The more I research old articles for this website, the more questions crop up and each new epiphany leads to another. For example, I started out researching historic articles about farm collies, but I soon realized that the term “farm collie” was not in general use prior to the 1980s, the old term for these dogs it turned out, was “scotch collie”. Epiphany number one, there is no such thing as an old farm collie. [See article Name That Breed – A Collie By Any Other Name… ]
So I then started researching old articles about Scotch Collies with the assumption that the farther back in time I went, the more they would look like an English Shepherd, having been told that English Shepherds were bred from the original, non-showing, working lines of Scotch Collies. This too turned out different from what I had assumed, I found many examples of old, pre-dog show Scotch Collies that looked more like Lassie than any English Shepherd. Epiphany number two, the way show collies looked around 1900 was not an aberration created by crossing Scotch Collies with Borzoi, there were many collies with this look prior to 1860 (this is approximately the date that Queen Victoria got her first collies and when dog shows began). [see article What Did Pre-Dog Show Scotch Collies Look Like? ]
Still I continued to assume that the English Shepherds had their roots in the old Scotch Collie, yet the more I researched, the more I kept finding old references to English Sheep-Dogs or English Shepherd’s Dogs and these descriptions and illustrations were not as I had presumed. They described a type of dog related to the Collie, with shorter hair, a shorter muzzle and sometimes born bob-tailed, but definitely collie-like. Epiphany number three, English Shepherds really are English and not Scottish at all, (I am referring to the roots of this breed, obviously much Scotch Collie blood has found its way into the ES genepool). [see article The English Shepherd Contrasted with the Scottish ]
The dog I had expected to find described as the English Sheep-Dog, was what is today called the Old English Sheepdog, the big walking floor mop, the crazy thing is, in all the old books about British dogs and British quadrupeds and British farm animals, I have not found one reference to this breed prior to 1870. So here is my question, albeit unrelated to the subject of this website, where did the Old English Sheepdog breed originate and where were it’s ancestors when the following books were written?
A General History of Quadrupeds by Thomas Bewick, 1807
A Natural History of British and Foreign Quadrupeds by James Hamilton Fennell, 1841
The Illustrated Natural History by John George Wood, 1865
The Dogs of the British Islands by John Henry Walsh, 1872
The Dog by Thomas Pearce, George Earl, 1872
If anybody out there has any ideas where the Old English Sheepdog originated and how it relates to the English Sheep-Dog of the mid 1800s please leave a comment below. I have to assume that the Bearded Collie plays a role in this, perhaps crossed with the English Shepherd’s Dog or Drover’s Dog, but this is just guesswork.