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Herding facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Mustering sheep in Patagonia
Gauchos herding sheep in Patagonia

Herding is the act of bringing individual animals together into a group (herd). It is maintaining the group and moving the group from place to place. Many thousands of years ago herding became a way of life for many nomadic people. Today it is still a necessity for farmers, ranchers and those who raise domestic animals.


Some animals instinctively gather together as a herd. A group of animals fleeing a predator will herd together for protection. Some predators, such as wolves and dogs, have instinctive herding abilities that come from primitive hunting instincts. But there can be a fine line between chasing and herding. Dogs that show basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding and stock dog trials. It's a sport that dogs and their owners can enjoy together.

Herding is used in agriculture to manage domesticated animals. Herding can be performed by people or dogs trained to control the movement of livestock under the direction of a person. Animals such as cattle, sheep and goats are commonly herded by humans and dogs. Also herd dogs may be used to gather and herd turkey, geese, ducks and chickens.

Herd dogs

Originally dogs were used to both herd and guard domestic animals. Over time dogs were bred to specialize in one or the other. Herd guardians or guard dogs became the 24-hour protector of the flock. Herd dogs were developed to keep the herd together. Herding dogs are critical to Australian and British sheep farms.

Herd dog breeds

Herding dog breeds are typically intelligent, all-work and full of energy.

  • Australian Kelpie is a highly intelligent herding breed that can work with little or no guidance. One of the most heat tolerant dogs.
  • Australian Cattle Dog is a breed of herding dog originally developed in Australia to herd cattle. Will nip at their heels to move cattle.
  • Belgian Shepherd Dog (Malinois) is a breed of herding dog. They also excel as police dogs, personal protection dogs, bomb and drug detection dogs.
  • Border Collie is one of the most intelligent dog breeds used for herding all kinds of livestock.
  • German Shepherd (called an Alsatian in Great Britain and parts of Europe) is one of the most popular herd dogs. They work as police dogs, detection dogs and in search and rescue dogs as well as many other roles.
  • Old English Sheepdog originally a drover (herd dog) used to drive sheep to market. A large intelligent good-natured dog is often a family pet.
  • Pyrenean Shepherd is a small French herding dog that is highly intelligent and lightning-fast. An excellent sheep herding dog.

Herding occupations

People who work with agricultural animals have different occupational names. This is based on the type of animal they work with or names that vary by country.

  • A shepherd is someone who looks after sheep.
  • A cowboy is someone who works on a ranch. Often they herd cattle.
  • A Gaucho (Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and Chile) is similar to a cowboy and often work with cattle.
  • A goatherd or goatherder is a person who herds goats.

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See also

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