I have trained and worked in animal care as well as in career advising. I live in Lancashire, UK.
Some dog breeds (such as the Bloodhound) originated so long ago that it is hard to ascertain exactly where they were developed. For some breeds, the name is a clue to their birthplace—for example, the Norfolk terrier. More recent breeds may have a well-documented history, especially if an individual breeder set out with the purpose of creating a dog breed for a specific purpose or appearance.
This is all about breeds which we can be fairly confident originated or were mainly developed in England. It won't be an exhaustive list but will contain well-known and less well-known examples of English breeds. They have been divided into the seven groups listed by The Kennel Club.
18 English Dog Breeds: Dogs From England
- Curly-Coated Retrievers
- English Cocker Spaniels
- English Pointers
- Flat-Coated Retrievers
- Golden Retrievers
- Old English Sheepdogs
- Lancashire Heelers
- Border Collies
- Staffordshire Bull Terriers
- Norfolk and Norwich Terriers
- Jack Russell and Parson Russell Terriers
- Border Terriers
- English Mastiffs
- English Toy Terriers
Not surprisingly, the gundog group was bred for accompanying their owners out on a shoot, being used to scent out (hunt and point) game (usually birds) and retrieve injured and dead game. Due to the popularity of hunting amongst the English gentry, quite a lot of gundog breeds have been developed here.
Other breeds from this group which I could have included are the Clumber Spaniel, Sussex Spaniel, Field Spaniel, Springer Spaniel and English Setter.
1. Curly-Coated Retrievers
The Curly-Coated Retriever is believed to have originated in England around 200 years ago. Various breeds will have contributed to its development such as poodles and perhaps the Tweed Water Spaniel - an extinct breed. The Curly-Coated Retriever comes in two colours - black or liver (brown).
It is a gundog and still used in gundog trials and by some gamekeepers; however, the rise of the Labrador Retriever meant that the breed decreased in popularity as a gundog in the 20th century. The tight curly coat is waterproof and shakes dry quite satisfactorily - it was purposely developed for retrieving game from water. It is now classed as a vulnerable native breed by the British Kennel Club.
2. English Cocker Spaniels
A very popular breed, the Cocker Spaniel was developed as a gundog for flushing woodcock in particular. However, it is easy to see how their appealing looks and charm gained them fans amongst pet dog owners and breeders. There are now two strains with the working Cocker and the show Cocker having diverged somewhat.
3. English Pointers
The English Pointer almost certainly has Spanish ancestors and to my mind as a working dog its short comparatively thin coat is perhaps more suited to the milder and dryer climate of Spain than the wet and often cold UK.
I've known quite a lot of English Pointers and chuckled at the Kennel club's description of the English Pointer being "clearly most at home on the moors, where he in his true element." The ones I knew were most at home curled in a heap in a comfy bed and looked quite horrified if asked to go out in the rain or mud.
4. Flat-Coated Retrievers
The Flat-Coated Retriever, despite being superficially similar to a Golden Retriever, is a lighter weight and leggier dog. It owes some of its appearance to setter and imported Newfoundland Wavy-Coated Retrievers. As a result are known for their ability to retrieve from water as well as on land.
The 19th century was a time when a significant number of breeds were developed in the gundog world. Hunting and shooting were extremely popular pass times and the large estates could afford to run large kennels of dogs. Flat-Coated Retrievers became known around 1864 and quickly became popular for their working ability.
The modern Flat-Coated Retriever can be worked, shown and a family pet. Unlike the spaniel breeds which have split into working and show lines the show Flat-Coated Retriever can still hold its own as a gundog.
5. Golden Retrievers
The Golden Retriever is a hugely popular breed worldwide being attractive, adaptable and amenable. I debated whether to count the breed as an English one, because it has strong claims to being developed in Scotland albeit under the management of an English lord.
The human father of the breed was Lord Tweedmouth of Berwick upon Tweed which is firmly in England. One of the breeds he used was the Tweed Water-Spaniel popular in Northumberland and on the opposite side of the Tweed in Scotland. However he bred them at his Scottish home the Guisachan Estate, so they are really Scottish in origin. I've sneaked them in anyway. It's hard to resist a Golden Retriever!
Some of the pastoral breeds, like the Border Collie, were developed for herding livestock such as sheep and cattle. They are renowned for their stamina and intelligence others such as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog were bred to live with the flock and guard them from predators. These tend to be less active but with a strong guarding instinct.
