Advertisements
Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘collie’

I got to see these family photos for the first time today. This is a dog that featured heavily in my dad’s dog stories that he used to tell us when we were kids.

This is Cam, the first AKC dog that my family ever owned. She was a rough collie “like Lassie,” as they say.  My dad is standing to her right. The date is April 1962.

cam-dad-1962

And like Lassie, she had to have a litter. This one included some tricolors. My uncle Doug is sitting behind the mother collie in May of ’63– twenty years before I was born.

doug-and-cam-1963

I had not seen these photos before, though I had seen some rather poor photos of Cam.

The bottom photo really reveals what she was:  She was a collie from a time when they were still very close to the intelligent farm dogs from Scotland from which their kind descend.

She looks gorgeous but more rugged than the collies of one might see today.  She was still very much the “Scotch shepherd” of the American farm and dog fancier magazines.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

This is me on Ginger Ale with Bull the farm collie in the background:

me on ginger and bull

The photo was taken in my grandparents’ backyard.

 

Read Full Post »

oliver hartley collie

Everyone tends to think of the collie family as being the ultimate herding dogs. This is how they are popularly known and how they are classified with breed clubs.

However, the American experience with the collie family is that these dogs are more or less generalist in usage, and they were commonly used for hunting and improving hunting stock. My grandpa had a hunting dog that was half foxhound and half collie that could track a deer like no other, and my memories of my dad’s wild farm collie would rather tree cats or raccoons than waste his time chasing cows.

That’s really because Americans began turning the collie to their own purposes almost as soon as they arrived on these shores.

Oliver Hartley describes the collie’s use in the US in his Hunting Dogs (1909):

The Scotch collie dog will make the best friend of all the dogs in the canine race, writes a collie admirer. Of all useful animals God gave to man what can excel the dog, at least with the stockmen; in affection no other dog can compare with him, he is a dog that every farmer needs. He has almost human intelligence, a pure bred collie can always be depended upon in sunshine or adversity. He can do his work in a manner that should put the average boy to shame. The pure bred Scotch Collies are of a kind and affectionate disposition and they become strongly attached to their master. There can be no friend more honest and enduring than the noble, willing and obedient thoroughbred Scotch Collie. As a devoted friend and faithful companion he has no equal in the canine race, he will guard the household and property day and night. The Scotch Collies are very watchful and always on the alert, while their intelligence is really marvelous.

At one year old they are able to perform full duty herding sheep, cattle and other stock, attending them all day when necessary, keeping them together and where they belong and driving off all strange intruders. They learn to know their master’s animals from others in a very short time, and a well-trained dog will gather them home and put each into its right stall. They have a dainty carriage and fine style, profuse silky hair of various colors.

Others incline to the conviction that practical purposes have been lost sight of in breeding, and that appearances have been sought to such an extent that the present day pure bred collies lack some of the attributes of intelligence and hardihood that made the collie famous. In view of this fact it is quite likely that for general purposes and certainly for hunting purposes, a dash of alien blood is advantageous.

The crossed collie, or the well-known shepherd dog, so common to the farm, are very often used with success in all forms of night hunting. There are some who go so far as to maintain that the shepherd or a cross of shepherd and fox hound are ideal for coon, rabbit and squirrel hunting.

The use of these dogs as sheep herders has deteriorated in this country, although they are still bred for practical purposes with marked success in parts of England (pg 222-223).

So Hartley was pointing out that Americans were more than willing to turn the specialized herding dogs of the British Isles into dogs that both hunted and herded, and some areas their primary utility was that of the hunting dog.

In another part of the text, Hartley discusses the best way to get a cheap coonhound:

I have learned at considerable expense that the best at most any price is the cheapest. If you want a good, cheap ‘coon dog, get a half pup collie and half fox hound. Never give him a taste of nor let him see a rabbit, teach him a few tricks (to make him pay for his meals), such as jumping over a stick, then a pole, then a fence. This is to teach him to obey every word (pg. 101-102).

Hartley also talks about his two favorite coondogs, one of which was a collie/foxhound cross:

The best pair of ‘coon dogs I ever owned was Sport, a fox hound and collie, half and half, a slow semi-mute trailer, and Simon, a full blood fox terrier, a fast mute trailer. I used a bell on Sport. This and his occasional barks on the trail kept the attention of the ‘coon while Simon cut across lots and invariably took him unawares (pg. 101).

I grew up where most collie-type dogs were used primarily for hunting. People didn’t keep big flocks of sheep, and even the beef cattle were so tame that the farm kids could move them from pasture to pasture.

The idea that someone would encourage a dog to chase stock would be an anathema to most of the people where I grew up. There were always stories of collies that chased cows and wound up shot, so most people trained their dogs to hunt squirrels, rabbits, and raccoons and to leave the hoofed mammals alone.

And these collie-types were maintained without any fancy trials imported from Scotland or England. A border collie was a novelty, and I didn’t even see my first dog of that breed until I was about 12 or 13.

But I knew what a farm collie or an English shepherd was.

Those were the native working dogs for the northern tier of West Virginia.

This is actually my big beef with the Donald McCaig set. McCaig et al, which some wag called “the sheeple,” obsess over “working dogs” in America without actually knowing the history of working farm dogs in this country.

McCaig is a border collie novelist and dog trialer. His border collies are treated as working dogs, but they are nothing like the real farm dogs of the Appalachian Mountains he calls home.

No one trialed a farm collie or an English shepherd, but they were useful dogs.

And as I recall them, they weren’t as hyped up as border collies are. They were just good, ol’ dogs with plenty of brains and sense.

