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What was the relationship between the Bearded Collie,
The South Russian Owtchar, and the Old English Sheepdog?

The Beardie and the Old English Sheepdog have several things in common: both were identified by some authors as: being sheepdogs; being used as droving dogs on cattle; having shaggy coats; or that their breed appeared in Gainsborough's 1770 painting of the 3rd Duke of Buccleuch (John Dixon did a mezzotint of the original painting in 1771).

What about those who said the Old English Sheepdog came from the Bearded Collie being crossed with the Owtchar (also known as the Russian Owtchar, the South Russian Ovtcharka, etc.)?

Rawdon Lee mentioned the Bearded in the Old English "'Bob-tailed' Sheep Dog" section in History and Description of The Collie or Sheep Dog in His British Varieties. London: Horace Cox (1890). Arthur Wardle was the illustrator for this book. Lee wrote:

"Then, running away northwards, Scotland has laid-claim to their original possession, and in some districts the strain survives in the "bearded sheep dog," which, however, has not a 'bob-tail.' Classes for this variety are occasionally met with at the local shows. I believe that the old English sheep dog was at one time pretty equally distributed through various parts of the kingdom, and of late years has been most numerous in those localities where a dog of his description was required. "

Four years later, Lee wrote A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland (Non-Sporting Division) (1894). Illustrations in that book were produced by Arthur Wardle and R. H. Moore. Mr. Lee put forth the following words in the section entitled "The Old English (Bob-Tailed) Sheepdog"

"Of late years there has been a strong attempt to re-popularise this quaint and representative creature, a dog that always reminds me of one of our shaggy ancient British forefathers we see in picture books. The collie clubs have not acknowledged him as one of their race at all, so it has the honour of having a club of its own formed by some few admirers of the variety who believe there is no other dog in existence with even half the good qualities possessed by their special fancy.

A useful creature in his way, with a certain amount of rugged, unpolished beauty, his disposition is often surly, he frequently prefers a fight to his ordinary agricultural duties, and although a faithful enough companion to his master, is likely to be ill-tempered with strangers, and will not stand quietly and be rebuked by others.

Possibly he is an older dog than the ordinary collie, nor has modern fashion yet changed him so much as it has other dogs. Reinagle's picture in the 'Sportsman's Cabinet,' published very early in the present century, is a capital example of what the dog is to-day, and such a one as there pourtrayed, would now, if alive and in the flesh, take the highest honour at any of our leading shows.

In Scotland there is an old-fashioned sheep dog of the same sort called the 'Highland or Bearded Collie,' and although he is by no means common, classes are sometimes provided for him at local shows, and they usually attract a considerable entry. I certainly agree with the author of the 'Dogs of Scotland,' when he says that the two varieties as found in Scotland and England are identical, and if the former is usually seen with a long tail, it is only because his owners have refused to amputate it in order that it might have a so-called 'bob-tail.'"

Mr. Lee was referring to D. J. Thomson Gray, author of Dogs of Scotland. Mr. Lee included in his 1894 book, as an example of a proper coat for the OES, an engraving of Sir Cavendish by artist Arthur Wardle (1864-1949). There are other drawings of Sir Cavendish seen in several other publications.

Prior to Lee's 1890 book, Hugh Dalziel, in 1879, wrote a book entitled British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, and Exhibition. Dalziel acknowledged that several writers assisted in compiling the book. This book was later published in three volumes between 1888 and 1897. According to Col. David Hancock, Volume 3 was edited (1896 edition) by W. D. Drury, and this volume contained contributions from other individuals; Dalziel had been solely responsible for the chapters up to, and including, Chapter XXI.

In 1903, Drury, with collaborators, authored another British Dogs' book (entitled British Dogs: Their Points, Selection, and Show Preparaton, London: L. Upcott Gill (1903) where Drury acted more as an editor of Dalziel's earlier books. Why this book was published as a "Third Edition" is unknown; likely it was to acknowledge that it was a continuation of Dalziel's earlier editions.

At the beginning of this third edition, Drury stated: "With the Collaboration of the following Specialists" regarding certain listed breeds. But, the Old English Sheepdog was not one of the breeds listed, and therefore, it can be assumed the following text on page 163 was Drury's own words; they could not have been Dalziel's words since he had already passed away.

"The Old English Sheepdog, as now recognised, is of a pronounced type, differing considerably from other breeds; the nearest in general appearance to him among our show dogs is the Bearded Collie, illustrated elsewhere, and thought by some to be identical with the variety now under consideration.

Herbert Compton authored The Twentieth Century Dog (Non-Sporting), Vol. I, London: Grant Richards published in 1904. However, he also included the fact that he "relied upon contributions of over five hundred experts." In a chapter written about the "Old English Sheep-dog," he included a paragraph from a translation by a poet named Barnabe Googe (1540-1594). Googe translated Conrad Heresbach's Foure Bookes of Husbandrie published in 1586. Heresbach lived from 1496-1576, but his book was first published in 1577.

Compton, on page 228, wrote that Googe's translation "gives the following description of an 'ideal' old English sheep-dog of that period." Compton was trying to make a connection between a known breed (OES) from his era (early 1900s) to a canine from the mid-to-late 1500s.

