Let’s Talk Breed Education!
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! hen evaluating Border Collies in the show ring against a breed standard, the qualities that make the Border Collie the world’s premiere sheep herding dog should be considered of primary importance. Border Col- lies’ working style is di ff erent and unique from other herding breeds. Specifically, Border Collies use “eye” to control the stock. All Border Collies have some degree of eye, the amount depending on what lines they come from.
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When using their eye to move live- stock, Border Collies lower at least their heads, and often the entire front portion of their bodies, into a creeping or crouch- ing position. Border Collies have the abil- ity to drop to the ground instantaneously, which is called “clapping”. Additionally, the amazing stopping, turning and general agility of the breed is unsurpassed. It is only after the dog can meet the physical standards required for its job should other, non-functional traits be con- sidered. But, some of the things that may be thought of as “cosmetic” actually have a working purpose. Pigmentation is one example—a well-pigmented dog is less likely to su ff er sunburn. Whiskers should remain untrimmed because whiskers help pick up the scent of sheep that are out of sight. Even the white tip on the end of a tail carried in an upward swirl has a purpose. It is known as the “shepherd’s lantern” because many times the tip of a tail would be all that would lead the shepherd home in the dark after a long day’s work. Herding instinct and ability can- not be assessed in the conformation ring, but the physical qualities that
enhance the dog’s ability to work can. For instance, only a dog with a well- angulated, sound front will be able to crouch in true Border Collie fashion. This posture also requires the scapula to be further apart when the dog is stand- ing than many other breeds. Because of the need for agile, fast turns, the Border Collie’s length of body should be pri- marily in the ribcage; not in a long loin which might be susceptible to injury. Border Collies must have moderate, oval bone—light enough for speed, but sub- stantial enough for stamina. Border Collies historically come in four distinct styles. In her classic treatise, Key Dogs from the Border Col- lie Family , Sheila Grew identif ied four individual types within the Border Col- lie breed. The types are divided by phys- ical looks, but general working style and temperament also seem related to type. She called them: 1) Northumbrian type; 2) Wiston Cap type; 3) Nap type; and 4) Herdman’s Tommy type. The AKC breed standard was purposely written to be broad enough to include all four. No one style is preferred over the others.
This can be confusing to those who are unfamiliar with the development of the breed. Regardless of its particu- lar style, it is the judge’s job to pick the best representative in the ring that day. A f inal lineup that includes a variety of styles does not mean the judge doesn’t know what he or she is doing. Instead, it ref lects judging that respects the range of variety acceptable in this breed. Only when two dogs are of equal quality should a judge choose based upon any personal preference for one style over another. Having four historically distinct styles does not mean that breed type should be ignored. When a judge is standing in the middle of the ring looking at a lineup that has just come in, there should be no question that the dogs are Border Collies. If one has to look for a tail to determine whether a dog is an Austra- lian Shepherd or a Border Collie, breed type is lacking. In addition to head and body shape, one of the most important aspects of breed type is movement. Some dogs manage to look great on the stack, but fall apart when moved.
