The Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog: Everything You Need to Know

The Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog was a long-coated, shaggy breed and a favorite among Welsh farmers for centuries before declining and going extinct. 

In this article, we will take a closer look at the history, physical characteristics, temperament, and health of the remarkable Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog.

History and Origins

The Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog, also known as the Welsh Grey Sheepdog, has roots that date back to the Middle Ages. The breed was developed to be a working dog on Welsh farms. 

Breed members were tasked with herding sheep and cattle, guarding the properties, and helping with everyday chores. In many ways, they were a vital part of the Welsh farming communities. 

Origins of the Breed

The precise origins of the Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog are lost to time, but it is believed that their ancestors were first brought to Wales by Viking invaders in the 10th century. 

One theory suggests that the Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog is descended from the Celtic Hound, a breed that was used by the ancient Celts for hunting and herding.

The Role of the Old Welsh Grey in Welsh Culture

Breed members also appear in many Welsh folktales and songs. One tale tells of a farmer who was saved from a pack of wolves by his faithful Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog.

According to another story, there was one Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog who was so intelligent that he could count the sheep in his flock and would bark if one was missing.

The Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog was also celebrated in Welsh literature. The famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote a poem about his own Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog named Gwilym.

The Decline and Legacy of the Breed

Despite their popularity, the Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog saw a sharp decline in numbers during the 20th century, with many farmers opting for more modern and specialized breeds, such as the Border Collie.  

Before going extinct, the Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog contributed to the formation of the Welsh Sheepdog and the Patagonian Sheepdog, as many breed members were brought to Patagonia by Welsh settlers. 

Physical Characteristics

Size and Build

The Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog was a medium to large dog. Males stood 20 to 22 inches tall, and females 18 to 20 inches. Male breed members weighed between 40 and 60 pounds, and females between 35 and 48 pounds. 

Coat and Color

The Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog had a thick and dense coat with long hair that could be either straight or slightly wavy. The dog’s coat was “harsh” or “coarse” to the touch, enabling for better protection.

The most common color for the Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog was, not surprisingly, grey. However, some breed members could also be black, white, or a mixture of colors.

Distinct Features and Expression

The Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog was strong and muscular, with a well-proportioned body that was built for work. Its legs were sturdy and straight, allowing it to move quickly and easily over rough terrain.

It had a broad chest and a deep ribcage, enabling strength and endurance. One of the most notable features was the long, bushy tail, which was often carried low and gave it a regal appearance. 

Temperament and Personality Traits

Working Dog Instincts

As you might expect from a breed with such a long history of working on farms, the Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog had a strong instinct to herd and protect. It was known for being an excellent watchdog and would fiercely defend its territory and its owners.

Intelligence and Trainability

The Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog was widely regarded as intelligent. It was a quick learner and thrived on having a job to do. However, some breed members were independent thinkers and did not always follow commands blindly. 

Socialization and Family Life

The Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog was typically a friendly and sociable breed. It was good with children, though its strong herding instincts made them “herd” younger family members. They are also generally good with other animals. 

Health and Lifespan

Common Health Issues

We do not know much about the Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog’s health. However, based on its size, we can assume that breed members were prone to hip dysplasia and arthritis when older. 

Life Expectancy

The Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog had an average lifespan of between 10 and 12 years. However, some dogs from the breed lived longer with the right care and attention. 


The Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog was a remarkable breed with a rich history. It was highly intelligent, hardworking, and fiercely loyal to its humans. 

Today, despite being extinct, the Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog still lives through its descendants, the Welsh Sheepdog and the Patagonian Sheepdog. 

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