McDuffie’s Blunder and How To Fix It

English Shepherd and Scotch Collie compared

The true story of failures and blunders and how we can move forward

I hate to say it because I really respect J. Richard McDuffie, I respect his knowledge about dogs and breeding, I appreciate what he did in finding and making available the Allison dogs but I also have to be honest, he really mishandled the situation. Okay, imagine you have just acquired a litter of an almost extinct breed of dogs, the last of their line, also imagine you are one of the preeminent authorities on dog breeding and rare breeds. Now outline briefly how you would proceed to set up a breeding program to save this breed. Would your plans possibly include breeding 2 litters from one dog and then quitting? Would they include naming your breed but then failing to define a breed standard or to set up a breed club? Some of McDuffie’s actions regarding the Old Time Farm Shepherds almost appear to have set the breed up to fail, let us now consider some of his mistakes and how we can move forward with the hand he has dealt us.

He bred only two litters

McDuffie bred only 2 litters of pups from the 4 dogs he acquired. We are told that his heart went out of it after Ole Shep was stolen, I can appreciate that, but the situation was bigger than his heart. This was the remnant of an endangered dog breed, if he didn’t want to continue he could have found somebody else to continue but instead he made no efforts to continue breeding. He owned Tankard, a pup sired by Ole Shep, for years afterward, Tankard could have continued his efforts but he chose to use Tank for hunting and not breed him. He also had access to Dunrovin’s Rover, a dog I am told McDuffie didn’t like merely because he was bob-tailed, but he could have bred Rover to a long-tailed dog and selected against the bob-tail, instead he gave Rover to a hunting buddy of his and made no efforts to breed him. Keppie was hit by a car, I don’t know how long he had her before this happened, but he had Little Bit for awhile. The point is that this man who by all accounts was an expert in the area of dog breeding and saving rare breeds, made very little effort to breed and continue this breed. I am told that McDuffie did not think much of Tom Stodghill, but it seems to me that he could have learned a thing or two from Stodghill, a clockwise breeding program such as the one Stodghill used to breed and standardize the English Shepherd is exactly what should have been done for the Old Time Farm Shepherd.

He created a breed, not a breed

McDuffie called his dogs “Old Time Farm Shepherds” and insisted they were different from English Shepherds or AKC collies, I agree with this, I and many others have recognized the difference between OTFS and ES. Yet he failed to clearly define what that difference was, the only explanation recorded is the following written by Elaine Reynolds on the Farmcollie List in 1997

When I asked Mr. McDuffie what the difference between the ES and his dogs was, he told me that his dogs had more of the instinct the farm shepherd was originally bred for.

That’s all well and good, but it’s pretty hard to define, how could I, for example, go down to the animal shelter and determine if a dog was OTFS based on that? How was he able to determine if these dogs met his requirements when he brought them home at 6 months old? The sire was dead and the dame was very old. This seems like a pretty flimsy description of a breed and very hard for anybody after him to work with.

Elaine also wrote the following in a different post on the Farm Collie list in 1997

The McDuffie Old Time Farm Shepherd is a breed that breeds true. There is no written standard for what one looks like, they are registered on Mr. McDuffie’s approval.

This is a pretty poor breed standard, no written standard and every new dog added must be approved by McDuffie? Even if he had the best of intentions and knew exactly what he wanted this breed to be, how did he think the breed would continue after him? We cannot expect others to recognize the OTFS as a real breed until we can define a standard better than “instinct” and “McDuffie’s approval”.

He wanted Scotch Collies but was against selecting for looks

He is also said to have been against selecting for looks and this is given as a reason for not having a written breed standard, yet he is known to have judged dogs based on looks.

McDuffie is quoted in several places as referring to his dogs as “Scotch Collies” or visually judging dogs as “Scotch Collie” or not. The following is quoted from the Elaine Reynolds on the AWFA List in 2001

When I first talked to Mr. McDuffie and Erika Dubois about these efforts, he told me that he did not call these dogs scotch collies as that term made people think of the Show type crosses that had the long nose. He chose the term Old Time Farm Shepherds as that caused less confusion…

When I first wrote Mr. McDuffie I sent him pictures of certain registered ES that I considered to be Scotch collies we agreed that some of the registered dogs are Scotch collies and some are not. We agreed on which ones were scotch collies and which ones were not

McDuffie judged the photos Elaine sent as Scotch Collie or not based on looks and he no doubt judged Ole Shep’s litter based on looks when he bought them. He was, after all, not just looking for any good hunting dog but for the remnant of hunting Scotch Collies, a dog recognized by its distinctive looks. He is said to have not liked Dunrovin’s Rover because he was bob-tailed and not liked Dunrovin’s Little Bit based on her small size, once again making decisions primarily on looks.

