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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 wasn't sure.

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 crops.

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 this method.

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.

Yours sincerely,
Alan Barker"

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