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Border Collies should move out on a loose lead, with their head carried low. Many judges reward fast and f lashy move- ment. This is incorrect. Eff icient movement is imperative because these dogs must be able to cover miles of rough ter- rain daily. A properly moving Border Collie seems to glide or f loat as it covers the ground smoothly and effortlessly. This is described in some countries’ breed standards as the ability to move with “stealth”. Although stealth is often associated with the crouch that Border Collies use when approaching livestock, it is also apparent in the free-f lowing movement when the dog is being gaited in the ring. When viewed from the side, the trot covers the ground effortlessly with mini- mum lift of feet. The topline should be f irm with no roll or bounce. Front reach and rear drive are symmetrical, with the front foot meeting the ground directly under the nose and the rear foot pushing back without kicking up. When the rear foot is coming forward, it should reach to the spot just vacated by the front foot. This easy facility of move- ment is a hallmark of the breed. Even though some Border Collies may never see sheep in their lifetime, they should still have the physical attributes necessary to perform their original function as working sheep- dogs. Breeders, exhibitors and judges each play an important role in the quest to respect and maintain that heritage. BIO Kelly Whiteman was the first American breeder-specialist judge voted by the Border Collie Society of America (BCSA) membership to judge a National Specialty. She has presented many Judges’ Education seminars and regularly provides ring- side mentoring for those interested in applying to judge Border Collies. She is the Recording Secretary for BCSA and Secretary of the Kentuckiana Tartan Border Collie Club (KTBCC). She cur- rently serves as Chair of the BCSA Standard Committee. +,,,"-%&".&/0%&1"*/& )12"#/3-/&3*2%'/*& ".&!#%%$&/42%&)*& 1"5%1%-/,6
! order Collie people, no matter what their chosen venue, under- stand one thing that is universal about the breed. Border Collies are “quirky”. Th e words that come to other peoples’ minds when they talk about BCs are “smart” and “ener- getic”. Th ey generally are. But some of mine are so laid back they could be mistaken for 10 year old bulldogs. An all breed professional handler once called my special “ Th e Narcoleptic Border Collie”. One of mine is so dumb she is downright embar- rassing. But, without exception, they are all quirky. Border Collies take quirky to a whole new level. One has to spin three times before I set her din- ner bowl down. One can only go in her kennel by passing me on my left side. If I block that side, she cannot go around me and enter her kennel. It’s the rule. I think obsessive/compulsive may be another explanation, but they live their lives by rules they make up and only they understand. It makes them sound neurotic, but it is funny and harmless. Con- ner has to run around the dog yard three times before joining us on a walk. Jazz must gently bite my nose each morning as I wake up or he frets and paces. Sam (aka “Woo Woo”) greets the breaking dawn by declaring “Woo WOOOOO!” each and every morning. Quinn has to bark at Bertha before he goes on a run behind the “Gator” (Bertha hates it when he does it). Th ey have their rules about toys, food, each other, me, their living space, their routine. Everything. Border Collies were bred to herd sheep. I will substitute the word “organize” for the word “herd”. My opinion is that that is the reason for their funny behavior. Th ey feel compelled to “organize” their environment like they would their sheep. Th ey put the most colorful and imaginative spins on that pursuit, that their humans are awed, amazed, frus- trated, and most of all, entertained by this lovely, funny, quirky breed.
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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BORDER COLLIE
By Kelly Whiteman
order Collies originat- ed in the border area between Scotland and England. Often called the world’s premiere sheepherding dogs,
but also the uncanny ability to know how far o ff the perimeter they need to stay in order to not disturb their “flock” from these early hunting dogs. Border Collies have traditionally been bred solely for working ability. Because of the di ff erence in terrain between the Eng- lish lowlands and the Scottish highlands, farmers raised di ff erent breeds of sheep based upon their locality. Th e type of stock and the surrounding topography led to dif- ferent physical attributes being required for the dogs to be e ffi cient workers. For example, to survive in the rough hills and rocky crags of the highlands, sheep had to be light and fast. Th us, the good work- ing dogs in the highlands tended to have longer legs and leaner bodies. In contrast, the lowlands could support slower, heavier sheep. To work these large, heavy sheep on gentler land, the dogs did not need as much speed and agility. Instead, they needed a lower center of gravity and enough size to be able to withstand a charge from big, angry ewes defending their lambs. Th ere- fore, the dogs in the lowlands had shorter legs and heavier bodies. So, even though the dogs were bred for working ability (as opposed to being bred for “looks”), recog- nizable physical styles evolved. Th e first sheepdog trial was held in Bala, Wales on October 9, 1873. Trials were designed to showcase the working ability of the dogs by having the dogs
