The Old-Fashioned Collie: Country Life in America, 1912

June 15, 1912

The fight to save the old-fashioned collie is on. Just where it will lead we cannot say, but it is bound to be interesting. It involves the big question of breeding for intelligence rather than external show points, and that leads toward the controversy between the advocates of bench shows and those who are endeavoring to promote field trials in this country. We hope to have some interesting things to print along these lines before long. Meanwhile, here are a few more letters inspired by Mr. Barnum’s communication in our December 15th issue.

To The Editors:

I showed the reproduction of an old-fashioned shepherd dog, which appears in your December 15th number, to a farmer who, ten years ago, owned a remarkably intelligent dog of this breed. His dog’s name was Shep, and as I showed the illustration in your paper to the man, he said at once: “Yes, that is the very dog! He’s exactly like mine was, except the markings. And that queer drop of the lower lip is just the way my Shep curled his lower lip when he came toward you wagging his tail. We called it ‘Shep’s smile.'”
The farmer said that one day he was plowing, and after coming home he missed the dog. All the next day passed and the dog did not return. On the third day the farmer went in search of him, and in a field he found Shep guarding the coat which the farmer had hung on the fence when plowing, and had entirely forgotten. They had called the dog, who must have heard them, but he refused to leave his master’s coat. “It would have been of no use to send the hired man for the coat,” said the farmer, “for the dog wouldn’t have let him touch it.”

“We used to send Shep,” said he, “to bring the cows home from the pasture at milking time. One day he failed to return, but barked toward the house from a hill-top field. I went up to see what was the matter and found that one of the cows had a calf down in the hollow and would not be driven by Shep, and that her calf had got under the fence into another field. The dog ran to this spot, which was a thicket, and back again to me, to show me where the calf was, and why he couldn’t perform his usual task.
“He used to follow strangers into the house and sit near them and watch their every movement. He guarded the children, and would permit them to maul him about till they got too rough, when he would walk to another part of the room’ out of their reach. He was the most intelligent dog I ever saw, and had an affectionate nature very different from that of the sharp-nosed collie.”

This farmer got this shepherd dog from a fancier in Harrisburg, Pa., about ten years ago. Possibly an advertisement in the papers in that locality might discover some dogs of this breed.

The fine dog in your illustration has something of the look of the Newfoundland or St. Bernard. Could this shepherd dog be the result of a cross between the collie and St. Bernard? It would be a great shame if this breed of dogs should die out.

L. Miller.
Columbia, Pa.

To The Editors:

I have just recovered from a severe illness, and while ill in bed a neighbor sent to me a copy of Country Life In America for December 15, 1911, in which she said there was a life-like picture of my dog. It had a picture of an old fashioned shepherd dog in it which is such a perfect reproduction of my dog Scott that at least a dozen persons I have shown it to remarked at once it was a picture of my dog. Of course, I held my hand over the explanatory matter under the cut while they looked at it. No more perfect reproduction could be made, and it is safe to say that ninety-nine persons out of a hundred would declare it to be my dog.

I am a lover of the old-fashioned shepherd and have owned one since 1898. The one I own now is six years old, is a perfect type of what you are after, and is the most noble, lovable, faithful animal I ever saw. I bought him of a Hartford milk dealer at a dog show in Hartford, Ct., in January, 1906. The old angel lies on the front piazza of my house now, guarding the place, and he would stay there a week until he saw me go out. I would not have one of those snipe-nose aristocrats on the place, but this shepherd I have now is the perfection of animal friendship.

Frederick Calvin Norton.
Bristol, Conn.

To The Editors:

In the Stable and Kennel department of your issue of December IS, 1911, I note an inquiry of Mr. Otis Barnum in regard to the old-fashioned shepherd dog. For the information of Mr. Barnum I will say that there are quite a few of these dogs in this section of North Carolina. They are not quite as tall as the modern type of collie, but stouter and heavier. The best ones are mostly tan under-color with black tips on the hairs, and with white collar and markings. In disposition they are very affectionate and playful with their masters and the children they know, but they are pretty hard to get acquainted with and will rarely notice a stranger.