6. Old English Sheepdogs
Although its name indicates that the Old English Sheepdog is an archetypal English breeds it almost certainly had European breeds such as the Corded Coated Bergamasco in its development. These were bred to lighter coated sheepdogs from England. However the end result still has a very profuse and instantly recognisable coat.
Despite having presumably been bred for working sheep I haven't come across any evidence of them still being used as a working breed. They have recently been put on the 'at watch' list with the British Kennel Club as the numbers of Old English Sheepdog puppies being registered each year has fallen.
7. Lancashire Heelers
The Lancashire Heeler is a pastoral breed which was almost lost until efforts in the 1980s were made to boost the numbers of the breed by people such as Jean Lanning, a breeder and international dog judge. They are still listed as a vulnerable native breed but numbers are more healthy especially in their home county of Lancashire.
In a similar mould to the corgi they were originally cattle dogs and would harry the cattle along by nipping their heels when necessary, so they can be quite feisty. They also have stamina.
8. Border Collies
Border Collies can claim to be a truly British breed rather than an English one. They originated in hill country where sheep were kept, so Wales, Scotland and Northern England all contributed to the breed.
Although they are an active breed there is considerable difference between the show strain and working strains which are still widely used on farms throughout the world. The show strain enjoys plenty of exercise and mental stimulation but that requirement is more than doubled in a working dog who would really need some sort of job to do, like agility training, even as a pet.
Hounds were bred for hunting and killing specific prey whether that was rabbits, foxes, deer or wolves. Some, like the Foxhound, were bred with stamina to hunt by scent in packs whilst others, such as the Greyhound, were bred for speed and more often hunt alone or in pairs.
Other breeds I could have featured are the Beagle, Otterhound and Whippet.
The Foxhound is listed as possibly the most vulnerable native English breed with no puppies registered with the kennel club last year. They have always been very much working dogs for hunting foxes, with few kept as pets despite their friendly temperaments. Perhaps people are put off by their reputation for stubbornness and their stamina.
Despite the lack of registrations with the Kennel club, there are still packs of Foxhounds kept for hunting. Strictly speaking, hunting animals with dogs is illegal in the UK since the Hunting Act 2004 was passed, but packs can hunt a human runner laying a trail.
The Bloodhound has been bred in England since before 1300 which gives it a fairly strong claim to being an English breed. Literature does indicate that there were probably Belgian dogs used in the development of the breed, so there may be a claim further back for it being of European origin.
Although originally bred for hunting deer and wild boar, the exceptional tracking ability of the Bloodhound was soon recognised as being useful for tracking humans - initially criminals. There are now a number of packs of bloodhounds in the UK kept for hunting. Usually this takes the form of hunting a human runner who sets off ahead of the dogs which gives a trail for them to follow. I have enjoyed watching the Readyfield Bloodhounds on foot on a couple of occasions, but was never confident enough at jumping to join them on horseback.
I might have a fight on my hands listing the greyhound as an English breed. Arguably Greyhound-type dogs are one of the earliest breeds known as they are portrayed in ancient Egyptian tombs and on Roman pottery. However from these original dogs long legged sight hounds were developed by most area or countries, resulting in the Ibizan Hound, the Saluki (from the middle east), the Sloughi from North Africa, the Greyhound in England and many others.
The Greyhound was already well known in England in the Middle Ages. For example, King Canute made laws in 1014 allowing Greyhounds to be owned and hunted by the nobility alone. Any common person caught owning a Greyhound would be severely punished.
The modern Greyhound is more popular as a racing dog then as a show dog, but valiant efforts by greyhound charities to raise the profile of the breed as a pet has meant that increasing numbers of ex-racing Greyhounds find their way into the comfort of home life and happily swap the racetrack for a comfy sofa.
A feisty group of mostly small-to-medium-sized breeds that were bred to pursue and often to kill animals which were considered to be vermin.
Other breeds I could have included are the Airedale Terrier, English Bull Terrier and Miniature Bull Terrier, Fox Terriers, Lakeland Terrier, Manchester Terrier and Dandie Dinmont Terrier.
12. Staffordshire Bull Terriers
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, affectionately known as the Staffie, is one of the most popular breeds in the UK at the moment. Sadly this also means that it is the breed most commonly found in dog rehoming centres around the country.
Dogs resembling the Staffie and known as bull terriers, existed in the 17th century as a breed for use in dog fighting which was popular and legal at the time.
