site logo

The Collie

The townsman who knows the shepherd's dog only as he is to be seen,

out of his true element, threading his confined way through crowded

streets where sheep are not, can have small appreciation of his wisdom

and his sterling worth. To know him properly, one needs to see him

at work in a country where sheep abound, to watch him adroitly

rounding up his scattered charges on a wide-stretching moorland,

gathering the wander
ng wethers into close order and driving them

before him in unbroken company to the fold; handling the stubborn

pack in a narrow lane, or holding them in a corner of a field,

immobile under the spell of his vigilant eye. He is at his best as

a worker, conscious of the responsibility reposed in him; a marvel

of generalship, gentle, judicious, slow to anger, quick to action;

the priceless helpmeet of his master--the most useful member of all

the tribe of dogs.

Few dogs possess the fertile, resourceful brain of the Collie. He

can be trained to perform the duties of other breeds. He makes an

excellent sporting dog, and can be taught to do the work of the

Pointer and the Setter, as well as that of the Water Spaniel and the

Retriever. He is clever at hunting, having an excellent nose, is a

good vermin-killer, and a most faithful watch, guard, and companion.

Major Richardson, who for some years has been successful in training

dogs to ambulance work on the field of battle, has carefully tested

the abilities of various breeds in discovering wounded soldiers, and

he gives to the Collie the decided preference.

It is, however, as an assistant to the flock-master the farmer, the

butcher, and the drover that the Collie takes his most appropriate

place in every-day life. The shepherd on his daily rounds, travelling

over miles of moorland, could not well accomplish his task without

his Collie's skilful aid. One such dog, knowing what is expected of

him, can do work which would otherwise require the combined efforts

of a score of men.

Little is known with certainty of the origin of the Collie, but his

cunning and his outward appearance would seem to indicate a

relationship with the wild dog. Buffon was of opinion that he was

the true dog of nature, the stock and model of the whole canine

species. He considered the Sheepdog superior in instinct and

intelligence to all other breeds, and that, with a character in which

education has comparatively little share, he is the only animal born

perfectly trained for the service of man.

One of the most perfect working Collies in Scotland to-day is the

old-fashioned black and white type, which is the most popular among

the shepherds of Scotland. At the shows this type of dog is invariably

at the top of the class. He is considered the most tractable, and is

certainly the most agile. Second to this type in favour is the

smooth-coated variety, a very hard, useful dog, well adapted for hill

work and usually very fleet of foot. He is not so sweet in temper

as the black and white, and is slow to make friends. In the Ettrick

and Yarrow district the smooth is a popular sheepdog. The shepherds

maintain that he climbs the hills more swiftly than the rough, and

in the heavy snowstorms his clean, unfeathered legs do not collect

and carry the snow. He has a fuller coat than the show specimens

usually carry, but he has the same type of head, eye, and ears, only

not so well developed.

Then there is the Scottish bearded, or Highland Collie, less popular

still with the flock-master, a hardy-looking dog in outward style,

but soft in temperament, and many of them make better cattle than

sheep dogs. This dog and the Old English Sheepdog are much alike in

appearance, but that the bearded is a more racy animal, with a head

resembling that of the Dandie Dinmont rather than the square head

of the Bobtail. The strong-limbed bearded Collie is capable of getting

through a good day's work, but is not so steady nor so wise as the

old-fashioned black and white, or even the smooth coated variety.

He is a favourite with the butcher and drover who have sometimes a

herd of troublesome cattle to handle, and he is well suited to rough

and rocky ground, active in movement, and as sure-footed as the wild

goat. He can endure cold and wet without discomfort, and can live on

the Highland hills when others less sturdy would succumb. In the

standard adopted for judging the breed, many points are given for

good legs and feet, bone, body, and coat, while head and ears are

not of great importance. Movement, size, and general appearance have

much weight. The colour is varied in this breed. Cream-coloured

specimens are not uncommon, and snow white with orange or black

markings may often be seen, but the popular colour is grizzly grey.

Unfortunately the coats of many are far too soft and the undercoat

is frequently absent.

