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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 that appear in movies, TV shows and commercials because they are beautiful, agile, smart and brave. For newbies just starting to look 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 her winning show dogs are well known in the Beardie community. There are few among them who do not know the handsome Carol Scott Wathen topper, its current winner, known professionally as Ch. Brigadoon Showstopper to Scott as his photos have appeared on the websites and newsletters of numerous Beardie organizations. Topper is just one of Carol’s ever waxing and waning figures as legs come and go, and the dogs will be out for training, handling and shows. As is the cliché, I always refer to his usual number of six to eight Beardies as a “pack” since they are herding dogs and he always seems to have many more dogs in my perception than he actually has.
When I get to my sister’s house, the dogs come running into the driveway, barking and trying to jump the fence to see who’s arrived. On their two hind legs, bouncing in alignment along the fence, the dogs look like a Chewbacca heart. If you’re not familiar with this breed, this StarWars reference should give you an idea of what Beardies look like, at least with their front hair pulled back like Chewbacca’s. A Beardie’s eyes are usually barely visible.
The shaggy dog, a 2006 film, starred a Bearded Collie and the title is an apt description of this lovable, furry, long-haired breed. And in 2009, one played a prominent role Hotel for dogs. Beards look Dennis threatens him printed cartoon dog. However, in the TV movie version, a Briard (French shepherd dog) was chosen for its similar appearance, but with more perky cropped ears.
The Beardie looks like a whole coat. Its long coat makes the dog appear larger and heavier than it is. It is surprising, therefore, that grown Beardies only weigh an average of 40 to 60 pounds. Males average about 21-22 inches tall and females only an inch less. A Beardie’s coat enhances the dog’s shape, following the natural lines of the body. From the cheeks, lower lips and under the chin, the fur increases 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 mature, their color only lightens. A baby that is born black can become a shade of gray, with a coat that ranges from black to slate to silver. A baby born brown can turn from chocolate to sand. White appears on the front face like 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 according to one account. In this 500-year-old version, a Polish merchant, Kazimierz Grabski, traded a shipment 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 several sheep for several dogs. Polish sheepdogs were supposedly bred with local Scottish dogs, which produced the Bearded Collie.
The breed’s recent history dates back to 1944, when Olive Willison of Bothkennar, Scotland, bred her brown dog, Jeannie de Bothkennar. Jeannie was considered a Shetland Sheepdog, but was actually a Bearded Collie of Polish-Scottish lineage from 1514. Jeannie bred Olive with a male greyhound, registered as Bailie of Bothkennar. thus Bailie and Jeannie of Bothkennar became the documented founders of the modern breed in Scotland, where there are also a few other recordable bloodlines.
The breed became popular in the latter half of the 20th century, highlighted when a Bearded Collie won Best in Show at the famous British Crufts Dog Show in 1989. The breed is also a regular winner at the major American dog shows , Westminster, held in New York.
The Bearded Collie is essentially a herding dog, bred to deal with the tougher sheep or cows. Far from the pampered family dog depicted in 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 scrub on the hillsides and bounce to see the sheep. Beardies also have a characteristic way of dealing with a stubborn sheep 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 not producing truly “hardy and reliable” Bearded Collies and that dogs bred for exhibition tend to develop excessive coats. Because of his efforts, the “Working Beardie” has survived and is becoming more popular. In some countries, especially Sweden and the United States, grazing programs have been developed. Bearded Collie organizations now encourage breeders to emphasize herding qualities in addition to appearance. These encourage the training of an independent and intelligent herding dog. The herding instincts and driveability of Beardies can be evaluated in non-competitive herding trials, and young Beardies that 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 skills of unregistered working dogs of “bearded” ancestry. While not solely focused on the registered Bearded Collie, this organization reports all about the small population of working Beardies. It’s worth visiting their site to understand the Beardie’s instincts. Also visit the Bearded Collie Club of America website. Their mission is to solve breed-specific health problems and rescue Beardie. It offers a variety of opportunities for Beardie owners, their breeders and anyone in the public to learn, network 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 requires some grooming and some time to keep this enthusiastic dog well exercised, but it is a loyal companion and a great looking dog. Whether you want a trainable show dog or a herding dog or not, the Beardie is a dog that can be enjoyed on a farm or ranch, where it can exercise these natural abilities. Or you can keep that dog in the city where you can find ample dog parks, shepherd training and more. Additionally, this breed can also handle agility training and do some amazing gymnastic tricks. So see how you can make a Bearded Collie your best dog and a member of your family.
(c) 2012 Elizabeth McMillian
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