ShowSight Presents The Bearded Collie

THE BEARDED COLLIE

by CHRISTIANA TAYLOR

T here are many responses when people see a Bearded Collie for the first time. “What is that?” “How much time do you have to spend brushing?” “What a great dog!” Th at is the correct response and happily the one I hear most often. Th e Beardie is an aristocrat among dogs, which is quite something since their appearance thou- sands of years ago was as a lowly dog working livestock for the nomadic herd- ing peoples of Central Asia. When those nomadic herders settled in the Middle East, believed to be where sheep origi- nated, they kept their dogs with them. Th ese dogs were selected for their skill in gathering and driving many kinds of ani- mals: horses, yaks, camels, sheep, cows, for guarding herds and family and for their hardiness. Th e Armant of Egypt is possibly a working ancestor of the Bearded Col- lie. Shaggy herding dogs, travelling with migrations of nomadic settlers from the east arrived in Britain across a land

mass, now gone. Th en in the early 1500s a momentous event occurred and, more astonishingly, it was recorded. A Scot- tish shepherd, trading sheep for grain with a Polish ship captain, saw the cap- tain’s Polish sheep dogs move only designated sheep from a huge flock onto his ship. A trade was made that brought the Polish Lowland Sheepdog into the lineage of the indigenous shaggy herd- ers of Scotland. Hardy, intelligent, loyal and independent, the ‘Beard’ or Bearded Collie, emerged and became the domi- nant herding and driving dog of the hills of Scotland. Ok, hardy you say? Yes, a lithe, strong dog, with a weatherproof harsh coat and warm undercoat. A coat that fends o ff burrs, rain and snow and has shaggy bangs that protect dark mystical eyes. In fact, it’s common for male Beardies to wish to stay outside in wind and cold. Th e girls — not so much. Intelligent are they? Oh my yes! Th ey’re reputed to have been able to drive

Photo by owner Amy Steltz.

a herd of sheep 458 miles from Scotland down to Smithfield Market with a rally team of shepherds. Th en, sent to find his own way home, the Beardie retraced his route, stopping at each pub he’d visited on the way south for a hand out. Loyal? Absolutely. To his family, caring for each, watching over each, and protecting all with his alertness and vociferous bark. Th e Beardie’s independence is a cat- egorical component of his many parts. For millennia he has worked both with and without his leader, bringing the entire flock from the steep, craggy hills-a job he does largely with his voice. He chooses his path in snow and storms, always considering his choices with or without guidance, these skills translate into a proud and sometimes strong-willed housemate and partner. Yes? Well, how is he to live with? Ah, the Beardie at home. Lively? Perhaps ram- bunctious is closer. Friendly? After a very animated and vocal greeting, remember his ancient job guarding, he is delighted with everyone who visits and knows they came to see him. Good with children, pup- pies and kittens, he may herd them care- fully to his chosen spot and have a cuddle. Beardies are clever and witty. Known to open gates, doors, and crates, then appear where you are with élan and delight in himself. When a Beardie smiles, which is frequently, he has an Irish twinkle in his beautiful eyes-makes it very hard not to

Old Gang Classical Beardies; Owners: Julie Kempster and Bea Swaka.

236 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , O CTOBER 2014

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