Bearded Collie

 

Bearded Collies are known for their beautiful long coats and their affectionate and energetic personalities.  Bred to herd sheep in the highlands of Scotland, these dogs have a reputation for being fun-loving and compassionate companion animals.  This is an intelligent and playful breed, which is normally up for any stimulating activity with its family.  The Bearded Collie is affectionately referred to as the Beardie by its fanciers, and has also been known as the Highland Collie, Highland Sheepdog, Mountain Scotch Collie, Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog, Loch Collie, and Hairy Moved Collie.

 

Breed Information

Breed Basics

Country of Origin: 
Size: 
Large 35-55 lb
X-Large 55-90 lb
LifeSpan: 
10 to 12 Years
Trainability: 
Very Easy To Train
Energy Level: 
High Energy
Grooming: 
A Couple Times a Week
Protective Ability: 
Fairly Laid Back
Hypoallergenic Breed: 
No
Space Requirements: 
House with Yard
Compatibility With Other Pets: 
Generally Good With Other Dogs
Generally Good With Other Pets
Litter Size: 
4-8 puppies
Names: 
Highland Collie, Mountain Collie, Hairy Mou'ed Collie, Argle Bargle, Beardie, Highland Sheepdog, Mountain Scotch Collie, Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog, Loch Collie, Hairy Moved Collie

Height/Weight

Males: 
40-60 lbs, 21-22 inches
Females: 
40-60 lbs, 20-21 inches

Kennel Clubs and Recognition

American Kennel Club: 
ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council): 
CKC(Canadian Kennel Club): 
FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale): 
KC (The Kennel Club): 
NZKC (New Zealand Kennel Club): 
UKC (United Kennel Club): 
History: 

 

A native of Scotland, the Bearded Collie is considered to be one of the oldest of Scottish breeds, dating back to at least the 1600’s.  Collie is the Scottish word for sheepdog, and there are several other breeds known as Collies, most famously the Border Collie, the Smooth Collie, and the Rough Collie (the breed made famous by Lassie).  The origin of the word Collie is thought to be from the word Coaley, a Scottish word for the distinctive black sheep of Scotland.  The dogs that worked these sheep were Coaley-dogs, and then Collie Dogs, and then simply Collies.

 

There is much legend surrounding the origin of the Bearded Collie, but little of it can be substantiated.  The most common has their ancestors arriving via the ocean.  It is said that in the year 1514, a Polish sea captain named Kasimierz Grabski arrived in Scotland to trade grain.  In his possession were either three or six sheepherding dogs which he supposedly traded for a ram and a ewe.  These dogs are believed to have been Polish Lowland Sheepdogs.  The farmer then bred these Polish sheepdogs with local Scottish Collies to create the Bearded Collie.  According to this story, the farmer may have used other foreign breeds to improve his dogs, including the Hungarian Komondor.  Unfortunately, there seems to be no evidence to back up this theory.  It is true that the Bearded Collie resembles the Polish Lowland Sheepdog, but no more so than any number of other herding breeds.  The specificity and the ubiquity of this story would seem to make it more plausible, but it is impossible to know for sure.  However, it seems extremely unlikely that a remote Scottish farmer in the 1500’s would have had access to the Hungarian Komondor, a breed which is not known to have left its native land until the 1900’s.

 

Another theory regarding the ancestry of the Bearded Collie is that it is the descendant of long-haired sheep dogs brought to Britain by Roman settlers.  According to this theory, after the conquest of England and Wales in the 1st Century, citizens from across the Roman Empire moved into British Isles bringing both their sheep and their sheepdogs with them.  The dogs later spread north to Scotland where they developed into the Bearded Collie.  Proponents of this theory comment on the similarity of the Bearded Collie to breeds such as the Bergamasco of Italy and especially the Armant of Egypt.  However, there is little evidence to support this claim.  It is made more unlikely by the fact that the Romans seem to have been much more impressed with the dogs of the Britons than vice versa.  One of the major exports of Britain throughout Roman occupation was dogs.  It is unknown what breeds they were, and many have been suggested, including the Mastiff, the Irish Wolfhound, Foxhound-like dogs, Beagles, Harriers, terriers, and even sheepdogs.

 

The final commonly held theory, and perhaps the most likely, has the Bearded Collie being a native of the Scottish Highlands, where the breed was developed almost exclusively from local sheep herding dogs.  It is known that the ancient Picts and Celts were shepherds long before the arrival of Romans, and archaeological finds indicate that sheep have been present in the British Isles for between 5,000 and 7,000 years.  It is virtually impossible to herd sheep without the aid of dogs, particularly in the hilly terrain of Scotland.  As even the earliest Middle Eastern shepherds possessed sheep dogs, it is extremely likely that the pre-Roman Britons did as well.  It is also very likely that these dogs possessed long hair to protect them from the unforgiving elements of the Scottish Highlands.  These local dogs would very likely have been crossed with dogs brought by the many armies which invaded Great Britain throughout the centuries, including the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, and French.

 

However it is that the ancestors of the Bearded Collie first arrived in the Scottish Highlands, the breed became superbly adapted to the harsh climate and very skilled at its job of herding sheep.  Bearded Collies were primarily used for herding and collecting sheep among the hills and cliffs, and are capable of selecting an individual sheep and separating it from the herd.  This breed barks regularly when working with sheep, typically refraining from nipping and biting.  Unlike some sheepdogs, the Bearded Collie is also an effective drover, a dog which drives large herds of sheep, cattle, and other livestock to market.

