The history of the collie

England, Scotland – the home-country, the mecca
of our short- and longhaired collies

Our collies originally come from Scotland, from a hilly, partly mountainous landscape with many moors, from a region with a rather humid, cool and often very rough climate with an average day temperatures of 5 centigrade. The collie is a product of these surroundings and the demands made on the dog. Not its appearance was decisive, but rather what it could be used for. There were the leader of the pack, the herding dog, the tracker dog, the greyhound and the sheepdog. The collie had to guard the sheep without a brake, day and night, and in any whether and in all seasons. It was once an indispensable workmate to the shepherds. And therefore the collie is a dog with a lot of energy, a high intelligence, much stamina, it loves walking and has a good dose of distrust but shows no aggression. Not a guard dog or watchdog but a working dog, its appearance did not matter that much. It was a reliable, constant and loyal companion to the herd, and to those he follows it will still stand by unswervingly. It is not a unquestioning servant, it loves its family, yet does not loose its own personality.

The collie probably is one of the oldest breeds and can be traced back down to the 16th century. The origin of the collie breed has been subject to much research and speculation. Until today the question has remained unsolved whether it was the interbreeding with greyhounds, borzoi, Gorden- and Irish-setters before the year 1800 which led to the typical watchdog. Neither can the name “collie” be derived with certainty. The Anglo-Saxon meaning of the word ‚cal’ is ‘black’. It could be that “Collie” was a name referring to its black coat, maybe the original colour of the breed, and later served as a basis for the breed name “Colley” or Collie. Another version says that the name refers to black-headed sheep it had to guard. We can find both spellings in books, “Colley” as well as “Collie”, already in the year 1808. In 1859 the first dog show took place in England. In 1861 a Mr. Siviter showed a collie by the name of “Jeho”. In 1871 ”Old Mec”, a black-brown male, and “Old Cockie”, a yellow-white male, were shown. Old Cocky is looked upon as the forefather of all collies. Together with Champion Christopher, Old Cockie exerted the main influence on the Collie breeding in England in those days.

In 1873 the Kennel-Club was founded in Britain by the prince of Wales. On June 24th, 1881, the Kennel Club put up the first standard for the pedigree longhaired Collie. Around the turn of the century the collie was more and more bred as a working and a show-dog. As a result, even on the big shows collies turned up varying in their colour from sable, blue-merle, and even tri-coloured. Queen Victoria, too, was impressed by the efficiency, the abilities and the appearance of the collie and from then on herself kept collies at the royal court. The breed flourished and the dog underwent a sudden boom. The breeders started to further develop the collies, the beautiful dog was exported to oversee countries, it started on its triumphant procession across the world. During the first world war our Scottish shepherd dog was made use of in the medical corps and as a messenger and rescue dog with great success and enjoyed a marvellous reputation. This, however, also led to fierce competition with the German shepherd dog, which was more and more brought into action in the theatre of war and accordingly trained, and it gradually ousted the collie as a working dog. The breeders from now on mainly concentrated on the appearance of the collie, especially in view of the exhibitions taking place increasingly often. The collie became one of the most favoured dogs. It is a dog of great beauty, a proud dog, not one detail is out of proportion in relation to its appearance as a whole. Strength, activity and elegance are smoothly combined, it shows no clumsiness or aggressiveness, but knows how to assert itself well and is considerably conscientious. During the past years its appearance has changed in many ways, and it is hard to imagine that today’s collie with its abundant coat would still be herding in the Scottish highlands. Its former efficiency and strength of nerves have undoubtedly been pushed into the background since the beginning of the Lassie-boom and had to a certain degree to give way to the dog’s beauty and quality.

Already as far back as 1874 and 1877 the shorthaired collie was listed in the “Smooth-Collie-class”. The female “Sharp” was a constant companion to Queen Victoria. Right away it is obvious how the collie is buildt, its stature, in other words, the real collie. Those were shorthaired dogs with a thin skin and were used and bred as herding, working and guardian dogs with good scenting abilities. The shorthaired collie was given its first breeding standard in 1881. Usually, today these collies are very self-confident and have excellent nerves. Thanks to its superb qualities, which hardly any of these dogs have lost, shorthaired collies nowadays make marvellous family dogs.

Bibliography: Jubiläums-Festschrift 100 Jahre SCC

Updated Donnerstag, 5. August 2004