the dog is the ideal way to allow its many qualities to develop to the fullest. Do not try to raise the dog with a hard hand, it is very sensitive to atmosphere and emotions. The dog will be alert, happy and active in a home that gives him plenty of attention and lots of exercise. Daily walks or runs alongside a pushbike are the perfect exercise. A good relationship with its owner is the key to a happy family dog. The Dutch Shepherd Dog is still active as a working dog. It is used for agility, obedience, policework, rescuework, or of course its original job, herding work.


General appearance:

A medium-sized, medium-weight, well-proportioned, well-muscled dog of powerful, well-balanced build, with an intelligent expression and lively temperament.

The body is longer than high, in a proportion of 10 : 9
Size dogs: 57-62 cm
Size bitches: 55-60 cm

There are three varieties, distinguished by coat-type:

  • short-haired
  • long-haired
  • rough-haired

The short-haired and long-haired varieties do not require a lot of grooming, except in the moulting period. Brushing and combing the dog thoroughly once a week should suffice. The rough-haired variety requires professional trimming twice a year.

The required colors for the short-haired and long-haired varieties are: gold or silver brindle. For the rough-haired variety the colors are: gold or silver brindle, blue-grey and salt and pepper.

From zurich.ibm.com/~jsc/more/hollande
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