Biographical Sketches and Authentic Anecdotes of Dogs – PART VI

Excerpted from “Biographical Sketches and Authentic Anecdotes of Dogs” by Captain Thomas Brown – 1829


I have been furnished by my friend, Mr Peter Macarthur, with the following anecdote of a Shepherd’s Dog which, he assures me, belonged to his grandfather, who resided in the island of Mull:—Upon one occasion a cow had been missed for some days, and no trace of it could be found; and a Shepherd’s Dog, called Drummer, was also absent. On the second or third day the dog returned, and taking Mr Macarthur’s father by the coat, pulled him towards the door, but he did not follow it; he then went to his grandfather, and pulled him in the same way by the coat, but without being attended to; he next went to one of the men-servants and tugged him also by the coat. Conceiving at last there was something particular which the dog wanted, they agreed to follow him: this seemed to give him great pleasure, and he ran barking and frisking before them, till he led them to a cow-shed, in the middle of a field. There they found the cow fixed by the horns to a beam, from which they immediately extricated her and conducted her home, much exhausted for want of food. It is obvious, that but for the sagacity of this faithful animal she certainly would have died.


I am favoured with the following by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, Esq.:—” My grandfather, Mr Renton of Lammerton, had a herdsman at Blackadder, who one night pursuing a sheep that had run down the steep bank of Blackadder Water, fell into the river and was drowned. His dog, a common colley, returned home next morning, and led his wife, holding her by her apron in his mouth, to the spot. After the body was found, the dog attended the funeral in a drooping condition, and died in the course of a few days.”


Mr John Cobb, farmer at Tillybirnie, parish of Lethnot, near Brechin, during the severe snow-storm in the year 1798, had gone with his dog, called Caesar, to a spot on the small stream of Paphry, (a tributary of the North Esk,) where his sheep on such occacions used to take shelter beneath some lofty and precipitous rocks called Ugly Face, which overhung the stream. While employed in driving them out, an immense avalanche fell from these rocks, and completely buried him and his dog. He found all his endeavours to extricate himself from this fearful situation in vain; and at last, worn out, fell asleep. However, his dog had contrived to work his way out, and returned home next day about noon. The dog, by whining and looking in the faces of the family, and afterwards running to the door, showed that he wished them to follow him; they accordingly did so, accompanied by a number of men provided with spades. He led them to the spot where his master was, and, after scraping away the snow which had
fallen from the time he had quitted the spot, he quickly disappeared in the hole by which he had effected his escape. They began to dig, and by night-fall they found Mr Cobb quite benumbed, standing in an upright posture; but as life was not quite extinguished, he was rolled in warm blankets, and soon recovered.
As may well be conceived, he felt the greatest regard for his preserver, and treated him ever afterwards with much tenderness. The colley lived to a great age, and when he died, his master said it gave him as much pain as the death of a child; and he would have buried him in a coffin, had he not thought that his neighbours would turn it into ridicule.


A shepherd, named Clark, travelling home to HuntLaw, parish of Minto, near Jedburgh, with some sheep, had occasion to pass through a small village, where he went into a public-house to take a dram with some cronies whom he had met on the road, leaving the sheep in charge of the dog. His friends and he had indulged in a crack for several hours, till he entirely forgot his drove. In the meantime the dog had wearied, and determined to take the sheep home himself, a distance of about ten miles. The shepherd, on coming to the spot where he had left the animals, found they were gone, but knowing well that he might depend on the fidelity of his dog, he followed the straight way to Hunt-Law. On coming to a gateway which had interrupted their progress, he perceived the dog and sheep quietly reposing; and had it not been for that bar to their course he would have taken them home. Two miles of their way was by a made road, and the rest through an open moor.


“One of the most interesting anecdotes I have known,” says Sir Patrick Walker, to whom I am indebted for this and the one which follows, “relates to a Sheep-Dog. The names of the parties have escaped me just now, but I recollect perfectly that it came from an authentic source. The circumstances were these:—A gentleman sold a considerable flock of sheep to a dealer, which the latter had not hands to drive. The seller, however, told him he had a very intelligent dog, which he would send to assist him to a place about thirty miles off; and that when he reached the end of his journey, he had only to feed the dog, and desire him to go home. The dog accordingly received his orders, and set off with the flock and the drover; but he was absent for so many days that his master began to have serious alarms about him, when one morning, to his great surprise, he found the dog returned with a very large flock of sheep, including the whole that he had lately sold. The fact turned out to be, that the drover was so pleased with the colley that he resolved to steal him, and locked him up until the time when he was to leave the country. The dog grew sulky, and made various attempts to escape, and one evening he fortunately succeeded. Whether the brute had discovered the drover’s intention, and supposed the sheep were also stolen, it is difficult to say; but by his conduct it looked so, for he immediately went to the field, collected the sheep, and drove them all back to his master.”


“A few years ago, when upon a shooting party in the Braes of Ranoch, the dogs were so worn out as to be unfit for travel. Our guide said he knew the shepherd, who had a dog that perhaps might help us. He called, and the young man came with his little black Colley, to which, as soon as he had conversed with the guide, he said something in Erse. The dog set off in a sneaking sort of manner up the hill, and, when he showed any degree of keenness we hastened to follow, lest he should set up the birds; but the lad advised us ‘to be canny, as it was time eneuch when Lud came back to tell.’ In a short space Lud made his appearance on a knoll and sat down, and the shepherd said we might go up now, for Lud had found the birds. The dog waited till we were ready, and trotted on at his master’s command, who in a little cautioned us to be on the alert, for Lud signified we were in the midst of the covey. We immediately found this to be the case, and in the course of the day the same thing occurred frequently.”


The Old Shepherd’s Dog, like his master, was grey,
His teeth all departed, and feeble his tongue;
Yet where’er Corin went, he was followed by Tray,—
Thus happy through life did they hobble along.

When fatigued on the grass the Shepherd would lie,
For a nap in the sun—’midst his slumbers so sweet,
His faithful companion crawl’d constantly nigh,
Placed his head on his lap, or lay down at his feet.

When winter was heard on the hill and the plain,
And torrents descended, and cold was the wind,
If Corin went forth ‘mid the tempest and rain,
Tray scorn’d to be left in the chimney behind.

At length in the straw Tray made his last bed,
For vain against death is the stoutest endeavour;
To lick Corin’s hand he raised up his weak head,
Then fell back, closed his eyes, and, ah! closed them for ever!

Not long after Tray did the Shepherd remain,
Who oft o’er his grave with true sorrow would bend,
And, when dying, thus feebly was heard the poor swain,
“O bury me, neighbours, beside my old Friend!”
Peter Pindar.

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