|For Your Farm Holidays in South West
Introducing the Shepherd's Dog
The Industrial Revolution created urban markets for lamb, mutton, and wool leading to the raising of sheep on the hills of the Borders of Scotland and northern England. Hardworking sheepdogs were the key to this type of farming, helping shepherds turn this inhospitable land into sheep-raising country. It was at this time that the modern sheep-herding collie was improved. Breeders tried to balance inheritable working traits to produce the best dog for their purposes, breeding dogs for climate, terrain, livestock type, and simply to develop a dog they could get along with.
The true Border Collie is known by how it works sheep and cattle, and by no other standard.
Because their early work was to gather sheep from the hills, Border Collies are, by nature, gatherers rather than drovers or tenders. They can, nevertheless, be taught to drive stock away from the shepherd and even to keep their charges within certain boundaries. They are also sensitive to commands from their handlers and can distinguish slight variations in the many whistles they understand, responding appropriately to each tone.
Shepherds look for exceptional athletic ability, a biddable nature, and superior livestock sense. In general, a dog that is light on its feet, flowing in its movement, quick to cover its stock, and has great endurance is the most valued. The dog's temperament must be sensitive enough to bend its will when asked, tough enough to stand up to the pressures of training, eager to learn, with enough confidence and determination to carry on with its work without constant guidance. Some Border Collies are reserved rather than outgoing, but they must love to work with and for the master. While innate livestock sense is bred into all good working collies, their working style can vary. Most people admire a dog that works with its head low to the ground, with its hindquarters high and its tail tucked between its hind legs. They can run as fast as the wind, yet stop in an instant or switch directions without stopping. They don't take their eyes off their sheep. Their intense gaze is focused on the stock, willing them to obey, to go where the dog directs them, to stop if the dog blocks their path. The stock aren't rushed or afraid, but they certainly respect the dog. A good Border Collie's obsession is its livestock, and this is as it should be.
Sheepdog trials have a very practical purpose of proving the worth of the most desirable Border Collie studs and dams.