HISTORY and DEVELOPMENT
|© Helen C. Cramer
The exact heredity of the Collie appears to be lost and clouded by centuries of debate and conjecture. Margaret Osborne in her book The Popular Collie, ch. 1, pg. 15, published in 1957, says that 'no one has ever been able to solve the question of the origin of the breed and that it would seem that the Collie must be the result of intermingling the various breeds known of old, and then making a careful selection from the results.’
The selection which would have been carried out would have been solely for working and herding capabilities and instincts. Later it probably occurred to man that dogs of some particular type were most useful for his purposes and he chose his shepherd dogs accordingly. Herding conditions vary from Country to Country and the most desirable type of dog for the purpose in one area is somewhat different from that of another. Because of this there developed several breeds of shepherd dogs, which differ one from the other. (Milo Denlinger, The Complete Collie 1947, Ch.2, pg.17)
Possibly the best known reference to sheep dogs existing and working in ancient times can be found in the Old Testament the Book of Job, ch.30, Verse 1 where mention is made to 'the dogs of my flock.'
Eventually the dogs of the Scottish highlands began to look more or less alike, and it is accepted by most fanciers that the Collie evolved in the hilly border counties of Scotland and Northern England. Dogs here began to be called 'Col', 'Colley', 'Coaly', 'Collie', spelt in different ways at different periods. The derivation of these words is mystifying and several theories have been suggested. The most popular being that the word 'Col', in Anglo-Saxon meant black, and that the breed was so named after the black-faced sheep which they herded and was common in Scotland in those times. The Agricultural Dictionary published in 1843 supports this theory.
Unfortunately, infusions of different blood were introduced into the Collie, usually to satisfy a whim for a special point. The cross with the Irish Setter was made in a misplaced attempt to enrich the sable; with the Gordon Setter to enrich the tan; with the Borzoi to increase the length of the head. As a result of the Irish Setter cross it became necessary to include in the early standard of the breed that 'Setter red was most objectionable', and though the term is no longer used in the present standard most conscientious breeders know that the colour is to be avoided. The Borzoi cross also proved disastrous by introducing receding skulls and Roman -noses.
Fortunately these infusions of foreign bloods into the Collie breed were diluted in a few generations, but because of the tricks of heredity, from time to time, their ugly presence can still make itself felt.,
The Collie's popularity received a boost when Oueen Victoria admired the breed, during here residence at Balmoral, about 1860, and accepted one as a present; which she took back with her to Windsor. When it became known that Collies were in the Queen's kennels, the Collie was suddenly elevated to canine aristocracy. It became fashionable to own a Collie and, of more importance for the breed's future, enthusiastic fanciers concentrated on improving conformation. The history of the show Collie makes confusing reading and therefore 1 don't intend to include it in this lecture. Other than to say that in the early shows there was a class for 'Sheepdogs', anti all breeds considered to conic under that classification were lumped together.
It was not until 1871, at Birmingham, that we can be sure of the separate classes for Collies. This show had 17 exhibits and the two dogs who came first and second went on to become household names as they continued to win in the show-ring, each beating the other on several occasions.
The Collies continued to grow in Popularity and their entry at shows increased by more than double in a couple of years. By 1913 several great kennels were registered and their names still appear on the pedigrees of many Australian Collies.
World War 1 brought a halt to the breeding and showing of dogs and it was several years before the bans were lifted. However, though a number of pre-war fanciers disappeared, having dispersed their stock, others soon took their place and from these successful kennels many dogs were imported into Australia. Once again Championship Shows were stopped due to World War 11 and it was seven years before they commenced again. This time however, the Kennel Club did not restrict breeding, as had been done previously, leaving the decision to the good sense of the breeders themselves. Therefore, when the shows started again after the war, dedicated breeders were ready and eager to bring back the Collies.
The Judgement of Paris
From an original print given to me by the late Jack Maud