This dog is the most useful, generous, unselfish, hardworking, and faithful of all our dogs. In the mountainous districts of England, Scotland and Wales he is invaluable to the shepherd in collecting his flock when required, and which, if it were not for his dog, he would have to travel many weary miles to do. This dog is also of great use to the owner of the sheep in saving the expense of a number of shepherds, who would cost more than the value of the stock.
In Scotland this dog is called the’ collie,’ and is very highly prized by his master. This he deserves, not only because he is useful, but because he is marvellously intelligent, and possesses so many excellent qualities. He is so attached to his master that he will endure hunger, thirst, and many other privations, rather than be separated from him. He will even risk his life in fire and water in order to serve him, and to be in his company. ‘ The collie is as tender as a nurse over a sheep that is sick or lame, and seems to know as well as a human being knows that under such circumstances great care and gentleness are requisite.
That the collie dog is very intelligent is clearly exhibited in the following anecdote, given to the writer by a friend: ‘ A shepherd, living on a farm near King Sutton, had a dog, a small Scotch collie, remarkably sagacious, and who seemed to understand language almost as well as a human being. If a sheep happened to get on his back, and could not rise, because of its thick coating of wool, although in a field some distance off, the shepherd had only to point in that direction, and to say to the dog, “There’s a sheep on his back, and he can’t get up ; go and help him !” when the dog would start at once, and as soon as he reached the sheep lay hold of the wool under his body, and by a strong pull up would put him on his legs again.’
This same dog, when told the gate was open, and that he was to fetch the cows from the pasture for milking, would do so. If a cow was lame, or otherwise disabled, and could not travel, the collie would tell his master so by jumping and barking and running back towards the field.
Buffon says of the shepherd’s dog, that he is superior in instinct to all others; and notwithstanding his melancholy look, he has a decided character, in which education has but a slight share. Other dogs may be taught, but the shepherd’s dog appears to take to his business with a sagacity that astonishes while it gives ease and assistance to his master. It we reflect on these facts, we shall be confirmed in our opinion that this is the true dog of nature, the stock and model of the whole species.’
Excerpted from Facts and Phases of Animal Life – 1883