Showsight Presents The Border Collie

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BORDER COLLIE

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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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