A great many people in this section are of Scotch origin and this breed of dogs is supposed to have been originally brought by them from Scotland.
About all these shepherd dogs that I know of are bred and owned by cattlemen who keep them exclusively for use in their business, and I know of no one who makes a business of breeding them for sale, but frequently a good puppy can be picked up from some owner who has more than he has use for.
E. G. Finlev.
North Wilkesboro, N. C.

To The Editors:

My dog is a registered Scotch collie, Maxwatton Fanny 2d (114057), sire Laddie Masterpiece (91579), dam Maxwatton Fanny (IOII3S), all pertaining to the old-fashioned type of collie. She would be criticized in a dog show chiefly on the forehead being too full and the eyes being too prominent and the head in general too short.

It can easily be seen that these so-called faults are mostly very good indications of intelligence, the keen eye showing life and energy, the full forehead indicating large brain. Nevertheless, I have seen some good working dogs among the more aristocratic show animals. I got Fanny from my brother when she was two months old, having been whelped October 4, 1906, and she has been around stock ever since. She received her early training in the Shenandoah Valley while I was in the employment of H. B. Sproul, Esq., Staunton, Va., a dealer on a large scale in sheep and cattle; consequently she was at work nearly every day and soon became very popular among the stock men of the valley.

Leslie Ross.
Manhattan, Kan.

July 15, 1912

THE number of people who have a warm place in their hearts for the old-fashioned collie or shepherd dog, and who appear to be concerned for the future of the breed, is gratifyingly large. Since we first opened the discussion of this subject six months ago, we have received many letters from dog lovers who want to see the old-fashioned collie saved.

More surprising and amusing, however, is the attitude of certain dog fanciers and others interested in bench shows and in the modern collie. A few of them are genuinely interested in what we are trying to do; some regard us with mild indulgence; others profess not to know what we are talking about, or ever to have heard of the old-fashioned collie; while still others have apparently been made violently angry by our attitude, and fearful lest we might be trying to rob them of their prerogative of dictating what’s what in the dog world. We shall publish a few of their letters to us in an early issue. We regret that they do not seem more disposed to help in what seems to us to be a worthy undertaking, for they could do more than any one else to save a fine old breed from extinction. But if they refuse to come out from behind their ramparts of Stud Books and Standards, we may have to struggle on without them.

Let us again repeat that we are not waging war against the modern collie. We love all dogs too well to wish ill to any, especially the Beau
Brummell of them all. We are simply contending that in their zeal to perfect the modern collie, the fanciers and breeders have well-nigh crowded the old-fashioned collie out of existence, and we are trying to rally his friends to his aid.

Meanwhile, here are a few letters and photographs from dog lovers who do know what we’re talking about.

To The Editors:

My attention has just been called to the communication from Mr. Otis Barnum, headed “Who is Breeding Old-Fashioned Collies?” That’s what I want to know, and I am writing you in the hope that you may have learned of the existence of some available shepherd pups since the publication of Mr. Barnum’s letter.

I owned a shepherd dog that died in 1904. Since that date I have tried to find another of the same breed, without success. I inquired first of the man who raised my dog — a farmer in Amherst, Mass. — and learned that both parents had died, and the brothers of my dog could not be traced. Since the death of my dog I have seen only one other of the same kind. He belonged to a farmer in my own town, and, according to the farmer, came from Vermont.

I can vouch for everything Mr. Barnum says in praise of the good old-fashioned collie. He has nothing in common with the treacherous, modern collie, with stand-up ears, slit eyes, sharp nose, and busy-body manners. My dog “Drogo” was sturdy of limb, deep-chested, powerful-shouldered, and had blunt nose and big, honest eyes. I must confess that he was a fighter, but he always took a dog his size and always licked him. His method of attack was different from that of any other dog I have seen: he would leap into the air, like a bucking bronco, and come down with all his weight on the back of his adversary’s neck. Then he would hang on and the other dog, thus pinioned, would be unable to bite back.

Richard M. Hunt.
Winchester, Mass.

