Published in the July 1, 1903 issue of Country Life in America.
Written by M. Mowbray Palmer (President Collie Club of America).
Illustrated from photographs by A. Radclyffe Dugmore.
THE origin of the Collie is, like that of the majority of our recognized breeds of dog to-day, more than less an open question. According to Buffon, the well-known naturalist, the collie is the oldest breed in formation, more closely resembling the wild dogs of India and Australia than any other. In the sixteenth century, Dr. Caius, in his " Englishe Dogges," speaks of the "canis pastoralism a species undoubtedly allied to the present-day shepherd-dog, or collie. Unless we are willing to accept Buffon's theory that the collie was the originator of all other breeds, we cannot authentically go further back than this. Investigation proves that at that time the collie was distinctly more wolf-like in appearance, more powerfully built, with a coat of questionable texture. He was then, as now, used on stock, but was called upon to physically protect the same more strenuously than now.
The name collie, now universally used in place of sheepor shepherd-dog, was given to the breed from the fact that a kind of sheep with black faces and black legs, known as " Colley Sheep," were the especial charge of these dogs.
The old English sheep-dog, or bobtail, is, of course, quite distinct from the collie. The former is used extensively both in England and Scotland on sheep, but the position of prominence is held by the Scotch collie, who is found nearly everywhere and is looked upon as an indispensable part of the stock-keeper's paraphernalia. The collie of to-day is much changed iff, appearance from what it was even ten years ago. Since then its evolution has worked a decided transformation, until in the modern type we possess what is generally accepted as the most beautiful and intelligent of all our breeds. It cannot be disputed that the types we see at our bench-shows are not universally used in the highlands or on the moorlands; but I am inclined to think that this has been greatly due to an indifference, in years gone by, on the part of the shepherd to the general appearance of his dogs,-the theory being that, in considering this, intelligence would be, sacrificed. Their views on this subject appear faulty, inasmuch as, the so-called show-collie has demonstrated and is demonstrating his ability to work beside the type used by many of the shepherds in the old country, with as much alacrity and intelligence as any of his ancestors. I lay particularstress on this point, there having been so much said,, and so many unwarranted attacks upon breeders for sacrificing brains to points.
The breed is divided into two classes, according to coat. The most essential point of the "rough" is the coat, as this must be weather-resisting. It should be profuse; to the touch the outer jacket is harsh and his under covering soft and compact. A good set of legs,, and small feet, with the toes close together, should be sought. Spread toes, or "open feet," as this condition is called,are to be avoided. The hock should be well bent,, giving a springy appearance-that get away quick" look. Good breadth of chest; a long level head, comparatively narrow, with the surface from the nose to the occiput flat enough to lay a rule upon without seeing daylight through; and ears semi-erect-that is, tipping forward at the ends. Avoid a dog who carries his ears close to his head, or one prick-eared-that is, with ears carried perfectly erect. The tail should be very bushy, and carried low. When excited it stands high -but a ring tail, or one carried over the back, is a serious defect.
In passing, I would not neglect the eyes, which should be small, not too light in color and not set too wide apart in the head; and, in connection with this, that difficult point to define, the expression, part of which, that alert, keen, quick look, is of great importance.
The matter of color may be left to choice solely; although the original collie was black, white and a very light tan. Other than these, one finds sable, or sable and white, and occasionally a blue merle or white one. To day the colors, so far as the first three mentioned ar concerned, are quite evenly divided. This description of the rough-coated collie, with the exception of coat, applies to the smooth class, whose coat should be short, longer than that of a pointer, but, at the same time, very hard to the touch and extremely dense.
Prize-winning collies. These are all pedigree dogs that have made brilliant records at recent American shows
Mrs. Kernochan exercising her famous kennel of smooth - coated Collies
The average price for a good pup, of excellent pedigree and points, is from twenty to forty dollars. A good mature dog or bitch may be purchased for fifty dollars. These prices, of course, do not apply to dogs that are assured winners, but in every other respect such animals are just as good. Good show specimens command fancy figures; two or three thousand dollars is often paid for show-collies and five thousand has been paid several times. The record price for a dog of any breed, seven thousand five hundred dollars, was paid for the great collie champion, Ormskirk Emerald.
There exists a diversity of opinion as to the relative merits of the rough and the smooth, as working dogs. Honors, however, seem to be equally distributed, or if anything, in favor of the rough. It cannot be denied hat the rough-coated dog, working in a heavy mist, rain, sleet or snow, and being called by his duties on to the hillsides, would be handicapped by the extra weight imosed upon him by his saturated coat. On the other hand, as previously stated, the under coat must be very dense and thick, and it is next to impossible for the skin to receive sufficient moisture, or in the coldest days for the chill to penetrate sufficiently deep, to cause such a dog any discomfort. As the cold season advances, the coat of the smooth, like that of the rough, becomes more dense; but during very cold spells I have seen the smoothcoated dog far more handicapped by his lack of coat than the rough by a superabundance, even with the extra weight the latter had to carry.
Helping to herd Angora goats
A rough -looking dog he is as he comes from the basket
First, a good brushing
The final touches
|The elaborate toilet which a bench - show candidate undergoes|
The toilet complete; ready to pose for the blue ribbon
The collie has become recognized, through his great intelligence, as the foremost dog of the day. This same characteristic has stamped him in the past as in the present, and, in addition, faithfulness and sociability play no minor part in his make-up. No better illustration can be brought forward to prove this sagacity than a reference to "Bozzle," owned by Mr. Clason, of Chicago. who, in more ways than one demonstrated her thinking powers unaided by sign or command, leading one to believe there was more in her that was human than beast. She was the daughter of the celebrated old " Boz," who traveled all over Europe and America and gave performances for the edification of such distinguished monarchs as the present King of England and the Czar of Russia. So highly pleased was the King, then the Princ-- or' Wales, that he provided a bed for the dog in Windsor Castle, so that he could give a performance early in the morning, previous to Boz's departure.
Although " Bozzie " never had the advantages of European travel, she inherited from her sire his great intelligence, and in fact, surpassed him in the sense that his performances were much g overned by the mind of man, while she seemed to think for herself. The fact that what she did she would do for a stranger as well as for her friends, conclusively proved this point. Ordinary mathematics, such as addition, subtraction and multiplication, were almost too easy for her. Her discrimination of colors never failed, and in a room full of people she could pick out a black man from a white one. She could tell figures written on a visiting-card and of course indicated all the numbers by barks. In fact, this dog could not only tell the number of days in a week or month, but she could also tell time.
I remember, on one occasion, a gentleman who was skeptical was given the privilege of examining the dog without having the owner present. The examination, in brief, was as follows: " Bozzie, how many are two times four?" The dog barked eight time-as rapidly as a child ten years old would count the same number. "Take five from that,"-the reply in barks was three. "Add nine to that," -Bozzle barked twelve times. That the answers were given quickly and without assistance proved that the dog thought of her own accord, and only when she was asked what was half of twelve did she hesitate, and actually seemed to think before making the reply-which was correct. In addition to her tricks she was a marvelous worker, and, when taken to the stock-yard and told to bring out five steers, she would bring out five, and no more; or when at the farm she was told to bring up the cows from the pasture in which steers were also kept, she would bring the cows, leaving the steers. On another occasion, in a lot where several horses were kept, all bay except one gray fellow, she was told to bring out the gray one, and did so, leaving the rest. That " Bozzie " is not an ordinary case, but held a unique position and won the cup for the cleverest dog in the world, is beyond dispute; but sagacity, probably more than anything else, has made the breed famous.
These three great quallfications- intelligence, utility and faithfulness-make him the dog for the country place, and none is more universally at home in the door-yard of the farmer, on the well-kept lawn of the millionaire, or on his native heath, in sunshine as in rain and sleet working for his kind or unappreciative master. The alacrity with which he obeys, the voice or the shepherd's crook (for in the main his instructions are given to him when at work on the flock by a wave of this implement, or by whistle when he is, too far away to be seen) are from a point of intelligence,, beyond what the imagination can conceive. Even to those who are uninterested in the breed, a sheep -trial will not only prove most instructive as to the great sagacity of this dog, but a most entertaining performance.
Several years ago, it was my good fortune to witness what impressed me as being a very great achievement accomplished by a rough-coated collie. A friend of mine was the possessor of a large flock of sheep, and, the second morning of my visit to his estate, I arose early and as I stepped out upon the porch I saw going by the house this flock, accompanied by the shepherd and his two dogs. They were on their way to the distant pastures, dimly seen through the rising mist, that with its ascension brought the glories of the country into view.
Interest drew me into conversation with this bent old shepherd, who, I learned, had followed this occupation from the time he was a boy; and the warmest spot in his heart seemed to be for the successive dogs who had not only been his companions but his chief aids. I had read a good deal and had been told much more regarding the actual requirements of a collie with the flock, but this was my first conversation with a man, who had had actual experience from infancy. The chatting between us was carried on as the sheep were driven to the locality selected for the day's pasture. In the lead of the flock, with as much importance as might be displayed by any drum-major—but with far less concern, walked one of the two dogs. Following him, but never attempting to pass him, came the sheep, some four or five hundred in number, and behind these walked the shepherd, the second dog and myself. At the slightest indication of a break on either side of the procession, the rear dog, without instructions of any kind, would dart out and crowd back the misbehaving sheep into the flock—with entire silence and absence of roughness. As we proceeded down the road we came to a fork, and I could not for the life of me see how the dog in the lead was to determine the direction in which they should go. Turning to the shepherd, I said: “Now, how will that dog know which road you want the flock to take?”
He told me just to watch. He had no sooner said this than the dog, perceiving the fork in the road, quickened his pace and ran upon the little grass-plot that formed the beginning of the division of the highway. Reaching this spot, he faced the shepherd with a keenness not before manifested, and as he did so the shepherd waved his crook to the left; the dog immediately jumped into the left hand road, thus blocking the way, which forced the sheep to take the one to the right. A few days after this morning's experience I had the particular gratification of seeing this same leading dog, on a wager of time against any other dog in the county, pick out of a mixed flock of 411 sheep 172 of his own flock, winning the championship of the county. No less interesting than the sight of this work was the anxiety that his old master displayed. It seemed as though he not only had staked his last farthing, but from the expression of his face one felt the dog's success must also be a matter of life and death.
To the inexperienced this weeding out of a flock may read a bit like a fairy tale, but you have only to visit one of the many localities in Scotland where sheep are raised to see the thing done time and again, and only in so doing can you thoroughly appreciate the union that exists between these dumb workers and these men, who, from years of isolation, are but a bit less dumb.
One of the dogs seen at the Stamford show
Index of articles from Country Life in America>
Website table of contents.