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In the first edition of Edward Jesse's book entitled Anecdotes of
(1846), an engraving of a Beardie-like dog was presented; he called it a
"Scotch Colly." The terms "Scotch Collie" (often with different
spellings for the word "Collie") and "Highland Collie" were often used
to describe a type of canine based upon geographical region; it was not
used exclusively to describe a Beardie-like dog.
One of the earliest written use of the words "Bearded Colley" for
the Beardie-like dog seems to have been presented by Hugh Dalziel, in
British Dogs (1879), when he wrote the following under his pseudonym Corsincon:
Chapter III. — THE BEARDED COLLEY.
In the west of Scotland there is a rough-faced and very
shaggy-coated dog called the bearded colley, differing mainly from
the true colley in being rough-faced, rather heavier built,
altogether less elegant, and with a shaggier and harsher coat.
I think they must be a cross with a rough hound, otter hound, or
deerhound—probably the former.
However, in Volume II of his three volume work, published in 1888,
on page 44, he wrote:
"The bearded Collie of the South of Scotland, which I at one
time thought it probable was a cross with the Deerhound or
Otter-hound, may perhaps more probably be the result of a union
between Collie and English Sheepdog; he certainly possesses
features such a cross might account for."
Dalziel, in his second edition, changed the spelling of "colley" to
"collie." As an aside: Col. Hancock's view is that any cross of a
Beardie with the deerhound was to make the deerhound brainier and more
responsive to training and not to alter the Beardie in any way.
Vero Shaw wrote The Illustrated Book of the Dog (Assisted by the
Leading Breeders of the Day). This book was published by Cassell,
Petter, Galpin & Co. The body of work making up this book was originally
published in parts from the years 1879 to 1881. It has been stated this
book "...is only the fourth general work on dogs with color
illustrations to be published in the English language."
(Note: Shaw's book is sometimes referred to as Cassell's
Book of the Dog. This title by Shaw can be confusing due to another
book being later published entitled, Cassell's New Book of the Dog,
edited by Leighton, published in 1907.)
Shaw's book included a wood engraving entitled "A Scotch Bob-tailed
Sheepdog." Shaw wanted the engraving to reflect the type of canine
Gordon James Phillips described in his letter of November 15, 1878 to
the Live Stock Journal. Phillips referred to a rough coated
collie with a stump for a tail (approximately six to nine inches in
length). Later Phillips' letter also appeared in D. J. Thomson Gray's
book Dogs of Scotland, 1891. Gray concluded that it was
unfortunate that Phillips had used the words "the rough coated collie"
in his 1878 letter, because the description by Phillips met the
description known to Gray as the "Highland or Bearded Collie.
Much has been written about how the Bearded Collie and the Old
English Sheepdog were one and the same. Shepherds often stated that
their Beardie-like dogs were mistakenly called Old English Sheepdogs. It
still remains true today. There will be images provided in the "History"
section under "Similar Breeds:Beardie-Owtchar-OES" demonstrating the similarities of both breeds. The viewers can
decide for themselves.
What about colour? As previously mentioned, the first Bearded Collie
standard (unofficial, of course, since it was not attached to any
registry; nor did the shepherds believe in standards) appeared in Gray's
book, and a complete copy of the five page chapter will appear in the
"Timeline" section. Gray, in his standard, stated in part:
"The Eyes, moderately full, vary in colour according to the
colour of the dog's coat. A wall or "china" eye is peculiar to
the mirled colour, but a dark brown eye is what is generally seen.
Light yellow eyes are objectionable."
Col. David Hancock pointed out (though not in his article featured
on this website) that the word 'mirled' is archaic Scottish for marled,
which means harlequin, and harlequin is different from merle. Harlequin
dogs often have wall-eyes. It is possible that Gray may have been
talking about a harlequin coat as opposed to the merle coat. Recently,
two Brindles were produced in two different litters from the same dam
and sire. Pictures of the puppies were made available to appear in one
of the shepherds' section.
When did Beardie-like dogs Begin to Trial?
The first sheepdog trial was held at the Rhiwlas Estate outside of
Bala, Wales, in 1873 (same year that the Kennel Club formed). Other
trials followed. Because the shepherds were so busy with chores, it was
likely they had precious little time to enter dog trials. But some
"beardeds" did trial as far back as the late 19th Century. Jonathan and
George Barcroft trialed their Beardie-like sheepdogs in the late 1800s.