The reader can decide whether the words quoted from the translation of more than 300 years prior would relate to any early 20th century breed of shepherd's dog:

The shepherd's masty, that is for the folde, must neither be so gaunt nor so swifte as the greyhound, nor so fatte nor so heavy as the masty of the house; but verie strong, and able to fights and follow the chase, that he may beat away the woolfe or other beasts, and to follow the theefe, and to recover the prey. And therefore his body should be rather long than short and thick; in all other points he must agree with the ban-dog. His head must be great and smooth and full of veins; his ears great and hanging; his joints long; his fore legs shorter than his hinder; but verie straight and great. His claws wide, his nails hard, his heel neither flesy nor too hard; the ridge of his back not too much appearing, not crooked; his ribs round and well-knitte; his shoulder points well distant; his buttocks fatte and broad.

Compton went on to comment:

"From this we may incidentally learn how our ancestors bred their dogs for particular tasks, and understand how, now that some of those tasks are no longer required or possible, certain points no longer exist which were requisite for their performance."

It is a well-established fact that Aubrey Hopwood, wrote the first comprehensive book about the Old English Sheepdog entitled The Old English Sheepdog published in 1905. The book was 106 pages, and it is very difficult to find though it may be found as an ebook on the internet.

Hopwood wrote:

 “At one time or another he has been claimed as the special property of various districts, some asserting that he was originally of Welsh extraction, others maintaining that he hails from Suffolk, Hants, and Dorsetshire, and others, again, that he is a descendant of the bearded collie of Scotland. I think there can be little doubt that this latter animal is identical with our own, and that the two varieties trace their ancestry to a common origin. Indeed, the only noticeable difference is in the tail, which the bearded collie possesses and the Old English Sheep Dog does not; and this is, generally a mere matter of amputation.”

Hopwood also wrote the Old English section for Robert Leighton's The New Book of the Dog, etc. which was published in 1907.

Hopwood's words were repeated again in Leighton's Dogs and All About Them (1910) exactly as they appeared in Leighton's 1907 book.

"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."

J. Russell Greig authored an article in January 1913 for the Collie Folio. It was entitled "The Bearded Collie." A portion of the article has been retyped below:

"Dr. Johannes Caius, writing in the sixteenth century, minutely describes the work of the Sheepdog, but unfortunately omits to give any more than a very vague description of the dog itself. One has frequently heard it supposed that the bearded Collie is of comparatively recent origin, and indeed so great an authority as Hugh Dalziel suggested that he was a cross between the Collie and the Old English Sheepdog. Still there are many others who believed the Bearded Collie to be one of the most ancient breeds in these Islands, a contention which it is the author's purpose to forward.

There are two lines of evidence which support this claim  — one is furnished by the dog's natural history, the other by his racial history.

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.

The likeness between the two breeds is remarkable, but it is still more remarkable when one compares the working English Sheepdog and the 'Beardie', for we must remember that the former has been much improved since the formation of the Old English Sheepdog Club.

The author has in his possession a sketch made about twenty years ago of Mr. Weager's Grizzle Bob and Dairy Maid  — Bobtails, which, although considered among the best specimens of their time, bear a strong resemblance to the 'Beardie' rather than to their successors on the show bench today.

The most noticeable difference between the two breeds is, of course, the absence in the Bobtail of a caudal appendage. We know, however, that this is not an infallible characteristic of the breed, and that many a Sheepdog puppy acquires his 'bob' by means of the docking knife.

Philip Reinagle's historic picture of "The Sheepdog', one of a series of paintings, which was reproduced in the Sportsman's Cabinet (1804) is of peculiar interest in this respect. Here we have a presumably typical Old English Sheepdog with quite a respectable tail, which, if shown to a Scottish shepherd today, would be pronounced a Bearded Collie. further, in the text we are told that 'the breed is propagated and preserved with the greatest respect to purity in the northern parts of the kingdom as well as in the highlands of Scotland.'

Gordon James Phillips, of Glenlivet, in a letter which appeared in the 'Live Stock Journal' for 15 November 1878, speaks of a strain of the Bearded Collie with a tail which he describes as 'simply a stump, generally from six to nine inches in length'. Whether this was a true 'Beardie' indigenous to the district, or merely the imported English bobtail, one is unable to learn.

When discussing the origin of the Collie, Dalziel remarked: 'I think it is not improbable that the Scotch Collie may in part be derived from the English form of Sheepdog and the Scotch Greyhound.' But in consideration of the undoubted antiquity of the Bearded Collie one is led to agree with Gray, and consider it just as probable that the Scotch Collie may be derived in part from the Scotch form of Sheepdog and the Scotch Greyhound."

Leighton's book, The Complete Book of the Dog, (1922) may have been his own words as opposed to Hopwood's writings.

