Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever vs Bisben - Breed Comparison

Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever is originated from Canada but Bisben is originated from India. Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever may grow 22 cm / 8 inches shorter than Bisben. Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever may weigh 32 kg / 70 pounds lesser than Bisben. Both Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever and Bisben has almost same life span. Both Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever and Bisben has same litter size. Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever requires Moderate maintenance. But Bisben requires Low maintenance

Basic Information

Sporting dog
Working dog
Height Male:
42 - 54 cm
16 - 22 inches
50 - 76 cm
19 - 30 inches
Height Female:
42 - 54 cm
16 - 22 inches
48 - 74 cm
18 - 30 inches
Weight Male:
17 - 23 kg
37 - 51 pounds
18 - 55 kg
39 - 122 pounds
Weight Female:
17 - 23 kg
37 - 51 pounds
16 - 52 kg
35 - 115 pounds
Life Span:
10 - 14 Years
12 - 15 Years
Litter Size:
6 - 10
4 - 10
Medium dog
Giant dog
Other Names:
Bisben Sheepdog, Bisben Shepherd, Himalayan Bisben, Himalayan Bisben Sheepdog, Himalayan Bisben Shepherd, Himalayan Sheepdog, Himalayan Shepherd, Indian Sheepdog, and Indian Shepherd
Colors Available:
Red, golden with some white, copper
jet black, either solidly or with white markings on the feet and chest. Other commonly seen colors are tan, tricolor, and “wolf-color,” which probably means grey, brown, black, and/or various shades of sable.
Medium length, double-coat, feathery
long, wiry, coarse, harsh
Affectionate, Alert, Cheerful, Courageous, Curious, Energetic, Friendly, Independent, Intelligent, Lively, Loving, Loyal, Outgoing, Playful, Protective, Responsive, Social, Territorial
Aggressive, Courageous, Energetic, Independent, Intelligent, Stubborn
Moderate maintenance
Low maintenance
Kids Friendly:
New Owners Friendly:


The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever dog was bred in the 19th-century in Nova Scotia, Eastern Canada.

They were used as hunting dogs. Known as the ‘Toller’, the dog was at first referred to as the Little River Duck Dog but it was in 1945 that it became officially recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club as a pure breed.

The dog is a mix of retriever, setter, spaniel and possibly a farm collie mix breed. It was in 1980 that the breed gained national recognition, being declared the provincial dog of Nova Scotia in 1995.

There is a lot of mystery surrounding this large herding dog said to come out of the Himalaya Mountains of Asia. The belief is that sheepdogs were crossed with wolves toward the end of the 18th century, but his origin is basically unknown. They are both herding dogs and guard dogs. Others theorize that rather than a wolf, the breed arose from the Mastif family. Still others claim that the Bisben is not a breed at all but rather a “landrace”. A landrace is an animal group that is only found to exist in the local area or is bred locally for a specific reason, while a breed is developed intentionally and from a select purebred with pedigree. The Bisben may be a landrace since it is very popular in India but hardly known anywhere else. What is known is that the Brisben was in existence at the end of the 1700’s and its job was to protect and herd livestock. There are three main theories about the origin of the Bisben. They are, in no particular order:

1. The Bisben was developed by mixing several different Himalayan and Indian Sheepdogs with wolves. The wolf population in the Himalayas and in India live in very close proximity to dogs and people and this population is quite large. These Tibetan and Indian wolves are known to be smaller, more comfortable with people and less aggressive than wolves from other parts of the world.

2. The Bisben was developed by mixing local sheep herding dogs with the Tibetan Mastiff. This gave the breed its protective nature and its large size according to this theory.

3. The Bisben was developed by mixing local dogs with the ones the British, Portuguese and French imported to the India subcontinent.

There is a fourth theory as well and it combines all three of these, supposing that the Bisben is a product of crossing local dogs with wolves, Tibetan Mastiffs and European dogs.