McCaig is really a carpetbagger. Born and raised in Montana, McCaig honed his craft in advertising in New York, and then he came to Alleghenies of Highland County, Virginia. It’s a rather desolate area of Virginia, located on the old road that goes from Elkins to Staunton. I don’t recall seeing any sheep when I went through there, but I recall it being full of rhododendrons and mountain laurel.

And lots of nothing.

Old Stonewall Jackson, the traitor to West Virginia, beat up on the union army at the hamlet of McDowell, but there is no mention of a great history of border collie trials in that part of Virginia.

A border collie, like McCaig, is something brought in from outside and then grafted onto the mountainsides as if they have always belonged there.

But they haven’t

Before McCaig and border collies, there were old shepherds and Scotch collies. These were the old farm dogs, not the trial dogs that McCaig has popularized.

The simple fact is Americans are not British, and even if we and our dogs are of Albion’s stock, we have both adapted to this continent and its peculiarities.

To say that the trial border collie is the historic working dog of the Virginia mountains is simply to engage in romantic folly.

It is a folly that no one says anything about. Most of the people who know better aren’t reading McCaig books or this blog, and none of them of them have the audience of a McCaig.

But because McCaig and the trialists have capture the imaginations of too many people, they get to describe for themselves some moral superiority, even though breeding for trials has done exactly the same thing to border collie bloodlines that dog shows have done to AKC dogs.

I write these words for Old Shep, the generalist collie-type hunting dog, lost in the sea of show and trial faddism.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

I am in the two-year-old range in this photo.  Bull is the collie lying close to the house, while Frito is the Norwegian elkhound, who was part black and part gray elkhound. Yes, my hair actually was that blond!

Sorry about the resolution of this film. I have been taking these photos of these older photos with my iPAD2, and the resolution just isn’t that great.

 

Read Full Post »

Bull

This is me at about the age of three with Bull, my dad’s unregistered collie.

 

He had drop ears, and his sable actually changed colors as he aged. Where he was cream and brown here, it all turned light steely gray.

Read Full Post »

The man seated with the dogs is John Brown, the Queen’s personal servant and ghillie at Balmoral.

One can see what is obviously a smooth dachshund on the far left and a fox terrier cross on the far right. If it’s a pure fox terrier, it’s undocked.

The two retrieverish looking dogs are collies.

Yes.  Queen Victoria preferred a kind of collie that was normally drop-eared and either predominantly black or black-and-tan in color, which was very common in certain collie populations near the border with England and Scotland.

One can also see how dogs like these would have played a role in developing the Gordon setter, which is well-known to have some collie blood– and this fact has been confirmed in a recent genomic study.

 

 

Read Full Post »

From Country Life in America ( June 1902):

“Shep” is the thoroughbred collie that prevents the coyotes from howling too unpleasantly near the Box S Ranch in New Mexico. This keeps her much awake of nights— particularly when the smell of a fresh-slain steer edges the hunger of these prairie wolves in winter. But Shep is alert in the daytime, even when she seems to be dozing; and whether it is the melancholy howl of a coyote at sunset, the bass and falsetto outcry of a vagrant bull, or the squeak and grunt of a too-familiar pig, she is up and ready for action.

Now, the pigs are her special annoyance. Their greed and impudence combined urge them to the very kitchen door; and Shep has been instructed to resent their close approach with bark and bite. A nip at the heels sends them scampering, and back they go to the alfalfa field.

It happened that seven pups were born to Shep about the same time that a like number of porkers was littered by one of the sows. The pups in time opened their eyes and played about the barn, and the porkers, in their youthful ignorance of social distinctions, were inclined to frolic with the canine family. Shep did not rebuke this liberty. Not only did she allow her aristocratic progeny to mingle freely with the outcast swine, but she seemed to recognize that the sow was now a mother like herself, with a large family to provide for. Thenceforth this particular pig was singled out from the others as one permitted the freedom of the ranch. Bite and bark were reserved for the rest; but the sow with the little ones was never more molested in her wanderings about the place.

There was only one circumstance growing out of this new toleration which aroused the dog’s objections. This was when Shep suckled her puppies, and some of the young pigs, with dull indifference as to the source of their nourishment, would attempt to share the meal. On such occasions the collie’s expression was a comical one of blended dignity and resentment. She would snap protestingly at the impertinent pigs, without disturbing her own youngsters; and the porkers would take the hint.

It followed that six of the seven pups were weaned, and dispersed among friends at Fort Wingate. The remaining one retained at the ranch was christened Woolly—owing partly to the curliness of his coat and partly to goodhumored recognition of a term which self-contented Easterners who have never traveled with the setting sun in their own country sometimes apply to the great West. Woolly soon learned to join his mother in pursuit of the pigs, and, like her, learned also to spare the small porkers and their mother. Then Shep was sent away for a time to the sheep camp on the mountain; whereupon Woolly, having no canine companion, fell back on the young pigs for playmates. The first litter had reached the age when all young animals pass from the gambols and grace of youth to the commonplaceness of maturity; but another litter had been born, and these were Woolly’s delight. The pup was three times the size of his newfound friends, and perhaps his bulk alarmed them a little. At any rate, they were slow in responding to his demonstrations of affection. Frantic, almost, were the efforts he made to induce them to paw him and leap with him as his mother had done. He would frisk about them in high glee, and then lie flat on his stomach, with outstretchedforepaws and nose on the ground, and ears pricked expectantly. It was a plain invitation to play tag. But, alas! a pig is a pig, you know; and these diminutive emblems of stupidity and greed turned down their noses and showed themselves altogether unworthy of the condescension. And I have fancied that Woolly, by way of retaliation, barks and bites harder than before when the older pigs come around.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: