The Bearded Collie or beardie is the traditional dog of the Scottish shepherd.
(Alternative names: Highland Collie, Mountain Collie, Hairy Mouthed Collie)
Bearded Collie History
It is difficult to distinguish between fact and legend in looking at the history of a breed, but it is believed that in the 17th Century the Polish Lowland Sheepdog was bred into the local Scottish dogs, to give the typical appearance of the working strain of beardie, and that in the 20th Century Old English Sheepdog may have been bred in to produce the longer coat of the typical show beardie.
The Beardie nearly became extinct; the modern Beardies all originate from the Bothkennar kennel owned by Mrs Wilison, who began breeding from a small number of remaining working-type Beardies.
The breed became more and more popular over the last half of the 20th century, in part propelled by a Bearded Collie, “Potterdale Classic at Moonhill”, winning Best in Show at Crufts in 1989. The Bearded Collie Club celebrated its Golden Jubilee year in 2005; where “Bumbleridge Original Oka” (Bred by Sue Nichols-Ward, Owned by Sue Unsworth & Andy Miller)won the “Most Handsome Bearded Collie” event.
Bearded Collie Working Life
The Bearded Collie was used to herd both sheep and cattle. As such it is essentially a working dog, bred to be hardy and reliable, able to stand up to the harshest conditions, and the toughest sheep. The working bearded collie became less common in the last few decades and might have died out, but thanks to the efforts of a relatively few shepherds such as Tom Muirhead and breeders like Brian Plummer the breed has survived and is becoming more popular. It has been exported to Australia and the United States, and finds favour among those looking for an independent and intelligent sheep dog. The beardie gained its epithet of the ‘bouncing beardie’ because dogs would work in thick undergrowth on the hill, and would bounce to catch sight of the sheep.
Kazimierz Grabski, a Polish merchant, traded a shipment of grain for sheep in Scotland in 1514, and brought six Polish Lowland Sheepdogs to move the sheep. A Scottish shepherd was so impressed with the herding ability of the dogs that he traded a ram and two ewes for a dog and two bitches. These dogs were bred with the local Scottish dogs to produce the Scottish herding dogs, most obviously the Bearded Collie. Others believe that the sheep- and guarddog Komondor also was involved in the breed of the dogs as they appeared when they arrived in Scotland first time.
What everybody seems to agree upon, is that Mrs. Willison founded today’s breed with the brown bitch Jeannie of Bothkennar. Jeannie should have been an Old English Sheepdog, but by mistake Mrs Willison received a Bearded Collie instead. She got so fascinated by the dog, that she wanted to start breeding. The story goes that she was looking for a mate for her Jeannie, and found him one day while she was walking along the beach! A man was on the edge of emigrating from Scotland, so Mrs Willison became the owner of the grey Bailie of Bothkennar, as the story goes. These two dogs are what we today refer to as the founders of the modern breed.