A Snippet of Bearded Collie History

The modern Bearded Collie was introduced to the public in the 1940s by G. Olive Willison who, through an ultimately happy detour, acquired a Bearded Collie puppy instead of a Shetland Sheepdog. Enchanted by the puppy’s temperament, working instinct and native intelligence, Willison was just the person to take on a revival of the breed. But what came before?

Sources vary about the true origins of the breed, but is is widely agreed upon that the Bearded Collie is an ancient breed with precious little recorded on paper. Some believe that Beardies evolved from Polski Owczarek Nizinnys (or Polish Lowland Sheepdogs) that had been traded for sheep and then bred to native herding dogs in the 16th century. Others support the theory that the breed descended from Komondorok, while others believe that long coated sheep dogs known as “hill dogs” had been in the north of Britain all along, and possibly as early as the Roman occupation when Romans, known to have imported sheep into Britain, also imported the shepherds and their dogs.

The earliest visual portrayals of Bearded Collie-type dogs are in a portrait painted by Gainsborough in 1771, and in a Reynolds portrait from 1772 when the dogs were called “Scotch Sheepdogs”, “Mountain Collies,” “Loch Collies,” “Highland Collies”, or “Hairy Mou’ed Collies.” A description of the breed was published in 1818 in an edition of Live Stock Journal, but the first show at which the breed was actually classified is thought to be the 1897 Edinburgh Show of the Scottish Kennel Club. All that said, it’s a bit shocking that it wasn’t until 1959 that a Bearded Collie earned a championship in Britain.

“Joyful! Joyful!” by Rosalind Trigg

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