The Sheep-Dog or Shepherd's Dog
"The Shepherd's Dog, though little used in the United States, is universally known as one of the most interesting of the dog species. It possesses much of the same form and character in every country. The muzzle is sharp, the ears are short and nearly erect, and the animal is covered, particularly about the neck, with thick and shaggy hair. He has usually two dew-claws on each of the hind-legs--not, however, as in the one claw of other dogs, having a jointed attachment to the limb, but merely connected by the skin and some slight cellular substance. The tail is long, and slightly turned upward, and is almost as bushy as that of a fox. He is of a black color, or black prevails, mixed with gray or brown.
"There are several breeds of the sheep-dog, used in different countries for different purposes. Some of the larger and more powerful kinds are employed, among other duties, to guard the flock from the wolf. In such cases, the sheep, on the slightest alarm, rally round the dog, as if conscious that he is their protector. Whatever differences there may be in the breeds, they have all the same substantial character of intelligence and devotion to their duties. Other dogs--the pointer, the setter, the hound, the greyhound, the terrier, the spaniel--have each admirable gifts of nature, heightened by training; but the shepherd's dog surpasses them all in adaptation to his work. If he be but with his master, he lies content, indifferent to every surrounding object, seemingly half asleep and half awake, rarely mingling with his kind, rarely courting, and generally shrinking from, the notice of a stranger; but the moment duty calls, his sleepy, listless eye becomes brightened; he eagerly gazes on his master, inquires and comprehends all he is to do, and, springing up, gives himself to the discharge of his duty with a sagacity, and fidelity, and devotion, too rarely equaled even by man himself.
"James Hogg, the celebrated Ettrick Shepherd, living in his early days among the sheep and their quadruped attendants, and an accurate observer of nature, as well as an exquisite poet, gives some anecdotes of the colley--the Highland term for sheep-dog--with which the reader will not be displeased: 'My dog Sirrah," says he, in a letter to the Editor of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, "was, beyond all comparison, the best dog I ever saw. He had a somewhat surly and unsocial temper, disdaining all flattery, and refusing to be caressed; but his attention to my commands and interest will never again be equaled by any of the canine race. When I first saw him, a drover was leading him with a rope. He was both lean and hungry, and far from being a beautiful animal; for he was almost black, and had a grim face, striped with dark brown. I thought I perceived a sort of sullen intelligence in his countenance, notwithstanding his dejected and forlorn appearance, and I bought him. He was scarcely a year old, and knew so little of herding, that he had never turned a sheep in his life; but, as soon as he discovered that it was his duty to do so, and that it obliged me, I can never forget with what anxiety and eagerness he learned his different evolutions; and when I once made him understand a direction, he never forgot or mistook it.'
"Hogg tells us, and very truly, that a single shepherd and his dog will accomplish more in gathering a flock of sheep from a Highland farm than twenty shepherds could do without dogs; in fact, that without this docile animal the pastoral life would be a mere blank. It would require more hands to manage a flock of sheep, gather them from the hills, force them into houses and folds, and drive them to markets, than the profits of the whole flock would be capable of maintaining. Well may the shepherd feel an interest in his dog: he it is indeedthat earns the family bread, with the smallest morsel of which he is himself content,--always grateful and always ready to exert his utmost abilities in his master's interests. Neither hunger, fatigue, nor the worst treatment will drive him from his side, and he will follow hiim through every hardship without murmur or repining. If one of them is obliged to change masters, it is sometimes long before he will acknowledge the new owner, or condescend to work for him with the willingness that he did for his former lord; but, if he once acknowledges him, he continues attached to him until death.
