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Working Dogs of the Past

by Maureen Sale

This article was published in Working Sheepdog News,
November/December 1995, No. 6, Vol. 18.
Permission to reproduce has been granted by both
Maureen Sale and by Andrew Hall, Editor,
International Sheepdog News (formerly Working Sheepdog News.

The images accompanying this article appear at the end. Wiston Cap, a well known Border Collie, had a great, great, great, great grandparent named Maddie, a Beardie, who was registered with the I.S.D.S. as #8 entry.

"For centuries the Bearded Collie had been used as a droving and herding dog in the highlands of Scotland. With the modernisation of transport and farming methods over the last hundred years the type of work in which the Bearded Collie excels has gradually disappeared. In the border country between England and Scotland to meet their changing needs the sheepfarmers developed a herding dog - the Border Collie characterised by its ability to move large or small numbers of sheep in a silent controlled manner in complete co-operation with its master. This is the essential difference Beardies like to work independently using their own initiative and were often sent to gather sheep far out of sight and sound of the shepherd.

It is this essential difference that has enabled the Border Collie to excel in sheepdog trials and it is very rare nowadays to see other breeds competing. It was a very great achievement therefore to have a Bearded Collie registered on merit with the International Sheepdog Society by virtue of its farmwork and trials, this being Paul Turnbull's Blue in 1982. (This remarkable dog will be the subject of a special article.)

The first sheepdog trials were held in Bala in Wales in 1873 with 10 dogs competing, watched by 300 spectators. Two years later 30 dogs competed watched by 2000 spectators! The organisation of these popular trials quickly spread to other areas and the I.S.D.S. was eventually formed in 1906. It was in these early trials that a variety of sheepdogs competed - amongst them a number of Bearded Collies.

Unfortunately prior to the formation of the I.S.D.S. only limited records exist. The problem with researching this early period is that often the dogs are not described and without some photographic or other pictorial record what may be named as a Beardie or Highland sheepdog could be an entirely different type of dog to that which we associate with this term. Also as the Border Collie became more popular Beardies were crossed with these other strains of sheepdog. With these reservations the following are a few records of "Beardies", grey or shaggy coated dogs during these early trials years.

1876 - the records of the first trials to be held in Northumberland at Byrness mention three possible winners, the outcome being unclear. One of these three dogs was a Bearded Collie owned by Simon Rutherford from Blackburnhead. "The course was a good hill test, dogs having to cross the fair-sized River Rede(!) to go to their sheep half a mile away on the opposite hillside". After the dog had brought the sheep to the riverside, the shepherd then crossed the river to pen the sheep with the assistance of his dog, and finally the dog was tried at shedding. (Eric Halsall Sheep Dog Trials 1982 p32 and Scottish Sheepdog Handler Feb.1973).

1890 - Rawndon [sic] Lee in his book on the history of the Rough Collie, describes some trial winners. "Again, at the North of England trials, time after time peculiar-looking dogs are to be observed taking leading honours; some of the best workers I ever saw being wire-haired in coat, of an appearance likely to be brought about by crossing a shepherds bitch with a tough terrier. But I was assured that these dogs were pure-bred sheep dogs, and had been such for generations. I suppose no better dog ever ran anywhere than Mr. Harding's (Caton, near Lancaster) Rob, an old-fashioned grey, grizzled stamp, that might from his appearance have had a dash of deerhound blood in him. He won many leading prizes.....all round I believe Rob was the best working sheepdog I ever saw." (Collie or Sheepdog by Rawdon Lee 1890).

1893 - The famous New Cummock trials began in Scotland. Mr. D. Wilson of Troloss Cottage, Abington was one of the handlers competing in these early trials. "Mr. Wilson father of Mr. J. M. Wilson, Innerleithen, ran a three year old Beardie named Tweed and had previously won first prize at the Biggar trials with this collie." (Scottish Shepdog Handler June 1971 - from some old newspaper cuttings).

1898 saw the first publication of "Owd Bob, The Grey Dog of Kenmuir". Prior to the drawings of the Bearded Collie used to illustrate the book in 1937, earlier films of the book had first featured an Old English Sheepdog and then a Border Collie. Various other editions of the book both here and in America, where it was renamed "Bob, Son of Battle", used grey Rough Collies for illustration. The classic story of shepherding and trials included many details that must have been drawn from actual events. A landmark is believed to be one of the first novels written where the main character is not human. Doggie Hubbard has written an article on the book for his current Kennel Gazette series "A Book at Random" (see April 1995 issue).

