From the time of equine domestication, dogs have long enjoyed a connection with stable. Today it is a rare horse barn that doesn't have a least one resident "barn dog". It seems that over the years certain breeds have come to be particularly associated with horses. Hunting and herding dogs have a long tradition of being coupled with horses in a working relationship, as well as vermin catching terrier types.
A few breeds stand out when we think horses and dogs. It's not so much breed that matters, as the temperament. Most barns get a certain amount of visitor traffic, so the barn dog should be non-aggressive, especially around children. But traditionally the barn dog is a useful canine, earning his keep in such capacities as herding, hunting or controlling mice populations.
Australian Shepherds have long held up their end of the job as herders on farms and ranches in the western United States. Contrary to their name, the breed was actually developed in the American West.
They are bred for their working ability rather than type. Crossed with other herding breeds the Aussie is known for his intelligence, endurance, energy and strong herding instinct.
The Corgi is a favorite of horse folk, especially the Queen of England. He's a short, long dog that is just as at home herding cattle or sitting on your lap in front of the TV. Welsh legend has it that the Corgi was a gift from the fairies. Small in statue, but big of heart the Corgi was a cattle dog, ratter and family pet to the ancient Welshmen. A stiff penalty was given to anyone who would dare to steal a family's Corgi because they were so important to the farmer.
Jack Russell Terrier is a little dog with a BIG personality.
The Jack Russell has been around for about one hundred years, developed from a strain of fox hounds by a preacher in England named John (Jack) Russell. These dogs also have been bred over the years for work rather than type. They resemble the early foxhound, and come in a range of sizes and hair types. Most are spotted with brown or brown and black, with at least 50% of their coat being white.
Dalmatians have been associated with coaching since ancient times. Since that time they have been guarding the coach and horses while the owners ran their errands. A dog with the stamina to keep up with horses, we remember them best for their affiliation with the fire station. Their job was to run ahead of the horse-drawn engine to warn pedestrians and other vehicles that they were coming through. This was before sirens. Owners of driving horses still enjoy the tradition of having a Dalmatian in their barn or on top of the carriage.
Great Pyrenees aka Pyrenean Mountain Dogs are a large, fuzzy, white and powerful dogs which historically have been used in Western Europe to guard herds of sheep and goats. Miniature Horse owners have discovered these dogs to be ideal to protect their horses from stray dogs and coyotes. The dogs are very territorial, but gentle with their families and animal charges. On the down side, they tend to bark a lot and will roam if not kept contained within fenced boundaries. They require a lot of exercise and patience in their training.
Horses and dogs can be great friends, especially when you have only one horse. Being a herd animal, a single horse will enjoy the company of a dog while his human herd mates are gone. While making a wonderful companion a dog can help you catch your horse, catch mice as well or better than a cat and act as a security guard. All things considered, they work for very low wages.
Do you have a barn dog? If so, send us your story.