Regardless of their origins, the Bisben grew into one of the most respected animals in the Southern Himalayas. Their assistance to the shepherds of the area was unquestioned and irreplaceable. They were touch enough to herd flocks of goats or sheep across several treacherous and unstable mountain passes. The environment in which these dogs worked when herding is one of the harshest environments on the face of the earth. Temperatures were dangerously cold, altitudes dangerously high and the terrain just plain dangerous. Many deadly large predators live there as well. This included tigers, Asiatic black bears, golden eagles, Himalayan brown bears, snow leopards, fox, dholes, wolves, and small cats. The Bisben had to be able to fight off all of these predators. In addition to these herding and protecting duties, the Bisben was also known throughout the region as an excellent hunting dog. They are capable to this day of hunting large prey such as antelope or deer. They are equally comfortable hunting alone or in a pack. He has grown into one of the most popular hunting dogs in all of India.

The Himalayas, being so rugged and treacherous, were inaccessible to most of India for many centuries and the Brisben was unknown as well. Through the British imperialist expansion across all of the Indian subcontinent, the lowlands people were connected to the highlands and mountain people for the first time. This also meant that the Brisben was no longer unknown. The entire country began to appreciate the dog for its protection and herding of livestock, as well as a companion animal who would protect its owner and family as well. As India continues to grow the popularity of the Brisben grows as well and its numbers increase regularly. The breed, if it is a breed, remains an Indian secret. They have migrated to the countries around India, but their number are small. It is only in India that they are revered and prosper. They are not present in any great numbers in Europe, North America, Japan, or most of Asia.

Whether or not the Bisben becomes a recognized breed depends upon those who own and fancy them. Most Bisbens are bred to only other Bisbens in an effort to purify the breed. However, few dogs have pedigrees and the practice of breeding the Brisben to other breeds and mixed breed to acquire specific characteristics continues to this day. It is unlikely that the Bisben will ever be a purebred dog. It is quite variable in how it looks depending upon what the breeding line of the individual dog actually is. Does it look like a wolf? Does it look like a larger version of a local or European dog? There will always be these questions around the Bisben. Is it a breed or a landrace?


The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a medium-sized gundog. Both male and female stand at about 42 to 54cm in height and they weigh anything from 17 to 23kg.

This beautiful dog is looked upon as the smallest of the retriever dogs. He has a remarkable medium-length, feathery red, copper or golden coat with some white markings and a long feathery tail with medium length, floppy ears. The coat will need brushing twice a week.

He is a powerful dog and also agile with a somewhat worried expression on his face. The expression becomes bright and animated when he is busy working and you’ll notice that the feathery tail is held high with confidence and delight when he is busy working or doing some activity he loves.


The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is an intelligent, alert dog who is eager to please its owners.

They are affectionate dogs too, making a splendid family pet. If you’ve got kids in the home, you can trust this dog to get on well with them.

He is energetic, thriving on both physical and mental stimulation. He’ll love a walk every day as this will give him the chance to get out and sniff around. He won’t be content though with just a walk and will want ball games, walks in the park, hikes and swimming. This dog loves water and is well equipped for it with his double coat and webbed paws.

As mentioned in the previous section the appearance of the Brisban can vary greatly from one dog to another based on the individual dogs’ ancestry. Breed or landrace, the Brisban breeding line is not very pure. Therefore, appearance can vary greatly from what is described here and there is no standard by which to measure the Brisban. Most are distinctly large animals, being as tall as the European mountain dogs – the Newfoundland or the Bernese Mountain Dog, Swiss Mountain Dog. St. Bernard and Great Pyrenees. Reports are that it is perhaps the largest dog in India. At least it is one of the largest dogs in India. The Bisben is said by some to be a large, bulky, husky dog while others claim it to be tall and athletic, leaner than the Mastiff bred. Again, there is disagreement on the size and shape of the Bisben’s head with some claiming it is massively square like a Mastiff while others say the head is long and like that of a wolf not a Mastiff. The long hair of the Bisben and its confusing heritage may be the cause. They are most often black but might also be found to be tricolor, tan and “wolf-color” or brown, grey, shades of sable and black. No matter how it looks, this is a dog that was designed to work in the harshest conditions known and their physical appearance should make that abundantly clear.

Health Problems

These dogs are robust, but certain genetic disorders do occur in the breed because of the smallish gene pool. Some of the biggest health problems they face are hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy:

This eye disease is all about a group of degenerative eye disorders that cause blindness in both eyes of the dog.

