Early History of American Collies

Excerpted from The dog book, Volume 1, James Watson – 1906

Although collies were shown at the Centennial Show and at those held in New York, Boston and elsewhere prior to 1880, they were a very ordinary lot of dogs, and with strange descriptions as to ancestry, when they had any at all. One shown at New York in 1878 laid claim to the proud distinction of having been “imported from Arabia,” and another was stated to have come from Queen Victoria’s kennels, Balmoral. They had very little pedigree, but some made up for that by considerable weight, for weights were given on the entry forms in those days. One dog named Rover was given as ninety-five pounds and thirty-eight months of age. Another was seventy-four pounds, and from that they ran down to forty pounds. Twelve of the nineteen entered at New York in 1878 were black- and-tan, four were tricolours, one black and white and one described as brown and white. Mr. Jenkins Van Schaick, who was the Collie Club’s only president up to the time of his death, was an exhibitor, as were Doctor Downey and Mr. Lindsay, names well known in later years.

Mr. Allen S. Apgar, who joined the list of exhibitors in 1879, was the first to take a decided lead, and he imported quite a number of dogs that were very successful; indeed it is to Mr. Apgar we owe the first impetus given to collie importing and showing in this country. It was owing to his winning in 1879 that Mr. Lindsay decided to import a dog for New York in 1880, and as we were returning to this country in the spring of 1880 Doctor James, a noted collie man of Kirkby-Lonsdale, upon hearing of this, asked us to take out a collie. This proved to be Mr. Lindsay’s purchase, which he named Rex. We received the dog at Liverpool, and even now we recall our surprise that any person should take the trouble of importing such an insignificant-looking dog. He was a black and tan like his sire, Carlyle, and was anything but an impressive dog, and none too good in ears or tail carriage. The description we are now giving is our impression at the time, after having been pretty well conversant with the run of dogs at the English shows, and for the purpose of giving some idea as to the strength of the classes here. Rex won at the New York Show a few weeks after his arrival, and was very much the best dog in the show, so that Mr. Lindsay’s investment of five pounds turned out a very profitable one. Mr. Apgar had also imported a few dogs for the show, and so had Doctor Downey, but Rex beat them fairly, and he seemed to improve after that, for he was able to do quite a little winning for several years.

Sable dogs began to be imported, and they were variously described, some as tortoise-shell, and one a lemon and white, according to the catalogues. Among the first was Lass o’ Gowrie, owned by Doctor Downey, who was much the best of her sex at that time. Her kennel mate, Tweed II., a big, coarse dog, defeated Rex at New York in 1881, but Mr. Lindsay still had the best dog of the show in his newly imported Ayreshire Laddie, a grandson of Lacy’s Old Mec. This was a larger dog than Rex and more of a collie. Mr. Apgar had also got a new one in Nelson, but he was not so good as Ayreshire Laddie, and Mr. Apgar tried again and got Marcus, a big winner in England. We have seen it stated that Mr. W. W. Thompson, who showed Marcus in England, is still, or was up to a few years ago, of the opinion that Marcus was the best collie he ever saw. We do not believe he ever said any such thing, for Marcus was nothing so very wonderful. We judged him at Pittsburg in 1882 and gave him first, but he had nothing to beat, and at New York he had no opposition in the champion class. There was a good sable at this show, the best collie in the country up to that time—Mr. Van Schaick’s Guido. He was a little timid about throwing his ears forward, but he would do so now and again. Guido was the first dog in this country that showed quality. Mr. John W. Burgess, who was for a year or two very prominent at New York shows, bought Guido a year later for the very moderate sum of $150, after he had defeated Marcus at the Washington Show of 1883. Guido sired very few puppies, but Marcus left quite a number, and almost every one of them was lop eared. You could pick out the Marcus puppies as soon as you saw those ears. There was one good one, however, and that was Zulu Princess, a bitch bred in England by the Rev. Hans F. Hamilton out of that grand bitch Ruby III., to whom she undoubtedly owed her good looks, as she was the only good one by Marcus ever in this country. Mr. Thomas H. Terry owned her, and he had also bought the best of Mr. Apgar’s and Doctor Downey’s kennels, to which he also added Robin Adair and a beautiful-headed sister to the great Charlemagne, named Effie. We judged at New’York when Effie was first shown, but she was shown outrageously fat, otherwise she could not have been beaten. Robin Adair won many prizes, but he was far from being a good dog, and after he had been shown at Washington he cast his coat and never got a top coat again. He should not have beaten Guido or Rex as he did that year at New York. He was largely bred to, but got nothing of any merit, and to most of them he gave his yellow eye. Mr. Van Schaick, through his son-in-law, Mr. Dockrill, of London, continued to get well-bred dogs from time to time, but not quite good enough to win. They were therefore neglected by breeders, though such dogs as Darnley, a dog close up to the prepotent Duncan-Bess cross, and Sable by Charlemagne out of Minx, ought to have produced far better collies than Robin Adair, Rex or the pedigreeless Marcus. It is easier, however, to look back and say what might and should have been done than it was to decide at the time.

