Lancashire Heeler

Also known as the Ormskirk Heeler or the Ormskirk Terrier, this breed was developed primarily as a cattle-driving dog.

In the days when cattle were walked to market, small dogs were employed to drive them along by nipping at their heels. This was a delicate task because if the bite was too weak it had no impact and if it was too strong it panicked the cows and there was a risk of a sudden stampede. So breeding the perfect heeler was a refined art. One such animal was the Lancashire Heeler.


This breed originated from crosses between Welsh Corgis and Manchester Terriers. Originally, this is supposed to have happened almost by accident when Welsh cattle were being driven to market at the Lancashire town of Ormskirk. There, the Corgis met and mated with the local terriers, creating a slightly taller, leaner, black-and-tan version of the Corgi, or, if you prefer, a stumpier, more stolid version of the Manchester Terrier. In the Victorian era, local gypsies employed these dogs to drive their goats along when caravans were on the move, and farmers discovered that this breed was a useful, dual-purpose worker. Not only could it drive cattle, thanks to its Corgi ancestry, but in a secondary role it was also a useful ratter, courtesy of its Manchester Terrier ancestry.

This dual personality meant that, when mechanization arrived and the drover’s dog suddenly became obsolete, there was still a useful vermin-control task for the Lancashire Heeler to perform, so it managed to cling on at a time when some other cattle-driving breeds were becoming extinct. Surviving the transport revolution, it was later taken up as a pedigree show dog. It then increased in numbers in this new role and was eventually recognized by the Kennel Club, who finally awarded it Championship Certificate status in 1999.

Recently, dissenting voices have been raised concerning the history of this breed. They claim that, when cattle were no longer walked to market, but were instead carried in lorries, the Lancashire Heeler did become extinct. This is said to have taken place early in the interwar period, as heavy motorized transport started to become a serious commercial proposition. They insist that the breed was then artificially recreated as a show dog in the 1960s, by making new, deliberate crosses between its two ancestral breeds. The Lancashire Heeler Club refutes this, stating that although a few modern breeders may have produced ‘reconstituted’ Heelers in this way, the old breed certainly did not become extinct and, indeed, some families have breeding records going back over a period of 70 years.

Happily, regardless of this dispute, the dog is now finding favour on an international scale. Many breeders and owners are attracted by its lively and appealing personality, and although it is by no means a common breed, its future seems assured.


The Lancashire Heeler has sharp, alert features and pricked or semi-erect, ears. It is highly intelligent, affectionate and yet still requires firm, kind handling. It is trainable but needs to be kept fully occupied because it has boundless energy.


The length of its coat may vary according to the time of year, from sleek to a longer coat showing a neck ruff. It has a strong jaw, a low-set but strong body, its front feet turning slightly outward. The topline is firm and level and the tail carried high. The show Heeler must conform to the color markings stipulated in the breed Standard. The height at the shoulder should be 12 inches/30 cm for dogs and 10 inches/25 cm for females.

Gallery of Lancashire Heeler