Shepherd’s Dog Hector Outsmarts His Master

From Anecdotes of Dogs by Edward Jesse, Esq., 1858
The Colley Or Shepherd’s Dog: Hector hears where his master is going, and precedes him


“Hector was quite incapable of performing the same feats among sheep that his father did; but, as far as his judgment served him, he was a docile and obliging creature. He had one singular quality, of keeping true to the charge to which he was set. If we had been shearing, or sorting sheep in any way, when a division was turned out and Hector got the word to attend to them, he would have done it pleasantly for a whole day without the least symptom of weariness. No noise or hurry about the fold, which brings every other dog from his business, had the least effect on Hector, save that it made him a little troublesome on his own charge, and set him a-running round and round them, turning them in at corners, from a sort of impatience to be employed as well as his baying neighbours at the fold. Whenever old Sirrah found himself hard set in commanding wild sheep on steep ground, where they are worst to manage, he never failed, without any hint to the purpose, to throw himself wide in below them, and lay their faces to the hill, by which means he got the command of them in a minute. I never could make Hector comprehend this advantage with all my art, although his father found it out entirely of himself. The former would turn or wear sheep no other way but on the hill above them; and, though very good at it, he gave both them and himself double the trouble and fatigue.

“It cannot be supposed that he could understand all that was passing in the little family circle, but he certainly comprehended a good part of it. In particular, it was very easy to discover that he rarely missed aught that was said about himself, the sheep, the cat, or of a hunt. When aught of that nature came to be discussed, Hector’s attention and impatience soon became manifest. There was one winter evening I said to my mother that I was going to Bowerhope for a fortnight, for that I had more conveniency for writing with Alexander Laidlaw than at home; and I added, ‘But I will not take Hector with me, for he is constantly quarrelling with the rest of the dogs, singing music, or breeding some uproar.’ ‘Na, na,’ quoth she, ‘leave Hector with me; I like aye best to have him at hame, poor fallow.’

“These were all the words that passed. The next morning the waters were in a great flood, and I did not go away till after breakfast; but when the time came for tying up Hector, he was a-wanting. ‘The deil’s in that beast,’ said I,—’I will wager that he heard what we were saying yesternight, and has gone off for Bowerhope as soon as the door was opened this morning.’

“‘If that should really be the case, I’ll think the beast no canny,’ said my mother.

“The Yarrow was so large as to be quite impassable, so that I had to walk up by St. Mary’s Loch, and go across by the boat; and, on drawing near to Bowerhope, I soon perceived that matters had gone precisely as I suspected. Large as the Yarrow was, and it appeared impassable by any living creature, Hector had made his escape early in the morning, had swam the river, and was sitting, ‘like a drookit hen,’ on a knoll at the east end of the house, awaiting my arrival with great impatience. I had a great attachment to this animal, who, to a good deal of absurdity, joined all the amiable qualities of his species. He was rather of a small size, very rough and shagged, and not far from the colour of a fox.

“His son Lion was the very picture of his dad, had a good deal more sagacity, but also more selfishness. A history of the one, however, would only be an epitome of that of the other. Mr. William Nicholson [A celebrated portrait painter, and Secretary to the Scottish Academy of Painting. This gentleman also excelled in the portraits of animals.] took a fine likeness of this latter one, which he still possesses. He could not get him to sit for his picture in such a position as he wanted, till he exhibited a singularly fine portrait of a small dog, on the opposite side of the room. Lion took it for a real animal, and, disliking its fierce and important look exceedingly, he immediately set up his ears and his shaggy birses, and, fixing a stern eye on the picture in manifest wrath, he would then sit for a whole day and point at it without budging or altering his position.

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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.