Perhaps the only breed of dogs that can be said to be of much service on the farm is the Scotch Collie, which has been recently introduced here in considerable numbers, and is in great demand from all sections of the country. It is not only an excellent farm dog, but is almost indispensable to the sheep or cattle raiser. I have used them on my farm for the past thirty years and can well attest the many tales of their wonderful sagacity. The cut given of my imported dog, “Sport,” the winner of many prizes and one of the best dogs ever imported, will show the distinctive points of the Collie. He is broad in the forehead; ears far apart, and stand straight at the base with the tips inclined downwards when in repose, but when under orders straight up in the attitude of the closest attention. His eye is bright and has an intelligent look; face long; muzzle rather fine; head covered with fine hair; neck rather short; fore legs short but strong, hind legs much longer but generally crooked, which gives him good running power, as all dogs on the Scotch hill farms have to run a good deal. The feet are flat and they have the extra claw on the hind leg- called the “Dew claw.” The tail is long and bushy, and should always be curved downwards lower than the back. The color varies; in some it is black, others black and white, and others black, white and tan. There is also a rough haired Collie, much used by cattle drovers. Some of them resemble the fox in color and have sandy hair. A few years ago Queen Victoria had a number of pure black and tan Collies, which I saw at Balmoral. They were pretty, but I am of the opinion that they had been crossed with the black and tan Setter dog. This may not have been the case, but it seemed to me the only plausible explanation for the absence of that foxy look which is characteristic of all pure Collies.
In the north of England and borders of Scotland the Gordon Setter has been used as a cross and at our shows these invariably take the prize against our pure Collies. But although handsomer, they are by no means so valuable for sheep as the pure Collie. The price paid for Collie pups is from $10 to $15; and trained dogs of pure breed range from $50 to $100.
In the rough haired Collie, under his outer coat of longhair he has a coat of fine, short close hair, which protects him from storms. The intelligence of the pure Collie is almost beyond belief. One of my young Collies took a great liking to the cattle, so much so that she would remain in the field all day with them, keeping all strangers out of the pasture. One Sunday not long since a neighbor went into the lot to take a look at the cows, but the dog attacked him and actually drove him out of the field. They are specially fond of children, and are usually excellent watch dogs. In driving cattle, instead of catching the tail of the animal as other dogs invariably do, they will nip the heels and draw back quickly out of danger of being kicked. They display a degree of intelligence seemingly far beyond instinct. When driving sheep, if one should turn on him, as ewes with young lambs very often will do, the Collie does not resent it, but will turn quietly aside and lie down until the sheep returns to the flock, when he will go on driving them. One of my old dogs once kept a ewe and her lamb apart in a five-acre lot from morning until evening without injury to either. The same dog, after being taken twice to bring the sheep from the pasture to the yard at five, P. M., went of his own accord every evening afterwards and brought them into the yard, fully half a mile away, part of the way through wood land, never varying more than fifteen minutes of five o’clock, at which time he delivered them in the yard.
The Collie is eminently practical in his notions and seems to enjoy nothing so much as performing his duties with the sheep or cattle, but he can be taught tricks, though I doubt if he is over fond of showing off his accomplishments in this direction. My little girl five years old can ask “Coxsie” to jump over a chair, haul her on a sled or go over a fence, which he will do, but if asked by one of the men or boys he will skulk off and lie down. When called for the cows or sheep, however, he is right up, and will leave his best meal for either duty.
Another instance which shows a peculiar phase of its natural instinct occurred in a city, where a goat was kept by a resident. This goat had, in the usual manner of these creatures, committed depredations in flower beds and upon shade trees, and the owner had been severely censured in consequence. He owned one of the rough Collie dogs, which, however, had never been trained, but which, after one lesson given by his owner, accompanied the goat in its daily rounds about the vacant lots upon which it browsed, and prevented it from injuring trees or trespassing into the gardens. The dog lay down near the goat while it fed, and as it moved kept closely behind it and brought it home safely every evening. This it did daily for years.
(Mr. H.) The Collie does seem to have almost human reason. I had a Collie pup from a breed that originally came from you, a handsome black and tan. When I got him he was about three months old. It happened that a litter of kittens arrived about the same time. “Wattie,” as we called him, observed the old cat now and then carrying her kittens from place to place, and he took it into his head to help her, but singularly enough never offered to carry any but one—a little black fellow. The cat carried her kittens, as cats do, only with some definite purpose to hide them, but Wattie seemed to have no such purpose with the black kitten he appropriated, and seemingly did so only for mischief, for he kept at it even after the black kitten had got to be a sedate, full grown puss. She never resented it, and seemed to have as much satisfaction in being carried around as Wattie had in carrying her. We got him so trained that if we ordered him to “bring the black cat,” even if a hundred yards away, he bounded towards her, and taking her tenderly by the back of the neck brought her all curled up to our feet. It was a curious feature in the Collie, for he is not usually a carrying dog. Another very comical practice of Wattie’s was his encouragement of tramps. If a tramp made his appearance at the gate, if Wattie happened to be around he gave him to understand by his gambols that he was safe and welcome, his practice being to run ahead of him and show him the way to the basement. One morning tramps were more than usually plentiful, and when Wattie had introduced the third one to the cook for breakfast her patience became exhausted and she remonstrated with him, exclaiming: “Goodness, beast! what do you mean? This is the third one you’ve brought this morning.” But it was discovered that like too many of his masters, Wattie had an axe to grind in his seeming hospitality, for the tramps were in the habit of giving him a part of their breakfast. Another true trait of the Collie was possessed by Wattie. We had him trained so that we could send him to hide behind the house and return at our call a score of times in as many minutes. He undoubtedly knew the meaning of simple words, for if ordered to go and hide in the most ordinary tone of voice, without even looking at him, he never failed to do so, returning from his hiding place on being told just as promptly as a child of five or six years old would do. He was bit by a rabid dog and I had to shoot him. I don’t believe I would have exchanged him for the most valuable Jersey cow in your herd.
excerpted from: How the farm pays: the experiences of forty years of successful farming and gardening
by William Crozier