You are visiting the "Varro" page. Don't forget,
click on the "back" button to return
to the "Timeline" page.
The Roman Farm Management The Treatises of Cato
and Varro are available on the internet (The Project Gutenberg Ebook #12140).
Marcus Terentius Varro (116 BC – 27 BC), also known as Varro Reatinus,
wrote about sheepdogs.
"Once P. Aufidius Pontianus of Amiternum bought certain
flocks of sheep in further Umbria, the dogs which herded
them being included in the bargain, but not the shepherds,
who were, however, to make the delivery at the Saltus of
Metapontum and the market of Heraclea: when these shepherds
had returned home, their dogs, longing for their masters, a
few days later of their own will came back to the shepherds
in Umbria, having made several days journey without other
food than what the fields afforded. Nor had any one of those
shepherds done what Saserna advises in his books on
agriculture, 'Whoever wishes to be followed by a dog should
throw him a cooked frog.'"
The above language also appeared in Cynologist Edward Ash's
book Dogs: Their History and Development (1927).
The description would certainly match similar descriptions by writers
(late 19th and 20th centuries) on how drovers' dogs would return to
their starting point (on their own) after driving cattle to some new
location miles from where they started. The drovers, with money in hand,
often returned to their origination point by boat or stayed on in the
South of England to help harvest crops. The men would later return when
the weather cooperated.
One of the references appeared in The Drove Roads of Scotland,
1953 Edition (though first published in June 1952), by A. R. B. Haldane,
it was written on page 26:
"Enough oatmeal was carried for a few days and this was replenished on
the journey as opportunity offered. The oatmeal was not for the drover's
use alone. Dogs were extensively used in droving, and although there is
curiously little mention of them in contemporary records, their function
must have been an important one on routes which crossed long stretches
of open country. Those who can still remember the last years of the
droving period recall that the first concern of drovers on arrival at
houses or inns was food for the dogs.5"
The footnote read:
"Some years ago the late Miss Stewart Mackenzie of Brahan, Ross-shire,
informed a friend that in the course of journeys by coach in the late
autumn from Brahan to the South during her childhood about the year 1840
she used frequently to see collie dogs making their way north
unaccompanied. On inquiring of her parents why these dogs were alone,
Miss Stewart Mackenzie was informed that these were dogs belonging to
drovers who had taken cattle to England and that when the droving was
finished the drovers returned by boat to Scotland. To save the trouble
and expense of their transport the dogs were turned loose to find their
own way north. It was explained that the dogs followed the route taken
on the southward journey being fed at Inns or Farms where the drove had
'stanced' and that in the following year when the drovers were again on
the way south, they paid for the food given to the dogs. No evidence has
come to light that drovers returned from the South by boat, and it would
seem that a possible alternative explanation is that the dogs belonged
to drovers who had remained in the South through the autumn for the
harvest when the dogs would not be needed."
Based upon other stories, it is likely that some of the dogs did make
the return trip on their own.
A book entitled Sketches of Highland Character: Sheep-farmers and
Drovers, (1873) was first published in 1865 as part of four works in
one volume in "Odds and Ends" by Edmonston & Douglas, Edinburgh. The
1873 book was illustrated by W. Ralston. William Ralston (1848-1911) was
an illustrator and artist who later also did photography. He was born
in the Village of Milton, near Dumbarton, grew up in Glasgow when he
moved there as a child with his parents, traveled to Australia where he
lived for three years, and then later he returned to Glasgow to work in
his father's business of photography.
Ralston had been a cabin-boy one summer on board one of the Clyde
Steamers. It is likely that this was where he got firsthand knowledge to
illustrate this charming book about the voyage from Greenock near the
Port of Glasgow on the Firth of Clyde on route going North to the Port
of Oban via the Mull of Cantyre (Kintyre). This book
described a rough sea journey with a good description of one of the
shepherds who had been at Falkirk to sell a couple of his queys
(heifers). One of the illustrations showed a shepherd's collie dog and a
gentleman holding a crook. Discussion took place by the men who were
engaging in "drink" about how much money should be paid for the queys.
