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A retired shepherd with beardies
by Richard Smith
I was brought up on a hill farm in Wales
and worked on my parents farm before and after school and
all day during school holidays or at busy times during the
farming year. Over time I have worked as a herdsman on a dairy
farm later changing direction slightly looking after sheep and
A traditional style farm building from
a hill farm in North Wales is shown here.
In my thirties, I became a farm bailiff running an 800 acre
hill farm on the Wales/England border. Here I tended 900 Welsh
Ewes and 60 Suckler Cows in one of the last working farms to
still farm in the traditional ways. I also produced fencing
stakes and rails needed on “our” farm and the owner’s lowland
farm from the farms' own forestry.
At this time, I had one working dog of my own and worked two others
that belonged to the farm. The bitch was very heavy
coated and liked to think for herself; looking back I think she
may have been part Beardie. After mating this bitch with my
own working dog, I kept one of her pups and trained it to work.
This bitch puppy turned into one
of the best dogs I have owned. She was easy to train and excellent when
gathering the moors.
Repeating what I wrote
for the Wales page, below is another aerial view of a farm I
worked on in mid-Wales. The area of water was also once a
valley occupied by farming families. In the 1970s the
government decided the best way of getting water to some of the
heavily populated areas of England was to build a dam here and
let the valley flood so forming a reservoir. The Clywedog
dam was the result. Only part of Pen y Banc farm was
flooded (the farm can be made out by following the track up from
the boat club on the lake.)
Years later I moved to
work on an Estate; my assistant worked a Beardie Collie, the
first pure bred Beardie I had ever come across. He was a
good dog and happens to be in the distant pedigree of my bitch
After moving to my present home of nine years, I started to train and sell young
sheepdogs. I saw an advert for a pure Beardie pup when visiting
my local vet's surgery and thought it would be nice to train a
Beardie for a change. When I went to look at the pup, he was
absolutely gorgeous and already showing an interest in the
sheep; needless to say I brought Jimmy home.
Jimmy, (Elan Jim), is
now 4 years old (2005) and fully trained. He has excellent power and
will work any stock. He has a wonderful character and
temperament and just loves to work. Although he has full
command of the stock he is working, and when told, he will move
the stroppiest of rams, yet he will be very gentle with baby
One day I sent him on
his outrun to gather the sheep in the steep meadow, and as usual
he disappeared over the mound. There is a big gully that runs
down the middle of the field, and normally I see Jimmy on his
outrun down by the bottom fence. But this time he didn’t
appear; instead he came back up over the mound from where I had
sent him on his outrun, and he stood there looking at me. I
sent him off again and the same thing happened. I walked to the
top of the mound wondering what was wrong. Jimmy was
standing by a lamb that was lying flat out and I thought it must
be dead. As I got within a couple of feet of it, the lamb
opened its eyes and jumped up and legged it—it
was fast asleep, not dead. Jimmy had come back each time to let
me know something was wrong.
Before my retirement, I used to breed a few pedigree Bluefaced Leicester
rams for sale to local farmers who would use them for crossing
on Welsh or Speckle faced ewes to produce Welsh Mule lambs.
Bluefaced Leicesters can be seen here.
The ram lamb I am holding is six months old, and he is a very fine example of the