THE SHEPHERD DOG

Excepted from American agriculturist, Volume 7, 1848

The animal described by the figure below, is of the long-haired Scottish breed, and belongs to the same family as the Newfoundland and poodle, which embraces the most intelligent and useful of the canine species. There are two classes of these dogs, which differ widely in their size and characteristics.

The larger is of great size and courage, and when protected by a stout leather collar, studded with spikes, is a full match for the wolf. These dogs are used by Spanish and Mexican shepherds, on their wild sierras, as effective guards against the attacks of all marauders, and are essentially the same race as the far-famed dogs of St. Bernard. They are not sufficiently gentle for guides, and the shepherds who employ them, rely on some well- trained wethers or goats to lead the flock at their call. Some have been imported into this country, but on account of their headstrong and ferocious character, and. occasional depredations upon the flocks, they have been found unsullied to our wants, except on the borders of the wilderness.

The Colley, or Scottish sheep dog, the English, and those extensively used upon the continent differ much in their form and appearance, but agree in their intelligence, docility, and usefulness. They are of medium size, with a sharp nose, broad forehead, and small upright ears : they are both shaggy and smooth-haired, with a bushy tail, and much hair about the neck : variously colored, though more frequently inclined to black or darkly spotted and grey : and one branch of the family is entirely destitute of a tail. They possess an instinctive sagacity for the management of sheep ; and in company with a well-trained dog, under the direction of the shepherd, they soon become entirely competent to the control of the flock. They perceive his wishes, by a word or sign, and with almost the speed of the greyhound, dart off to execute them. Accounts of their performances have been frequently related, which seem almost incredible to those unacquainted with their peculiar character. The following anecdote told by the Ettrick Shepherd will show their capacity more fully than any description :—

On one night, a large flock of lambs that were under the Ettrick Shepherd’s care, frightened by something, scampered away in three different directions across the hills. in spite of all that he could do to keep them together. “Sirrah.” said the shepherd, “they’re a’ awa!” It was too dark for the dog and his master to see each other at any considerable distance, but Sirrah understood him, and set off after the fugitives. The night passed on, and the shepherd and his assistant traversed every neighboring hill in anxious, but fruitless search for the lambs : but he could hear nothing of them nor of the dog, and he was returning to his master with the doleful intelligence that he had lost all his lambs. “On our way home, however,” says he, “we discovered a lot of lambs at the bottom of a deep ravine called the Flesh Clench, and the indefatigable Sirrah standing in front of them, looking round for some relief, but still true to his charge. We concluded that it was one of the divisions which Sinah had been unable to manage, until he came to that commanding situation. But what was our astonishment when we discovered that not one lamb of the flock was missing! How he had got all the divisions collected in the dark, is beyond my comprehension. The charge was left entirely to himself from midnight until the rising sun : and, if all the shepherds in the forest had been there to have assisted him, they could not have effected it with greater promptitude. All that I can say is, that I never felt so grateful to any creature under the sun as I did to my honest Sirrah that morning.”

These dogs are quiet and good natured, never inclined to roam nor neglect their duties, and are as little disposed to injure the animals intrusted to their keeping. They have almost the intelligence of the shepherd in discerning the vagaries of the flock, and ten times his efficiency in driving it. No extensive sheep walks, unless closely hemmed in by impassable fences, should be without one or more of these useful guards.—Allen’s Domestic Animals

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