Like most shaggy coated herding breeds the PLS probably finds its origins in central Asia, on the high plateaus of Tibet, Mongolia and the Gobi desert, possibly descending from a variety of types, some of which have evolved along their own paths to become Tibetan Mastiffs, Tibetan Terriers, Tibetan Spaniels, Lhasa Apso and so on.
Then, as followers of nomadic tribesmen, most of whom were herdsmen, the dogs moved westwards, breeding along the way with local canines to produce working dogs well adapted to the particular conditions. Specific characteristics would have been bred into the dogs to meet the requirements of different terrains, for example. PLS evolved on the plains of northern Europe, a lowland dog adapt at herding sheep and working close to the encampment and later, the village.
These versatile herders needed to be robust, tough, harsh coated, highly intelligent, agile and fearless. Although larger dogs were probably the chief guards, the PLS certainly had to be ready to face wolves when they ventured too close to the homesteads. The larger dogs would have resembled what we now know as (for example) Anatolians, Kuvasz, Komondor, Tatra Sheepdogs etc. The PLS would have been used mainly for manoeuvres with sheep close to home, and for working with lambs and pregnant ewes.
The characteristics of the breed set in this early period are, of course, still there in abundance today - the modern PLS should be solid, slightly rectangular in body, a smooth, efficient mover, a dog of great loyalty and devotion, somewhat suspicious of strangers, a dog with a very strong territorial sense, and above all, great independence and spirit.
Most of us have read the story about a Polish merchant, one Kazimierz Grabski, who came to Scotland in 1514 with a cargo of grain to exchange for some Scottish sheep. So impressed were the Scottish shepherds with the PLS, who had travelled with Grabski ready to handle the sheep onto the ship and of course off it again in Poland, that they offered Grabski some extra ewes if he agreed to leave three of the dogs behind. It seems likely that these three certainly contributed some genetic material to the evolving Scottish Sheepdogs. The one most often cited as having PLS ancestry is the Bearded Collie.
After the devastation of the 39-45 War, there was a new resurgence of nationalism, and at last the breed was able to make real headway, largely in the hands of Dr. Danuta Hryeniewicz, a vet in northern Poland, who became the pillar of the modern breed, together with her famous dog, Smok, to whom all present day PLS can trace their origins. Smok sired 10 litters in the 1950s and the breed was recognised by the FCI in 1959.
The first PLS were imported into the UK in 1985 by Megan Butler. These were two bitches and four dogs from two litters bred by Mr Zennon Mossakowski in Belgium. Several of them made their mark in the early breeding programmes including Mutley, (Jonasz de Halkaza in Megsflocks) who was the sire of the first UK Champion, Ch. Mybeards Pioneer, and Princess (Jasna de Halkaza in Megsflocks), dam of Megsflocks Candlelit Flirt of Mybeards, an early Best of Breed winner at Crufts.
By the early 90s a wide gene pool had been established, leading to the breed's acceptance by the Kennel Club and its progression off the Import Register. Pioneering work at the Kennel Club at this time was undertaken by Ann Arch, who has supported the breed from the outset in this country and is now the President of The Polish Lowland Sheepdog Club.
The first Open Show to schedule classes for PLS was Southampton, in 1991. The first classes at Championship Shows followed a month later at Windsor, where Judge Megan Butler gave top honours to Diane Mottram's Megsflocks Candlelit Flirt of Mybeards. Then came the first classes at Crufts, in 1992, with the late Mr David Samuel officiating. He found his Best of Breed in Antrosu Andrez owned by Sue Ainsley & Terry Radford.
From these early days the breed has made steady progress, and to date there are many UK Champions. Several PLS have won or been well placed at Group Level at Championship Shows, and there have been a healthy number of Best in Show and Best Puppy in Show awards for the breed at Open Shows.
The PLS Club in the UK was founded in 1985 and has done a great deal to promote the breed here. Membership now stands at around 200 with a number of overseas members. The Club runs an Open Show, early in the year, and a Championship Show in October as well as annual Seminars/Judges Assessments and Fun Days. Two excellent magazines are published each year, and there is a thriving and exciting shop full of all sorts of PLS goodies.
Health issues have always been a priority for the Club and the Breed Archivist keeps a detailed database on all aspects of health in the breed. There is also a breed Welfare service run by the Club for the re-homing of PLS.
Since its introduction this charming breed has won many friends in the UK. The dogs always attract huge attention and admiration wherever they go, nowhere better illustrated than at "Discover Dogs" events where there is always a constant stream of interested visitors.