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Two articles were published relating to Paul and Carol's Beardies. The first article entitled "All Aboard for the Hills O'Hoick" appeared in Working Sheepdog News. The images used are placed in colour below the article.

The second article was written by Paul; he granted permission for it to be reprinted on this website in its entirety exactly as it was written. The article first appeared in Smallholder in January 1995. A picture was included, but it is not available for reproduction here.

Bearded Collie

The sight of a young beardie as he completes his outrun and "gathers" his sheep, will give the onlooker who is used to watching a Border Collie, a certain amount of trepidation. The cause of this apprehension is the style in which a beardie works.

Bearded collies do not run to the back of their sheep and creep up to the sheep as though he is hypnotized. Moving constantly, is the way of the beardie, always on his feet while he is working. Once the 'gather' has been completed, the 'drive' will move in a manner anyone would expect from any working collie. Physical presence is needed in a dog that is required to move sheep and the beardie has as much as any dog.

The beardie does not have a total lack of "eye," as most believe. Whilst in a yard or in close proximity to sheep, the beardie will use his eye. The only time the beardie works as a "loose eyed dog" (not using his eye to control the sheep), is when he gathers his sheep. At this time he will work across the back of his flock until they are bunched. I have been told by some hill shepherds that when sending collies with a lot of eye to gather on the hill, they often have the problem of a dog becoming stationery as though hypnotised by a small group of sheep that for one reason or another will not move. Bearded collies do not have this problem. Their energy and movement will move all the sheep. If an extra push is needed a beardie should be trained to 'speak' or to give tongue.

Teach Your Dog To Speak

I do not understand why so many sheepdog handlers do not teach their dogs to speak, as one or two barks from a dog will nearly always move sheep. A large "mob" being moved by one dog, will often slow down or worse still come to a halt when entering yards or a narrow gateway. A dog that barks on command will be more persuasive than all the shouting and arm waving that a shepherd can do. The requirement is for a dog that will bark when ordered to do so but not to bark or yap uncontrollably.

A criticism often levied at the beardie is that, it is quick to "grip" - too keen to bite or snap at the sheep. This can be said of all collies if they are allowed to get away with it. There are occasions when a dog will be asked to give a nip and this is where training really counts. The grip should be at command only, no more and no less. To let any dog get away with more than it should, could lead to the disastrous situation of the dog actually worrying sheep.

The strength and hardiness of the bearded collie is legendary and there are many stories of the tough life the beardie has had to sustain. Working in all weathers, long untidy coats protect them from the severest elements. After a heavy snowfall I have often found my beardie sleeping under a layer of snow, rather than a warm dry kennel. Tales from the time when drovers took livestock around the country, of beardies giving birth to pups on a snow covered track, having to leave them to be trampled by the livestock so that the job can be finished without delay, are legion.

Why the Coat Curls

The heavy weatherproof coat of the beardie can become a problem. The amount of coat that beardies have varies from dog to dog, while one will not suffer from a coat weighed down with mud and any other rubbish that can be picked up during a day's work, another will. Matt Mundell in his book "Country Diary" published in 1981, tells of a shepherd who "Would clip the hair on his dogs legs and then rub in oil" to ease the problem of snow clinging to the legs and feet.

The type of coat is one of the many differences between the old working type beardie and the glamorous KC exhibition beardie that parades in the show rings. The long flowing coats of the show dogs would be totally impractical in a working dog. The long silky texture of the coat, adds to the fact that the action of constant grooming, takes away the natural strength of the coat. The hair is caused to grow from the skin straight to the floor, forming a parting in the coat along the dogs back, which will let in water. A dog will soon chill once the rain or sleet has seeped under the coat. The working type beardie has a much more suitable coat for its work as a herding dog. The coat has a natural curl that insured the hair is water resistant and totally protects the dogs body.

With the right approach to training, the beardie can do all the various tasks required during a days work with a shepherd. The most likely reason for the decline in the beardie's popularity is due to a certain amount of concern about maintenance of their coats during the course of a year. Also, a beardie possibly does not present the typical appearance of the Border collie creeping behind his sheep on the trial field.

The gene pool of the working type beardie has now become so small that there is a possibility that the working beardie could disappear into the realms of working dog history, like many other breeds. If bearded collies are allowed to get past their young and youthful days, to mature into experienced working dogs they can and will, look as attractive and efficient as any other breed of sheepdog.

 

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