"Buffon gives the following eloquent portrait of the sheep-dog: 'This animal, faithful to man, will always preserve a portion of his empire and a degree of superiority over other beings. He reigns at the head of his flock, and makes himself better understood than the voice of the shepherd. Safety, order, and discipline are the fruits of his vigilance and activity. They are a people submitted to his management, whom he conducts and protects, and against whom he never employs force but for the preservation of good order. If we consider that this animal, notwithstanding his ugliness and his wild and melancholy look, is superior in instinct to all others; that he has a decided character in which education has comparatively little share; that he is the only animal born perfectly trained for the service of others; that, guuided by natural powers alone, he applies himself to the care of our flocks, a duty which he executes with singular assiduity, vigilance, and fidelity; that he conducts them with an admirable intelligence which is a part and portion of himself; that his sagacity astonishes at te same time that it gives repose to his master, while it requires great time and trouble to instruct other dogs for the purposes to which they are destined: --if we reflect on these facts, we shall be confirmed in the opinion that the shepherd's dog is the true dog of nature, the stock and model of the whole species.'" 212-214
"The Drover's Dog is common in England, and possesses all the docility of the sheep-dog. The following story, among many similar ones, is proof of his sagacity and fidelity: A butcher was accustomed to purchase sheep and kine in the vicinity, which, when fattened, he drove to Alstonmarket and sold. In these excursions he was frequently astonished at the peculiear sagacity of his dog, and at the more than common readiness and dexterity with which he managed the cattle; until at length he troubled himself very little about the matter, but, riding carelessly along, used to be amused with observing how adroitly the dog acquitted himself of his charge. At length, so convinced was he of his sagacity, as well as fidelity, that he laid a wager that he would intrust the dog with a number of sheep and oxen, and let him drive them alone and unattended to Alston market. It was stipulated that no one should be within sight or hearing who had the least control over the dog, nor was any spectator to interfere. This extraordinary animal accordingly proceeded with his business in the most steady and dexterous manner; and, although he had frequently to drive his charge through other herds that were grazing, he did not lose one; but, conducting them to the very yard to which he was used to drive cattle when with his master, he significantly delivered them up to the person appointed to receive them by barking at his door! When the path which he traveled lay through grounds in which others were grazing, he would run forward, stop his own drove, and then, chasing the others away, collect his scattered charge, and proceed." 214-215
"The spaniel is evidently the parent of the Newfoundland dog and the setter; while the retriever, the poodle, the St. Bernard, the Esquimaux, the Siberian, the Greenland, the shepherd and drover's dog, and every variety distinguished for intelligence and fidelity, have more or less of his blood in them." 220
"This division embraces several remarkable varieties, generally below the middling size, with large eyes, and a large head, and possessing great activity and intelligence. The French matin, already described, approaches this breed, but it seems to have become a distinct, permanent race. At the head of the division, therefore, we must place the Cur-Dog proper. This has long had a bad name as a bully and a coward, and certainly his habit of barking at every thing that passes, renders him often a very annoying animal. He is, however, in a manner necessary to the laborer; he is a faithful defender of his humble dwelling; no bribe can seduce him from his duty; and he is likewise a useful and an effectual guard over the clothes and scanty provisions of his master, who may be working in some distant part of the field. All day long he will lie upon his clothes, seemingly asleep, but giving immediate warning of the approach of a supposed marauder. He has a propensity to fly at every horse and every strange dog, and is thus often regarded as a nuisance.
"Mr. Hogg, however, in a curious parallel between the sheep-dog and the cur, gives him a good character. 'An exceedingly good sheep-dog,' he says, 'attends to nothing but the particular branch of business to which he is bred. His whole capacity is exerted and exhausted in it, and he is of little avail in miscellaneous matters; whereas a very indifferent cur, bred about the house and accustomed to assist in every thing, will often put the more noble breed to disgrace in these little services. If some one calls out that the cows are in the corn, or the hens in the garden, the house colley needs no other hint, but runs and turns them out. The shepherd's dog knows not what is astir, and, if he is called out in a hurry for such work, all that he will do is to run to the hill, or rear himself on his haunches to see that no sheep are running away. A well-bred sheepdog, if coming hungry from the hills, and getting into a milk-house, would likely think of nothing else than filling his belly with the cream. Not so his initiated brother: he is bred at home to far higher principles of honor. I have known such lie night and day among from ten to twenty pails full of milk, and never once break the cream of them with the tip of his tongue, nor would he suffer cat, rat, or any other creature to touch it. While, therefore, the cur is a nuisance, he is very useful in his way, and we would further plead for him, that he possesses a great deal of the sagacity and all the fidelity of the choicest breed of dogs.'" 225