Is the Shepherd or Collie Dog of Any Service to Sheep Husbandry?

I was notified some time ago by our worthy Secretary that I had been selected to write a paper upon the Shepherd or Scotch Collie dog; of what service, if any, in sheep husbandry.

My own experience with a Scotch Collie of the silver grey breed was only limited. I was the happy owner of one of the above named breed, imported from Scotland in 1878. I got her in Canada when she was four months old. When a year old she was almost as intelligent as a man and of more service than a hand on a farm in handling stock of all kinds. Her паше was Loll. All you had to do when the time саше to gather the stock in was to say, “Loll, go and bring the horses, sheep or cattle.” The work was done. If you only wanted the sheep, which was in pasture with horees and cattle, she would bring the sheep and leave the balance. She had learned the names of the horses and cattle and would single them out.

To show how true she was to her calling, one of the hands went to the field one morning to plow corn and this dog went with him, which was about one quarter of a mile from the house. When ready to go to work he pulled off his coat and throwing it on the ground said, “Loll, watch that.” He ploughed on until noon and then went to the house, not taking his coat. Not needing the dog she was not missed until night, when he called her, but got no response. He had to go and bring the stock to the fold himself, a distance of one half mile. The next morning when I went to the farm I was informed that Loll was gone and could not be found. I said that I would rather lose any hand on the farm than her. I spent that day hunting and inquiring for her. I advertised and offered a large rewerd for her return—a reward larger than some men would offer for a stolen horse. The next morning when I returned to the farm I was informed, to my great surprise, that Loll hbd been found about 4 o’clock that morning. The man who lived on the farm was awakened by his wife, who said, “I hear Loll barking and howling.” He arose and dressed himself and went out and knew her voice. He called her, but she did not come. He went in the direction of the barking, and to his surprise he found her. She then refused to go until he picked up the old coat. Then she sped away for the house to get some food and water, for she was famished. She was like the boy who stood on the burning deck— would perish and die rather than disobey.

On another occasion, when the corn was in “roasting ear,” between 1 and 2 o’clock in the morning, there came up a very hard thunder storm. The wind commenced blowing, and rain fell in torrents. Just one-half mile a little northwest of the house the fence wae blown down; and the horses, cattle and hogs of an adjoining neighbor’s farm got into my cornfield, and, to the surprise of all who saw it, Loll had gone out that dark and stormy night to the break in the fence and had all the horses, cattle and hogs corraled in one corner of the field, and held them there until morning, and notified the man on the farm by barking. He went out and found she had them all safely corraled, and she had tread a complete quarter circle in her guard duty. As to the loss in corn, I don’t think there was one bushel all told.

Mr. T. C. Peters, of Buffalo, N. Y., on his return from Europe a few years ago, brought over a Drover and Collie dog. His testimony as to their extraordinary value will be found in the American Agriculturist, vol. 3, page 76.

Mr. Hogg says that a single shepherd and his dog will accomplish more in gathering a flock of sheep from a highland farm than twenty shepherds could do without dogs. Neither hunger, fatigue, or the worst treatment, will drive him from his master’s side, and will stay with him through all danger and hardship without, a murmur. The same well-known writer, in a letter in Blackwood’s Magazine, gives a most glowing description of the qualities of his Collie “Juno.” One night a flock of lambs under his care frightened at something, made what we call a stampede,scattering over the hills in several different bodies. “Juuo,”exclaimed Mr. Hogg in despair, “they are gone.” The dog dashed off through the darkness. After spending, with his assistant, the whole night in a fruitless search after the fugitives, Mr. Hogg commenced his return to his master’s house. Coming to a deep ravine, they found Juno in charge, as they at first supposed, of one of the scattered flock, but what was their joyful surprise to find that not a lamb of the whole flock was missing.

The following account of these noble dogs appears in a communication from Mr. J. H. Lyman. in the third volume of The American Agriculturist. He is only to be found in the sheep raising districts of New Mexico. I have often thought when observing the sagacity of this wonderful animal that if very many of the human race possessed one-half the power of instinctive reasoning, which seems to be the gift of these animals, that it would be far better for themselves and for their fellow creatures. The peculiar education of these dogs is one of the most important and interesting steps pursued by the shepherd. His method is to select from a litter of puppies a few of the healthiest and finest looking and to put them to a suckling ewe, first depriving her of her own lamb. By force as well as from a natural desire she has to be relieved of the contents of her udder. She soon learns to look upon the little interlopers with all the affection she would manifest for her own natural offspring. For the first few days the puppies are kept in the hut, The ewe suckling them morning and evening only, but gradually as she becomes accustomed to their sight she is allowed to run in a small enclosure with them until she becomes so perfectly familiar with their appearance as to take the entire charge of them. After this they are folded with the whole flock for a fortnight or so. They then run about during the day with the flock, which after a while become so accustomed to them as to be able to distinguish them from other dogs, even from those of the same litter which have not been nursed among them. After the puppies are weaned, they never leave the particular drove among which they have been reared. Upon one occasion the shepherd had to return to the village for a few days, having perfect confidence in the ability of his dog to look after the flock during hig absence, but with a strange want of foresight as to the provision of the dog for his food. Upon his return to the flock he found it several miles from where he left it, but on the road leading to the village, and the poor faithful dog in the agonies of death, dying of starvation, even in the midst of plenty; yet the flock had not been harmed by him.

In the above instance the starving dog could have helped himself to one of his little brother lambs, or could have deserted the sheep and very soon have reached the settlement where there was food for him. But faithful even unto death be would neither leave nor molest them, but followed the promptings of his instinct to lead them on to the settlement. Their unconsciousness of his wants and slow motions in traveling were too much for his exhausting strength.

I very much doubt if there are Shepherd dogs in any other part of the world, except Spain, equal to those of New Mexico in value. A pair of them will easily kill a wolf or a sheep killing dog that dare molest their flocks.

Then in conclusion, would it not be well for sheep husbandry to secure some of the pure bred dogs of the above breed, to be placed upon your farms. They are not only good for sheep, but all kinds of stock. Once the owner of one, you will never part with it.

by C. F. Darnell

excerpted from Annual report of the Indiana State Board of Agriculture, Volume 25
1893

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