move sheep through a series of obstacles, penning the sheep and shedding one or more sheep away from the rest of the flock. Th e International Sheepdog Society (ISDS) was formed in 1906. Th e ISDS developed the first Border Collie stud books and still registers working Bor- der Collies today. Th e ISDS hold annu- al competitions to determine National Champions in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Th e National Champions then compete for the ultimate goal—the International Supreme Champion sheep- dog. Th e first sheepdog trial to be held in America was in Philadelphia, PA in 1880. Th e first US National Championship sheepdog trial was in Staunton, Virginia in 1941. Today the United States Border Collie Handlers Association (USBCHA), the American Herding Breeds Associa- tion (AHBA), the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) and the Ameri- can Kennel Club (AKC) hold herding trials all across America. Th e trials have various courses and formats and also have choices of sheep, cattle, ducks, geese or goats as stock. Many trials, including the very first one in 1873, also had a “type” competi- tion after the dogs ran the course. Th e “type” competition was, essentially, what we call today a dog show. Th e dogs were evaluated on physical structure to deter- mine which was best suited to perform the
Border Collies are renowned for their ability to move sheep in a silent and con- trolled manner, all at the will of their mas- ters. Border Collies control stock by using their “eye,” which has been described as “the ability to control stock by staring at them in a fixed and steady manner.” Although their history is unrecorded, it is commonly accepted that they developed from crosses between the Roman drover dogs and the progenitors of the Finnish Spitz. As time went on, the dogs were also crossed with other working and sporting breeds, including beardies, setters, point- ers and sight hounds. Sporting breed records indicate that certain lines of pointers worked di ff erently in the days when birds such as grouse and partridge were hunted on foot with nets rather than with guns. Like modern-day dogs, these particular lines were able to point to where a covey of birds was hiding in the underbrush. But instead of flushing the prey, the dogs would circle around the perimeter of the covey, indicating to the hunters exactly where to lay their net to capture the birds. It seems likely that Bor- der Collies inherited not only their “eye”,
“Often called the world’s premiere sheepherding dogs, BORDER COLLIES ARE RENOWNED FOR THEIR ABILITY TO MOVE SHEEP IN A SILENT AND CONTROLLED MANNER, ALL AT THE WILL OF THEIR MASTERS.”
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job of sheepherding. Th e farmers and shepherds who participated in the first trials and type competitions were, above all else, stockmen. (Women did not get involved in sheepdog trialing until much later.) As stockmen, they were comfortable with the idea of evaluating an animal’s physical structure against a standard based upon the animal’s purpose: whether that purpose was wool production, meat for marketing or working stock. Working col- lies were shown in the conformation ring in New Zealand as early as 1886 and Aus- tralia in 1907. Th ey were shown in Europe at FCI shows before being recognized by the Kennel Club in Great Britain in 1976. Canada did not allow Border Collies in conformation until 2007. Border Collies were in AKC’s Miscel- laneous group for forty years—from 1955 to 1995. Th ey could only enter obedience and tracking events. Border Collies weren’t
very prevalent in AKC in the early years, but even in small numbers they made their presence well known in obedience tri- als. By 1990, Border Collies were becom- ing more popular as the sport of agility appeared and became more widespread throughout the US. Th eir popularity grew even further when AKC started o ff ering agility trials in 1994. Meanwhile, AKC’s herding program began in 1989. At that time, AKC only allowed breeds listed in the Herding Group to participate. Since Border Collies were listed in the Miscellaneous group, as herd- ing trial popularity grew, full recognition became an issue. In December 1994, the AKC made its decision to fully recognize Border Collies. Registration would begin April 1, 1995, and the first Championship points would be awarded October 1, 1995. Since AKC recognition in 1995, popular- ity of the breed continues to grow—in
2012 Border Collies were number 44 on AKC’s most popular breeds list as deter- mined by number of registrations. In his book Th e Intelligence of Dogs , Stanley Coren announced that Border Collies are the most intelligent breed. Th eir trainability, willingness to work and athletic prowess make them an excellent choice for people interested in sports like obedience and agility. Th eir speed makes them desirable flyball competitors. Th eir grace and beauty appeal to those who want to show in conformation. And their unsurpassed abilities to read and control livestock make them outstanding herding trial competitors. Border Collies compete in just about any activity available and excel at most. Th eir desire to work hard and please their owner is directly related to how the breed developed. One cannot truly appreciate this breed without under- standing that history. 4 )08 4 *()5 . "(";*/& " 13*- t
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