Shepherd’s Dog: A Wonderful Sheep-dog

From Anecdotes of Dogs by Edward Jesse, Esq., 1858
The Colley Or Shepherd’s Dog: a wonderful sheep-dog


“It is a curious fact in the history of these animals, that the most useless of the breed have often the greatest degree of sagacity in trifling and useless matters. An exceedingly good sheep-dog attends to nothing else but that particular branch of business to which he is bred. His whole capacity is exerted and exhausted on it, and he is of little avail in miscellaneous matters; whereas, a very indifferent cur, bred about the house, and accustomed to assist in every thing, will often put the more noble breed to disgrace in those paltry services.

“If one calls out, for instance, that the cows are in the corn, or the hens in the garden, the house-colley needs no other hint, but runs and turns them out. The shepherd’s dog knows not what is astir; and, if he is called out in a hurry for such work, all that he will do is to break to the hill, and rear himself up on end to see if no sheep are running away. A bred sheep-dog, if coming hungry from the hills, and getting into a milk-house, would most likely think of nothing else than filling his belly with the cream.

“Not so his uninitiated brother; he is bred at home to far higher principles of honour. I have known such lie night and day among from ten to twenty pails full of milk, and never once break the cream of one of them with the tip of his tongue, nor would he suffer cat, rat, or any other creature to touch it. This latter sort, too, are far more acute at taking up what is said in a family.

“The anecdotes of these animals are all so much alike, that were I but to relate the thousandth part of those I have heard, they would often look very much like repetitions. I shall therefore, in this paper, only mention one or two of the most singular, which I know to be well authenticated.

“There was a shepherd lad near Langholm, whose name was Scott, who possessed a bitch famed over all the West Border for her singular tractability. He could have sent her home with one sheep, two sheep, or any given number, from any of the neighbouring farms; and, in the lambing season, it was his uniform practice to send her home with the kebbed ewes just as he got them.

“I must let the town reader understand this. A kebbed ewe is one whose lamb dies. As soon as such is found, she is immediately brought home by the shepherd, and another lamb put to her; and Scott, on going his rounds on the hill, whenever he found a kebbed ewe, immediately gave her in charge to his bitch to take home, which saved him from coming back that way again and going over the same ground he had visited before.

“She always took them carefully home, and put them into a fold which was close by the house, keeping watch over them till she was seen by some one of the family; upon which she instantly decamped, and hastened back to her master, who sometimes sent her three times home in one morning with different charges. It was the custom of the farmer to watch her and take the sheep in charge from her: but this required a good deal of caution; for as soon as she perceived that she was seen, whether the sheep were put into the fold or not, she concluded her charge was at an end, and no flattery could induce her to stay and assist in folding them.

“There was a display of accuracy and attention in this that I cannot say I have ever seen equalled.”

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.