Working trials to test the skill of the sheepdog have become frequent

fixtures among shepherds and farmers within recent years, and these

competitions have done much towards the improvement of the working

qualities of the Collie. In general the excelling competitors at

working trials are the rough-coated black and white Collies. The

smooth-coated variety and the Beardie are less frequent winners. The

handsome and distinguished gentlemen of the Ch. Wishaw Leader type

are seldom seen on the trial field, although formerly such a dog as

Ch. Ormskirk Charlie might be successfully entered with others equally

well bred from the kennels of that good trainer and fancier, Mr.

Piggin, of Long Eaton. A good working Collie, however, is not always

robed in elegance. What is desirable is that the shepherd and farmer

should fix a standard of points, and breed as near as possible to

that standard, as the keepers of the show Collie breed to an

acknowledged type of perfection. Nevertheless, from a bad worker of

good descent many an efficient worker might be produced by proper

mating, and those of us skilled in the breeding of Collies know the

importance of a well-considered process of selection from unsullied


It is a pity that the hard-working dog of the shepherd does not

receive the attention in the way of feeding and grooming that is

bestowed on the ornamental show dog. He is too often neglected in

these particulars. Notwithstanding this neglect, however, the average

life of the working dog is longer by a year or two than that of his

more beautiful cousin. Pampering and artificial living are not to

be encouraged; but, on the other hand, neglect has the same effect

of shortening the span of life, and bad feeding and inattention to

cleanliness provoke the skin diseases which are far too prevalent.

There is not a more graceful and physically beautiful dog to be seen

than the show Collie of the present period. Produced from the old

working type, he is now practically a distinct breed. His qualities

in the field are not often tested, but he is a much more handsome

and attractive animal, and his comeliness will always win for him

many admiring friends. The improvements in his style and appearance

have been alleged to be due to an admixture with Gordon Setter blood.

In the early years of exhibitions he showed the shorter head, heavy

ears, and much of the black and tan colouring which might seem to

justify such a supposition; but there is no evidence that the cross

was ever purposely sought. Gradually the colour was lightened to sable

and a mingling of black, white, and tan came into favour. The shape

of the head was also improved. These improvements in beauty of form

and colour have been largely induced by the many Collie clubs now

in existence not only in the United Kingdom and America, but also

in South Africa and Germany, by whom the standards of points have

been perfected. Type has been enhanced, the head with the small

ornamental ears that now prevail is more classical; and scientific

cultivation and careful selection of typical breeding stock have

achieved what may be considered the superlative degree of quality,

without appreciable loss of stamina, size, or substance.

Twenty years or so ago, when Collies were becoming fashionable, the

rich sable coat with long white mane was in highest request. In 1888

Ch. Metchley Wonder captivated his admirers by these rich qualities.

He was the first Collie for which a very high purchase price was paid,

Mr. Sam Boddington having sold him to Mr. A. H. Megson, of Manchester,

for P530. High prices then became frequent. Mr. Megson paid as much

as P1,600 to Mr. Tom Stretch for Ormskirk Emerald. No Collie has had

a longer or more brilliant career than Emerald, and although he was

not esteemed as a successful sire, yet he was certainly the greatest

favourite among our show dogs of recent years.

Mr. Megson has owned many other good specimens of the breed, both

rough and smooth. In the same year that he bought Metchley Wonder,

he gave P350 for a ten-months' puppy, Caractacus. Sable and white

is his favourite combination of colour, a fancy which was shared some

years ago by the American buyers, who would have nothing else. Black,

tan, and white became more popular in England, and while there is

now a good market for these in the United States the sable and white

remains the favourite of the American buyers and breeders.

The best Collie of modern times was undoubtedly Ch. Squire of Tytton,

which went to America for P1,250. A golden sable with quality, nice

size, and profuse coat, he had an unbeaten record in this country.

Another of our best and most typical rough Collies was Ch. Wishaw

Leader. This beautiful dog, who had a most distinguished show career,

was a well-made black, tan, and white, with an enormous coat and

beautiful flowing white mane; one of the most active movers,

displaying quality all through, and yet having plenty of substance.

He had that desirable distinction of type which is so often lacking

in our long-headed Collies. Ormskirk Emerald's head was of good length

and well balanced, the skull sufficiently flat; his eye was

almond-shaped and dark-brown in colour, his expression keen and wise,

entirely free from the soft look which we see on many of the faces

to-day. Historical examples of the show Collie have also been seen

in Champions Christopher, Anfield Model, Sappho of Tytton, Parbold

Piccolo, and Woodmanstern Tartan.