Numerous articles from such trials appear in the "Barcroft"
In 1899, a "Bearded" named Daur is listed as the winner of a New
Cummock trial from among 32 entries. A copy of this trial document
appears in the "Timeline" section. Dogs entered in the New Cummock trial
were listed by the name of the dog's color, i.e., "Black and White" or
"Black and Tan" or, in the case of Beardeds: "Black and White, Bearded";
"Black and Tan, Bearded"; "Grey, Bearded"; "Black, and White Breast,
Bearded"; and "Black, Bearded." The dogs, described by color, but minus
the designation of "Bearded," were likely the ancestors to the working
collie breed to later be named "Border Collie."
What connection did the Beardie-like dog have with the International
Sheep Dog Society (ISDS)? In the
early days of the ISDS, Beardeds were registered. Maddie, a Bearded,
owned by W. B. Telfer, was registered as Number Eight. James
Reid, a solicitor (lawyer) from Airdrie has been credited with giving
the Border Collie name to that breed after the ISDS was founded in 1906.
Maureen Sale wrote a lengthy article outlining much of the Beardie's
early trialing history, and her article appears in the "Timeline"
Sale included a picture of Maddie, next to her owner's side. This photo
could easily cause one to ponder how close was Maddie to being a
Beardie-like dog. Perhaps she was part Beardie. If Maddie, indeed, worked
in the style of a Beardie (a style described by many shepherds in the
late 1800s and throughout the 1900s, and one which can be quite
different from the Border Collie's style), then Maddie was, indeed, a
Beardie, particularly in the eyes of her owner. Mr. Telfer certainly
considered her a Beardie.
Books Published in the 1900s
Many opinions were given regarding the Bearded Collie. There was no
agreement about the breed's origins. Even today, it requires a great deal of
research to draw conclusions about how the Beardie-like collie evolved.
The Dog Book (1905-1906) was authored by James Watson; his book
included reproductions of paintings and important early prints to
include Bewick's etchings mentioned above. Regarding the collie, Watson
wrote: "We can say that the collie was practically unknown in London as
late as 1860." Watson scoffed at the suggestion that the Gainsborough
portrait of the Duke of Buccleuch, 1770, was holding a
bob-tail. "Nothing of the kind; it is a large, rough Scotch terrier with
all the look of a Dandie." There is some confusion about the date of the
painting. A mezzotint was also rendered by John Dixon in 1771, a year
after Gainsborough completed the painting. However, there is new
evidence that suggests the dog was, at the least, the size of a Bearded
Collie, and that evidence will be presented in the "Timeline" section.
Several writers offered their opinions about the dog appearing
in a painting by the artist, Philip Reinagle. It was purported to have
been painted around the year 1803. As explained in Part I of this
condensed history section, the painting was called
"The Shepherd's Dog" in one publication. In another, it was called "The Sheepdog." In
another, it was identified as "Old English Sheep Dog." But was
it an Old English Sheepdog? Watson stated:
"There is one thing about the Reinagle picture which does not
appear to have attracted attention, and that is the Scottish
scenery. The man sitting in the middle distance may not have kilts,
but he has a Scotch bonnet and a crook. Of course it may have been a
mere fancy of the artist to put an English sheep dog in a Scotch or
Highland scene, but it might have been one of the strain from which
we have the bearded collie in Scotland."
Leighton's book The New Book of the Dog (1907), according to
Hubbard, was described as "...an important work for all times." This
book not only described British dogs, but included varieties of dogs
from the continental mainland of Europe and Asia. Many illustrations, to
include some colored plates, were included in his book. James C.
Dalgliesh wrote Chapter IX on the Collie for Leighton's 1907 book. Two
images of the Bearded Collie were included which are presented in the
In Chapter X of Aubrey Hopwood's book on Old English Sheepdogs, he
mentioned the Bearded Collie. Images of Gainsborough's painting of "Henry, Third Duke of Buccleuch"
and Reinagle's painting "The Shepherd's Dog" were included in that
chapter. However, no proof exists that the dog appearing in either
painting was an Old English. On
page 114, Hopwood stated:
"The dog was well known in Scotland too, under the title of the
Bearded Collie, for there is little doubt that this last is merely a
variant of the breed. He differs, in point of fact, chiefly by
reason of possessing a tail, the amputation of which is a recognized
custom in England."
