Ole Shep is Dead, Long Live Ole Shep

I regret not learning about the farm collie movement earlier. It appears there was a great deal of enthusiasm for the idea of bringing back the old time farm collies back in the late 90’s but today that enthusiasm has, for the most part, either petered out or been redirected towards the English Shepherd breed. When the Farmcollie list got started after 1997 it seemed most people were interested in bringing back a dog that worked on the farm similar to what is seen in certain lines of English Shepherd, but that looked more collie like. From what I have read, Erika Dubois placed a great deal of emphasis on looks in addition to behavior. J. Richard McDuffy saw a definite difference between the English Shepherds and the Old Time Farm Shepherds, and when he chose English Shepherds to breed his dogs to, he chose those with the right brains and with a more collie look. So I ask, where has that movement gone? English Shepherd groups seem to be flourishing, the AWFA, which seems to be the heir to late 90’s farm collie movement, is heavily weighted towards English Shepherds. Erika Dubois gave up on her efforts to restore the old Nova Scotian Farm Collie, Rick McDuffy is no longer involved in maintaining and promoting the breed. The future of the old Scotch Collie looks dim at this point, to quote the oracle of delphi.

“Tell the king; the fair wrought house has fallen.
No shelter has Apollo, nor sacred laurel leaves;
The fountains are now silent; the voice is stilled.
It is finished.”

So now, over 12 years since the founding of the Farmcollie list and even more since the Friends of the Old Farm Collie website, where are we?

Try as I might I cannot find a litter that are descendants of Dunrovin’s Ole Shep that are less than 50% English Shepherd. And I don’t mean collie looking English Shepherd, but English Shepherd looking English Shepherd. The lines have just not been kept up or have been totally absorbed within the English Shepherd breed. See Jan Hilborn’s discussion of the different types of old fashioned collies here.

Yet, who today is breeding with any of these kinds of goals in mind? There are a few, but very few and far between.

I would like to see some renewed enthusiasm in this movement, to rekindle the fire that evidently existed in the late 90s and early 00s. The chart below shows the number of posts to the Farmcollie list in August each year since 97, you can clearly see that participation has ebbed drastically since 2006.

97 392
98 133
99 152
00 296
01 494
02 294
03 220
04 196
05 127
06 4
07 23
08 47
09 45

Looking more closely at the archives it just seems to drop off sometime mid-summer of 2006. The AWFA group in that same month had 474 posts, so it seems that the enthusiasm simply shifted to other areas, predominantly English Shepherd related areas.

Don’t take this as a put down for English Shepherds because it is not. English Shepherds are fine dogs that have preserved most of what has been lost in AKC Rough Collies as far as temperament and working abilities goes. However, looks-wise I feel they are not what was intended when this movement began, nor are they what I personally would like to have in a working farm collie.

In researching much of the content of this website I can see a glimpse of a type of collie that existed before the demise of the small family farm, a glimpse of the type of collie that existed before the advent of dog shows and herding trials. It’s a dog with a great deal of diversity in looks and ability, but also a dog that was unique in the world of dogs in looks, in working ability, in loyalty and in sagacity among other things. I encourage you to explore this website and read about these dogs that almost passed into history without anybody noticing. This is the standard I will work towards, no other standard need be written than the epitaphs and photographs of these dogs who lived a century ago.

This article is part of…
Farm Collie Primer

Farm Collie Primer Finding your own farm collie Farm Collie Movement Farm Collie History Farm Collie Definition

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  1. I would like to send a picture of my male Buddy to this site if someone can give me the email address.

  2. A local museum had a display on dogs, with the preserved pelt of a “collie” from the 1940’s that had saved a farmer’s son from drowning (or so goes the story). There was a picture or two of what it had looked like when it was alive and met your breed standard exactly. It did not look like an English Shepherd, Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, Rough Collie, Sheltie, etc. It would not belong to any modern breed if it was alive today but it met your standard exactly. My dad tells of a time when dogs that met your description were very common in his part of the country (although they were blockier) and none belonged to any “breed.” My dad said they “were just dogs.” It is this type of dog that attracts me to the farm collie list and your website, not just discussion of registered or unregistered English Shepherds (or Australian Shepherds, or Rough Collies, etc.). It makes me sad to see the old time farm dogs become absorbed or appropriated for contemporary registered breeds.

  3. Randy

    Thanks for the input, all good information.

    BTW, I happen to know about a good litter expected in a week or so that would be a perfect match for someone as enthusiastic about the breed as you. ; )

  4. Hi Mr. Ward, I am looking to find a puppy of scotch collie and English shepard, I have had that fine dog on my family farm my whole life and cannot find 1 anymore it is a shame that we have allowed this to happen. the small family farm is slowly disappearing and that is so wrong. My farm is in se wi., it is a 165 acres and have steers and chickens, it has ben in family name for 157 yrs.. I miss my farm collie friend and helper, and would love to do my part to bring him back. Can you help me, Thank you, Ron

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