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The article below appeared in Country Life Illustrated, August 12th 1899. George Barcroft, son of Jonathan Barcroft, like his father was an excellent handler. He won the trial with Lassie. The article has been retyped for the convenience of the viewer. If you read it, one is able to see how the reporter at the Tring 1897 trial reported on the trial; one wonders about the motives of the reporter who wrote the article below. In any event, George won the trial. Lassie was not, however, a beardie-like canine.

Sheepdogs at llangollen

Mr. Barcroft and Lassie.

It is again a pleasure and duty to congratulate that eminently public-spirited land-owner, Captain Best, upon the complete success of the annual sheepdog trials in Plasyn Vivod Park. They are always interesting to watch, and they have never been more pleasant than they were this year. One special merit is peculiar to all sheepdog trials into the arrangement of which intelligence enters: they are easy to watch. The men who work the dogs, and the dogs who work the sheep, may have some hard exercise. The spectators can see all the beautiful and intricate operations in the display of one of the most wonderful accomplishments ever taught by man to dog without any exertion at all. At Vivod, indeed, this advantage is present in an exceptional measure, for so agreeable and convenient are the contours of that splendid landscape that two sets of trials may be carried on simultaneously in full view of the spectators. Another merit of Vivod is that the local gallery is made up of expert critics. Those acute natives of the Berwyns know from experience all the wiles of which a sheepdog is capable, and all the innumerable difficulties which the wiry sheep of the Welsh mountains can place in the way of the best sheepdog that ever was whelped. Entries came from all parts of the country in which the sheep are worthy of the attention of an accomplished sheepdog—for the sheepdog of the moor and the mountain-side is accustomed to deal with sheep as agile as the deer or the goat, and when brought face to face with Lowland sheep he must regard them as ponderous elephants. So, although the Welshmen enter their dogs largely, the men of the Lake Country and of the Yorkshire wilds also come into the competition; and the result is a very pretty exhibition, watched with acute interest by the country gentry, and with even more interest by the people of the place. The spirit of the spectators is that of lawyers listening to an acute argument, of actors witnessing a dramatic performance, of painters studying an exhibition of pictures. They are men, and women too, whose praise is no empty compliment, but a thing worth having.

"Handsome is that handsome does," and "By their fruits ye shall know them," are the guiding principles at Vivod, and we note with some amusement the comments of a contemporary on the appearance of some of the performers. Lady, the property of Mr. W. Akrigg, of Garsdale, is described as "quite part of the whole duty of a sheepdog," Cymro was found wanting; he was not tractable. Now the dog who is not tractable may be a collie, but he is not a sheepdog. The astute Welsh shepherd will have none of him. He cannot afford to keep picture dogs any more than his wife can afford to wear picture hats. If the picture dog will work, well and good; if not, all considerations of good looks go absolutely to the wall, and the workman not only carries the day at the trials, but fetches the price in the market.

Releasing the Sheep


It is no part of our purpose to print the prize list, or to attempt to emulate the author of "Owd Bob" (the best dog novel we know), in describing how, one after another, the dogs drove their unruly sheep round the flag, through the gap, and round the hurdles into the pen. Nor shall we launch into dithy-rambic prose concerning the double trials, in which braces of dogs worked nine sheep over an appointed course. Nor, certainly, shall we say anything more of the appearances of the dogs—perhaps, indeed, the less said the better. There has been a marked improvement in the appearance of Welsh sheepdogs during the last twenty years, but we think it may still be said that there is no part of the kingdom where sheepdogs are of any importance in which the dogs look worse or work better. We would gladly see the improvement in appearance progress, so long as it is not accompanied by a corresponding loss of workmanlike qualities. Yet, even in writing the word "improvement," we feel that we may be treading on the verge of fallacy. Twenty years ago, the distinction between the Scotch collie and the Welsh sheepdog was far more marked than it is now. The latter might be, usually was, nondescript; the alleged improvement represents a gradual approach towards the Scotch and North Country type. So far as looks go the improvement is marked, but we are by no means sure there has been any improvement, or even that there has not been a falling-off, in the quality of workmanship. It is hard to believe, as you look at many Welsh sheepdogs, that they are the result of careful and even scientific breeding. Often they are under-sized. The pied markings of some of them are undeniably ugly; so are the wall eyes which are all too prevalent. You may see them with coats like that of a Manchester terrier, or broken like those of a fox and otter hound cross, or long like those of the true collie. They have a slinking gait, and little or no nobility of demeanour. They are for the most part shocking cowards, and very treacherous. In no part of the country are the dogs of the lonely farmhouse more likely to bite the passer-by, and they are not above doing this even after making a preliminary demonstration of friendliness. But they have the saving quality of supreme intelligence, and it is upon this that the shepherd sets his heart, and towards this that he aims in breeding. It has happened to the writer to buy a Welsh sheepdog for farm purposes, and under Welsh advice. The Mentor barely looked at the appearance of the puppy. If it had good legs and feet and a lithe body that was enough for him. It might have been of all the colours of the rainbow for all he cared. But it came from, let us say, Nantyglo; and all the Nantyglo dogs were reputed clever, and that was all that mattered.

Working the Sheep

Sheepdogs at Llangollen The Double Stakes

Ludgate Article

Manchester Article

The Family



Trialing To 1900

Trialing after 1900

White Bob


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