Without doubt no dog has been more talked of and written about than the modern Collie. He may have degenerated, as many dog show people feel, having been inbred and pushed too much for certain points, but after all, Buffon’s statement that the shepherd dog was the original dog from which all others descended is a good deal nearer the truth than a great many other of his theoretical assertions. If we are to take the records of the American Kennel Club, there is no doubt that the modern Collie was beyond question the most popular dog some years ago. From the first drawings of the Collie, which are from the pens of Burwick and Howitt, we find him essentially the same dog today that he was years ago. He was undoubtedly the product of the Highlands, and must have been related to the Elk Hounds of Norway and the Highland Collie of Austria.
The term ” Collie ” originated in a part of Scotland, and gradually spread down to the east coast of England. It was then spelled “Colley,” but was subsequently changed to the present spelling. Probably no breed of dogs is better known than the Collie, and no dog appeals more strongly to the genuine dog lover.
The animal we term the Collie is properly the common English Sheep Dog of the farm, and from the ordinary, rough-haired dog, akin to that of northern Europe, down to the doglike elegance of today, the modern prize Collie, the relationship is unquestionable. In looking through some of Landseer’s portfolios we see an intelligent head, but not the sharp-pointed, narrow skull of today; but we must recognize the fact that the Collies painted by Landseer were working dogs, and not show animals. We find one characteristic in all the old time drawings of Collies that must have been a characteristic of the breed, but which is now bred out as a disfigurement, the twist at the end of the tail. We find this in Burwick’s Shepherd Dog and in Howitt’s beautiful etchings. Quite a number of writers on the Collie have quoted from Caius’ description of the shepherd dog in a way that would include all dogs that cared for sheep as shepherd dogs and not a specific breed, such as we now recognize. It is beyond doubt that these dogs were first used by shepherds for caring for the flock, and their sagacity and common sense are more highly valued than any minor esthetic point that we today recognize as essential to the breed. When the breed became fashionable as a house hold pet some of the most handsome specimens were obtained from the North, and thus the show type started. At this period Collies were seen of every imaginable color—buff, red, sable, black, tan and white, and also what is now called blue merle. Probably the first dog of this breed to attract much attention in the show ring was old Cockie, a grand dog, which in his day had no peer. He was whelped in 1867.
In 1886 Mr. Mitchell Harrison, of Philadelphia, brought some of the finest English specimens to this country, and he and Dr. Jarrett bred some of the greatest dogs in America. Next, Pierpont Morgan became one of America’s biggest importers, and his and the Samuel Untermyer kennels became the equal of the best in the country. It is said that Mr. Morgan paid over $5,000 each for several of his breeding bitches. Among the most prominent exhibitors today is Mr. Thomas Hunter, of the Knocklayde Kennels, also Miss Bullock, of the Inma Kennels, and Mrs. Lunt, of the Alstead Kennels, but for an unknown reason, unless it be the caprice of the popular fancy, the Collie today has not as many followers as he had a few years ago. Can it be that the real common sense, the working instinct and companionship have been bred out?
In the illustration of Grey Mist we have one of the home-bred Collies. He is blue merle in color and was bred by Miss Hydon of Bogota, NJ. His son is owned by Mrs. Ogden Mills, and is a wonderful blue puppy—Grey Cloud. If we note the long and slender head we see how it differs from the broad but intelligent head of the older Collies known in the working world.
Take the celebrated Jetty, from the Colores Ranch, and although she has not the aristocratic, slender head formation, there is no denying her wonderful intelligence. Then there is the Black Scotch, which saved many lives, and did wonderful work in northern Montana, and is a pure-bred Collie of the old type, but differs distinctly from the modern Collies, whose only record for prominence is on the show bench. Take Ch. Inma Select. Can anything be more exquisite in headline and feathering, but, again notice the old-fashioned type of Collie in the picture of the two from the Colores Ranch, and can that beauty beat the wonderful intelligence of the dogs here shown?
America has spent enormous sums on her Collies, and probably we will have to thank Mr. James Watson for most that has been written about them. However, even today, with all the high-class dogs that we have, we have not been able to establish as prominently as should be the field trials, showing their work, ability and value.
A well-trained and experienced Collie appears to rule a flock of sheep by force of his dominant nature. In Great Britain the sheep dog trials attract much attention, and have been witnessed by many thousands who would never have had a chance to see the dog in his native home. The natural and direct result of this making his merits known, is that the Collie has been taken up as a decided pet, and has exchanged the pasture for the parlor. If the American farmer had a better understanding of Collies’ value, I am convinced that his place in American dogdom could give way to no other. It is hoped that in the near future, when so much is being done for sheep breeding, this wonderful dog will come into his own and be more than a mere show pet, as we see him today.
As Ollivant writes in “Bob, Son of Battle,” “A shepherd without his dog is like a ship without a rudder.” American farmers are beginning to realize the value of a well-trained Scotch Collie for farm work.