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Sheep dogs vs cow dogs

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Hi there,

Due to the current pandemic, I am stuck on the Canada side of the closed border and my plans for a border collie pup for this summer have fizzled. So I have a bit of time on my hands and came across ranchworldads.com. Most of the dogs available through their site are listed as cow dogs. 

I'm curious as to what this means. Is it simply that border collies are so versatile that they can work cows just as easily as sheep? Or are they a subset that require a different skill set? I would imagine that dogs working cows would need to be more willing to physically move the animals. Would that translate into a more physical or dominant personality off stock as well?

I am really only interested theoretically. I am quite committed to getting a puppy from a rescue or a shelter once the borders reopen.

Cheers,

Iva

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Yes, there are lots of border collies that work cattle, some exclusively.  Several "lines" of collies bred for that work are in existence here in the US, mostly in the West and South.  In some cases other breeds have been crossed onto border collies to emphasize certain traits such as a heel bite, bravery and so on.  It takes a courageous dog to brush up rank cattle weighing 1000-2000 pounds.  Probably the best-known examples are Hangin' Tree Border Collies (not to be confused with Hangin' Tree Australian Shepherds!) and Cattlemasters.

Having said that, there are also ABCA-registered border collies bred and used by cow dog folk who select their own breeding stock within the breed for the characteristics they need and like, and those pups/dogs are usually marketed as cow dogs, or 'cow dog bred', or from cow dog lines.  These are likely the dogs you are coming across in your searches.

Breeding for purpose is what the border collie has been about since its earliest development.  I think it's fascinating.

Amy

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In my experience dogs that work cattle have lower natural bite inhibition. That's not at all to say they're all going to bite someone, and that bite inhibition cannot be taught and learned. But, I would be more cautious turning a dog from working cattles lines into a pet than a dog that works ducks successfully for example. 

I recently heard Australian Cattle Dogs described as Redneck Malinois and while it's definitely a joke, it's not without a little truth. While BC and ACD are different dogs for sure, what they have in common is that it takes a very confident dog to move stock, especially range cattle. 

Any dog from working lines will of course benefit from having a job that teaches him his human family are teammates in that work. 

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You’re right, cow dog lines need to be willing to physically push cattle, where sheep work that is almost never an issue. Most cow dogs can work sheep, and some sheep dogs can work cows. However, the ones bred for the specific task obviously do it better and are easier to train in said task. 
As a pet, I’d prefer a cow bred dog, as, in my experience, sheep dog lines are much more sensitive than what I want-I want a bold confident dog. 
Cow dogs are no more likely to bite people than other dogs are-they know the difference between cows and humans.

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