collies” were imported from Great Britain. The intermixing of the strain helped stabilize the breed. At the time the black and tan “working collies” were imported to Australia, the Border Collie was known as “the black-and-white, rough-coated “working Collie.”
Please note: The Australian Kelpie, Australian Cattle Dog, and the Australian Shepherd are three distinct breeds, each developed for a specific and different purpose. Also, the Border Collie and the Australian Kelpie are included in the Miscellaneous Class of the American Kennel Club.
The Bearded Collie is a medium-sized, long-coated dog that originated in the highlands of Scotland where it was used for herding sheep. These dogs were sent up into the hills where they worked independently as “huntaways” searching for lost or hiding sheep, running and jumping over hilly terrain while barking to move the sheep from under cover. They would then gather the flock together and bring it in to the shepherd. There used to be interbreeding between Beardies (common nickname) and Border Collies in Scotland, resulting in a strain more closely resembling the Border Collie. The two strains of Beardies, Border strain (grey and white) and the Highland strain (brown and white), are indistinguish- able today due to inter-breeding.
It’s thought that some of the first ancestors of the breed were brought from Poland in 1514 by traders coming to Scotland to trade grain for Scottish sheep. The records state that one of the Scottish shepherds traded a ram and ewe for a dog and two bitches.
Beardies range in size from 20 to 23 inches (at the shoulder) for males and 19 to 22 inches for females. Their color can vary from black to silver and chocolate to sandy, with or without white markings. The topcoat is long, harsh, and flat, while the undercoat is soft, furry, and dense. Bearded Collies are intelligent, affectionate, stable, untiring, and good with children.
As with all other working breeds, selection of a pup should be made by looking for working parents. The Beardies are popular in dog shows and as house com- panions. The well-trained working Beardie is not as easy to find as the working breeds previously mentioned. The Bearded Collie is registered through the American Kennel Club and has a specific set of standards.
If you select your working dog from another working breed, such as the Corgi, McNab, English Shepherd, Sheltie, or Collie, study each breed thoroughly for style of work, availability of proven working bloodlines, and the current primary purpose for which the breed is being used. Be aware that many breeds, including
those we’ve discussed, are being bred for conformation shows and not exclusively for working ability. This will affect the natural working instinct of the dog.
Take time in selecting your dog! Breeders will be patient if you are sincere and determined in your selection process. Nothing can be more frustrating to a new owner or the breeder than when a puppy is returned due to lack of understand- ing about the breed purchased.
Within reason, any breed can be used to do minimum work around the farm with careful, strict train- ing. Many breeds, such as the German Shepherd, originally were bred to herd livestock but may now have a very different purpose in life and no working instinct left. When you train a dog with no instinct (remember, chasing is not instinct), it must be completely trained to all obedience and directional commands prior to introducing it to livestock.
Two excellent training manuals, The Farmer’s Dog by John Holmes and A Lifetime with the Working Collie, Their Training and History by Arthur N. Allen, demonstrate training methods helpful with instinct and “non-instinct” dogs.