Farm Collie Restoration Efforts

There is not a single unified breeding program for farm collies. There are now and probably will continue to be several different approaches. Because there are so many different ideas of what a farm collie is (see "What is a Farm Collie?"), there is a divergence of opinion as to starting points and methods to achieve what seem to be, prima facie, similar goals.

The Friends of the Old Farm Collie was started with Erika DuBois' search for dogs like hers, to continue the kind of dog, possibly landrace, that was once the common working collie on the farms of Nova Scotia. Had there been plenty of these dogs in the area, or perhaps surrounding provinces of Canada, then the whole aim of the group would probably have been to gather these dogs in that area, and keep track of them, and do restoration or preservation based on the found population. But Erika's search became nationwide in both Canada and the U.S. because dogs of the kind she had in mind are either very hard to find, or are no longer bred as working dogs on farms.

The possibility of using dogs of modern collie breeds (English Shepherd, Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, Collie (Rough or Smooth), Shetland Sheepdog, etc.) to extend the gene pool of the DuBois dogs required a careful consideration of just what were the qualities desired. From Erika DuBois' Old Scotch Collie article and other writings, it appears that there are three somewhat separable qualities that she is looking for: physical type, mental type, and working type.

The physical type: Often called scotch collie but not clear whether this has to do with actual line of descent. As compared to the modern show Collie (U.S./Canadian), the scotch type has a broader skull, distinct stop, probably shorter muzzle, and a much shorter rough coat, with an emphasis on practicality under working conditions, though still very dense, double, weather resistant and with a heavy ruff. As compared to the most commonly seen English Shepherd physical types, the scotch type has a higher ear set and fold (or can be prick/wolf ear), more taper in muzzle, and a heavier (not necessarily longer) coat with distinct ruff and feathering. But note that some registered English Shepherds and some registered Collies may be within scotch type range.

Mental/working type: The description as per John Holmes in The Farmer's Dog includes both.

There are several other types of Collie quite distinct from the Border Collie in that they are 'loose-eyed' workers. Most of these are native to Scotland and include the old-fashioined Scotch Collie from which the modern show Collie is descended.Now practically extinct, I have clear recollections of several of these dogs in my youth and believe that, in my early efforts to walk, I was assisted by one. They were all easy-going, level headed dogs, useful but not flashy workers, and quite willing to lie about the place when there was nothing better to do. Personally I think it is a great pity that this type has been practically exterminated by the increasing popularity of 'strong-eyed' dogs. For all-round farm work they were often far more use..." Revised edition 1984, page 60.

The mental and working aspects are very hard for me to separate. Those with experience with working farm dogs or with herding training and trialling will be better able to separate mental type from working type, so in future I hope to have a distinct description of each aspect. In any case, for the farm collie idea, activity level and intensity are generally said to be at a level less than common or less than desired in Aussie, Border Collie and Shetland Sheepdog breeds. Working style upright, loose eyed. Great emphasis on the idea that the dog will work livestock only at the owner's bidding, and does not desire or will not go to stock on their own--this may have to do with "amount" of instinct or activity level or both.

The original idea was of working specifically with the DuBois collies and with whatever other remnants of this population could be found. But in the process of abstracting the important aspects of this farm collie idea in order to seek out the most likely candidates for enlarging that dangerously small gene pool, a great deal of consideration of the physical and mental qualities of these modern collie breeds has been done. As a result, some people have become interested in different approaches, other than strictly a preservation breeding effort based on the Dubois collies (or McDuffie shepherds).

The English Shepherd breed as a whole (or its ideal) seems very close to Erika's farm collie ideas, except for the fact that some aspects of scotch collie physical type are not common in the ES breed anymore, and are not fostered by the ES standard(s). However, there are several bits of evidence that dogs with the old scotch collie physical type used to be more common in the ES breed. And there are definitely some individuals that appear to be in the scotch collie type range. The English Shepherd breed appears to be a small population in need of conservation efforts (in my opinion). This all logically leads to the possibility that some farm collie people may wish to work within the English Shepherd breed, and some of them may even want to work on keeping the scotch type within the ES breed. If you just go through the list of "farm collie" usages, the English Shepherd qualifies as farm collie by almost every one of these concepts (see "What is a Farm Collie?"). For more information about the English Shepherd breed, go to the English Shepherd website at

Others will work within the registered Collie breed, or with Collie crosses, to work toward the old scotch type range while keeping Collie temperament which is thought to be Holmesian, and carefully monitoring working ability and genetic diseases. Here the farm collie concepts involved are probably numbers 3 and 6. (see "What is a Farm Collie?")In the northeast U.S. and Canada, there seems to have been a long history of people getting farm dogs from breeders of show Collies, or of farmers breeding registered or unregistered Collies that closely resembled early show Collies in the scotch type range. For further information, go to Classic Victorian Collie Club

Preservation efforts continue as well, involving Erika DuBois' Nova Scotia Old Farm Collies as well as the McDuffies' Old Time Farm Shepherds, possibly as two separate groups. For further information on the Nova Scotia Old Farm Collie project, go to dubois.htm. More information about the McDuffie Old Time Farm Shepherds is available at otfs/otfs.htm.

So this gives 3 to 6 different options (depending on how you count them) and theoretically there are more. As each of these directions gets organized or formalized, I hope that the individuals involved with put together a description of their ideas, definitions, goals and methods along with a list of contact people that can be put on the Collies: Back to the Future website so that interested people can find them.

Then there are also may be related working collie populations/breeds/landraces here or elsewhere in the world, that are also small in numbers and need help with preservation. The Welsh Sheepdog (in Wales!), for one, is just now being organized into a working-based registry.

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What is a Farm Collie?

What is an Old Farm Collie?

Friends of the Old Farm Collie.

Back to website table of contents.

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This file was last updated on 28 November 1997.