The Poultry Yard by W.A. Burpee – 1891


It may safely be said, that among the most intelligent of the canine race are the Collies. Whether their cleverness is hereditary, or the result of training, remains a question; but all who have their faith in the transmission of good or bad qualities from parents, may safely take for their examples the three varieties of sheep dogs. There are many reasons why Collies and the old English bob-tailed specimens hold such a prominent place among dogs; first and foremost being, that more than one writer on the subject has designated to them the origin of the various canine species which are now cultivated all over the world; secondly, on account of the intelligence displayed in their natural avocation of minding sheep; and, thirdly, for the elegance of their structure, which renders them attractive companions of man.

Both the above are very hardy dogs, capable of any amount of work, and always doing the work allotted to them with a thoroughness and willingness which entitles them to a foremost place in the canine race.”

In the genuine Colly the pile, or coat proper, overlies an inner wooly coat of the closest and softest fibre, very much as in the hill-fox, and this enables him to face with impunity any amount of wet and cold, under which most other dogs would perish.

The rough-coated breed is generally preferred, partly because of his superior strength and greater powers of endurance, but mainly, and more particularly, because of his wonderful firmness of pad (under part of foot), which is so thick and tough that he can work over the roughest ground without the slightest limp or other symptom of lameness, which is .often seen in the smooth-coated and bob-tailed specimens.

Rev. Alexander Stewart, L.L.D., F.S.A.., of Nether Lochaber, says:— “It is believed that the Colly is of very ancient descent; probably these are the dogs so frequently referred to in the old ballads of the far Fingalian times in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands, which date back from as early as the eighth and ninth centuries, and in almost all of them dogs of a certain breed are mentioned as perhaps the most valuable possession owned by a people who lived mainly by the chase, and whose only weapons were the bow and arrows and light hunting-spear; and from the character and feats ascribed by the ancient Celtic balladists to these dogs, we believe they were nothing else but Collies, of which our modern rough-coated Colly is the direct descendant.”

No other dog exhibits, under all circumstances, so much true courage— courage that is combined with high intelligence and unfailing self-possession and caution.

“If desired, the Colly, with very little training, becomes also the most perfect of retrievers. In his keen scent, delicacy of mouth and unfailing nous are to be found all the essentials of a good land retriever. He is also valuable as a vermin killer. It has been known where he has, single-handed, attacked and killed the wild cat among the bowlders of a steep mountain gorge; nor will he turn his back on the pine-marten or polecat, animals of which most other dogs fight shy. He is always willing and ready to face either the badger or otter in the open; being too large to enter their dens, the fight is much more severe. A really good Colly can generally claim victory, even if he has to show severe wounds for it afterward.”

The Colly in our country is best known as a sheep and cattle dog; his marvelous sagacity, and readiness to act or refrain from acting at his master’s slightest nod, makes him the fittest dog in the world. What a good Colly can do with sheep, almost every one knows; and well-authenticated stories of his sagacity, patience and unconquerable endurance would fill volumes. In this connection we reprint the following from The Live Stock Journal, of London, England :—

“To watch a Sheep-dog at work is a most interesting sight, especially in the Lake country or the Highlands of Scotland. The careful way in which he will gather in all the sheep, even though widely scattered, the gentle yet firm control he has of them, and the readiness with which sign from or word uttered by his master is obeyed is remarkable. It is no uncommon thing for dogs to be left alone with a flock for days, or to gather a flock from a whole mountain side, not one to be missing. Shepherds can tell many tales of the sagacity of Collies. They will during the dipping season guard the undipped sheep, and separate one by one as rapidly as they are required until the whole have passed through the tub. And a recent writer tells how one of these dogs will gather into a certain hollow, only indicated by a slight wave of his master’s crook, all the sheep scattered over hills and valleys for miles around. In one case when the hirsel of upwards of twelve hundred were counted, four only were missing, and the good dog on being directed to go instantly and find them, darted off, and was over the nearest ridge in a few minutes. Within half an hour his bark was heard from the top of a steep ridge to the left, and he was seen bringing the four to complete the tale.

“Of the faithfulness of the Colly much can be said. The Ettrick Shepherd tells how at one time he had several hundred lambs which he was taking to the fold. They scampered off over the hills in three separate divisions and in opposite directions, defying all efforts to find them. Night came, and the search had to be given up. But the dog remained at his task, and in the morning he was found in a gorge standing watch over all the lambs, whom he had gathered during the night. And the story of the drover’s Colly, which, losing his master in crossing by a river ferry in the North of England, for nearly two years regularly went backward and forward on the ferry, seeking in vain for the lost shepherd, refusing all the blandishments of others, merely accepting the food given him, is but one proof more of the Colly’s faithfulness. These could be multiplied indefinitely. Every shepherd could recount tales equally wonderful, and the exception would be to find among the true shepherd’s dogs—not the show specimens, which may not be quite pure, as some have suggested—those who would fail to act as these have done. Of course, some dogs are endowed with more sagacity than others, but the more appears to predominate.”

For the benefit of those not acquainted with the Colly, we give below a description, which we trust will convey to the minds of our readers a true likeness of the Rough-Coated breed; It is a dog of medium size, standing 20 to 24 inches at the shoulder, very gracefully shaped. The head which resembles that of the fox, should be wide between the ears, tapering toward the eyes. The top of the head is flat, and there is little or no protuberance. The ears are small and pricked, but turn over at the top outward and slightly forward. The shoulders muscular, chest moderately wide and deep. The legs are all important, both behind and before; they must be straight in front and well bent behind, all being, of necessity, muscular.

