Letter J. Richard McDuffie wrote to Linda Rorem, thanks for sharing Linda.
April 18, 1995
I am 62 years old. The country was full of Old Time Farm Shepherd or Farm Collie dogs when I was a boy. Some called them Shepherds, others Collies but they were the same dogs. They served as family pet, guarddog, stock dog and hunting dog.
After World War II people turned to specialist breeds and just neglected the old farm dogs that excelled at many things. My interest in them was always as hunting dogs. I was always interested in the old farm dogs but like most people, took them for granted.
I spent 42 years, 1953 – 1995 breeding and reestablishing the Leopard Cur – Leopard Tree Dog or McDuffie Strain Leopard, whichever name you want to call it. They descended from the old time farm dogs (Farm Shepherds or Farm Collies) of the Carolinas. They have the Shepherd mind-set but can cold trail, open on trail and have the staying power demanded of coon, bear and lion dogs.
In more recent years (1980’s) there was a resurgence of interest in squirrel hunting. The type of dog needed for hunting squirrels was one that could trail some, but not cold trail and would use eyes and ears to locate squirrels. Terrier types were being promoted as squirrel dogs. I realized that the old time farm dogs of my childhood did a far superior job. As a result I started a nation wide search for the Old Time Treeing Farm Shepherd. I write two monthly columns, “McDuffie Strain Leopard and Camus Cur News” and “Breeding for Results” for Full Cry Magazine. I started writing requests monthly in both articles as well as my advertisements asking for anyone who knew of Old Time Treeing Farm Shepherds to contact me.
I had hundreds of responses. Most were from people who wanted to buy one. Many remembered that type dog and just wanted to say nice things about them. Probably about fifty people told me of where treeing shepherds were. Further investigation revealed that most of these were crossed up English Shepherd, Australian Shepherd, Border Collie types.
A vocational agriculture teacher from Tennessee called me and told me of an old woman who had some of the Old Time Farm Shepherds. He told me that he grew up next door to her and her husband. He said that when he got up to go to school the shepherds would be treed. If their owner had not gone to them during the day, they would still be treed when he came home from school. Then he would take his rifle and go shoot out the squirrel, coon, ground hog or whatever they had treed.
He grew up, went away to college, then the military and worked in other states before coming back thirty or so miles from home, to teach school. He read my request for information and remembered that his neighbor had those kinds of dogs but knew the man had been dead for 15 years or more, so he just assumed the dogs were gone. One day he went turkey hunting at his old home place and discovered that the man’s widow (now in her mid 80’s) still lived there and had some of her husband’s dogs (or at least descendants). He called me and I went up there and bought Ole Shep and three litter mates, at that time about 6 months old.
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 1920’s until his death late 1970’s 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-tailed.
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 the husbands 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.
Mrs. Allison can’t come up with a long pedigree. She didn’t keep up with her husband’s breeding records, if there were any written, and she can’t remember a lot of names, however, she does know the family was kept pure from outside influences.
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 & 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. They are territorial and natural protectors of property. They are natural stock dogs (however, I do not allow mine to work any kind of livestock. I break them off all 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.
I have worked with a select group of people who have agreed to breed like I tell them and we have a large enough gene pool now to start producing a good many breeding quality pups for sale this year.
I have three pups for sale now, in the event anybody is interested. They are by Rover, a litter mate to Ole Shep, out of my Gipsy female, Rover and Gypsy and my two best dogs. All three pups are sable and white and are natural bob-tails. One female and two males.
I feel sure that you are familiar with the genetics of the bob-tail gene. It is inherited as a simple dominant and is probably heterozygous because I do not know of any bob-tail breed in which it breeds true. For a pup to be bon-tail at least one parent must be bob-tail. Two long-tail dogs will not throw a bob-tail pup even though all four grandparents may have been bob-tail.
I do not particularly like the bob-tail. However, of the four pups I bought from Mrs. Allison only Ole Shep was long-tail. Rover is definitely a better dog than Ole Shep. To me that makes all the difference.
J. Richard McDuffie