Border Collie History
The exact origins of the domestic dog are locked in time and subject to speculation, but it is clear that after the development of dogs used by man to hunt, sheepdogs of various kinds were created worldwide to protect the flocks. Since Biblical times, flocks of goats, sheep, and cattle were the measure of individual wealth. Consequently, the development of a reliable dog to drive and protect these flocks was a primary concern. Sheepdogs of all breeds are noted for their sagacity, intelligence, and trainability. Rather than savage a flock as a wild dog would, sheepdogs willingly protect it. And it is this active ability of the dog to serve and respond to a master’s bidding which clearly demarcates C. familiaris from any of the wild canids. These are the traits of workability which were selected for in the development of the various sheepdog breeds.
The craft of tending sheep was introduced to the British Isles by the Romans. Various Celtic clans soon created their own varieties of sheepdogs to work these flocks. These dogs became associated with their regions and were later known as Welsh Sheepdogs, Northern Sheepdogs, Highland Collies, Scotch Collies, and so on. While the antecedents of the Border Collie developed throughout the British Isles, its Scottish heritage is evident in the Scottish dialect word, “collie,” used to describe these dogs. Thomas Bewick’s wood engravings in The History of Quadrupeds, a pre-1800 work, resemble both the smooth and rough varieties of today’s breed. In 1860, classes for “Scotch Sheep Dogs” were offered at the Birmingham Dog Society the second dog show ever held in England. On a trip to Balmoral a short time later, Queen Victioria saw her first Collie and became an active enthusiast of the breed. It is at this point that the divergence between our modern Collie and the traditional shepherd’s dog began. However, today’s Border Collie has remained a true working animal with very little change from the original type.
Credit is given to Mr. R.J. Lloyd Price for the institution of sheepdog trials. In 1876, he brought 100 wild Welsh sheep to the Alexandra Palace in London for a demonstration. Three sheep were picked out of the flock, which had been guided to a remote corner of the park, and were carried to a far hill and released. The sheepdogs’ responsibilities were to fold the sheep into a small pen in the middle of the park. An account in the Live Stock Journal described the astonishment of the spectators at the intelligence of the dogs whose only assistance was in the form of hand signals and whistles from their masters. It is this astonishing ability which serious Border Collie breeders wish to retain in the breed, above all else.
Recognized worldwide as the premier sheepherding dog, known for its obedience, trainability and natural appearance, the Border Collie was given Herding Group designation and became eligible for full recognition status on October 1, 1995.