It was at this period that Charlemagne’s great son, Eclipse, Was having such a successful career in England and siring so many good puppies, and of course our importers followed along the winning line. The first to arrive
was the bitch Meta, in whelp to Eclipse, and she was followed by Nesta, in a similar condition. From Meta came Ben Nevis, bought as a puppy by Mr. Shotwell, and Lady of the Lake. Ben Nevis was a large, sable dog, rather smutty in colour, and in that respect Lady of the Lake was much better. Nesta came to our kennels, and in this litter there was one beautiful bitch, Clipsetta, for which we refused the high offer, for those days, of $200, only to have her killed when a year old by two bob-tails who, starting a fight between themselves, turned on Clipsetta and never left her till she was lifeless. Thinking to show our confidence in the man at whose kennels this happened, we sent him Nesta, and one of the bob-tails broke out of her own kennel of inch boards, got into Nesta’s, and killed her. The bob-tails cost $25 for the two.

A sister to Clipsetta, named Mavis, was the dam of a very fine young dog named Glenlivat, which also met with misfortune, being run over by a train, so that bad luck did not run singly in our effort to perpetuate this line of collies. There were two Eclipse-Nesta litters, as she was sent back to England after her first litter and bred to Eclipse again and from the second litter came the champions Clipper and Glengarry. Mr. Van Schaick also got a son of Eclipse and old Flurry, named Strephon, and to this dog Mavis threw Glenlivat, which Mr. Mason criticised as “undoubtedly one of the grandest young dogs we have seen.”

All of these that were by Eclipse or his descendants were sable-and- white dogs, and they completely settled the pretensions of all the black and tans. At the Newark, N. J., show of 1886 the Meta and Nesta litters accounted for most of the prizes, and they did well at New York also, where the Hempstead farm dogs won many prizes; it being this kennel’s last big winning, for Mr. Harrison then took up the breed and swept all before him. At this time we had a few of the get of Rutland, who was Eclipse’s great rival in England, but this strain did not last with us. They were very heavily coated dogs, but spongy, and in place of repelling the rain they became water soaked, the coat separating along the back as in a Yorkshire terrier. There was also a lack of size in many of them, and Rutland himself was not a large dog, though our opportunity for seeing him was too brief and unsatisfactory as to surroundings to warrant any definite description beyond saying that he was fine in head and gave that property to some of his puppies shown in this country, but they did not compare favourably with the Eclipse collies; and it is singular to say, but nevertheless a fact, that, notwithstanding the exceedingly large number of puppies by these two dogs, that were not only bred but were exhibited and won many prizes, they produced no dog to carry on the family in the male line. We will refer to this subject later, and now return to the record of the collie in America, which we had carried up to the appearance of Mr. Mitchell Harrison as a competitor in 1886.