1898 - At the Scottish New Cummock trials at Brockloch a newspaper reports that the judges were Mr. McWhirter, Largs, Straiton and Mr. Carswel, Chirmorrie, Barrhill whose "careful and well-considered decisions gave general satisfaction." The course was 600 yards in length on the undulating face of a hill. 19 collies were entered - 1st prize of 6 to Lock, a 2 year old collie owned by John Hastings, Glenwhargen, also the prizewinner the previous year. "Did capital work throughout and was specially commended for his running out and the command which his master had over him. 2nd prize of 4 to Sam, a 5 year old owned by John Paterson, Meikleill, New Cummock. "This bearded collie lost a little time at running out, but worked splendidly and was thoroughly under the control of his master. There were very few points between the first two dogs." Sam is recorded as winning a 3rd prize another year when Alex Miller's [sic] Bruce (see below) was 9th but unfortunately the year is not decipherable. (Scottish Sheepdog Handler June 1971).

1899 - New Cummock trials John Paterson is again recorded as winning from 32 entries with another dog Daur but there is no description of the type of collie this was nor which dog John won 10th place with. Daur was 2nd the following year to Alex Miller's [sic]Bruce, but he won again in 1901 still only 4 years old.

1900 - New Cummock Trial the winner was Alex Millar's Bruce, a 5 year old black and tan dog the winner of 3 New Cummock championships. Bruce sired Frisk a half-beardie who was the winner at Duns in July 1905 and Peebles in August 1905. Frisk had the distinction of being the first dog to compete in an International Trial when he started the historic event in August 1906 at Gullane in East Lothian, where there were 27 Scots and English handlers with dogs that had to be qualified. Frisk didn't get a prize but "acquitted himself most gallantly under the adverse conditions of rebellious sheep". Frisk is recorded as being a successful dog who won many trials and was reputed to have been a great road dog. Alex Millar drove sheep from Ayrshire to the markets by the Clyde. Frisk's dam is not recorded. Frisk's son, Risp, was "even more renowned than his sire, he was said to be one of the best all-round sheepdogs ever known at that time". (Key dogs from the Border Collie Family - Sheila Grew inc. pictures p25 and British Sheepdogs - The History of the I.S.D.S. by Eric Halsall).

1902 - "Sheepdog Trials in Westmoreland" an article appeared in "The Graphic" on 15th November 1902 with a drawing by the author John Charlton depicting a scene from the trials. The sketches of the competitors which surround the drawing are nearly all of the type of dog we would associate as being the ancestors of the Rough and Smooth Collie. There is also a shaggy coated dog not dissimilar to the photographs and postcards of the early type of working Beardie. Unfortunately the commentary in the accompanying article only covers the trial course and does not give any reference to the identity of the contestants or the eventual winners. (Details by courtesy of Murry Gunn).

1906 - Sutherland and Caithness Sheepdog Trials. There were 40 entries for 4 classes watched by hundreds of spectators. One of these classes was for Bearded Collies. The four dogs competing were only a year old having been given as puppies at the previous years trials by Lord Arthur Cecil. Nothing much could be expected of such young dogs over the two mile difficult course which by the afternoon had become covered in a haze, "the two best both came from the Kildonan district, bringing the prizes to the county of Sutherland up to the gratifying number of nine out of a total of thirteen." (Reprinted in Working Sheepdog News Feb. 1982 from a 1906 article in the Northern Times - "The Beardie Collies got Lost In The Haze"). There is a picture of Lord Arthur Cecil's Bearded Collie Ben in "All About The Bearded Collie" by Joyce Collis p14 and Major Logan refers to Ben being shown about 1906 and could therefore be related to the above dogs (p212 in Suzanne Moorhouse's "Talking About Beardies"). Ben is also mentioned in the "Our Dogs" article of 17 December 1898 (reprinted 4 December 1980) as having sired 4 puppies to Mrs. Hall Walker's Bearded Collie Stella. Mrs. Hall Walker kept one of these puppies and sent it to be trained in Scotland "the better in order to develop the points it is my desire to see brought out."

1914-1918 During The Great War Beardies were used as messenger dogs along with other types of collies and Airedales etc. "The sheep dogs, and by this I mean the shaggy or Highland variety, frequently make good dogs.....they are naturally extremely intelligent and conscientious workers." The dogs were trained to take messages back from the front line to H.Q. running some miles under heavy shelling, gas attack and rifle fire, over craters and barbed wire, through water-logged rough ground and trenches, by day and night. In one month as an example 74 collies and 36 sheepdogs were sent to France for messenger work (British War Dogs Lt-Col E. H. Richardson 1920).

