I know a sheepdog must have some advantage to having fur dangling down it’s eyes and obstructing it’s vision somewhat (otherwise, why would it have it), but I can’t imagine what it is. Any ideas?
It would have it because people chose to breed for that. This isn’t a breed that arose by natural selection.
Neither huntaways nor heading dogs have fur that overhangs their eyes. Indeed heading dogs can’t have fur in their eyes as they control stock by staring them down. Take a look a this video for a brief example. BY comparison here’s a huntaway at work.
Oh you mean the now purely ornamental English ‘sheepdog’. As with all showdogs they now look that way because that what the breed standard says.
Yeah, it’s decorative and bred by humans, not a result of natural evolution.
Thanks to the glory of the internet you can relive a 1981 episode of A Dog’s Show in three parts here. Huntaways in part 1, pairs of heading dogs in parts 2&3.
So why did decorative dog breeders think it was a good idea? Is it annoying to the dog?
Old English Sheepdogs are a show breed mainly derived from a now-extinct droving breed (large dog breeds used to escort livestock as they walked to market), called the Old English Bobtail. This breed had a tousled rough coat and a rather hairy face, but its hair was not long enough to obscure its vision. The OES is a creation of the Dog Fancy. The reason it looks that way is because they like it to look that way. There is no other reason.
The Dog Fancy has the habit of creating myths to explain why the weirdly exaggerated traits they so lovingly create are traditional and once were eminently practical, but by and large these myths have the value of a pile of dog turds. It’s a game. Like Dress Up Barbies, only with live beings.
Sadly all too true. And very well said if I may say so.
Don’t dogs have good enough senses of smell that the eyes being covered is not such a big deal?
A good sense of smell doesn’t keep you from walking into things.
Well, as others said, sheepdogs didn’t evolve, they were bred.
Second, even if they had somehow evolved, a given trait doesn’t necessarily need to be advantageous. As long as the trait will allow the organism to live long enough to breed, that’s good enough. Evolution isn’t really about optimizing traits, it’s about being good ENOUGH.
*Do *(old English) sheepdogs tend to have trouble seeing? I’ve only known one in person (I was a small child, he was the hugest dog I’d ever known and yes, I did ride him once or twice when the grownups weren’t looking!), and he didn’t seem to have trouble seeing. Didn’t run into things or knock stuff over.
It always kind of amused me that the hair in his eyes didn’t seem to cause him any trouble. Seemed like his brain just learned to adapt to the restricted view.
I hadn’t encountered these terms before. After a little searching, I see they appear to be terms native to New Zealand sheep herding dogs.
As a person who spent my teen years with hair covering my eyes, I can verify that it doesn’t really interfere much with vision. Just sayin’.
Yes, but how good is your sense of smell? And did you ever work with livestock or were you just for show?
I have a very keen sense of smell, actually. Disturbingly so, sometimes.
I have worked with actual livestock, although of the bovine and equine varieties rather than ovine.