The coat, as before mentioned, should be shaggy and very thick, so as to create some difficulty in seeing the skin when the hair is separated by the hands, the undergrowth being of a wooly nature. The undercoat is almost always lighter in color than the upper. The color most commonly preferred is black and tan. In the best strains the black is seldom brilliant, showing the lighter color of the undercoat through more or less, and often itself tinged with tan. The face, spots over the eyes, breast, belly, and legs below the elbow and hocks are tan, which should be of a reddish fawn rather than deep-red tinge. There are also the sable, with white tips, solid sables, and fawn-colored Collies, which are numerous. The brush or tail is bushy, and should hang well down between the legs.

In symmetry the Colly is fully up to the average thoroughbred dog, or perhaps above it, and artistically he is much admired.


The puppy should have plenty of exercise. It is always much better to give him the liberty of the yard than to keep him constantly chained. When this is necessary, use a wide collar, so as not to cut his neck when he plunges. The dog box should be raised at least six inches from the ground, so as to keep out dampness. Bed in winter with straw or pine shavings. In summer they do not require any bedding. Be very particular to keep the house perfectly clean, and thus prevent disease. Feed grown dogs twice every day—morning and evening; puppies require food oftener; they should not be weaned before they are five weeks old, and the bitch cannot be fed too well when suckling her pups. The pups should be fed bread and milk as soon as they can eat, and should never have the clear milk, which is too strong, and liable to make them sick. Put into the milk one quarter water, and all the bread they will eat. Avoid feeding meat. After puppies are three or four months old, a little meat once a week is beneficial. When dogs show a disposition to lie about, with no appetite, they require special treatment. Do not place before them large quantities of food, but give them a dainty morsel from your hand, and in almost every case they will rapidly devour it.

To keep them in good health, it is necessary to keep them perfectly clean,. and this should be done by washing, say every ten days, with castile soap. After washing the dog, he should be thoroughly brushed and combed, to extract all the loose hair from his coat. Frequently owners of dogs are not careful enough in this respect, and we have seen many valuable dogs with canker in the ear, brought on by the hair behind the ear becoming matted.


A bitch should be at least eighteen months old—and two years old is preferable—before she is allowed to breed, although we have had excellent results from younger bitches, but this is liable to stunt the mother, and the puppies are not so healthy. The dog may be a little larger than the bitch, but the difference should not be too great. One complete connection with the male dog is sufficient, and should take place about the middle of the bitch’s heat (ninth day). She should then be secluded from other dogs, and kept perfectly quiet for a few weeks. As the time for parturition arrives, the bitch should be feed on sloppy food, and gently exercised. If labor is difficult, a warm bath and a dose of castor oil may be given. Should there be great difficulty, a surgeon’s assistance will be advisable.


It is almost useless to commence training the pup until it is six months old, except to teach it obedience, and this can be done at two to four months old. It should be practiced at a certain hour every morning, before eating its meal, that it may understand it has a task to be done. Feed immediately after, that it may soon learn to look upon it as a reward for doing that task. Never allow any one to be with you during the lesson, that he may concentrate his dog intellect upon the work in hand. He positively must never be struck a cruel blow during the training, or his attention will be drawn to the whip instead of the lesson. Use the whip to motion with. Remember, if you break the will of the puppy by harsh or cruel treatment, it will be useless. The first few lessons may be blank failures; the puppy may lie down and refuse to do what you desire of him, but the chances are he is a very sensible dog; your preparations have impressed his mind, and he fears evil; he is on the alert, and awaits developments, on the defensive; whereas, a less wide-awake pup is too dumb to comprehend the situation. To strike your puppy at such a time would take months to overcome, and would be downright cruelty. The only course to pursue is, to change the lesson to play. In one or two mornings his fears are dispelled, and he is ready to be handled.

One master, and only one, must a pup have; all the other members of the family should be strictly forbidden to give him orders or cultivate his affections. He must be taught obedience, and to obey your commands implicitly, before attempting to work him on stock. You can do this by using some word of command when feeding, and you alone doing this. Your orders should be at all times given in a quiet, easy tone, never allowing yourself to become angry. The very best trained dogs need reproving at times; but he must be made to come up a hundred times to be petted and rewarded, where he comes up once to be punished. Never allow him to be with the stock unless you are with him, as he may contract bad or wayward habits, hard to break. When first (for a few times) taking him with the stock, do not allow him to work at all, but do the work yourself, and keep him close to you, to accustom him to the stock, and the stock to him. In case he is inclined to run all over the field, use a chain and keep him with you. Make the first lesson short, and be sure he learns one thing thoroughly before entering upon another task. He must never, on any account, be allowed to go straight toward the sheep; it is a very difficult thing to prevent; but if he does it, he must be called back and compelled to circle out wide. The old saying, “a barking dog never bites,” is just what you want in a dog driving sheep or cattle; indeed,’ a dog which pursues the latter course must be restrained and punished. Young dogs are very apt to nip the heels of the sheep. They must be taught to confine themselves to barking alone. If held back by a rope, and a great noise and hubbub is made, he will get to barking, and once this is accomplished, the way will be easier thenceforth. In speaking to the dog always use the same words of command and gestures, as “Go fetch ’em up!” “Head away!” ” Get out wide!” ” Hold!” etc., etc. Use the hand or whip in making gestures. The foregoing are the principal points in training, and other items will develop as training progresses.

There is one principal idea we would like to impress on the minds of those interested. You must not expect an old head on young shoulders; have patience, and success is sure to follow.

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