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An interview with hugh from ayrshire

Hugh's thoughts about the Beardie were recorded. Eddie
and Sue in England transcribed the tape. After reading
their typed copy to Hugh, and after getting his final approval
his words were transcribed correctly,
the document was submitted for placement on the website.

Hugh talked about his life with his beardie/bearded type cross dogs used for work over a number of years. He does not believe in the use of a quad bike for general shepherding; he believes you see more when checking stock on foot. He started off with some good border collies but preferred the beardie/bearded cross for working the high rocky ground that he shepherds.

Over the years he has seen some good champion trial border collies work on high ground, but they could not work the high rocky ground as well as the beardie type of collie or a first cross beardie border. He sent some photographs of his kennel of work dogs. One in particular, Glen, looked almost like a typical border collie, but Glen is, in fact, a border/beardie and has retained all the characteristics of the beardie type collie.

All Hugh's dogs are either pure beardie or part beardie. He would not have anything else. Over the years Hugh has never seen a beardie that wasn't a good worker. What Hugh likes about the beardie type dogs are once they start working—and some of them are late starters—is that they can work on their own without supervision. All of them seem to have a knack at excelling in certain types of herding and stock handling skills.

Hugh has lined Gail with Glen, and all but two of the pups grew coats typical of a beardie—mostly grey, tan and white. Everyone who received a pup said that once they started to work, they were probably the best dogs they had ever had.

When not working his dogs, Hugh likes to walk in the wild hills observing nature and letting his dogs observe nature. It is part of both his lifestyle and his dogs' lifestyle as well. Hugh's pups from an early age are carried in his jacket as he believes the earlier the pups start to observe nature, the weather conditions, and the terrain which they will eventually be working, it will stand them in good stead. When older and strong enough, he lets them walk along side him amongst the high rocky ground observing and familiarising themselves with the sights and sounds of what will be part of their working life.

What Hugh likes about the beardies from an early age is how they use their nose to scent things out such as small mammals, birds nesting on the ground, and how they will mark other creatures. This exposure also comes in useful when they grow older, because unlike the border collie who mainly herds and gathers by sight, the beardie uses its nose. The beardies seek out sheep or cattle that might be hiding or lying low in a gully to avoid being gathered up. The term for this beardie style trait is known as "hunting up."

Hugh did not know whether they still have Hunter Trials in New Zealand. It is like a sheep dog trial. The dogs are tested on their gathering abilities on a high hill and rocky ground. This is where using their nose comes into its own. That trait is worth preserving in the beardie type dog. Hugh believes that once the dogs have worked the high hills, and you breed for the first/second generation, that improves the line for working the very high ground, to which the lowland type dogs have not adapted.

Hugh does not believe in pushing a dog in training as he gets better results by letting them develop their skills in their own time. Hugh talked about the style of the beardie. If you look at a beardie, they look as though they have springs in their pads. Their pads are well suited for stopping and jumping. They should appear wiry. They possess inner strength. They do not need to be a big heavy dog.

All Hugh's dogs live in the house; he treats them as part of the family, and he even takes them in his caravan on holiday. All of his beardie dogs have been great family protectors; he believes this trait goes back to when the dogs were widely used by the drovers inasmuch as they would protect the stock they were driving as well as their masters. He said that also is seen with today's beardie once they have gathered the cattle or sheep. They seem to switch off and contain the stock without putting undue pressure on the stock. He believes that once the breeders and show people continue to breed just for show and financial gain, they will take away the natural stock herding instinct from this type of dog. They will just become an ornament to look at— it will be a sad day for the beardie. The wild instinct will be lost. The working relationship, home protection, master's protection, and the general tenacity for work will no longer exist.

Hugh reckons that the grey beardie and the grey merle beardie have an advantage when working the rocky high ground. Their colour helps to blend in with the background around them. This allows them to get closer to the lambs and ewes without startling them. Apart from the grey merle, Hugh described the colour of Misty—one of his dogs as being "Islay Blue" in colour. That should not be confused with the blue merle colour of collie coat.

Hugh is still amazed at the beardie's capability of finding its own route over the rocky high ground that he works. When you think about how they are working over a mile away—and on many occasions out of sight gathering the flock—well that is when the beardie comes into its own.

He feels he's been very fortunate to have such good working dogs over many years. Molly is a half border/beardie, and she has all the good attributes of a working beardie, which she inherited from two outstanding working parents. She has her own personality which Hugh reckons is very important. Hugh is now looking for a suitable sire as he thinks now is the right time for her to have pups with a view to keeping the line going.

Hugh related the story about a dog owned by Archie Reed. The dog was called Ben—a big dog that Archie called Bear—perhaps because he was a black beardie. That dog could move anything whether cattle or sheep. Stock only had to see his presence, his bouncy movement; his bark would make the most stubborn cattle or sheep move. That dog had great presence and a lot of admirers.

He related some of his conversations with older shepherds over the years. Often the subject of dog breeding would come up. The older shepherds all said the same thing. To work rough rocky ground, you need a beardie or a beardie cross. They would not keep a dog if it did not have beardie in it. Archie Reed once told Hugh that you need a breeding with beardie in the dog even if it's only the head part. Archie stated that was enough to frighten anyone let alone the stock because of "not knowing what was under all that hair." Hugh hopes that future shepherds realise the worth of the true working beardie, and that they work the hills with a beardie—not a motorbike/quad bike as you see, and hear, more often when on foot.

Hugh hopes the below images reflect some of what he has described.



Isted, Peter

Morland, Ronnie

Muirhead, Tommy

Norman, Jack

Paul and Carol

Pringle, Drew

Pringle, Janet

Reid, Kit


Baxter, John

Condie, Mike




Standing atop a hill, the scenery is spectacular.


The hills often are filled with mist.


The dog has part of its lower body concealed in the brush growth; but the sheep notice his presence.


Seeking out sheep in a wooded area.


Hugh refers to the colour of the coats as "Islay Blue." Unfortunately, it is difficult to see the colour in this photo.


Molly (black bitch that is half Beardie and half Border Collie).


Left to Right: Gail, Jill and Molly working on the mountains.


Glen at age ten. Glen looks like a Border Collie, but is half Border Collie and half Beardie. He retained the Beardie working style. Here he is standing on the highest point in Ayrshire; he is on the top of Black Craig.


Gail working in the snow high up on the hills


Gail perches on a rock.


Gail and Glen have a swim.


Gail has to make time to be a Mom.


The pups grow, and learn, quickly.


A close up view of one of the pups.



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