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The father of the modern border collie

Old Hemp

 

 

 

EARLY BRITISH SHEEPDOGS

 

The British working Colleys of the 1700's and 1800's came from the mixing of Roman and Viking dogs and later Polish Lowland dogs, and in some strains also African dogs. As you would expect they evolved into something very different. They evolved into dogs that were needed by the farmers in Britain. At one time almost every county or shire had their own separate strain of sheepdog (or Colley).

What people tend to forget is that there were many different strains of sheepdogs in Britain. They were all called Collies or actually 'Working Colleys' as it was spelt in that period.

Because the population in Britain was no where near as mobile as today some of these early strains were well set in small areas of Great Britain for many generations. One of the best known was the Rutherford Strain .

The Rutherford strain goes back hundreds of years in the highlands of Scotland and had nothing to do with the formation of the Border Collie breed. Some of the Rutherford family migrated to Australia and bred sheepdogs here as well.

Many of these strains (or breeds) of sheepdogs have since ceased to exist such as the Harlequin Collie, Welsh Grey Collie, the Bob-Tailed Collie, Rutherford North Country Collies, the English Handy dog, Dorset Sheepdog, (Scotch Collie), Ban Dog, The Highland Collie, Welsh Hillman, (Fox Collies) etc. Today we still have Collie Roughs (The Lassie dog), Bearded Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Smithfields, Shetland Sheepdogs, Old English sheepdogs, etc.

A strain that became famous were used by the shepherds working on the estates of the Duke of Bedsford. They were known as the 'Woburn pack' and formed from foundation stock bought by the shepherds from the highlands and lowlands of Scotland.

The Highland Collie is said to have remained quite pure in it's type until Queen Victoria took an interest in the breed and made them popular. They were a heavy coated dog, strongly built. He worked aggressive Highland cattle and mountain sheep. It has been reported that Highland Collies had double dew claws on their back legs. Even today little are born with claws on their back legs.I had it in one little of my Rough collies.

THE SUSSEX SHEEPDOG

 

The Welsh Hillman was similar to working dogs in North Africa and it has been reported that they originally came from that country. They were a similar dog to one used by the early Phoenicians and were probably bought to Britain by the Romans with flocks of sheep from North Africa.

The Welsh Greys were known to be especially good at working large mobs of feral goats. There was also the Dorset Sheepdog, this was a strong dog that is said to have had a faithful nature to their owner. They were one of the few breeds strong enough to handle the headstrong Portland sheep which were so aggressive they often attacked and butted the dog.

 

There was also the Smithfield. These dogs used to drove stock to the London Markets, to a place called Smooth Field. In 1860 the area was redeveloped and renamed the Smithfield Meat Market. I believe another strain of these dogs were called 'Ban dogs'. They are said to have been badly treated by their owners and often left to roam at the markets.

The Smithfield is still used in Australia but mainly in Victoria and Tasmania. The Smithfield is a bob-tailed dog and mabey the original ones were only black and white coloured. In fact the book, Dogs of Australia, stated that they were black with a white ring around the neck and extending down the front of the dog. They had long hair, big hanging ears and a cumbersome gait.

In 1862, the very first Dog show was held in Australia. this was in Hobart, Tasmania. It is interesting to note that one Smithfield Colley and one Black & tan Colley were shown here.

THE DORSET SHEEPDOG

Also known as the Old Downland Sheepdog

 

Another strain of British Working Collie was called Laudies. These dogs were used by the the shepherds on the estates of the Lord of Lonsdale. There was also the Irish Sheepdog which resembled the old Scotch Collie. These dogs were similar in size and type to the modern Border Collie and were black and white but had a coat more like a Bearded Collie.

There were also the Black & Tan Collies of Galway. There was reported to be strains of these dogs on the Isle of man and they were called 'Holding Dogs'. The Black & Tan Collie is thought to have been bought to Wales and North scotland by the Vikings and there are similar dogs in Norway called 'Moo Dogs', which are used for working Moose and cattle. These strains became concentrated in Ross and Cromarty and British writers have reported that this strain is in the Kelpie.

The Lundehund was also bought to Britain by the Vikings. They think the Pembroke Corgi may decend from them. The Lundehund was used mainly for hunting and digging out the Puffin bird.

There were also the Glenwheny Collies. These were blue and white dogs and found mainly in the County of Antrim. They had blue eyes but their body was not mottled like the Blue Merles.

There were also the Stumpy Tailed Collies of Ireland. It is thought they came originally from Spain in the the 1st century A.D. They were reported as being exceptional good workers and the short tails were natural and not docked. The end of the short tail had a white tip.

There was even an exceptional working strain formed in the USA from British Working Collies in the 1800's called the McNab. These were from a British strain Alexander McNab referred to as 'Fox Collies' from the Grampian Hills of Scotland. They had erect ears, light build and the occasional occurrence of red colour. Short coats were favoured in the Californian conditions.

In an article by Lulu McNab written in 1894 she said they had worked on the property in Mendocino for more than 25 years which would mean they had to be there by the 1860's when Alexander McNab first settled in the region. Lulu McNab referred to the dogs as Scotch collies and only later did they become known as McNabs.

