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Bearded Collies As Show Dogs, Herders and Pets! Will This Be the Breed of Your Top Dog?
Bearded Collies they are better known as Beardies and are the adorable dogs featured in movies, TV shows and commercials because they are beautiful, agile, smart and fiery. For the beginner starting a search for their perfect companion or family dog, let me introduce you to this trainable breed. These dogs make great pets and friends as well as show dogs.
My sister has bred these dogs for decades and the winning dogs are well known in the Beardie community. There are few among them who do not know the beautiful Carol Scott Wathen Topper, her current winner, professionally known as Ch. Brigadoon Showstopper in Scott, since his photos have graced the websites and newsletters of many Beardie organizations. Topper is just one of Carol’s constantly waxing and waning numbers as litters come and go and dogs will go out for training, handling and shows. As is cliché, I always refer to the usual number of six to eight Beardies as a “pack” as they are herding dogs and always seem to have many more dogs in my perception than there actually are.
When I get to my sister’s house, the dogs come rushing up the driveway, barking and trying to jump the fence to see who’s arrived. On their two hind legs, bouncing in a line along the fence, the dogs look like a Chewbacca chorus. If you’re not familiar with this breed, this StarWars reference will give you an idea of what Beardies look like, at least with their front hair pulled back like Chewbacca’s. Usually you can barely see a Beardie’s eyes.
The Shaggy Dog, a 2006 film, starring a Bearded Collie and the title is an apt description of this adorable shaggy, long-haired breed. And in 2009, someone played a prominent role Hotel for dogs. The beard looks like the Dennis the Menace dog from cartoon print. However, in the TV movie version, a Briard (French Sheep Dog) was chosen for its similar appearance, but with more oddly cropped ears.
Beardie looks like it’s all coat. Its long coat makes the dog appear larger and heavier than it is. Therefore, it is surprising that cultivated Beardies only weigh an average of 40 to 60 kg. Males average about 21-22 inches tall and females average just under an inch. A Beardie’s coat enhances the shape of the dog, following the natural lines of the body. From the cheeks, lower lips and under the chin, the hair grows in length towards the chest, forming the “beard”. Voila! this is one bearded collie, as defined by the American Kennel Club (AKC) guidelines.
All Beardies are born either black, brown or fawn, with or without white markings. As they ripen, their color usually lightens. A baby born black can become a shade of gray, with a coat ranging from black to slate to silver. A baby born brown can turn chocolate to sandy. White appears on the forehead as a flame, as well as on the skull, chest and around the neck, on the legs and feet and on the tip of the tail.
The history of the Bearded Collie is centuries old, or at least by one account. In this 500-year-old version, a Polish merchant, Kazimierz Grabski, traded a cargo of grain for sheep in Scotland in 1514. He brought six Polish Lowland Sheepdogs to move the sheep. A Scottish shepherd was impressed with the herding ability of Polish dogs and traded many sheep for many dogs. It is assumed that Polish sheepdogs were bred with local Scottish dogs, which produced the Bearded Collie.
Recent history traces the breed back to 1944, when Olive Willison of Bothkennar, Scotland, bred her brown dog, Jeannie of Bothkennar. Jeannie was thought to be a Shetland Sheepdog, but was actually a Bearded Collie of Polish-Scottish descent in 1514. Olive bred Jeannie to a male gray dog, registered as the Bailie of Bothkennar. Bailie and Jeannie of Bothkennar thus became the documented founders of the modern breed in Scotland, where there are a few other registered bloodlines.
The breed became popular during the latter half of the 20th century, highlighted when a Bearded Collie won Best in Show at the prestigious British Crufts Dog Show in 1989. The breed is also a regular winner at the major American Dog Show, Westminster, held in New York .
The Bearded Collie is essentially a shepherd, bred to take on the toughest sheep or cow. Far from the groomed family dog pictured The Shaggy Dog, the Bearded Collie is a hardy and reliable working dog. The breed earned the nickname “bouncing Beardie” because these dogs work in thick brush on hillsides and bounce to see the sheep. Beardies also have a distinctive way of dealing with a stubborn ewe by barking and bouncing on their front legs.
For a time, the KC-registered Bearded Collie fell out of favor with shepherds in Wales, Scotland and elsewhere as they criticized the show breeding community for failing to produce truly “hardy and reliable” Bearded Collies and that show dogs tended to overdevelop coats. Thanks to their efforts, the “working Beardie” has survived and is becoming more and more popular. In some countries, especially Sweden and the United States, livestock programs have been developed. Bearded Collie organizations are now encouraging breeders to emphasize herding qualities in addition to appearance. These favor training for an independent and intelligent sheepdog. Beardies’ herding instincts and draft ability can be evaluated in non-competitive herding trials, and young Beardies who exhibit basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.
Of the many Bearded Collie organizations, the mission of the Working Bearded Collie Society is to preserve the working abilities of unregistered working dogs of “bearded” ancestry. Although not exclusively focused on the registered Bearded Collie, this organization does inform all about the small population of working Beardies. It’s worth visiting their website to understand the Beardie’s instincts. Also visit the Bearded Collie Club of America website. His mission is to reproduce specific health issues and the rescue of the Beardie. It provides a variety of opportunities for Beardie owners, breeders and anyone in the public to learn, connect and compete in the Beardie breeding and ownership process. This is a great place to start your search for a breeder and a puppy of your own.
As a pet, the Bearded Collie needs some grooming and some time to keep this enthusiastic dog well trained, but it is a loyal companion and a wonderful dog. Whether you want a trainable show dog, herding dog or not, the Beardie is a dog you can enjoy on a farm or ranch where he can exercise those natural skills. Or you can keep that dog in the city where you can find plenty of dog parks, herding training and more. Additionally, this breed can also handle agility training and do some amazing gymnastic tricks. So here’s how you can make a Bearded Collie your top dog and a member of your family.
(c) 2012 Elizabeth McMillian
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