To The Editors;

I enclose some photographs of the old-time black-and-tan collie — the kind we should save from oblivion by forming an “Old-Fashioned Collie Club.” The pups were bred by me in 1894.
L. Catlin.
Kings Creek, Md.

To The Editors:

As a dog owner and lover I want to add a word in commendation of your expressed interest in the old-fashioned collie. It has been a cause of constant regret to many of us that we do not see him any more. These yellow-and-white, pointed-nosed collies are in no way his equal. They lack individuality; they lack animation and intelligence, and are by no means as useful or companionable as our old friend. The collie that I owned was brought up on a ranch in Montana. His name was “Homo.” He was possessed of the finest qualities that I have ever seen in any dog; his intelligence was almost superhuman. When he died we placed a granite boulder at the head of his grave with his age, etc., and had inscribed on it the promise from Isaiah, “And the tongue of the dumb shall sing.”

Katharine Brandecee.
Berlin, Conn.

To The Editors:

Just finished reading about the good “old fashioned” collie dogs. Well do I remember the dear old collie dog — the “old-fashioned” kind — we had when I was on the farm twenty-five years ago. He was the most intelligent dog there ever was. He knew every word we said to him. He soon learned to go out to the field and bring the cows up to the milking yard, and to lie down at the barn yard gate so that the cattle could not go back to the field. When we first got him he would come and sit under my bedroom window and whine until I would awake and poke my head out of the window and say, “Carlo, go get the cows,” when off he would scamper; but he soon learned when to get them himself.

Wishing you every success in your efforts to encourage the breeding of the noble, broad-faced, intelligent old-fashioned collie dog.

George W. Mills.
Chicago, III.

To The Editors:

Helen, our little girl, and Jess, our old-fashioned collie, are inseparable friends. They are four and five years old respectively. No “old dog Tray” was ever more faithful than Jess to Helen. He is a thoroughbred, born in Connecticut, his father and mother both having registered pedigrees, and Jess is a chip off the old block. Helen calls him her “steady.” When she was but an infant and asleep in her carriage in the yard, Jess would lie by the side of the carriage on guard until relieved; should baby awake he would put his front feet on the side of the carriage and look at her, then start off to find someone who could attend to her wants. Now that Helen has grown, “almost as tall as mother,” and is pretty rough sometimes with her “love taps,” old Jess dog takes it all in good part and returns a lick for a blow, and the fight ends by his getting something nice to eat and “everybody happy.”

But when the dog catchers come to town,
They start in chasing my dog aroun.’
I’ve paid the license on that pup
And there can’t no dog catcher pick him up.
He don’t pretend to be a houn’,
An they “Jess” gotta stop chasin’ my dog aroun’.

M. E. Lobdell.
New Rochelle, N. Y.

August 15, 1912
Old Fashioned Collie

Our efforts to interest the dog-loving public in the sad plight of the old fashioned collie have resulted in a generous response from many readers who, like us, believe in the sterling qualities of the old breed and desire to see it saved from extinction. Up to this time, however, we have received but scanty support from those who are really in a position to take active steps — the breeders, fanciers, and bench-show officials. Some of these have professed not to be aware of the existence of the dog we have in mind. In spite of the letters and photographs that we have published, some of these fanciers persist in relegating the old-fashioned collie to the “mut” class. He is merely a degenerate, they say, and the very dog they have been trying to breed away from. If this is the case, so much the worse for their principles of breeding, for we have ample evidence to prove that the old fashioned type is very much alive in the hearts and memories of old dog-lovers who stoutly maintain his superiority over the modern type in both intelligence and disposition.

However, in order to set forth the case fairly, we take this opportunity to print several letters from men of importance in the dog world, and will leave our readers to judge whether they arc right or wrong.

To The Editors:

The only collies we recognize are the rough collies and the smooth. I do not understand what you mean by the old fashioned collie, as there is no such distinct breed.

A. P. Vredenburgh. Secretary of the American Kennel Club.

To The Editors:

I am not surprised at the diversity of opinions you have been receiving on the shepherd dog question. Personally I fear I cannot identify the dog you refer to.

