<< Jeanne Joy Hartnagle, in her book "All About Aussies",
states that Iris Combe, historian and author, believed that these Old Welsh
Bob Tails are also descended from the Basque dogs, the Pyrenean Shepherds.
was the Welsh who took these dogs with them to Australia, where they became a
well known working sheepdog. >>
I've seen this, of course, but nonetheless it has not yet led me to believe
the "Old Welsh Bobtail" was differentiated from the general pool of farm
collies in any way or had a link specifically to Basque dogs. Clifford
Hubbard, an authority on Welsh breeds, doesn't list a separate "Old Welsh
Bobtail" breed in his "Working Dogs of the World." No doubt there were blue
merle, natural bobtailed dogs in Wales, as there were all over Britain, and
some people would ascribe "breed" status to them, but as I said, I haven't
seen the evidence beyond this that would lead to an impression of anything
like clear or distinct lines of origin or descent.
<< In a conversation with Aussie Breeder/Judge Ann DeChant,
Iris Combes stated that she felt that the Old Welsh Bob Tail and the German
Coolie were probably one and the same breed. So this is the explanation for
the ties to the Basque's Pyrenean Shepherds. Especially considering the
resemblance between the three breeds. >>
The Koolie breeders Jean Carillo spoke to traced them to Scottish dogs. One
old account does say that another name for them was "Welsh Heeler or merle,"
with no further detail given. The few other sources around give a basic
"British" background to them. No doubt, in many cases, if someone first saw a
blue merle dog brought in from Wales, the "breed" was then associated in their
mind with Wales, if another person first saw a blue merle dog from Scotland,
merles were thus associated with Scotland and "collie." But as was the case
with the English Shepherd, similar dogs could be found all over Britain and
Ireland, and taken to Australia (or the U.S.) they were simply bred together.
In some cases, a color came to be thought of as signifying a "breed" (a common
pattern in breed development), but they were nonetheless essentially the same
dogs with the same ultimate background. One notable characteristic of the Pyr
Shep and other French breeds is the double dew claw, but I am not aware of an
incidence of this in Aussies more so than other "collie" breeds, although it
does occur on occasion in all of them so far as I know.
<< Just as the old farm collie/shepherd types breeds were certainly added into
the genome contributing to the Aussie's heritage, I am sure that various
collie type dogs arriving from the U.K. into Australia also had a role in
shaping those breeds down under.>>
This is indeed the case. I believe, however, that they were the main basis.
<< But I have also read of their immigration to
Australia in the company of sheep. This is another topic being researched
from an Australian perspective... >>
This will be interesting to follow up on.
I have seen accounts of some of the letters and statements. But acquiring a
dog from a Basque in the 1930's (or even a little earlier) still begs the
question of the origin of the dogs. Accounts I have read of the Basques
indicate that it was the common custom for the Basque herdsman to acquire the
dog after his arrival. And the Northwest (as opposed to further south in
California) was notably settled by "Anglos" from the eastern U.S., who brought
their "old sheps" with them. Again, this is not to say that it wasn't
possible that some Basques brought dogs with them (I have seen one or two
specific accounts to this effect), but these dogs would have quickly been
submerged in the general gene pool.
One letter reprinted in an old magazine, from an early breeder in Northwest,
speaks of the family having acquired a blue merle dog from Australia, and
later another, from which they bred many "Aussie" pups -- from Border Collie
bitches. In other words, if it was blue merle, it was an Aussie. I've seen
modern litters of BC X Aussie where the merles are docked and the black-and-
whites left tailed (this is an illustration of how people can take appearance
to mean "breed"). This letter is in an early Animal Research Foundation
magazine. Kris Toft has done quite a bit of research on the early development
of the registered Aussie, so should be able to help.