In 1835 dog fighting was made illegal and at this point, some dog breeders from the English county of Staffordshire determined to preserve the breed as a show dog and pet. Hence it became known as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
The breed had always been known for its sweet nature towards humans and it is one of the few breeds to have a breed standard that specifies that it is good with children. The breed comes in a wide variety of solid colours and also patches of colour on a white coat.
13. Norfolk and Norwich Terriers
The Norfolk and the Norwich Terrier are two delightful little terrier breeds developed in the same area - Norwich being the county town of Norfolk in the east of England. They were originally tough farm terriers used to keep the rat population under control.
The easiest way to distinguish between the two is that Norwich Terriers have pricked ears (like the steeple of Norwich cathedral) and Norfolk Terriers have semi-erect ears which are distinctly floppy looking. They were only split into two breeds in 1964 - hence they really are rather similar in everything other than ear carriage.
14. Jack Russell and Parson Russell Terriers
Since Victorian times, England had been home to a strain of terriers known as Jack Russells. They were generally a mix of white and one or two other colours, could be short or long legged and rough or smooth coated. They were very popular, but not recognised under Kennel club rules.
They originated from dogs bred by the Reverend John Russell (1795–1883) who was also instrumental in breeding lines of smooth Fox Terriers. After his death, enthusiasts kept the breed as close as they could to the Reverend's ideals until in 1990 the Kennel club formally recognised the breed and in 1999 settled on the name Parson Russell Terrier to differentiate from the unregistered Jack Russell Terriers throughout the country.
15. Border Terriers
As its name suggests, the Border Terrier originated in the borders of England and Scotland, however, it was especially associated with the Border hunt in Northumberland which is the English side of the border, so can count as an English breed.
They were bred with stamina for fox hunting. They would accompany hunters with foxhounds and if the fox went into a burrow the border terrier would go after it and either chase it out or bark to indicate where the fox could be dug out.
They are now popular as pets and as long as they are introduced to cats as puppies will live happily alongside them. Prospective owners should bear their stamina and terrier nature in mind though. They may be small, but they enjoy plenty of exercise and can show an interest in hunting rats.
Working Dog Breeds
The working group contains breeds that were mainly developed for guarding and fighting such as the mastiff or for pulling sleds like the Alaskan Malamute.
Only one breed from the working group can claim to have been developed in Britain and that is the English Mastiff, known here just as the Mastiff.
16. English Mastiffs
The mastiff is the largest English dog breed and one of the most ancient. Roman writers commented on mastiff type dogs, some of which were taken for fighting in the 'games' held at the amphitheater in Rome. They were traditionally used for fighting and guarding.
Mastiff is originally a french name, however this doesn't mean that English mastiffs originated in France, just that the Norman conquest caused them to be renamed, as were many other things, as the conquered English people took up parts of the new language.
Colour wise; mastiffs are most commonly seen in fawn with black masking, but they can be apricot or brindle too, like Hooch pictured.
Toy Dog Breeds
The toy dog breeds have often been developed from breeds which originally had a job to do such as the terriers and the spaniels. However, their appeal as companions began to override everything else and breeders started to select for companionship qualities and cuteness. All the toy breeds are very small or small.
Other toy breeds I could have featured are the Yorkshire Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and King Charles Spaniel.
17. English Toy Terriers
This pretty breed longs rather like a miniature Doberman with the delicacy of an Italian Greyhound. It has been in existence since the 19th century when it was known for its skills as a rat killer. However, during its conversion to a companion breed, it was selected for smaller size and reduced prey drive. The breed only ever comes in black and tan.
The kennel club lists the English Toy Terrier as a vulnerable native breed which means that not many puppies are registered each year. In 2006 only 103 ETT puppies were registered.
Utility is the group for dog breed which don't really fit anywhere else so it is a diverse group including Akitas, Poodles and Shih Tzus. It contains only one breed developed in England but it is perhaps the most famous English breed of all the bulldog; also known as the British or English Bulldog.
The fact that the bulldog is listed in the utility group rather than the working group is an indication of how far it has come from its roots as a dog for bull baiting and dog fighting in the 17th century.
The modern breed is shorter and more squat and unfortunately can suffer respiratory difficulties and be inclined to heat stress due to its 'squashed' nose. However, it is far more congenial a companion than the fighting dog it descended from and they are a charismatic breed.
John Spencer on May 20, 2020:
Where is the Airedale ?
LKMore01 on May 07, 2013:
Voted up and Awesome, Nettlemere. This is a comphrehensive, well structured informative and entertaining HUB regarding a subject many of us happen to LOVE! Great job.