Sheepdog field trials would incalculably help the idea you have in mind, and prove a boon to this side of the water-—as against bench shows.
Anything I can do in the way of cooperating with you to this end I shall be most happy to do. Country Life In America is to be commended for fostering interest in the utility sheepdog.

Frank T. Carlton.
Editor of “International Dogs’*

To The Editors:

I am not clear as to what you mean by the Old-fashioned Collie. If it is that you wish to cultivate the sort that was shown twenty or even less years ago, with thick, coarse heads, light eyes, pendulous cars, and vacant expression, then I am quite sure you will never make any headway and I shall do all I can to show the absurdity of your scheme. On the other hand I shall at all times be willing and ready to continue the great amount of work I personally have done both in breeding and by writing to denounce and discourage the tooth pick headed type, which are reminiscent more of the wolfhound than the collie. The sensible-headed dogs with semi-erect ears, small, dark eyes, and keen expression arc plentiful to-day and the sound judge favors that type.

Frankly I am opposed to your plan and think it is absurd to make an effort to undo all that we have done (as we think) in the interests of the collie. Might just as well pine for the good old days of stage coaches in lieu of the modern steam trains.

Furthermore, there are scores of such muts as you depict shown, especially in districts where enlightenment on the class collie has not penetrated. They are cross-bred and certainly have not as much sense as many of the high-class quality specimens of the present day.

Don’t misunderstand me. If you ask my aid to down the borzoi-headed collie, the tooth-pick headed type, then I am with you, as I abhor it, and it is entirely foreign to the true type of collie. I am sending you a picture of the sort of collie which I think is right. You will admit too that he is beautiful and if you will favor me with a call sometime I will show you that he has lots of brains.

W. E. Mason.
Editor of “The Collie Folio”.

The old-fashioned type of collie
Mr. Mason also published in The: Collie Folio for May, 1912, an article on this subject, setting forth his views and mildly ridiculing our efforts and the dog we are championing. It is worth reading, though naturally prejudiced. We publish a portrait of Mr. Mason’s favorite collie herewith. No one could deny his beauty, but he is simply not the dog that we are talking about.

To The Editors:

In reply to your letter of 14th instant re renewing the old fashioned type of Scotch collie or shepherd dog.

I do not think an old-fashioned collie club could be established.

I do not think a standard of perfection could be drawn up in such a way as to create a new class for shows.

I do not think you could get enough interest in the old type to bring about good competition.

While those interested in the breeding and exhibiting of collies must look back with pride and wonder at the wonderful intelligence displayed by the old type of shepherd dog in his daily work on the farm, still, after all the money, science, and thought which has been expended to bring the collie to his wonderful perfection and beautiful form, why go back to the old thick-headed type of our school-boy days?

I claim that if we give the present day collie, high bred as he is, the same training, and bring him out when young, into field work, he will do as good work, if not better, than the old type, and it will make him a better show dog at the same time.

I have seen this illustrated time and time again with some of the best bench-show winners of today. Without the slightest training they will take to field work naturally, and the situation can be summed up in the following words, “lack of opportunity for the new type.”

J. B. Cooper.

To The Editors:

I know that many collie lovers do not take kindly to the present show type, and I believe that you can handle the organization of a new club and the formation of a new standard very successfully through Country Life In America. The American Kennel Club would not recognize a new breed of Scotch collie, and it would be a delicate matter to bring before dog show clubs. The plan I would suggest is the formation of a club to preserve the original type of Scotch collie. This club should decide on the required standard and offer prizes at shows to be awarded according to this standard.

The lack of intelligence noted in show dogs of many breeds is due to inbreeding to a great extent, and also to the fact that so many show dogs are raised and kept under unnatural conditions and receive no education of any kind except to stand and show well in the judging ring.

The breadth of head and length of muzzle have no bearing on intelligence; neither can intelligence be gained alone through breeding. We must breed dogs of sound constitution and normal brain, and then educate them.

