On Judging the Collie
                                                                 © Helen Catherine Cramer
   As I have given notes on the early history of the Collie, which began in Scotland and Northern England, I don't intend to go into the History and development tonight. Other than to say that their popularity got under way when Queen Victoria took a Collie back to Windsor in about 1860.


1871 Birmingham Show had a separate class for Collies.

The two wars disrupted breeding - as it did with all dog breeds.

here have been many conflicting opinions as to when the first Collies came to Australia and therefore, as I can't be sure of the facts I have available, I haven't included any here.


   The Collie was bred for herding and working capabilities. He was a working dog long before he was a show dog, and this must never be forgotten. He must have the strength and temperament of a working dog.
The painting I have reproduced on page 3 is from an old print. 'Blinks 96' is in the corner, so it could have been 1896 or 1796. It serves to show that the Collies of many years ago had the same characteristics as our present day Collies and that they were obviously used as a shepherd dog. (History & Development, Interpretation of the Standard on web pages)


   When Collies first enter the ring one of the most important things a well-trained 'Collie eye' will notice is balance. Unless the Collie is well balanced you can be almost certain that some part of his structure will be anatomically wrong.

WHAT IS BALANCE? A short backed, square dog is balance for some Breeds. Moderately long, too long in body for others.
This is why it is necessary to have knowledge of the Breed one is judging; what is required by the Standard and then practical experience in recognising the correct balance. Such as, the correct height and length of body in ratio to height. The correct top line, lay back of shoulder, length of neck and carriage of head; set on of tail and turn of stifle. The required amount of bone and correct feet will also help form balance, but is not as apparent when first viewing the dog from the centre ring. Sadly a well balanced dog can have a bad head and a good head does not guarantee good body structure. To be true to its Breed a dog must have the correct head proprieties, but at the present we are just considering balance.

Turn your lecture notes to page 13 - Body.

   I prefer to go to body first, because, and I'm sure most judges will agree, when dogs first enter the ring and stand, the dog of correct proportions will stand out -and gain favour- whereas the dog that is too long or too short in back, or too high or low on leg for its breed will jar the senses. Bad top lines can also usually be spotted at this time - but not always, depending on coat.
The Collie standard calls for a body slightly long compared with height, back firm with a slight rise over loins; ribs well sprung chest deep, fairly broad behind the shoulders.
Further down page 13 you will see where I explain that a long body doesn't mean a long back. The length is taken from the front of the shoulder in the forechest to the rear of the buttocks. On a dog with the correct lay and texture of coat, the firm back with a slight rise over the loins can also be seen.

Neck is also an important feature for first impression and there is a strong relationship between the neck and shoulders. Turn to page 11 in your notes.
Shoulders, which slope well back into a long wither, permit the insertion of a long and strong neck. The neck is considered as part of the dog forward from the shoulders to its junction with the head. So even before we handle the dog we can expect to find correctly sloping shoulders if the neck is correct.
Necks, unfortunately, have often been over looked and, as explained in my notes on body, good sloping shoulders are necessary for the correct length of body. See the necks on the dogs in the old print (photo) on page 3.
The neck should be well arched. This does not mean the Ewe or Swan neck, which are possible on straight shoulders. The purpose of the Collie neck is to attach the head powerfully and flexibly to the body. The frill -ruff of neck- is to protect the body. And then, if the handler is blessed with a true showman, we will probably notice that the ears are carried semi erect indicating that the dog is alert. See Ears on page 9.
Still on first impressions turn to page 14 of your notes.(Body web pages).

Well bent stifles. Hocks well let down and powerful. Many times I've been asked to explain 'Hocks well let down' and stumbled over my explanation. My lecture notes were finished, when during a library clean up, the book 'The Dog In Action' by McDowell Lyons, fell open at the 'Hocks well let down' page. So I have photo copied the important points for you, but the whole chapter on the back leg makes interesting reading. McDowell Lyons - Dog In Action 1950, reprint 1966. In the glossary in the same book, 'Hocks well let down', is described as 'Hocks close to the ground. A short distance between the hock joint and ground. A short cannon bone.' I've given you diagrams for those who like to know degrees etc. I'm hopeless at maths.
Enough to say that the hind legs, when viewed from the side, should have the curve of a well bent stifle - with hocks well let down and powerful.
Again, still on first impressions, we'll notice the tail. TAIL Page 16 of lecture notes. Heaven forbid that at this stage it will be carried above the back.

COAT, its colour and whether it be in abundance or lacking will also have been obvious from the time the dog first entered the ring. See page 20 for coat.

   All the first mentioned are what add up to a well balanced Collie and can be seen by all 'would be judges' from outside the ring. However, there is more to judging a Collie, or any animal for that matter, than just having an eye for balance. The dog must have its Breed characteristics.
I like to move my dogs before handling them. I have taken note of the dogs that caught my eye and hope that they don't let me down. But of course many do for various reasons. By moving the dogs first I feel that they are still free. Nervous dogs haven't been upset by handling or, as in some cases, the over zealous handler who tries to stand the dog in an unnatural and no doubt uncomfortable stance. They may be penalised on temperament later - but temperament can't usually be blamed for bad movement if moved in this order. See Movement page 17.
Having formed a general impression it is time to examine the Collie for its characteristics, without which it is no Collie at all. Just a sound anatomically constructed dog. A dog may be a good dog without being a good Collie, but it can't be a good Collie without being a good dog.

