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More Information

Border Collies and Herding Breeds

In the dog world, there are two types of dogs used on farms, ranches, and livestock operations around the world, the guardian dog to protect the stock and the herding dog to move the stock. The herding dog, also known as a stock dog, or working dog has the ability to actively control the movement of livestock such as poultry, sheep, goats, cattle, and even reindeer. These are serious, tireless workers with a strong instinct to actively “gather or roundup” and move livestock according to the commands of the shepherd, cowboy, or stock handler. A well-trained herding dog works in partnership with his or her handler and can move livestock just about anywhere. They are fleet of foot, work with calm authority, and a keen eye. Because the dogs are required to work at great distances, they also possess sensitivity to the handler’s voice, whistle, and gesture. They are the “best hand” on the ranch or farm.
Herding dogs “need a job,” they are extremely energetic, athletic, and require daily physical exercise and mental simulation. Because of their energy and need for metal simulation these dogs are best suited to households that can provide plenty of play and exercise with both humans and other dogs.

Where Did They Come From?

Evidence exists that nomads entered Britain around 2,500 B.C. bringing their domesticated livestock and dogs, and later in the first century Romans brought livestock and dogs. Herding dogs have been recorded in the 13 th century in Iceland and Shetland Islands and the 17 th century in Northern France. The United Kingdom has long been the home of the herding dog. In 1536, “The Shepherd’s Dog” was described as bringing the wandering or straying sheep to the Master when he hears his voice, whistle or wagging fist. Immigrant British farmers brought the shepherd’s dog (the Border Collie’s ancestor) to the United States in the mid-18 th century and as the settlers moved west so did the shepherd’s dog.

The Modern Border Collie

In the 19 th century Great Britain, the Shepherd’s dog was improved by introducing several breeds to improve their speed, good nose, quiet nature, and strong eye. In 1893 in the area between Northern England and Southeast Scotland, Adam Tefler bred a dog known as Old Hemp that would become the standard for all modern Border Collies. He had quick athletic movements, keen livestock ability, quiet temperament, sensitive to the commands of the handler but with enough independence to work without constant direction, and the famous intense gaze or “strong eye” that commands the stock to obey. All pure bred Border Collies today can trace back to Old Hemp. Imported lines from Old Hemp were introduced into the US Border Collie lines to give us the dogs with the rich heritage we see work today.

Scottish Heritage

The Scottish heritage of these dogs is evident from their name and the verbal commands the handler uses. The term Border Collie comes from the area between Scotland and England where the dog was developed. However, the word collie is a bit of a mystery. Some think that it originated from the Scottish word for coal, and others think it originated from the Gaelic word for “useful.”

Border Collie handlers use whistles to command commands the dog because it can be heard over a greater distance than the voice but close in the verbal herding commands are straight from the Scottish shepherd:
  • · Come Bye – The dog goes clockwise around the sheep
  • · Away to me: - The dog goes counter-clockwise around the sheep
  • · Lie down - The dog immediately lies down
  • · On your feet – Stand up but don’t start walking
  • · Walk up – The dog walks straight into the sheep
  • · Steady or Time –Walk at a steady pace
  • · Look Back – The dog looks back to go gather another group of sheep behind him
  • · That’ll do – Work is done
  • · That’ll do, here – Work is done, come to me
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