My collie Champion Wishaw Chance is probably one of the best show dogs of the day. He is also one of the most intelligent dogs I have ever known of any breed. He has a sound constitution and a normal brain, and has been well trained not only as a farm dog but as a house dog and companion.

Henry Jarrett, M. D.

October 15, 1912

Who is breeding old-fashioned Collies, with the definite purpose of perpetuating the breed? We have had so many inquiries from readers that we are anxious to secure this information. Many good dogs of this type are bred by chance, but the information that our readers want should deal only with responsible breeders with puppies of a definite type to sell.

We take pleasure in publishing two more letters which this discussion has brought forth.

To The Editors:

I have just read the article on “Old-fashioned Collies” in the June 15th number of Country Life In America, and also the article by Mr. Barnum in the issue of December 15, 1911. As owner of two Collies I am interested in the subject and would like to ask whether Mr. Barnum has ever tried to find what he wants among the farmers in Maine. I have seen just such dogs up here, and there must be some pure-bred ones among them.

I bought one of my Collies up here and it was called pure Scotch Collie. I bought my other Collie in New York as a pure one of good stock. Ever since I have been puzzled at the difference until today; now I see. My Maine one is a descendant of the old-fashioned Collie with short legs, short nose, rather heavy body, hair inclined to a slight wave, devotion, intelligence, obedience, all of the old type, and showing a decided amount of brains. The New York dog is one of the long-pointed-nose aristocrats, and while affectionate, obedient, and intelligent, does not impress one with his devotion or his intelligence. He makes friends easily; the Maine dog cares only for me, makes no friends but merely tolerates people, and shows his knowledge of the responsibilities that rest upon him.

I am satisfied that the Maine dog came from the old-fashioned stock of Collies before it was fully modernized. The New York Collie is one of the “new” Collies. Both are called beautiful and attract attention, but the Maine dog gives me a feeling of security and friendship that is beyond price.

I know of no dealer in Collies up here, but have seen some fine, intelligent-looking dogs among the farmers. As a veterinary said once, the way to find a pure Scotch Collie is to find a farmer with good stock and too many pups.

The picture of “Homo” in the July 15th Country Life In AmerIca could be taken for my Maine Collie, except that Homo’s face is broader and older, and the white on Carlie’s nose extends further, but they have the same look of responsibility in the eyes, the short nose, etc. His color is red, tipped with black, and the white Collie markings, whereas my New York Collie is fawn color with the white.

N. P.
Oakland, Maine.

To The Editors:

I have recently read with interest the extracts from your article that were in the May number of The Collie Folio anent the Collie, and also Mr. Mason’s remarks regarding the same. I am not an old, experienced breeder, but I know, love, and understand the dog — especially that breed — and I have known and bred both the Shepherd and the modern Collie.

Now it seems to me that both you gentlemen are right and both somewhat wrong. I can well understand that a breeder who has spent years of time, trouble, and much coin in perfecting the modern Collie, and who owns, moreover, the finest in the country, can hardly look around the corner from his own viewpoint, to appreciate that of the lover of the old-time Shepherd— than which a more loyal, devoted, intelligent animal never lived.
I owned one, unfortunately killed recently, and we are still mourning his loss. His mother was a proud, pedigreed lady of the modern type, and his father a true, magnificent Shepherd. He was one of the most absolutely human animals I have ever seen. He actually tried to talk, and his attempts were far from unsuccessful. I once asked a bell-boy in a New York hotel where the dog was, and the answer came: “Oh, he’s up in 69 a-talkin’ to the men.” He was called “The Dog with a Soul.” He loved all humanity, and regarded all as his friend and brother.

Now my Lady Babbie, boasting one of the finest pedigrees in the country, is proud, shy, reserved, and distrustful of strangers, but her intelligence is of the highest, and she is an ideal mother. Therefore I can well understand the respective viewpoints, so radically different, in this matter.

The faults of some of the modem Collies are, I think, due to causes that could easily be obviated. One is the foolish fad, carried almost to a mania with some in America, is the long head, which has produced the “toothpick head,” where, if by chance the poor owner has any brains, they must perforce lie up and down, and not in the good old way that nature planned.

