Bearded collies they are best known as Beardies and they are adorable dogs that appear in movies, television shows and commercials because they are beautiful, agile, smart and spunky. For those newbies starting their search for the perfect companion or family dog, let me introduce you to this trainable breed. These dogs make great pets and companions, as well as show dogs.
My brother has been raising these dogs for decades and his winning show dogs are well known in the Beardie community. There are few people who do not know the beautiful Carol Scott Wathen Topper, her current champion, professionally known as Ch. Brigadoon Showstopper in Scott, as his photos have graced the websites and newsletters of many Beardie organizations. Topper is just one of Carol’s ever-expanding-and-reducing numbers, since litters come and go, and dogs will go out for training, handling and to show. Cliched as it is, I always refer to the usual number of six to eight Beardies as a “plot,” since they are herding dogs and it always seems that he has many more dogs in his perception than he has in reality.
When I arrived at my sister’s house, the dogs came rushing into the car park, barking and trying to jump the fence to see who had arrived. On the back of two legs, bouncing in a row along the fence, the dogs looked like a chorus of Chewbacca. If you’re not familiar with the breed, this StarWars reference should give you an idea of what Beardies look like, at least with the front hair pulled back like Chewbacca. Usually you can barely see Beardie’s eyes.
The Shaggy Dog, a 2006 film, stars the Bearded Collie and the title is an apt description of this fascinating long-haired breed. And in 2009, one played an important role in Hotel for dogs. Beardies look like Dennis the Menace dog from cartoon print. However, in the television movie version, the Briard (French Sheepdog) was chosen with the same appearance, but with better ears.
The Beardie looks like all suits. The long coat makes the dog look bigger and heavier than it is. It is surprising, therefore, that grown Beardies only weigh an average of 40 to 60 kilograms. The average height of the male is 21-22 inches and the average of the female is less than an inch. The Beardie coat enhances the shape of the dog, following the natural lines of the body. From the cheeks, lower lip and under the chin, the coat rises to the chest, forming a “beard”. Voila! This is a beard collie, as defined by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
All Beardies are born either black, brown or fawn, with or without white markings. When mature, the color is usually bright. Babies born black can be gray in color, with coats ranging from black to slate to silver. Babies born brown can be brown to sandy. White appears on the front as fire, also on the skull, on the chest and on the neck, on the legs and feet, and on the tip of the tail.
The history of the Bearded Collie goes back centuries, or at least by one account. In this 500 year version, a Polish merchant, Kazimierz Grabski, traded a shipment of grain for sheep in Scotland in 1514. He brought six Polish Shepherd Dogs to move the sheep. A Scottish shepherd was impressed by the Polish dog herding ability and traded some sheep for some dogs. Of course, 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 is thought to be a Shetland Sheepdog but is actually a Bearded Collie of Polish-Scottish lineage in 1514. Olive was bred by Jeannie with a male gray dog, registered as Bailie of Bothkennar. thus, Bailie and Jeannie from Bothkennar became the founders of the modern breed in Scotland, where there are several other registrable bloodlines, as well.
The breed became popular in the latter half of the 20th century, highlighted when the Bearded Collie won Best in Show at the famous English Crufts Dog Show in 1989. The breed is also a regular winner at the American Dog Show, Westminster, held in New York City.
The Bearded Collie is essentially a herding dog, bred to stand up to the toughest sheep or cattle. Far from the pampered family dog depicted in it Shaggy Dog, The Bearded Collie is a strong and reliable working dog. This breed got the nickname “bouncing Beardie” because these dogs work in the bushes on the hillsides and they bounce to see the sheep. Beardies also have a distinctive way of dealing with stubborn sheep by barking and bouncing on their front legs.
For some time, the KC-registered Bearded Collie was not liked by shepherds in Wales, Scotland and elsewhere because they criticized the breeding community for failing to produce truly “hardy and reliable” Bearded Collies and that the dogs tended to develop coats which is excessive. Because of his efforts, the “working Beardie” has survived and become popular. In some countries, especially Sweden and the United States, herding programs have been developed. The Bearded Collie Organization now encourages breeders to emphasize herding qualities in addition to appearance. This is preferred training for independent and intelligent sheepdogs. Beardies’ instincts and attractiveness can be assessed in noncompetitive herding tests, and young Beardies who show 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 from their “bearded” ancestors. While not solely focused on registered Bearded Collies, this organization tells all about the small population of working Beardies. It is also worth visiting the site to understand the instincts of the Beardie. Also visit the Bearded Collie Club of America website. The mission is to solve special health problems and rescue Beardie. It provides a variety of opportunities for Beardie owners, breeders and anyone in the community to learn, connect, and compete in the Beardie breeding and ownership process. This is a great place to start looking for a breeder and your own puppy.
As a pet, the Bearded Collie requires some care of the coat and some time to keep this enthusiastic dog as well as exercise, but it is a loyal friend and a very good looking dog. Whether you want a trainable show dog, or whether you want a herding dog or not, Beardie is a dog that can be enjoyed on a farm or ranch, where you can exercise these natural skills. Or you can keep this dog in the city where you can find many dog parks, herding training and more. In addition, this breed can also handle agility training and perform some amazing gymnastic tricks. So check out how you can make your Bearded Collie the best dog and a member of your family.
(c) 2012 Elizabeth McMillian