Leighton's later book, Dogs and All
About Them , has been published online by the Project Gutenberg
(eBook #10991). Leighton likely relied upon Dalgliesh's earlier writings about
the Scottish Bearded or Highland Collie. Leighton made this statement in
"In preparing the present volume, I have drawn abundantly upon
the contents of my larger and more expensive New Book of The Dog,
and I desire to acknowledge my obligations to the eminent experts
who assisted me in the production of the earlier work and whose
contributions I have further utilised in these pages."
The following appeared in
the Collie section, Chapter VIII, , page 47, of the 1910 book:
"This dog and the Old English Sheepdog are much alike in
appearance, but that the bearded is a more racy animal, with a head
resembling that of the Dandie Dinmont rather than the square head of
Notice what was written about coat color.
"He is a favourite with the butcher and drover who have
sometimes a herd of troublesome cattle to handle, and he is well
suited to rough and rocky ground, active in movement, and as
sure-footed as the wild goat. He can endure cold and wet without
discomfort, and can live on the Highland hills when others less
sturdy would succumb. In the standard adopted for judging the breed,
many points are given for good legs and feet, bone, body and coat,
while head and ears are not of great importance. Movement, size and
general appearance have much weight. The colour is varied in this
breed. Cream-coloured specimens are not uncommon, and snow white
with orange or black marking may often be seen, but the popular
colour is grizzly grey. Unfortunately the coats of many are far too
soft and the undercoat is frequently absent."
Leighton also relied upon Hopwood's earlier writings in Chapter IX
(on the Old English Sheepdog) of the 1910 book, page 53:
"Throughout the nineteenth century, one finds conclusive evidence
that the breed was very fairly represented in many parts of
England, notably in Suffolk, Hampshire, and Dorsetshire, and also in
Wales. Youatt writes of it in 1845, Richardson in 1847, and
"Stonehenge" in 1859. Their descriptions vary a little, though the
leading characteristics are much the same, but each writer specially
notes the exceptional sagacity of the breed.
The dog was well known in Scotland, too, under the title of the
Bearded Collie, for there is little doubt that this last is merely a
variant of the breed. He differs, in point of fact, chiefly by
reason of possessing a tail, the amputation of which is a recognised
custom in England.
With regard to this custom, it is said that the drovers
originated it. Their dogs, kept for working purposes, were immune
from taxation, and they adopted this method of distinguishing the
animals thus exempted. It has been argued, by disciples of the
Darwinian theory of inherited effects from continued mutilations,
that a long process of breeding from tailless animals has resulted
in producing puppies naturally bob-tailed, and it is difficult, on
any other hypothesis, to account for the fact that many puppies are
so born. It is certainly a fact that one or two natural bob-tails
are frequently found in a litter of which the remainder are duly
furnished with well-developed tails."
Leighton also commented about whether the OES was originally
tailless on page 54:
"From careful consideration of the weight of evidence, it seems
unlikely that the breed was originally a tailless one, but the
modern custom undoubtedly accentuates its picturesqueness by
bringing into special prominence the rounded shaggy quarters and the
characteristic bear-like gait which distinguish the Old English
Luke J. Pasco, in 1937, authored Heather Jean The Working Sheep
Dog. He stated:
"While there are no distinct types of the breed which breed true
because of the constant crossing within the breed, the individuals
of the breed are often classified into three different types. These
types are the smooth coated, the long coated and the bearded
Col. Hancock in his book The Heritage of the Dog (1990)
"....Luke Pasco, the leading New England sheepdog trialler of
the 1930s, relates how time and time again he was able to trace
outstanding dogs to British stock, usually imported from Scotland
with a load of sheep or cattle and often shrewdly included in the
deal by American livestock dealers. He referred to them as Border
Collies, the name of the contemporary pedigree breed, now favoured
as a black and white breed with the distinctive white collar. A more
accurate generic term would have been British farm collie."
The working Bearded Collie and the Border Collie breeds have much in
common in their ancestral lineage. Which one precedes the other is
unknown and unimportant.
In Ada Bishop's book, All about the Collie
(1971) she included an entire chapter on the Bearded Collie. She
quoted a writing by J. Russell Greig who supported the idea that the Beardie was one of the most ancient breeds
in the U.K. versus an opposing viewpoint (see Combe below) that the
breed was of more recent origin.