Then there is the mania of overshowing. I do not decry the show — far from it. I understand the human part of it that pride of possessing — and parading — a “good thing.” But the show maniac is as dangerous as the long-head maniac. When one considers the high-strung, nervous temperament of the fine bred dog, the real anguish to the system that a railroad journey often entails, apart from all the excitements of the show itself, and that a dog must perforce go through many ordeals of this kind before he or she can attain to championship honors, it is well to exercise the wisdom of a Solomon in this matter of “going on circuit.” The best authority in the country states, regarding this matter: “Would-be purchasers rightly seek the kennels of the most successful exhibitors, and the latter try to retain their prestige, and in so doing often ruin their dogs.” So that it seems to me, at least as regards the female, that championship honors are often of doubtful value, and attained at positive detriment to the all-important function of motherhood — the capacity to bring forth and rear sound, healthy, perfect puppies. For my part, I should always keep the ideal mother — the one of highest type in markings, expression, disposition, etc. — at home, whereas she is too often, naturally, the one most forced to the front. To my mind, she belongs at home, where the ideal mother of any kind belongs. (I am not a suffragette.)

And still another fault seems the craze for breeding to a champion — any old champion (too often he is all of that) so long as he is of great repute. In that matter I have had an experience of my own. I once took my young lady to be mated with one of these great has-beens; result, absolute failure. I recently mated her to another, a two-year-old youngster boasting a great old grandsire, and seven of UK perfect most, healthy puppies are the result.

Now that seems to me the point of it: to breed for health and intelligence first, and lastly for those superficial qualifications that make the show dog. Too often, this is exactly reversed. The foundations are sacrificed for the superstructure. And we of America are inclined to go a bit daft over markings. While it is true that most of the great ones have had correct markings, it is not a sine qua non, is we too often make of it.
It strikes me that the old-fashioned Collie lover is himself largely to blame for the disrepute into which his favorite has fallen. Did the fortunate owners of this dog spend cheerfully the same amount of time, trouble, and good hard coin toward the propagation and advancement of his type, the Shepherd situation would be to-day far different. A plant run wild will lose its character; intelligence and care in mating are necessary for the propagation of superior stock.

I myself have bred both types of Collie. Now, the usual price for the modern, well-bred Collie puppy at three months is from $15 to $25, which, taking into account the expense, care, and other essentials involved, generally but allows the breeder to break even. For big profits he must rely on his exceptionals.

It was only recently that an old stock-man — a Scotchman who knew the old-time Collie as he did his Bible — came over to buy of me a Collie puppy with uncommon breadth of head, etc., which particularly pleased him, and offered me $5 for his very “canny” choice. As the youngster’s mates had been sold for $20 and $25 apiece, and I was holding this one for the very qualities that the old judge admired, the offer was hardly appreciated.

Finally, as Mr. Mason says, “the trainer makes or mars.” As well expect to bring up ideal children under a set of paid nursemaids, as to leave the all-important part of rearing puppies to other than the most discriminating, reliable, patient, and understanding of minds. The dog should not be the rich owner’s fad, but the master’s friend. To quote from a recent article of my own; “We have taken and made him what he is — dependent on man. His honest and loyal heart is proud of his vassalage. He is ever-willing to do his duty by us; let us attend, then, to the noblesse oblige of it, and do our duty by him.”

And in so far as we fall short or live up to that duty shall we have perfect or imperfect specimens of the kingdom that is next to man, be they Shepherd Collie or modern Collie, or any breed whatsoever. In the making toward perfection here, as in the making toward all perfection, it it mainly a matter of conscientious striving, sympathetic understanding, patience, justice, and common sense.

Eileen Moretta.
Glens Falls, N. Y.

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  1. I’ve been looking for a dog that’s similar to a rough hair (Lassie) collie, only with a shorter nose which used to be known as a Queen Elizabeth Collie. As of 1964 I had one. However, seem to have problems locating any information on such a breed.

    Any information (especially breeder of such) would be appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Robin

    I have never heard of a Queen Elizabeth Collie, maybe some of our readers have. Was this in the US?

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