So we have a good dog. What makes him different? He is a Collie.


First let us start with his head.

   The first thing a judge does on handling is the dog's head. Although I personally like to look at it first - take in, Expression, (see page 6.) - and even before I have laid my hands on a Collie's head if his expression is wrong I have to penalise the dog accordingly. So first let us look at EYES. See page 8.
The Collie eye must be set somewhat obliquely and be of almond shape and dark brown in colour, except in the case of blue merles. Pig eye, squint eyes, round eyes are all foreign to the Collie and therefore very objectionable. The standard says they are a very important feature. And so they are.
The head is an important feature of the Collie. It is what makes a good dog a good Collie. It is his 'Trade Mark". I would never judge a Collie on his head alone - but neither would I judge him on his body alone. To be a good Collie he must have a True Head - as is the case of all breeds of dogs. The head is probably their most distinctive feature.
I doubt if one can really appreciate a Collie's head without taking the head as a whole. This includes ears, eyes and structure of the skull and muzzle. The standard says the head must be considered in proportion to the size of the dog. It must fit the dog.
I feel it is important, that before looking for planes and shape of head, the judge stands back, alerts the dog, more to look for expression than ear movement and takes in the whole balance. The perfect head is clear in the standard as are the faults. But it is the beautiful balance of eye, ear placement and formation of skull and muzzle which gives the Collie its true expression.
I might add here, as I find it very irritating, when somebody says to me that the Collie is the dog with the very long, pointed thin muzzle. A good Collie certainly doesn't have a long, pointed thin muzzle. The true Collie head, viewed from the front or the side resembles a well blunted clean wedge. See HEAD (page 6). There should be nothing snipy about a Collie's head.
Whilst examining the head we look at the TEETH See page 10. A badly incorrect mouth will usually show up in muzzle formation, but the slightly undershot or overshot mouth can often only be detected by examining the mouth. The same for missing teeth. A tooth that is missing because of an accident or even old age should never be penalised as one would the dog with genetically missing teeth. A cramped mouth, where the front teeth are small and close with narrow gum formation are also something to be avoided in the Collie.

Having examined the head one moves down to the shoulders.

FOREQUARTERS: See page 12. The front feet are also usually examined at this time. See page 15 for FEET.
Then on to

BODY: (page 13).- Ribs well sprung, chest deep, fairly broad behind the shoulders. It is the mid line of the chest which counts. A good chest requires length of dorsal spine to ensure space between the ribs as well as good ribbing back of the body. Ample curvature of each rib and length and breadth of each rib, which is equivalent to saying 'depth of body'.
The HINDQUARTERS are next felt for strength and soundness. If the dog has been moved first most faults in the hindquarters will have been apparent and now is the time to justify your first impression. If you haven't moved the dog keep in mind that an over angulated turn of stifle can often indicate a weakness and that what appears to be a stifle without enough turn will often surprise when on the move. Judges usually like to exert a little pressure on the rump when checking for strength in the hindquarters. But one has to be careful not to consider this foolproof. Many a dog will sit when pressed in this manner because it has been trained to do so. See page 14 for notes on hindquarters.
Next the TAIL is examined for set, length and strength. The carriage will have been or will be noticed during movement. Carriage is most important. See page 16 for further notes on Tails .

COAT can be examined whilst going over the body. The standard calls for the coat to fit the outline of the body and this is important. It also asks that the outer coat be straight and harsh to touch. See page 20 for further remarks about the coat and page 21 for COLOUR.


McDowell Lyon's
                                  1950 pg. 201
Hocks well let down shorten PF and reduce the load on the Achilles tendon. this also tends to lengthen the lower thigh. Every three units added to AB increases its efficiency two units.
Hocks well let down improve the leverage action as regards endurance. In the action of the hock joint, the pad is the fulcrum (F), the weight (W) comes where the tibia and fibula rests on the tarsal bones, and power (P) is applied to the tip of the os calcis. Therefore according to the laws of leverage getting the joint close to the ground will lessen the amount of power required to move weight but will not move it as far with the same given power. required to move weight but will not move it as far with the same given power.
Great sprinters do not as a rule have hocks well let down, which is a condition purely comparative with the length of other bones. On the cheetah the distance from hock to pad is about the same as from hock to stifle. The same is true of a rabbit. The deer and the antelope have exceptionally long bones in this section. The pronghorn is extremely high on the hock and is likely our fastest four-footed animal and still has endurance. Where endurance does show up, the os calcis is relatively long also which counteracts the fatiguing element without reducing action. The whole assembly from hock to pad is very important in dogs or any animal for that matter.
An old bushman's saying. 'Longens for early speed, shortens to keep on going.'


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