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Shetland Sheepdog Breed

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Shetland Sheepdog Breed

The Shetland Sheepdog or Sheltie hails from the rugged Shetland Islands, which lie between Scotland and Norway, about 50 miles north of Scotland and a bit south of the Arctic Circle. These islands are also home to other small breeds of animals, such as Shetland Ponies and Shetland Sheep.

For many years, the Shetland Sheepdog was called the Toonie, taken from the Norwegian word for farm. Farmers bred the dogs, crossing the Border Collie with smaller dogs, to herd and protect their flocks of Shetland Sheep. Some speculate that one of the tasks of Shetland Sheepdogs was to protect the small sheep from birds. Indeed, many of today’s Shelties seem to have a passion for chasing birds, and some even try to chase airplanes and helicopters flying overhead.

In the early 1800s, the Sheltie was brought to England and Scotland, where he was described as a miniature Collie. On the Shetland Islands, the farmers started breeding their small Shelties to be even smaller and fluffier, so they could sell them to visitors to the islands. It’s rumored that a Prince Charles Spaniel (a variety of English Toy Spaniel) and some Pomeranian dogs, left on the island by tourists, were crossed with the native sheepdogs.

There was so much crossbreeding that by the end of the 19th century, islanders realized that the original type of dog was disappearing. There was much dissension about what the original dog had looked like, however, and how to get back to it. Some breeders believed they needed to crossbreed with Collies in order to regain the original type, some felt that they should breed only the existing Shelties who were closest to the original type, and others continued to crossbreed indiscriminately with other breeds to develop small, pretty pets.

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Shetland Sheepdog Breed

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