The book also included two engravings of Highland Cattle taken from
artwork by Gourlay Steell, RSA, (1819-1994).
Thanks goes to Cynthia Mahigian Moorhead, who furnished a copy of a
letter sent to her many years ago while she was the editor of a magazine
for the Bearded Collie Club of America.
In the Spring of 1984, this letter was published in the "Beardie Times,"
the magazine of the Southern Counties Bearded Collie Club. It was
authored by Alan Barker in response to a letter from Ms. E. Gallatly,
who was trying to gain information about Mr. Ted Jackson, an Immingham
shepherd. He is shown below with his 17-year-old Beardie-like dog Rover.
Mr. Barker has kindly given his permission for his response to Ms.
Gallatly's enquiry to be included on this website.
"Your enquiry about the Immingham shepherd and his dog has certainly
stirred things up in Immingham! I am not a local, having moved here from
Oban in Argyll some years ago, but my wife and family are of local
descent. My mother-in-law was the first to identify Mr. Jackson. It
seems he was known as 'Jesus Jackson' and was really a cattleman rather
than a shepherd. After some enquiries I was able to find Mr. Jackson's
only surviving child, a son. Mr. Jackson Jnr. was quite delighted with
my interest. He was born in 1935, so remembered the dog quite well.
There were no pedigree papers with the dog, who came to his father at a
year old. The previous owner could not handle him as he was continually
destroying household items—sounds familiar! Mr. Jackson described the
dog as follows:
Approximately two feet at the shoulder, white chest and mane, white on
his muzzle and legs, grey over the rest of his coat which was full but
not particularly long. It was an Old English type dog. Mr. Jackson did
not know Beardies as a breed and said that the dog was not like the Old
English Sheepdogs one sees about today. It definitely wasn't a
Rough/Border Collie type. Just where the dog came from originally he
My investigations led me to speak to a local landowner who employed Ted
Jackson and his dog. He described the dog as 'Finest Bullock dog I have
ever seen'. It was the only dog of its type Ted Jackson owned and the
dog was approximately twenty years old when it was put down purely
because of old age.
Several people have told me of an occasion when Mr. Jackson couldn't
attend to the cattle in his care and the dog went to the fields, rounded
up the cattle and shepherded them into an enclosure!
I have been able to ascertain that two farmers in this area have used
Beardies for livestock and indeed both were full of praise for
them—though one described them, in a domestic sense, as hairdresser's
dummies. He probably has a point. However, the farming of livestock is
practically non-existent now in this area as the land is turned over to
You mentioned an interest in shaggy dog stories. Our own Beardie,
Marcus, is a fairly typical example of the breed, noisy, bouncy and very
affectionate to the family. My wife, Anne, and I were visiting relations
of hers who run a small holding some miles from Immingham, with sheep, a
few cattle, pigs, chickens and so on. Marcus was with us as we were
being shown the new arrivals, some sheep. Marcus edged up to them and
very slowly extended his neck till his nose was almost touching the
sheep's face. The sheep suddenly bleated. Marcus leaped back, turned
round and raced back to the house at top speed—some sheepdog!
I mentioned earlier that I do not belong to Immingham but moved here
from Scotland. It was there I first came into contact with the breed.
Oban is a small port and cattle and sheep were brought from the Hebrides
to the livestock market. After a ship journey, cattle in particular are
difficult to get out of the boat. The shepherds' Beardies would leap
into the ship's pen and race back and forth across the cattle's
shoulders to get them moving. I have seen them separate a single cow by
I'm not sure if time alters the memory but I remember the Beardies as
being a bit bigger than the dog we are used to seeing in the show ring
or household. Also there was not so much white on them and a high
proportion of black and dark brown dogs. Coats were always quite short
with muzzles shaved.
I hope these ramblings have been of interest.