In recent years the smooth Collie has gained in popularity quite as

certainly as his more amply attired relative. Originally he was a

dog produced by mating the old-fashioned black and white with the

Greyhound. But the Greyhound type, which was formerly very marked,

can scarcely be discerned to-day. Still, it is not infrequent that

a throw-back is discovered in a litter producing perhaps a

slate-coloured, a pure, white, or a jet black individual, or that

an otherwise perfect smooth Collie should betray the heavy ears or

the eye of a Greyhound. At one time this breed of dog was much

cultivated in Scotland, but nowadays the breeding of smooths is

almost wholly confined to the English side of the Border.

The following is the accepted description of the Perfect Collie:--

* * * * *

THE SKULL should be flat, moderately wide between the ears, and

gradually tapering towards the eyes. There should only be a slight

depression at stop. The width of skull necessarily depends upon

combined length of skull and muzzle; and the whole must be considered

in connection with the size of the dog. The cheek should not be full

or prominent. THE MUZZLE should be of fair length, tapering to the

nose, and must not show weakness or be snipy or lippy. Whatever the

colour of the dog may be, the nose must be black. THE TEETH should

be of good size, sound and level; very slight unevenness is

permissible. THE JAWS--Clean cut and powerful. THE EYES are a very

important feature, and give expression to the dog; they should be

of medium size, set somewhat obliquely, of almond shape, and of a

brown colour except in the case of merles, when the eyes are

frequently (one or both) blue and white or china; expression full

of intelligence, with a quick alert look when listening. THE EARS

should be small and moderately wide at the base, and placed not too

close together but on the top of the skull and not on the side of

the head. When in repose they should be usually carried thrown back,

but when on the alert brought forward and carried semi-erect, with

tips slightly drooping in attitude of listening. THE NECK should be

muscular, powerful and of fair length, and somewhat arched. THE BODY

should be strong, with well sprung ribs, chest deep, fairly broad

behind the shoulders, which should be sloped, loins very powerful.

The dog should be straight in front. THE FORE-LEGS should be straight

and muscular, neither in nor out at elbows, with a fair amount of

bone; the forearm somewhat fleshy, the pasterns showing flexibility

without weakness. THE HIND-LEGS should be muscular at the thighs,

clean and sinewy below the hocks, with well bent stifles. THE FEET

should be oval in shape, soles well padded, and the toes arched and

close together. The hind feet less arched, the hocks well let down

and powerful. THE BRUSH should be moderately long carried low when

the dog is quiet, with a slight upward swirl at the end, and may

be gaily carried when the dog is excited, but not over the back. THE

COAT should be very dense, the outer coat harsh to the touch, the

inner or under coat soft, furry, and very close, so close as almost

to hide the skin. The mane and frill should be very abundant, the

mask or face smooth, as also the ears at the tips, but they should

carry more hair towards the base; the fore-legs well feathered, the

hind-legs above the hocks profusely so; but below the hocks fairly

smooth, although all heavily coated Collies are liable to grow a

slight feathering. Hair on the brush very profuse. COLOUR in the

Collie is immaterial. IN GENERAL CHARACTER he is a lithe active dog,

his deep chest showing lung power, his neck strength, his sloping

shoulders and well bent hocks indicating speed, and his expression

high intelligence. He should be a fair length on the leg, giving him

more of a racy than a cloddy appearance. In a few words, a Collie

should show endurance, activity, and intelligence, with free and true

action. In height dogs should be 22 ins. to 24 ins. at the shoulders,

bitches 20 ins. to 22 ins. The weight for dogs is 45 to 65 lbs.,

bitches 40 to 55 lbs. THE SMOOTH COLLIE only differs from the rough

in its coat, which should be hard, dense and quite smooth. THE MAIN

FAULTS to be avoided are a domed skull, high peaked occipital bone,

heavy, pendulous or pricked ears, weak jaws, snipy muzzle, full

staring or light eyes, crooked legs, large, flat or hare feet, curly

or soft coat, cow hocks, and brush twisted or carried right over the

back, under or overshot mouth.