This section is from the book "The Dogs Of Great Britain, America, And Other Countries. Their Breeding, Training, and Management in Health and Disease", by John Henry Walsh (Stonehenge). Also available from Amazon: The Dogs Of Great Britain, America And Other Countries.
There are so many different breeds of the English Sheep-dog that it is difficult to describe him. He has a sharp muzzle, medium-sized head, with small and piercing eyes; a well-shaped body, formed after the model of a strong low greyhound, but clothed in thick and somewhat woolly hair, which is particularly strong about the neck and bosom. The tail is naturally long and bushy, but, as it has almost invariably been cut off until of late years, its variations can hardly be known. Under the old excise laws the shepherd's dog was only exempt from tax when without a tail, and for this reason it was always removed; from which at last it happened that many puppies of the breed were born without any tails, and to this day some particular breeds are tailless. In almost a!l sheepdogs there is a double dew-claw on each hind leg, and very often without any bony attachment. The legs and feet are strong and well formed, and stand road-work well, and the untiring nature of the dog is very remarkable. The color varies greatly, but most are grey, or black, or brown, with more or less white.
Such is the true old English sheep-dog, but a great proportion of those in actual use are crossed with the various sporting dogs, such as the setter, which is very common, or the pointer, or even the hound; and hence we so often find the sheep-dog as good in hunting game as in his more regular duties, while a great many are used as regular poaching dogs by night, and in retired districts by day also.