Mr. Harrison originated the Chestnut Hill Kennel, which was subsequently transferred to Mr. Jarrett, who still uses the building, which was the first erected in this country with any pretensions to being any more than a place for dogs to sleep in. After dabbling in a few purchases of some rather common American-bred stock, Mr. Harrison purchased, when in England in the winter of 1885-6, a dog called Nullamore, a brother to Dublin Scot, and a few bitches. The dog was sent to the New York Show, but not exhibited, and as this purchase was not satisfactory he then got Dublin Scot and that good bitch Flurry II., and expected to sweep the decks, only to find, just before the important show at Newark, N. J., in 1887, that Mr. Van Schaick had imported two sons of the Chestnut Hill importations, which were named Scotilla and Scotson, and the latter could beat Dublin Scot. To win it was necessary to buy them, and the two new dogs changed owners before the show opened. It was a very strong class of collies at that show. Scot was not shown in the class competitions, and in open dogs Scotilla won from his brother; we came third with Clipper, of the second Eclipse-Nesta litter; Nullamore was fourth; Glenlivat, reserve; and Glengarry, reserve. The latter had won the special for the best in the show at New York the previous year, and was a litter brother to Clipper. The reason Glenlivat got so low down was owing to an accident two days before the show opened, the dog being run over and badly cut below one of his hocks. At the show we were kept so busy fighting off accusations of fraudulent pedigree, and attending meetings, that we had no opportunity to massage the dog’s leg, and on being ordered into the ring he walked lame. There were two judges, and they began with a consultation as to what to do with the lame dog, finally deciding to give him the reserve card and let him go back to his bench, the judging then proceeding without him. It was a costly accident to us, for he was in the sweepstakes, the first prize of which amounted to $250, and we had to be content with $50, even although by the time that prize was judged the dog showed not the slightest lameness. He was certainly a wonderful puppy, and as a collie was far ahead of any dog at the show. This we say with the full knowledge that Scotilla won many prizes, but we never considered him a good, true-type collie. Dublin Scot was a large, strong dog, also deficient in character and lacking in the attractiveness seen in Scotilla, who was undoubtedly a very taking dog, but he was not collie in expression, was light in bone and not right behind. To show our opinion on Scotilla’s rank as a collie, we will repeat a story we have previously put in print. On one occasion, being asked to attend to a service by Dublin Scot, or failing that to make our own selection of a dog at the kennels, we went up from Germantown to Chestnut Hill, and, there being a failure to get Scot, we had to choose. Mr. Jarrett said that he supposed we would take Scotilla, but we asked to have Charleroi II. brought out as well, and we selected the latter. To prove that our opinion was not out of the way at all we can add that when Mr. Harrison purchased Christopher in England he sent Dublin Scot and Charleroi over to Mr. Stretch, that being part of the deal. Mr. Stretch at once got rid of Scot and kept Charleroi, eventually selling him to Mr. J. A. Long, of St. Louis. His fault was slovenly ear carriage, but outside of that he was a good collie and the best in the Chestnut Hill Kennels till Christopher was imported.

It has been customary to accord to Charlemagne every honour that can be given a dog for individuality and for power to improve his breed, but it is to Christopher that collies owe their great improvement when one resorts to pedigrees as proof… He was sired by Metchley Wonder when the latter was eleven months old, and in turn got his two great sons when he was fourteen months old; both of these sons, out of different dams, being born on the same day. Christopher’s influence in America was nil, but in extenuation of his leaving no worthy posterity here it should be stated that he had no brood bitches worth the name as producers, and it is only in quite recent years that we have gradually worked up to the position of having soundly bred bitches; with most gratifying results in the way of vastly improved puppy classes.

Another good dog imported by Mr. Harrison was The Squire, a very shapely dog, with a good head, but as he never had enough coat when in England he naturally failed to improve in that essential when here. The one dog that might be cited in opposition to our statement that Scotilla sired nothing wonderful was Roslyn Wilkes, who came out in 1890 and was very successful for some time. He was bred by Mr. Pierpont Morgan out of Bertha, the dam of Bendigo, but was shown by Mr. Harrison and was decidedly the best American bred of his day, but his head did not last. Other good dogs owned at Chestnut Hill were Maney Trefoil and Welles- bourne Charlie, which with Christopher and a number of bitches passed into the possession of Mr. Jarrett when Mr. Harrison retired. Maney Trefoil was sold to a Denver lady, and The Squire and a few others were bought by Mr. Sauveur, of Chestnut Hill, who exhibited in the name of Seminole Kennels.

