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FARMCOLLIE  August 1998

FARMCOLLIE August 1998

Subject:

Re: Breed origins...

From:

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Reply-To:

Farm Collie Breed Conservancy and Restoration <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 25 Aug 1998 01:31:57 EDT

Content-Type:

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Hi,

This is always an interesting subject, fun to speculate about.  No way of
knowing a great deal for certain, though!  (And that comment applies to my own
views and theories, too, of course.)

<< connection between the
 Old Welsh Bob Tail, the German Coolie and the Australian Shepherd.  All three
 have their roots associated with the Basques and their sheep.  All three
share
 similar size and conformational structure.  More than that, all three share
 the original Pyrenean Shepherd's style of herding, not to mention the unique
 combination of merle coloration, blue eyes, and natural bobtails.  >>

I'm aware that one author who has written about breed origins has stated a
connection between the "Old Welsh Bobtail" and Iberia, however, I did not see
particular evidence provided other than the statement in itself.  I have not
heard of a connection between the Koolie and the Basques; all sources
(although there seem to be very few) that I have seen have indicated a
basically British working collie/ shepherd origin for the Koolie, similar to
the other Australian breeds; in the case of the Koolie I think it possible
that some German dogs may have contributed, without providing the major source
however.

Bobtails and blue merles appear to have existed throughout Europe; I have seen
no special association with Iberia.  Blue merles were common among the old
German herding dogs, but were considered "ugly" by the founder of the modern
breed so were not perpetuated in the registered GSD, although they continue on
today in the working dogs called "Old German Shepherds."  The winner of the
first Belgian herding trial in the late 19th century was a blue merle, and
many bobtails were listed at the trial (whether natural or docked it would be
hard to say, but there is no reason to suppose there weren't natural bobs
among them, considering how widespread this characteristic appears to have
been).   Also, this style of herding is simply the style common to most loose-
eyed, upright, close-run dogs.  The Welsh Dogs in Tom's videos work very
similarly to my Shelties (and many other loose-eyed dogs I've worked with and
seen, including Aussies of course).

Blue eyes go along with merling in any merle breed -- e.g. "glass eyes" in
Catahoulas, and my own blue-eyed Shelties.  Natural bobs also occur in a very
wide variety of breeds.  Although it has seemed to me, however, that most
Aussies are docked (as are most Pyr Sheps, most Corgis, etc.), so I do not
know that Aussies are particularly more "bobtailed" than was the original old
farm collie -- bobtails occurred in the original show Collies, too, but were
selected against; I have heard of natural bob Belgian Sheepdogs, Old German
Shepherds, even Scandinavian herding Spitz.  Bobtailed strains of working
collies/shepherds still occur in Britain, and these dogs are described as
being loose-eyed, pushy workers.  They aren't particular "breeds", but simply
variants of the old working collie landrace, which in its original form has
almost been pushed from public knowledge by the trials-bred strong-eyed dogs.
Natural bobs of course continue to occur in the English Shepherd.  Breeds are
much more restricted in color and form than they formerly were.

The old Welsh Sheepdogs do not appear to have been notably bobtailed from what
I've seen to date.  Accounts I've read of the original Welsh herding dogs have
described the Black-and-Tan, said to be a leggy, lurcher-like dog, and the
Hillman, similar in build, but more commonly blue merle or sable (I've seen a
photo of one of the last of these), and then there was the shaggy-faced,
Beardie-like Old Welsh Grey (as well as the shorter-legged Corgi types).  No
doubt there were many other physical types as well, but accounts I have read
indicate that the more "Aussie"-like Welsh Sheepdog was developed more in the
early 19th century when Scottish and Northern English "collie" type dogs began
to be brought into Wales in greater numbers.  These Scottish and Northern
English dogs were not strong-eyed, trials-type Border Collies, but the loose-
eyed, pushy dogs (of the type seen in Tom's video).  This type of "Welsh
Sheepdog" appears to have became predominant during the 19th century, and came
to be considered the Welsh Sheepdog.  It in turn was largely replaced in the
early 20th century by the modern trials-bred Border Collie (to the extent that
one sometimes sees Border Collies also referred to as "Welsh Sheepdogs" --
which they are in the sense that they are sheepdogs and they are in Wales).

<< And all three seem to share very similar temperament characteristics.  Add
to that the experiences of those Australians who own German Coolies and then
visit the US and see a modern day Aussie for the first time and then swear,
"no, that's a
 coolie!". >>

Aussies and German Koolies are indeed very similar, basically, however, I
believe, because they share a background largely in the old farm collie, with
perhaps some respective Basque and German influences (in the Western U.S. and
in Australia respectively), but any Basque and/or German dogs would have very
shortly been well-blended into the very numerous and very similar dogs of
British old working collie origin.

 <<  I know that the
 British Isles were a popular landing place for many Basque priests. >>

But Britain was settled by waves of settlers who brought dogs and farm
livestock, therefore it does seem to me unlikely that Basque priests were a
primary source of sheep and sheepdogs, although they could have contributed
some.

<< I know that the Basques travelled with their sheep to Australia accompanied
by their Pyrenean Shepherds.  >>

I have seen no evidence of this as of yet; rather, it is stated in the major
book on Basque immigration that the Basques went to Australia primarily as
sugar cane cutters and -- surprisingly to Americans in view of the association
the Basques came to have with sheep in the Western U.S. -- had little to do
with the Australian sheep industry.

Interestingly, according to a couple of books I've read on sheepherding in the
old West, there were significant periods of time and locales when use of
shepherds dogs was *not* common, many sheepowners considering that their hired
herdsmen "overdogged" the dogs or used dogs improperly.  There was also a
transition between the Spanish type of guardian dog and the more active
herding dog, and the more active herding dog brought in appears to have been
primarily a collie type -- not to say that every last one was a collie, of
course.  But basically, I haven't seen anything in the Aussie that wasn't
present in abundance in the old British working collies/farm shepherds, and
while some of these characteristics are broad enough to be found in a number
of breeds, the historical sources that I have seen to date continue to
indicate a primarily "farm collie" origin for the Aussie.  Note I say
primarily, not exclusively, however.  I do think it's very possible that some
Basque dogs contributed to the Aussie, but again, I haven't yet seen evidence
that they were a primary source, and any such dogs would have been soon
blended with the British collies types -- none of which were modern, strictly-
bred breeds as we think of breeds today, anyway.

Some interesting research on the German herding dogs has been done by the
author of a book on Border Collies, which may be available soon -- she showed
me a draft of a chapter being prepared for the revised edition of her book,
and I think this will fuel  much interesting debate when the book comes out.
She indicated that the "Koolie" term for sheepdog is of long use in Germany,
and proposes that dogs of German origin contributed to the British collies
more than is realized (logical enough considering the extent of settlement in
Northern England and Southern Scotland by the Angles in the long-ago days).  I
didn't have time to read the material in detail, so am looking forward to
seeing it when it comes out.

Linda R.
Pacifica, CA

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