Breed Description

The McNab is one of the most commonly used breeds of herding dogs put to work by cattle ranchers in Central and Northern California. His innate herding abilities, which have been valued for centuries, make management of large herds, in oftentimes wild country, much easier.
The McNab takes his name from Alexander McNab who in 1868, sailed from Scotland with his family to California where they established the McNab Ranch in the area now known as Mendocino County south of Ukiah. He returned to his homeland some twenty years later for the sole purpose of acquiring some of the 50-called “Fox Shepherd” dogs he had previously used to help herd his stock in the Grampian Hills of Central Scotland.
History tells us one such import was a purebred bitch in whelp, while other imports were crossed to select shepherds of Spanish origin. Here is where the controversy developed regarding a line of McNabs which was totally pure vs. one which had become crossbred. However, it is easy to say that some McNabs are more true-to-type than others depending on whether their recent ancestors were crossbred and to what extent. It is apparent, however, that when one breeds McNab to McNab the offspring will “true up” in type over a generation or two as certain features and characteristics begin to surface out of an otherwise muddied gene pool.
Typically, the McNab is a medium sized dog ranging from 30 – 55 lbs, standing from 15 to 26 inches at the shoulder. The preferred coat length is short, not more than one and a half inches, flat and straight with a clean, smooth leg and ear. Color coats vary from solid black, deep to medium red or mahogany, Tri-colored, blond and sable. All coat colors may carry varying degrees of white trim including blazes on the face (piebald), white collars, white socks or stockings and white chest and belly markings.

The McNab body types vary from thick to lean and leggy.  His body is generally muscular, especially the upper thigh. The flank is tucked up tight while the back is especially strong and straight. The chest is well developed, yet in balance to the rest of his body. The heart girth is very deep. The head rests beautifully upon a graceful neck and is bold but never heavy. Muzzles are medium to slightly long in length, black puppies can be born with pink and black noses, usually changing to all black, where the red puppies are born with solid brown noses. The teeth meet in a scissors bite. Eyes are almond shaped, intelligent, and expressive.

Eye color will vary with coat color, red coated puppies can start with blue eyes turning to amber, black coated puppies can start with blue eyes turning brown.

The ears range from partial up to fully erect are of medium size with a keen appearance.

McNab is noted for his clean straight legs and especially his cat-like foot and upright pastern.

McNabs tails can be long or docked (some are born with a natural bobbed tail), some people prefer a long tail as they feel it aids in balance acting as a rudder.

When viewing the dog as a whole, they do not appear short, nor the body Squatty and thick. Rather, the McNab appears sleek yet strong, with a good balance of leg under him. His appearance suggests swiftness, and agility, a dog fit for a long day’s work.

The McNab is primarily a cattle dog although he is quite capable of working with sheep and poultry as well. His working style is truly unique. They are generally loose-eyed, yet a more intense gaze does Occur. They are predominantly head dogs although they can easily be taught to drive. They retain a strong desire to dominate their stock, hence, a more aggressive working style is readily apparent. They are naturally confident and commonly use a well-timed bark and bite whenever necessary to prove their position. This is especially valuable when working in steep, rocky, brushy country where a rider cannot always get to his stock quickly. They are spontaneous workers, not usually needing prompting. They can be easily taught to stay with the horse till needed and can also work gates, alleyways, and sorting pens as well. Many McNabs have an innate ability to track stock which again is extremely valuable when gathering wild cattle in great expanses of rough country. They almost relish the opportunity to show dominance and return escaping stock to the herd. They seem to sense the job at hand and perform accordingly.

McNab dogs quite simply love their people and are not at all independent of their handlers wishes. They are generally easy to train due to their keen intelligence and willingness to please. I would say they have a medium temperament meaning they will respond to strong discipline as well as praise. They are not usually hard-headed, taking a heavy hand to make an impression. They are devoted family members. Most McNabs I have raised prefer to be with you rather than off doing something else. They make excellent companions, even in a total absence of stock work. Raised with frequent Outside visitors, they learn to accept people. They are content with a minimum of babying yet will blossom with human input. Their attachment to people cannot be stressed enough. They love going and doing, whether working, cutting wood, feeding hay, driving into town or playing with the children.

To sum it up, McNabs are athletic, hard-working dogs, loyal, intelligent and easily trained. They are superb working stock dogs, hunting dogs, sport dogs and companions.

Note that the McNab owns you and everything you own. They are so intelligent they will learn everything you teach them; the good and the bad.”

This breed description was written by Donna Sigmund, circa 1979, at home on her typewriter and shared with Alvina Butti. Together, their work and dedication to the McNab breed was so profound that their knowledge and breed contribution became the standard upon which future McNab breeders based their dogs. In our quest to conserve The McNab, TMSF has adapted this as the formal breed standard by which we shall adhere.

Furthermore, it has long since been understood and accepted The McNab is a landrace breed and The McNab Stockdog Foundation recognizes them as such.

“Landrace breeds represent an early stage of breed development. “Landrace,” as used here, is a general term that refers to populations of animals that are isolated to a local area where local production goals and the physical environment drive selection. The “landrace” designation should not be confused with the specific Landrace swine breed, nor with the Finnish Landrace sheep breed (now known as Finnsheep). The landrace concept, as used here, is important as a general pattern for many breeds of all species. Landraces are sometimes called local breeds or natural breeds.”
Sponenberg, DVM, PhD, D. Phillip and Bixby, DVM, Donald E.
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, 2007.

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