It’s a story worth repeating, J. Richard McDuffie, a dog and horse breeder and columnist for Full Cry Magazine wrote an article lamenting the loss of the old time farm collie that were around when he was a kid. He received hundreds of responses from people who felt as he did, including one by David Carr, a Mountain Cur breeder in Tennessee who knew where some dogs might be, some neighbors he had while he was growing up had raised farm shepherds, but the old man had been dead for 15 years now, surely the dogs were gone too. This family, the Allisons, had kept farm shepherds on their farm in Brush Creek, Tennessee ever since they were first married, the story goes that Mrs. Allison had brought the first dogs with her from her parents house when she was married. While hunting in the area, Carr found that there were still dogs at the Allison farm from the old line of farm shepherds called the “Old Bob-Tail Shepherds”, they had been kept by widow Allison all these years, even though she was now in her 80’s. McDuffie is said to have bought the last litter of an old bitch from Mrs. Allison when the pups were 6 months old, this litter’s birthday is listed on paperwork as November 1, 1993, that would put the purchase of these dogs around May of 1994. And the rest is history so they say, but what is that history? One would have to spend quite some time digging to find out what the legacy of these dogs is, and even then there would be a few gaping holes. So here, for all posterity I will attempt to trace the history and legacy of J. Richard McDuffie’s Old Time Farm Shepherds.
Richard McDuffie came home from Brush Creek, Tennessee with 4 dogs from this litter, the last from what had been called “the Old Bob-Tail Shepherds”, there was Dunrovin’s Ole Shep, Rover, Keppie, and Little Bit. McDuffie had this to say about these dogs;
“Here is the story: Her husband’s family had this family of dogs as far back as anybody could remember (well before 1900). From the mid-1920s until his death late 1970s her husband kept and bred his own dogs. He sold and gave away pups to people over a wide area of Central Tennessee. He was judicious in seeing that none of the modern English Shepherd, Border Collie or Australian Shepherd genes got mixed into any of his dogs. He called his dogs “the Old Bob-Tail Shepherd” because a percentage of them were born bob-tail.
When he died his wife kept his dogs. Without his efforts at breeding and distributing dogs in the area, that type of dog died out or became cross-bred until the only ones left were those owned by his widow. The parents of the four pups I got were the last dogs she had left. They were old and probably the second generation she had raised after her husband’s death. The sire of the pups was dead before I got the pups and they were definitely the dam’s last litter due to her old age. Had I not gotten them it would have been too late…
The four pups I got, Ole Shep, Rover, Keppie and Little Bit are all true to the Old Time Farm Shepherd-Collie type. They are all sable and white. In their winter coat they have a good bit of black showing through but when they shed they are pretty much clear sable. Their mother was black and white, the sire sable and white. Sable and white seems to be the predominant color but some come black and white or tri-color.
We found another family in Tennessee and one in North Carolina that are mostly Old Time Farm Shepherd-Collie but have a little English Shepherd. They, however, breed true to the “Old Time” traits.
The dogs we have are in the 40-50 pound range. Some may get larger but most don’t. They have almost human intelligence, being able to figure things out and respond appropriately to unusual situations. They are very people-oriented but distrustful of strangers. The are territorial and natural protectors of property. They are natural stock dogs (however, I do not allow mine to work any kind of livestock… because I hunt them among livestock and I don’t want them being distracted by it). They are natural heelers but do not have the tight-eyed crouching style of the Border Collie.”
These dogs were essentially pure old Scotch Collie as they existed around the turn of the century, but Mr. McDuffie felt the name “Scotch Collie” carried implications related to AKC show dogs and all the health problems that goes along with it, so chose to call this breed “Old Time Farm Shepherd” (OTFS) and began to register them as such with the NKC (National Kennel Club) where they are still registered today.
Ole Shep was bred to a pair of female English Shepherd littermates he obtained from Western Tennessee, Dunrovin’s Moline and Dunrovin’s Sassy. Only two litters were obtained from him, one from each female, before Ole Shep was stolen and Mr. McDuffie lost interest in the project. From these two litters were obtained (as far as I can determine) four dogs that have contributed to the farm collie genepool; McDuffie’s Beethoven, Chesney’s Rebel, Carter’s Rusty and Dunrovin’s Tankard, the rest were presumably sold to places where they were not bred with other farm collies, or if they were, their progeny are less well documented. Richard McDuffie’s son Rick owned McDuffie’s Beethoven and bred a few litters, which was the largest contribution to the farm collie movement to come out of Ole Shep, but over time he lost interest too. In November 2009 Rick McDuffie had a litter of pups from his 12 year old son of Beethoven named McDuffie’s Slobber, his first in some years.