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on May 07, 2013:
What great coverage of the differing dog breeds...not hard to see why the great HOTD honor was bestowed upon you. Great job!
Deb Welch on May 07, 2013:
Great Hub. Totally excellent - thorough - interesting and very well done. You earned HOTD. The Border Terrier - had a lot to say - nice dog. Enjoyed. Awesome.
Marcy J. Miller from Arizona on May 07, 2013:
Thoroughly enjoyed this, Nettlemere -- it's certainly deserving of the HOTD recognition. I was stunned and saddened to see that no Foxhounds were registered over a year's time. They evoke such an image of grand English country homes, well-appointed riders, and athletic Thoroughbreds coursing green fields. I hope there will always be a place for them. (I'm partial, as my longtime childhood companion was a Foxhound cross.)
What a great job on your hub!
Yvonne Spence from UK on May 07, 2013:
Congrats on your HOTD! Some of those dogs are so cute - especially the curly coated retriever!
Better Yourself from North Carolina on May 07, 2013:
Congrats on Hub of the Day! Beautiful dogs, great hub! I have a Jack Russell and a Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix both with lots of energy!
summerberrie on May 07, 2013:
Great hub. What beautiful animals. We are the proud owner of a bloodhound! Sometimes we are an embarrassed owner, but we always love her. Beautifully done and great info. Congrats on HOTD.
Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on May 07, 2013:
I love your expertise on animals! I have learned so much from your hubs - thanks for sharing your knowledge! Congrats on the HOTD - so deserved!
Jason Licerio from Philippines on May 07, 2013:
PUGS! Now I know they're not an English breed. Great hub!
german83 from Buenos Aires, Argentina on May 07, 2013:
Great Hub!!! I have a Beagle myself. All I can say about them is they are always wanting to eat something. You have to keep an eye on their weight...
Mary Craig from New York on May 07, 2013:
Its easy to see how this hub made HOD! Such comprehensive information on each of the breeds you wrote about and your pictures are superb! How in the world did you get to take pictures of so many breeds?
Voted up, useful, and interesting.
whonunuwho from United States on May 07, 2013:
Beautiful animals, all, and well done in your pictures and writing. Much to learn about many animals. whonu
traderjim on May 07, 2013:
Interesting. But am I the only one who appreciates half-breed dogs as well?
Robie Benve from Ohio on February 27, 2013:
Wow, so much info here about those lovely breeds, and wonderful photos to go with it! Great job and thanks for sharing. :)
Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on February 24, 2013:
This is very interesting. I learned so many things here.
Nettlemere (author) from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on February 22, 2013:
Thanks for reading Dr Mark - I suspect that the foxhound may be more common now in America than it is over here.
Suhail - thank you for commenting - I like the English setter and do plan to fill in the gaps at some point, but the hub was getting long and I thought I'd best get it published!
Bac2basics - I agree the KC breed standards can cause real problems for the dogs as do trends amongst the breed judges as to exactly what they are looking for.
Eddy - thank you for the share. I perhaps should have included the before pic of the OES - it had come into the RSPCA terribly matted and a group of us spent an afternoon shaving it off. He was so patient with us.
aviannovice - I'm pleased you like it, I suspect some of the breeds aren't available in America, so you probably don't see them. I know there are quite a few American breeds that we don't get over here.
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on February 21, 2013:
Further to my earlier comment. I resent not covering the English Setter though ;-)
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on February 20, 2013:
This was very well done and enjoyable. I learned about a few dogs that I had no knowledge on. Wonderful!
Eiddwen from Wales on February 19, 2013:
I really enjoyed this hub and I am saving all my favourite animal hubs and this is most certainly one. I have never seen an Old English Sheepdog closely shaved before na dI was pleasantly surprised. Enjoy your day and I vote up and share.
Anne from United Kingdom on February 19, 2013:
Hi Nettlemere. What an interesting hub this is. I agree with what you said about the English pointer being more suited to the Spanish climate. I do see pointer type dogs around here frequently and also the Spanish Podenco during hunting season ( which I hate) I´m also not in favour of the exacting standards the kennel club apply and feel this causes suffering, deformity and disease in many breeds . Never the less a great and interesting hub N :)
Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on February 18, 2013:
English Foxhound may again become in demand breed few decades down the road when fox population grows out of proportion and there will be a need to hunt few of them down every now and then.
Mark dos Anjos DVM from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 18, 2013:
Very interesing and thorough. I didn´t even realize how things were going for the Foxhound. Voted up and sharing.