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It is well known that Beardie-like dogs were used by drovers in
the movement of cattle. The two images below, painted by Joseph Denovan Adam, are wonderful representations of what occurred when
cattle were moved along Highland trails. The first image was signed
by the artist and dated 1878. It hangs in the Stirling Smith Art
Museum in Stirling, Scotland. When viewing the painting close up,
one sees a long line of Highland Cattle following the leaders on the
trail. Unfortunately, due to low resolution, it is difficult to view
the followers. Adam owned his own Highland Cattle and was very
familiar with them.
This second image shows a Highland collie working the Highland
Cattle in the hills. One cannot say it was a Beardie-like, but
certainly Adam was familiar with the "collie" type of dogs, but to
say it was any particular breed would only be speculation.
Moving of stock over Britain's drove trails no longer takes
place other than those instances where individuals recreate a
drove for pleasure, or for film. Although drovers drove numerous
kinds of stock (sheep, geese, turkeys, cattle, etc.), this website will
focus on the drovers' movement of cattle to grazing lands or to
market. Unfortunately, there are few images that document their
hardships. To understand, we must rely on written documents and
drawings/paintings to bring some of the imagery from that era
(mid-1600s to mid-1800s) to life.
Only a small amount of material will be presented regarding what
many of those drovers and their dogs (to include Beardie-like
canines) encountered on arduous journeys to include: pushing the cattle to
swim across the water between an inner island such as
the Narrows between Kylerhea on the Isle of Skye and Glenelg on
the Scottish mainland, or across Scottish Lochs (lakes) or
rivers in all areas of Britain, or getting cattle to load onto
ferries when the water was too deep to cross in any other manner, or over land
to include trails through the mountains.
What did a drover look like? We received some images from
David Gealy, a retired local historian, from Llandovery,
Carmarthenshire, Wales, of statutes in tribute to those drovers
who gave their community a legacy for having once been an
important droving centre.
This statute had a plaque on the wall which stated:
"Porthmon. A drover
Llanymddyfri (Llandovery) was an important drovers' town.
Over 30,000 cattle and other livestock were taken
by drovers to London from Wales each year."
Another representation of a drover is housed inside the tourtists'
information centre at Llandovery.
The next image has been cropped and placed on a darkened
background. The painting shows a drover and hangs on a wall in the clubhouse of the Llandovery
Rugby Football Club (the team is known as the "Drovers"). This
same image of a drover also appeared in Richard Moore-Colyer's
book Welsh Cattle Drovers.
The two images below shows how cattle swam across
water depending upon the water current (sometimes not all the
cattle made it across) and cattle being loaded onto a ferry boat
(fortunately, an artist saw such a scene on the
Isle of Skye).
In the next image, one can clearly see sheep that had been
ferried across a loch; they appear as though they were leaving the
ferry to join the flock waiting on shore.
The drovers' days were long. They would rise early hoping
to move the herd around 15+ miles per day depending upon weather
conditions and the condition of the
land they were traversing. Often they would cross on open
grasslands, but in many areas, trails were established and used. The
below etching reflects a drover and his dog moving cattle on a trail
winding along the rocky coastline. The image shows the potential for
a storm off in the distance.
Not only did the drovers have to deal with all kinds of weather,
they often slept on the ground (as opposed to an inn), eating a simple
breakfast of oats (sometimes mixed with blood drawn from the cattle
referred to as "black pudding").
Problems the drovers faced were not only the inclement weather
but straying cattle and the potential of Reivers (who would steal
their animals particularly in the borderlands). Many stories have
been handed down to us where Beardies were often used to protect the
money from robbers while drovers were on the move. Richard Beavis
(1824-1896) did a painting of the Border Reivers. Entire families
banded together to steal cattle.
Eventually steamships were built and used to move cattle. Then,
railways also began to be used. Eventually, the lorries (trucks)
also were involved in the operations. Drovers were no longer needed.
It is well known that Beardie-like dogs held favour with
many of the cattle drovers, not to mention the butchers, once
the cattle arrived at the markets. The below image appeared in
The Illustrated London News in September of 1865. It was
entitled "Inspection of Foreign Cattle at the Metropolitan
Cattle Market." Buyers dressed in suits appear as onlookers. The
herdsmen were waving their goads (spiked sticks) in the air in
order to keep the cattle directed. In this image, it appears
that the cattle were putting up some opposition regarding the
direction they were supposed to go. In the lower left hand
corner of the image, a Beardie-like dog was barking to assist in
getting the cattle heading in the right direction. One cannot
tell if the dog had a tail. Many Beardies were known to possess
stumpy tails (due to taxation issues discussed elsewhere in the
"History" section). But clearly the dog had ears similar to a
Beardie, a shaggy coat, and large feet.
Regarding the two images presented below,
just imagine you are in a mountainous area
in Scotland where Highland cattle are being driven along narrow pathways
lined by rugged ground and rocks (dating back to volcanic
activity in the area). Often Beardie-likes were used by drovers
to make sure the cattle stayed on the trails. The dogs heavy
coats protected them from the inclement weather conditions;
their pads could handle the rough ground. In the first image,
notice the placement of the Beardie in the background; one is
lying on the ground cover ready to rise if the cattle begin to
stray. A brown Beardie is in the lower right foreground making sure the
cattle do not move in his direction. A third Beardie is
returning a stray to the herd.
In the close-up view of the image, one can see a representation
on how a Beardie might just have been running up a hill behind the
bellowing animal. Both animals appear to be a bit winded (tongues
You are invited to visit the other pages in this section.