So to summarize, McDuffie did not create a written breed standard because he was against selecting for looks, yet he was not above making decisions primarily on looks himself. I would suggest that this was merely a knee-jerk reaction based on what selecting for looks had done to the English Shepherd breed and to numerous AKC breeds. Instead of rejecting written standards outright, he should have found a way to maintain working ability, intelligence and looks as some breeds like the Jack Russell Terriers have .

He was not careful in placing pups

I don’t know much about McDuffie’s methods for placing dogs, but I am able to see the results. How many of the dogs he bred ended up being valued as breeding stock? Beethoven, who was owned by McDuffie’s son, Rebel who was rescued from his first home, Tank who was kept by McDuffie himself and Carter’s Rusty who was sold in a parking lot, the story below is quoted from Erin Hischke on the AWFA List in 2004.

Ted Carter bought Rusty from a McDuffie in a church parking lot but we didn’t know which McDuffie–or even if it was an different McDuffie family. Yesterday I found a photo of JR McDuffie on line and sent it to Ted Carter. Ted Carter said that’s the guy he met.

Selling dogs in a parking lot to somebody who isn’t really sure who you are doesn’t sound like the actions of somebody who has a rare breed of dog that he is trying to propagate.

Where are we today?

Today we are left with the rag-tag remnants of McDuffies OTFS breed and no way to move forward with that breed, we are at a dead-end. If we want to maintain the OTFS as distinct from the English Shepherd breed then we need to be able to recognize and enroll new members of this breed. But without McDuffie to “approve” new members of the breed that is not possible. Chandler Strunk is still authorized to enroll new dogs into the OTFS, I mentioned to him in September 2010 that there should be a written breed standard and he told me the same thing I have heard from people who spoke to Richard McDuffie, that selecting for looks was bad for the breed. What should happen for the future of this breed? What will we do when Strunk is no longer around either?

Registration is another problem, NKC is still registering Old Time Farm Shepherds but they fail to acknowledge it on their website, perhaps related to some breed politics. I have written them and called for information regarding their official position on the OTFS but they avoid the question or ignore me. Perhaps they are reluctant to recognize a breed that has no written standard except “working instinct” and the approval of a dead man.

NKC’s lack of official recognition and the lack of a breed standard also make starting a breed club difficult. Rick McDuffie (Richard’s son) spoke of creating a separate registry on the Farm Collie List back in 1997:

It is true that Dad has asked the NKC to keep his breeding records, and they have been keeping mine also. This is one of the possibilities for ongoing registration of the old-time dogs. We also have the option of starting a separate registry in time; there certainly is no rush, and we will probably want to wait and see how the Farm Collie list eventually organizes itself before making a decision.

Well thirteen years have elapsed since he wrote this, the Farm Collie list has dwindled and at times been outright hostile to Old Time Farm Shepherds and Rick McDuffie is now breeding English Shepherds. We still need that registry, in fact more than ever, the Scotch Collie is in a losing situation. The English Shepherd breed has thrived under its breed club while the Scotch Collie after all these years languishes or is absorbed into the English Shepherd breed. Moving forward we need to leave behind the Old Time Farm Shepherd monicker since that binds us to McDuffie’s undefined standard, then with a new name we need a breed club, a registry and a written standard. We need to stop waiting around, while we fiddle Rome burns, the Scotch Collie deserves to thrive and be recognized.

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3 Responses to McDuffie’s Blunder and How To Fix It

  1. Diane says:

    The UKC registered “Scotch Collies” beginning in 1914. It would be interesting to read the first standard and see how it compares to the present OTFS.

  2. Well written, and some serious questions you have raised. I will take some time, think carefully, and read this again before answering or asking anything.

    I would like to know what the Scotch Collie original Breed standard is…was it only based on looks, or did working ability play a part in what they were selecting for? Are their any old books that give this information?

  3. Shep says:

    These dogs originated in rural Scotland centuries ago, there was no breed standard then, people kept and bred the dogs that did the work they wanted them to do and culled the dogs that didn’t. Breed standards weren’t invented until the late 1800s when they started to appear in dog shows. Still, to operate as a breed today and to differentiate yourself from other breeds you need some sort of standard to work with.

    The article above was originally written in May, 2010 and we have made progress since then. Later that year we organized the Old-Time Scotch Collie Association, we now have a written standard that emphasizes intelligence and we have a database to track pedigrees and registrations. I feel that we are continuing McDuffie’s project where he left off and we are making progress.

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