The first symptom of this disease is night blindness where you see your dog being reluctant to go outside or to go up and down stairs in dim light. The surface of the eyes will get that cloudy, glazed-over look and as the disease progresses, you’ll find your pet bumping into things.

Mercifully it isn’t painful but you will need to get your pet to the vet to manage the condition.

Because he is not a purebred and is probably a land range, there have not been a lot of health studies done and written up on the Brisban. It is believed that the Bisben is for all practical purposes a healthy working dog. As long as the breeding practices are not compromised it should remain a healthy line. It is bred for temperament and work not for appearance and showmanship. Some problems that plague large dogs have been noted in the Bisben. These conditions include hip and elbow dysplasia; optical issues such as Entropion, Ectropion and cataracts; ear infections; and Demadex and Demodectic mange. Most of these conditions can be tested for either in DNA or early in a pup’s life and should be tested for by the breeder before a puppy is sold

Caring The Pet


Tollers are energetic dogs and you won’t have to extend a second invitation to this dog to join you on your walks, hikes, hunting and swimming. It is perhaps why he is better suited to country living as opposed to living in the city.


You want to ensure the best food for your four-legged friend, but the idea is to keep things simple and nutritious for your dog.

Your pet can’t tell you when he’s got a stomach-ache from eating the wrong foods so you have to be careful what you feed him. You want to make sure that the food you give your dog is balanced for the stage of life he or she is in – puppy, young adult, pregnancy, ill dog or senior dog.

You’ve also got to see whether your dog is small or large, active or a couch-potato type of dog, and choose commercially manufactured foods that cater for the kind of dog he is.

It is fine to feed your dog a kibble food or you can mix in some chopped up boiled chicken, brown rice or pasta and some vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach. Some raw meat added in when you can afford it, will also do your pet the world of good.

You can see from this diet, it is uncomplicated, plain, wholesome food and will do your pet good.

Always be careful of bones with your dog and speak to your vet first before you opt to give your dog bones.

Never leave your pet without a constant supply of fresh, cool water.

Training and Socialization:

Both dogs and owners benefit when a dog has been trained and socialized. The dog is balanced and obedient and a stronger relationship develops between owner and dog because of the dog being well behaved. The Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever is an intelligent dog so he won’t have any trouble with training.

The Bisben is a large working dog that needs a lot of calories if you are keeping him busy. Do not let him get overweight. The Bisben should not be free fed but rather given two controlled portion meals per day.

Health issues

As previously mentioned, the Bison was developed with the harshest of conditions in mind and long hours of hard work. It is a healthy breed that is however prone to any of the issues that any large dog is prone to including dysplasia and mange and well as optical issues.

Exercise and games

The Bisben needs a lot of exercise as the breed is developed for hard work. Walks are essential but if you have more than one dog, pack walks are even better and pack time at the dog park or in a fenced yard is great. The Bison was bred to hunt in packs as well as alone and they love to play in packs. In any respect they need at least an hour of strong exercise daily. If they don’t get enough exercise, they can become aggressive, destructive and fearful. This could result in destructive activity, barking and excess excitability. They are not very happy in the city and thrive in the countryside.


Your Toller is a high energy dog, and with the right family he is going to be an absolute joy to have. Give him lots of activities to stimulate him physically and mentally as he is an intelligent dog.

He is playful and social and full of life, although he is wary around strangers. Just like with most dogs, he will need training and socialization to round him off, making him obedient and well balanced.

With this good-natured pet, you will have a wonderful family friend and enthusiastic sport companion.

The Bisben was so important to the people of the Indian subcontinent because of her temperament. He is a loyal, productive and courageous worker who took care of her flocks, her family and her pack. They are devoted to their family and if raised with children will care for them as well. He is suspicious of strangers. They are territorial and great watchdogs. They can take on any large challenger if need be to protect what they consider to be theirs. They can be highly dog aggressive and must be socialized as a puppy. Do not mix them with strange, unknown animals as the Bisben might attempt to kill them. If he sees them as his “pack” he will love and protect them, but not if he does not know them. Take as much time as you need to introduce him to a new animal and do not leave them unsupervised. They are not easy to train as they are stubborn, intelligent, want to be dominant and is a problem solver. If he doesn’t want to learn something forget it – he won’t. You can still train them. It just takes time and patience.

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