Little Bit, one of the females from Ole Shep’s litter was called such because she was smaller than the rest, she was also a natural bob-tail. She was not kept by McDuffie for very long, she was sold in November 1994 to Chandler Strunk friend of McDuffie’s in Tennessee. When Little Bit came to live at Strunk’s house in Winfield, Tennessee, David Carr told Mrs. Allison that one of her dogs was back in Tennessee, Allison, who had regretted selling the dogs, wept. Little Bit produced her first litter for Strunk in March of 1995. Little Bit was hunted and bred at Strunk’s for years until she died an old dog sometime after 2006.
Dunrovin’s Rover was the other male from that litter McDuffie purchased, and he was as beautiful and intelligent as Shep but McDuffie chose not to breed to him because he was a natural bob-tail. McDuffie kept him around for some time but was eventually given to a friend in North Georgia who hunted him. Eventually he was sold to Strunk where Rover was used in breeding and hunting for many years until he died at a ripe old age, he was producing litters there as late as 2005.
Keppie was bred and produced one litter, eventually she was killed by a car at McDuffie’s.
There were also 2 half sisters of this litter that were obtained by David Carr, I am not sure which parent they share in common or under what circumstances he obtained these dogs. At some point Carr gave these dogs to Chandler Strunk, Maggie, pictured below is one of these half siblings.
What then has become of descendants of this litter? Most of Ole Shep’s puppies had a similar reproductive fate, that is they were only able to produce a couple of litters in their lifetime. The most productive line is that of McDuffie’s Beethoven and his son Sojourner’s Jacob, both of which are in a great many farm collie pedigrees today. Another son of Shep, Rebel produced very few offspring, yet Rebel’s son Ford’s Buddy, is currently producing at least two litters a year and may soon rival Sojourner’s Jacob as the most prolific grandson of Shep. Shep’s son Tankard (Tank), was kept by Richard McDuffie for some time and was eventually traded to Chandler Strunk’s for some Leopard Curs, at Strunk’s, Tank produced several litters. Most of these pups were sold to hunters and have not made it into the farm collie gene-pool.
Some English Shepherd breeders have always had a problem with the Old Time Farm Shepherd name since these dogs were at least 50% English Shepherd as that was what the dogs were that McDuffie chose to breed Shep to. However for as long as men have bred dogs, certain breeds have borrowed from others, the original Scotch Collie got a lot of it’s looks from the Icelandic Sheepdog, yet the Icelandic Sheepdog breeders haven’t taken offense that we refer to these dogs as Collies. In more modern times many old breeds have been brought back or entirely recreated by using other breeds as foundation breeding stock, this does not take anything away from the resulting crosses, instead it is a tribute to the abilities of those foundation breeds. However, because OTFS breeding stock was hard to come by, most owners of these dogs chose to breed to English Shepherds. Today most of the descendants of Dunrovin’s Ole Shep are registered English Shepherds, which isn’t necessarily bad as these are good working dogs, but Mr. McDuffie and many others saw something different in these dogs, something that had been lost in the English Shepherd breed, and as we get farther and farther from Ole Shep, we lose more and more of that, as these genes are diluted with English Shepherd blood. There is therefore something to be said for keeping the uniqueness of the Scotch Collie alive by breeding OTFS to OTFS or at the very least to carefully selected individuals of other breeds.
This is as much as I have been able to piece together, anybody else that knows something on this subject is welcome to comment on this below. Some of this information may be wrong as certain parts I am writing from memory, I will be fact checking this with Mr. Strunk and correcting any errors soon. I hope to add to this article over time as more information and pictures become available.
If you are looking for OTFS puppies it can be quite challenging trying to find one where the bloodlines have not been too watered down by English Shepherd or other types of dogs. We have a page on this site where we list currently available litters of dogs that meet the criteria necessary to rightfully be called “Scotch Collies”. If you have a litter and would like to be listed please email me at email@example.com. View current litter page
This article is part of…