"It is not easy to determine the origin of the Old English Sheepdog. The breed is not quite so ancient as its name would seem to suggest. He has many points in common with the Russian Owtchar, the largest of the European shepherd dogs which used often to be brought to England in the Baltic trading ships. There is the same square build of figure, the same character of head, and the same deep, crisp coat which under neglect hangs down in ragged ropes. In general shape, too, he is not unlike the French sheepdog of La Brie. The Club's description would seem to suggest that the Poodle and the Deerhound had some share in his composition. But whatever he came from, our English bob-tail was established about a hundred years ago, and was represented in the Southern Counties, notably Dorsetshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire, as well as Essex, Suffolk, and Wales. A variant of the breed is known in Scotland, too, as the Bearded Collie, who differs chiefly by reason that his coat is less woolly and that he is in possession of a tail, the amputation of which, in the Southern variety, is a recognized custom in England."

Edward Ash, recognized as one of the greatest authorities on dogs and their history, authored Dogs: Their History and Development (1927).  In his chapter on "Sheep-Dogs," he wrote:

“To-day the sheep-dogs of the British Islands are of two distinct types—on the one hand we have the bearded collie and the old English sheep-dog, broad-headed, shaggy haired; on the other, the collie and the Shetland sheep-dog, a ‘wolf type’ comparatively narrow headed with a long and narrow muzzle.  It does not seem probable that these two types are in any way related and though crosses may have taken place, they have been eliminated by a return to the same type.

The bearded collie type is represented today on the bench by the Old English sheep-dog—which, in the hands of the fancier, has developed into a broad, stocky, and remarkable massive dog.

The origin of this breed is probably identical with that of the Russian Owtchar or Russian sheep-dog, closely related to the bearded collie. The peculiar ‘habit’ of being born with a short tail suggests relationship also to the cur-dog of Bewick and Edwards, then known to be often born in the ‘self-tailed’ condition.

It is difficult to say if the bearded collie was in the distant past indigenous to Scotland, or whether at some early age those heavily-built matted-haired dogs evolved in some northern area of Europe and spread to Scotland.

Early writers on Scotland, Hector Boece and others, do not suggest its existence. It is possible that they were bred in Scotland during the eighteenth century from the cur-dog, and quite possibly from the shepherd’s Mastie described by Googe. The so-called Russian pointer of Edwards or the water-dog of Taplin may have one and all lent their aid.”

In Ash's 1931 book, The Practical Dog Book, he included as Part of Plate 39, an image taken from an engraving; he described it in the plate listings as The Russian Owtchar. The image seems to reflect a shortened tail. A viewer can see how similar these breeds once were.

Look at the similarities between the outline of the dog above when compared to the Arthur Wardle drawing of a Scottish Bearded Collie below. This image appeared in Theo Marples book Show Dogs c. 1914.

The above image of the Scottish Bearded Collie is also used below as a comparison against another Wardle image of an Old English Sheepdog's tail. A viewer can see how similar these breeds once were.

Marples wrote:

"The Scottish Bearded Collie or Sheepdog resembles the Old English Sheepdog in the shagginess of his coat, in ears and head, but he is a somewhat smaller dog, more snipy in muzzle, and has the suggestion of a 'Billygoat' beard under his jaw, with, of course, the difference that his caudal appendage is not removed as in the case of his English cousin."

Another image of a Russian Owtchar appeared on a cigarette card and in this image, the tail is quite apparent. Again, the viewer can see the similarities between this breed and the Beardie-like canine.

It is interesting that one book of 1930 entitled History and Origin of All Recognized Breeds of Dogs described the OES as follows:

"Old English Sheepdogs—Evolved from old utility dog called the Smithfield. Exceedingly heavy coat. Amazing intelligence and adaptable. Ideal companion and guardian of property, and used extensively as shepherd in Canada."

Ash wrote in his 1931 book, page 163 for the chapter entitled "Collies, Shetland Sheep-dog, Old English Sheep-dog, Lhassa Terrier," the following:

"The Russian dog, the Owtchar, is also a Sheep-dog. A strongly-built dog, massive and big of bone. The Russian Pointer, which was tried in Scotland and elsewhere was also somewhat of the type of the Old English Sheep-dog. As both the Owtchar and Russian Pointer were introduced into this country, it would be idle to guess how the Old English Sheep-dog type was produced, but we may well imagine from what evidence we have, and the illustrations of dogs of a comparatively few years ago, that the breed is closely related to, if it is not entirely descended from the bearded Collie, which is yet common in northern areas of this country.”

That the breed should have a short tail is said to have originated from regulations on the taxing of Sheep-dogs; that Sheep-dogs were free from a tax and that Government officials considered a Sheep-dog a tailless dog, a matter which is open to serious doubt.  The taxation of dogs first started in 1796."

 He went on to say that:

"It was some time before the dog was sufficiently developed to take it any distance apart from its ancestor, the bearded Sheep-dog.”

Count Henri de Bylandt (1860-1943) wrote a book entitled Les Races de Chiens, published in 1897. In his 1904 edition, Bylandt included two photographs of Panmure Gordon's Beardies. Of course, he also had numerous photographs of the Old English Sheepdogs.

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BEARDIE-Owtchar-AND OES PART II

Smithfield

Confusion

*SIMILAR BREEDS

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