Mr. Pierpont Morgan now became more prominently connected with the breed, and Mr. Terry also started in again, so that Mr. Harrison’s withdrawal was not noticeable in the matter of support at shows. Some importations were going on all the time, but it was not until Mr. Morgan got Sefton Hero that we had one of high rank. Taking this dog for all-round qualities, it is doubtful if there has been a better one at Cragston. The English judge, Mr. Taylor, put Ruffbrd Ormonde over him at New York in 1895, with Rufford Ormonde lame from an accident, but he also put Christopher back to third in the veteran’s class, so we did not rank him high as a collie judge. Sefton Hero was full of character and expression, while his coat was of the very best texture, and he lasted till grey with age. Mr. Morgan also got some good bitches, and his Chorlton Phyllis won many prizes, besides rendering herself famous as the dam of the remarkable “Ornament litter,” so named because of the great success of Ornament. There were four winners in this litter, if we remember correctly, including that grand dog, Masterpiece, that died of distemper contracted at the New York Show, where Mr. Astley gave him four firsts. A number of new exhibitors took hold of collies at this time, and in 1898 the Verona Kennels, of California, had much success with Old Hall Admiral, Heather Mint and others. Messrs. Black and Hunter, of Harrisburg, also made a successful start, and did much good in the way of getting a great many Western persons interested in the breed. Indeed, a few years later, during the time Mr. Morgan was not exhibiting, it may be said that Chicago became the centre of the American collie world, and important purchases followed each other with startling rapidity, so that, with three champions, Rightaway, Wellesbourne Conqueror and Parbold Piccolo and Heacham Galopin in Chicago and Milwaukee, the star of the collie empire was certainly travelling westward. Mr. Behling, of Milwaukee, bought Conqueror, Piccolo and a large number of high-class bitches. Doctor McNab bought Rightaway and had also Alton Monty, a dog imported and exhibited successfully by Black and Hunter. The Winnetka Kennels also got Ballyarnett Eclipse, an exceedingly good dog which had a winning career in the East the year he came out. Other good buyers in the West were Mr. Lepman, Mr. Brown and Mr. Gardner, all of Chicago, who are still very prominent in the breed. Mr. Gardner imported some of the first of the Piccolo line, and also got over Heacham Galopin, the sire of Wishaw Clinker. The good done for collies in this country through the enterprise and rivalry of these Western exhibitors cannot be fully estimated, but we had a foretaste of what it may amount to through the successes of a few Western-bred collies in very strong competition this year, a young bitch bred by Mr. Lepman and shown by Mr. Trench as Thorndale Baroness being a deservedly large winner.

In the East we have had the return of Mr. Morgan as an exhibitor, an event he signalised by purchasing the great English winner, Wishaw Clinker, from Mr. Tait, of Scotland, and Ormskirk Olympian from Mr. Stretch, Mr. Raper judged them at New York in 1904 and placed them in the order named, but the opinion of our leading authorities on collies was that Ormskirk Olympian should have won; that is how we would have placed them, and considered it a somewhat easy win. It was a great day for the Clinkers at that show, as his daughters, Brandane Ethel and Rippowam Revelation, were the leading winners throughout the bitch classes, after Moreton Hebe. Mr. Morgan’s rival is now Mr. Samuel Untermeyer, and not content with some very nice American-bred collies, with Breadalbane and Faugh a Ballagh as leaders, he has also made some important purchases abroad and has in Southport Sculptor an extra high-class dog.

Other exhibitors in the metropolitan district are Mr. M. Mowbray Palmer, the president of the Collie Club, whose prefix of Rippowam is well known; Mr. Preston, Mr. Lindsay, of the Lindsays whose names go back to the early show days; Mr. Buckle, Mr. Hall, Mr. Aiayhew and Mr. Geraghty. Philadelphia has also a strong collie clan and a club of its own, and, although Doctor Jarrett seems to have retired from exhibiting, there are many good fanciers, such as Messrs. Kain, Fernandez, Heuer, Romig & Flint, Henshall, Lightfoot, Doctor Konover and others. Boston has also been for many years a good collie town, and the Copeland, Middle- brooke, Murray and Westridge kennels are always factors at the Massachusetts shows; while Mr. Bascom, of Providence, is seldom without an entry and has done much to keep interest alive in Rhode Island.

The Canadian section of colliedom has never until late years been of a dangerous character. Mr. McEwen has been for long a supporter of the breed, but his entries have hardly been of the class of those that we have received at our shows from Montreal or Ottawa. Mr. Joseph Reid, of Montreal, and the Coila Kennels have turned out the best native-bred Canadian dogs that we have seen, while the Balmoral Kennels, formerly of Ottawa but now of Montreal, have taken high rank with some good imported dogs; the names of such dogs as Balmoral Baron, Balmoral Rex, Balmoral Duchess and Balmoral Primrose being familiar to all versed in collie history. It will be seen therefore that collies in this country are thoroughly well established, and although we may for some years yet continue to have importations, they will have to be of the very highest class to prove winners, for we are beginning to produce home breds of better quality all the time, and just as we have ceased to make any importations of consequence in pointers, cockers, St. Bernards, bull terriers and a few other breeds, so also will we be able to rely more and more upon what we breed in this country.

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