1919 - The first International trials in Scotland after the 1914-18 War continued the tradition of having a class for "appearance". (In the 1890's one of the most famous dogs of this time had been Ormskirk Charlie a pure bred Rough Collie, a son of CH. Christopher, who won many trials." It perhaps indicates how many Beardies competed in these early trials by the fact that there were two "type" classes in 1919 one for Beardies and one for "other dogs"! The classes were judged by James Dalgleish of Galashiels and James Scott of Troneyhill. (Eric Halsall "Sheep Dog Trials" 1982 p46). Dalgliesh was the leading figure in our breed following the death of Panmure Gordon. "He not only bred, showed and judged Beardies, but worked them in the stockyards of the South of Scotland." Dalgliesh also wrote the well-known article on the Bearded Collie in "The New Book of the Dog" (1907). (Further information regarding Mr. Dalgliesh's dogs is recorded by Major Logan in Suzanne Moorhouse's "Talking About Beardies" p212).

1935 - The Scottish Brace Championship winners were Vim (I.S.D.S. Regd. No. 1984) and Rock (1321) owned by Capt J. MacPherson from Aberdeen. Vim was a blue and tan beardie born 30/7/31, sired by F. Milne's Spot (763) to his bitch Morag (NR). One of Vim's "border collie" grandsons Wally (4361) was International Farmers Champion in 1949 and Welsh Driving Champion in 1952. Vim's grand-sire was Millar's 1925 Supreme International Champion Spot (303) a "Border Collie". One of Spot's great-grand-parents was Old Maddie W. B. Telfer's grey and tan beardie. Maddie (I.S.D.S. Regd. No. 8) was the grand-dam of the 1921 International Supreme Champion A. Telfer's Haig (252) a brother to Cap (237) the sire of Spot (303). Maddie was also the great-grand-dam of Toss (464) the Welsh National Campion in 1929 and 1930 and also the Welsh Brace Champion in 1931 and 1932. Maddie was also a G.G.G.G. parent of Laddie (867) a blue, white and tan dog, the Welsh National Champion in 1928 and to Craig (1048) International Supreme Champion in 1930. Maddie was also G.G.G.G. parent to the infamous Wilson's Cap (3036) and is therefore one of the ancestors behind many other supreme champions. Maddie is pictured on p40 of Sheila Grew's book. Maddie was born in 1910 sired by McKenzie's Glen out of H. Renwick's Lassie but no further details are known (Information from Key Dogs - Sheila Grew and National Sheepdog Champions - E. B. Carpenter).

1938 A Scotch Bearded Collie featured on a cigarette card which is surprising as so few at this time had been shown in the breed ring, the main exhibitor during the pre-war years being Mrs. Cameron Miller with her Balmacneil stock. The reverse of the card gives the following information: "Here is a venerable breed of Collie that has been worked with sheep in Scotland for generations. His great claim to distinction is the brilliant manner with which he carries off the prizes in field trials and intelligence tests, having a mind as quick on the uptake as can be found in any dog. The Bearded type shown here is less common, but no less characteristic of the breed, which varies a great deal. (No. 48 of second series of 48 dogs issued by Gallaher Ltd. London & Belfast).

Beardies also had a part to play in other parts of the world as during the latter part of the last century impoverished Scottish shepherds sold their Beardies for export or took their dogs with them when emigrating.

Research discovered by a friend in Coventry indicated that the Scotch shepherd dog, dam of Buck in Jack London's "The Call of the Wild" was a Bearded Collie and some years ago a litter of this cross with a St. Bernard was made for a film of the book. Jack London had travelled to the Klondike in 1897 and his book was first published in 1903. Major Logan refers to Beardies being shown in Canada as early as 1910 on page 211 of "Talking about Beardies".

Many Scottish dogs were exported to Australia and New Zealand some of which became the foundation stock for the shaggy coated variety of Huntaway. A photograph of this type of dog can be seen in C.W.G. Hartley's "The Shepherds Dog". The Smithfield is a popular breed in Tasmania originating from dogs first imported in 1900, evolved from the Bearded Collie which it still closely resembles although now commonly crossed with other breeds. (The Shepherds Dogge USA Vol. VI No. 3 1993)."

The captions are typed as they appeared in the article.

"Alex Millar and Frisk after winning at Duns and Peebles in July and August 1905."

"S. E. Batty with Hemp (307) and Maddie 8 (Beardie), G.G.G.G . parents of Cap (3036)."

The captions here are on the images.

"James Ballard, 1854-1939, with his Dorset Blue Shag.
Photo: courtesy of Mr E. B. Carpenter."

"Prints purchased at Crufts from Antiquarian Book Sellers show this picture as
being c1920. Courtesy of "Everyman's Dog" published by Cooper,
McDougall and Robertson Ltd., Berkhamstead, Herts. Written by
Major Mitford Brice, kindly loaned to W.S.N. by Maureen Sale, author."

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