Part of what Greig wrote as quoted by Bishop:
"There are two lines of evidence which support this claim—one is
furnished by the dog's natural history, the other by his racial
Take them in turn. It is one of the most salient
characteristics of the dog that he breeds 'true to type'; no matter
what crosses are introduced; the typical 'Beardie' characters are
predominant, and are indelibly stamped upon the offspring. This is
surely not what one would expect in a recent, adventitiously
manufactured breed — the result of a first cross — and one would
instance it as a proof of his antiquity and concentration of
strain. As has been stated above, the Bobtail is by some regarded as
a possible progenitor of the 'Beardie'. One is firmly convinced,
however, that the relationship which exists between the two breeds
could be better likened to that of cousins—i.e., they are both
descendants from a common stock."
In Iris Combe's book, Herding Dogs: Their Origins and Development
in Britain (1987), chapter 10, entitled "The Scotch or Highland
Collie," page 115, she wrote:
"The rough- and smooth-coated show collies are frequently
referred to as Scotch collies, as are the beardies; I dispute the
assumption and give my reasons in the chapters on the respective
In chapter 15, entitled "The Bearded Collie or Beard," page 162,
"Other historians believe that he is descended from a shaggy
type of herding dog brought to Britain by the Anglo-Saxon farming
communities, and that possibly both the bobtail and the beardie
share this same ancestry. I have mainly confined my study of his
history and evolution to his role as drover's dog, in which capacity
I dispute the assumption that he is related to the bobtail, for
reasons I have given in chapter 4. Unfortunately, when the bearded
type was being transformed into a fixed recognized breed, some
bobtails were used. It is also claimed that this variety of collie
is of ancient Scottish origin, but I do not accept this."
Col. David Hancock indicated it was likely that the shaggier
sheepdogs were called Beards (or Hirsels) in Scotland, Haggards in
Ireland, Grays in Wales and Shags in southern England, where the bigger
ones were used as drovers' dogs and dubbed Bobtails. For a better
understanding on how the harsh-coated sheepdog breeds developed over
many centuries, you are invited to read Col. Hancock's writings for this
website which appear in the "History" section.
The Workers vs. the Show Dogs
Some photos from the late 1800s and early 1900s showed shaggy
sheepdogs not far removed from some of the late 20th Century and early
21st Century working Beardies. Among the differences between the current
working Beardies vs. show Beardies are not only the long coats, but also
there are still merles, tri-merles, sables and brindles among the coat colours of the shepherds' dogs.
Even back to the time when Bearded Collies were first
shown in Britain, various individuals from the dog fancier's world were
concerned about keeping the length of coat true to the breed. Also,
merles do not appear among the Kennel Club registered dogs; Mrs. Willison (first to register Beardies with the Kennel Club after WWII)
had purchased a male named Britt, and his dam was Mootie, a merle. That
information was put forth, in writing, by Major Logan. He also
stated that Britt had a younger sister, named Nell, who was also a
merle. However, there does not seem to be any record of merles
being born in any of Mrs. Willison's litters. That would make perfect
sense since you need one of the parents to be a merle, and Britt was not
a merle. It is not known what happened to Britt's younger sister, Nell.
It is documented that Beardies were imported to other continents as
far back as the early 1900s. One such dog was written about in an AKC
publication dated January 1908 by Winslow Clark. He described a dog
named Bruce as a "Beardie." Mr. Clark's description of the trial held in
State of the Vermont, USA, made it sound as though the trial course was
modeled after an ISDS trial course. This would make perfect sense since
the official records of the ISDS registry demonstrated that Beardies
were registered in the early years of that organization. But where did
Bruce come from? Was he imported to the U.S.? Was he imported to Canada,
and visited the U.S. to participate in this trial? Lots of questions;
often the answers are conjecture.
After the ISDS stopped registering Beardies, Blue (owned, and
handled, by Paul Turnbull), was registered with the ISDS "on merit" in
1984. This "on merit" term means Blue earned his way into the ISDS
registry based upon trial performance. Four litters by Blue, out of
Kennel Club registered Beardie Collie bitches, were granted registration
by the Kennel Club.
Working Bearded Collie Registries
Only in the late 20th Century were there attempts to register the
working Bearded Collies of the U.K. (meaning dogs not registered with
the Kennel Club or any other kennel club entity). Many owners of working
dogs were unwilling to register their dogs, whatever the name of the
entity, for various reasons. The current shepherds' Beardies are not
uniform in appearance among themselves which seemingly matches what occurred in the breed's history
from as far back as old pictures and writings exist.