Some other American breeds such as the English Shepherd and the Australian Shepherd were also thought to be developed from British Working Collies. (Yes, both these breeds, despite the names are solely American breeds and not found in England or Australia.)

 

Man and his border collie 1865

 

Another article on the web i found interesthing was this one.

 

THE WELSH SHEEPDOG
by Linda Rorem (this article originally appeared in the
American Herding Breed Association newsletter)

As John Holmes comments in The Farmer's Dog, "There are several other types of Collie quite distinct from the Border Collie in that they are 'loose- eyed' workers." Dogs of this type were found all over Britain; taken to America by settlers, they became the basis for such American farm dogs as the English Shepherd and Australian Shepherd. Although collies are most often associated with Scotland, one of these strains was developed in Wales. The Welsh Sheepdog, also referred to as Welsh Collie, is believe to have become established in the 19th century when working collies from Scotland were blended with the old native Welsh breeds such as the Black and Tan Sheepdog, the sable or blue-merle Hillman, and the shaggy Old Welsh Grey. The Welsh Sheepdog that resulted remained as a close-working, upright, loose-eyed dog, at about the same period of time that the strong-eyed Border Collie was being developed from trial-winning strains of working collie. Eventually, in Wales as in other areas of Britain the loose-eyed dog was nearly ousted by the stylish "eye" dog, but articles recently appearing in British publications reveal an interest in preserving the earlier type of Welsh farm collie. Photos accompanying the articles show dogs similar in appearance to other breeds of old working collie ancestry. Colors are black, black and white, black and tan, tricolor, red, sable, and blue merle. Ears are small and folded forward. Coats may be rough or smooth.

In "The Return of the Welsh Sheepdog," Farmers Weekly, March 1997, by Tessa Gates, Welsh farmer John Davies, who has over 1,000 sheep and also raised Welsh Black cattle, gives some background on the breed and talks about the drovers who took stock from Wales to London in the 19th century. "The Welsh sheepdog is good with cattle as well as sheep, and in those days 700 cattle would be taken to London by just a few men and the dogs. One dog would run in front, leading and clearing the way with the others dogs driving from behind. The dogs would keep the stock together overnight and act as guards against robbers . . . The drovers' dogs had hard pads, they were strong and vocal, with the stamina to work all day and a bark that kept the animals moving. Welsh sheepdogs work with their tails held high and bark and drive the sheep out, and they will keep going even in a hot summer. They are fast and use their brains. A Border collie listens to commands, a Welsh sheepdog works independently. I had three or four Border collies some years ago and although they were good for trial work, I can't get my sheep in with them. When you have a large number of sheep the ones in front don't know the Border collie is there . . ." Over the years, interest in trialing, furthered by eventual television coverage, had helped bring the Border Collie to predominance in Wales. Many of he remaining Welsh Sheepdogs were mated to Border Collies. Mr. Davies became concerned when he had difficulty finding Welsh Sheepdog mates for his own dogs. As a result, he began making more inquiries and called a meeting of people interested in the breed. "Over 60 farmers came and we received 100 telephone calls all from people saying they would like to see the breed come back." He also was able to find unrelated dogs to mate with his own. He found interest not only in Wales, but in the Lake District and Devon in England.

As a result, the Cymdeithas Cwn Cymreig (Welsh Sheepdog Society) has been formed. Further information is given in ""The Welsh Dog -- A Part of the Nation's Heritage", by Aza Pinney, in Working Sheepdog News:

"The most significant decision that was taken was that the initial register of dogs would be made up only of those dogs which could work satisfactorily in front of the Breed's Inspection Panel. 44 dogs were put forward than night, and since then a number more have been notified . . .

"In work the Welsh Dogs are divided into two types by a mixture of instinctive preference and training; there are those dogs who will head the sheep and there are those that will follow or drive them. How the latter dogs work reveals the ability and origins of the Welsh Dog as a drover's dog whereas the heading dogs had a different job to do. The fencing of the common grounds and hills is quite recent, and the heading dogs could keep their charges in a flock and under control in open ground. They would stop them from getting mixed up with others and, just as importantly, they would be used to protect crops grown in open fields and even save the vegetables and flowers in unfenced gardens from the predations of the ever hungry grazing sheep. No doubt the dogs had also a guarding role and would drive off both human and animal predators. Whichever task it does every Welsh Dog must be able and willing to bark.

"Eye and style will not feature in the Inspection Panel's criteria. What will be seen will be dogs that are plain in their work and that will hold both their heads and their tails up. What will impress the Panel will be the power to move a large number of sheep, face up to stubborn rams and be unafraid of cattle; a valued characteristic is the ability of the dogs to think for themselves yet at the same time to have a willingness to listen. It is an intelligent breed and is adaptable to different tasks but it has enough sprit and sense of independence to resist training in isolation -- that is why almost all breaking in is done 'on the job.' . . .

"If the members of the new Society can build upon their initial and shared enthusiasm the Welsh Dog will survive not as a museum piece but as part of the nation's heritage with as much relevance to today's flockmasters and shepherds as it had to their forebears."

Contact information:
Welsh Sheepdog Society
Mr. Cledwyn Fychan (pronounced Vagh)
Secretary
Pen-Arth
Pennant
Llannon
Credigion SY23 5JP
Wales, UK
Tel. 01144 545 570 066

 

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