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Two articles were published
relating to Paul and Carol's Beardies. The first article entitled "All Aboard
for the Hills O'Hoick" appeared in Working Sheepdog News. The
images used are placed in colour below the article.
The second article was written by Paul; he granted permission for it to be reprinted on this
website in its entirety exactly as it was written. The article first appeared in
Smallholder in January 1995. A picture was included, but it is not available for reproduction
The sight of a young beardie as
he completes his outrun and "gathers" his sheep, will give the
onlooker who is used to watching a Border Collie, a certain amount
of trepidation. The cause of this apprehension is the style in
which a beardie works.
Bearded collies do not run to the back of their
sheep and creep up to the sheep as though he is hypnotized. Moving
constantly, is the way of the beardie, always on his feet while he
is working. Once the 'gather' has been completed, the 'drive' will
move in a manner anyone would expect from any working collie.
Physical presence is needed in a dog that is required to move sheep
and the beardie has as much as any dog.
The beardie does not have a total lack of
"eye," as most believe. Whilst in a yard or in close proximity to
sheep, the beardie will use his eye. The only time the beardie works
as a "loose eyed dog" (not using his eye to control the sheep), is
when he gathers his sheep. At this time he will work across the back
of his flock until they are bunched. I have been told by some hill
shepherds that when sending collies with a lot of eye to gather on
the hill, they often have the problem of a dog becoming stationery
as though hypnotised by a small group of sheep that for one reason
or another will not move. Bearded collies do not have this problem.
Their energy and movement will move all the sheep. If an extra push
is needed a beardie should be trained to 'speak' or to give tongue.
Teach Your Dog To Speak
I do not understand why so many sheepdog
handlers do not teach their dogs to speak, as one or two barks from
a dog will nearly always move sheep. A large "mob" being moved by
one dog, will often slow down or worse still come to a halt when
entering yards or a narrow gateway. A dog that barks on command will
be more persuasive than all the shouting and arm waving that a
shepherd can do. The requirement is for a dog that will bark when
ordered to do so but not to bark or yap uncontrollably.
A criticism often levied at the beardie is
that, it is quick to "grip" - too keen to bite or snap at the sheep.
This can be said of all collies if they are allowed to get away with
it. There are occasions when a dog will be asked to give a nip and
this is where training really counts. The grip should be at
command only, no more and no less. To let any dog get away
with more than it should, could lead to the disastrous situation of
the dog actually worrying sheep.
The strength and hardiness of the bearded
collie is legendary and there are many stories of the tough life the
beardie has had to sustain. Working in all weathers, long untidy
coats protect them from the severest elements. After a heavy
snowfall I have often found my beardie sleeping under a layer of
snow, rather than a warm dry kennel. Tales from the time when
drovers took livestock around the country, of beardies giving birth
to pups on a snow covered track, having to leave them to be trampled
by the livestock so that the job can be finished without delay, are
Why the Coat Curls
The heavy weatherproof coat of the beardie can
become a problem. The amount of coat that beardies have varies from
dog to dog, while one will not suffer from a coat weighed down with
mud and any other rubbish that can be picked up during a day's work,
another will. Matt Mundell in his book "Country Diary" published in
1981, tells of a shepherd who "Would clip the hair on his dogs legs
and then rub in oil" to ease the problem of snow clinging to the
legs and feet.
The type of coat is one of the many differences
between the old working type beardie and the glamorous KC exhibition
beardie that parades in the show rings. The long flowing coats of
the show dogs would be totally impractical in a working dog. The
long silky texture of the coat, adds to the fact that the action of
constant grooming, takes away the natural strength of the coat. The
hair is caused to grow from the skin straight to the floor, forming
a parting in the coat along the dogs back, which will let in water.
A dog will soon chill once the rain or sleet has seeped under the
coat. The working type beardie has a much more suitable coat for its
work as a herding dog. The coat has a natural curl that insured the
hair is water resistant and totally protects the dogs body.
With the right approach to training, the beardie
can do all the various tasks required during a days work with a
shepherd. The most likely reason for the decline in the beardie's
popularity is due to a certain amount of concern about maintenance
of their coats during the course of a year. Also, a beardie possibly
does not present the typical appearance of the Border collie
creeping behind his sheep on the trial field.
The gene pool of the working type beardie has
now become so small that there is a possibility that the working
beardie could disappear into the realms of working dog history, like
many other breeds. If bearded collies are allowed to get past their
young and youthful days, to mature into experienced working dogs
they can and will, look as attractive and efficient as any other
breed of sheepdog.