 

At one point there may have been at least three varieties of Bearded Collie.  The smallest variety possessed a shorter, wavy coat, was typically brown or tan with white markings, and was native to the Highlands.  The largest variety had coarser coats, was black or grey with white markings, and was native to the Borderlands.  The third variety was said to be intermediate between the two.  The Highland dogs may have been primarily herders and the Borderland dogs may have been primarily drovers.  It is possible that all three varieties became lumped together in the modern breed.  It is also possible that the lowland dogs were not a unique variety, but rather a cross between the Bearded Collie and the Border Collie.

 

There is a substantial debate about the relationship to the Bearded Collie and other British Sheep Herding breeds.  It is commonly believed that the Bearded Collie and the Old English Sheepdog share a common ancestry.  Some have gone so far as to say that the two were at one point one breed whose bloodlines were divided by the Anglo-Scottish border.  However, there is little evidence to back this up.  Almost all experts agree that the Bearded Collie is the older of the two breeds.  It has been suggested that the Bearded Collie may have heavily influenced the development of the Old English Sheepdog.  It was a common practice in Scotland to frequently cross all sheepdogs with each other.  It is therefore likely that a very close relationships exist between the Bearded Collie and all other Scottish herding dogs, particularly the Border Collie.

 

Very little was written about dogs in Northern Scotland until the 1800’s.  In fact, there was almost no written record of anything in Northern Scotland until that time.  It is therefore unsurprising that most evidence of the Bearded Collie before 1800 is anecdotal.  However, the breed is well-documented throughout the 19th Century.  An 1803 painting by P. Reinagle may depict the Highland variety of the Bearded Collie, and an etching by P.W. Smith almost certainly does, although neither work uses the name Bearded Collie.

 

In 1867, John Henry Walsh, better known as Stonehenge, described a number of Scottish herding breeds possibly including the Bearded Collie in his work "Dogs of the British Isles".  In the 1880’s, the first uses of the name Bearded Collie appear in magazines, and in 1891 D.J. Thompson Gray described the breed in detail for the first time in his work "Dogs of Scotland".  The Scottish Kennel Club first requested that the Bearded Collie be exhibited in 1897, but the breed was not shown until several years later as most fanciers only cared about their dogs’ working and herding ability.  Up until this point, most Bearded Collies had significantly shorter coats than are found in modern animals.

 

The Bearded Collie remained primarily a working dog, although it began to decrease in numbers as Scotland changed from an agricultural economy to an industrialized one.  Photographs of Bearded Collies from the 1920’s and 1930’s clearly show the long-haired breed of today, although most mentions of the breed from this time describe its declining numbers and relative rarity.  World War II nearly brought about the extinction of these dogs as food rationing, the large number of shepherds serving in the war, general poverty, and other hardships took their toll.  Luckily, a few working Bearded Collies survived to continue the breed, although if not for the work of a few fanciers these would most likely have been bred into Border Collie lines and ceased to exist as a unique breed.  The breed had become so uncommon that it was almost unknown even in England.

 

The modern Bearded Collie exists largely due to the work of Mrs. G. Olive Willison of England.  In 1944, Mrs. Willison ordered a Shetland Sheepdog from a Scottish kennel; however, none were available.  The kennel sent a Bearded Collie as a substitute.  Rather than being irate, Mrs. Willison became fascinated by the brown female, which she named Jeannie of Bothkennar.  Mrs. Willison became determined to breed Jeannie, but she could not find an acceptable mate as Bearded Collies had become so rare at that point.  She first tried a dog of uncertain parentage, but the resulting puppies were apparently Border Collie types.

 

One day while walking down the beach in Scotland, Mrs. Willison encountered a man with a pure Bearded Collie.  The man was in the process of emigrating, and Mrs. Willison offered to acquire his dog.  The grey male, who became known as Bailie of Bothkennar, was successfully bred with Jeannie.  Their offspring became the foundation of the modern Bearded Collie breed, though a few lines can trace their ancestry to other Bearded Collies that survived World War II.  Other early breeders who kept lines which are now registerable included Mr. Nicholas Broadbridge and Mrs. Betty Foster.

 

Led by Mrs. Willison, Bearded Collie numbers began to rebound and the British Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 1959.  In 1957, the first Bearded Collies arrived in the United States as pets.  It was not until 1967 that the first Bearded Collie puppies were whelped in the United States.  These dogs were bred from two imports and were owned by Larry and Maxine Levy.  The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the Bearded Collie in 1976, followed by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1979.  The Bearded Collie Club of America (BCCA) was founded to protect and promote the Bearded Collie in America.  Its first president was Larry Levy.  In recent years, the Bearded Collie has begun to compete in obedience and agility trials, with a great deal of success.

 

The Bearded Collie has been steadily increasing in popularity both in the United States and the United Kingdom since the 1970’s.  In 1989, a Bearded Collie named Potterdale Classic at Moonhill won Best-In-Show at the Crufts Dog Show.  This spurred the breed to greater popularity.  These dogs are known for their loving and affectionate natures and their boundless energy.  A growing number of fanciers is discovering this breed, and the breed’s reputation as an excellent family pet is growing.  Despite a steady growth in numbers, the Bearded Collie remains near the middle of AKC registration statistics, and in 2010 ranked 112th out of 167 breeds.  While a number of Bearded Collies are still employed as working sheepdogs in both Scotland and the United States, most of these dogs are now family companions, a job which this breed thoroughly enjoys.

 

Appearance: 

 

The Bearded Collie is known for its friendly and charming appearance.  These dogs should be medium-sized.  The ideal height for males is between 21 and 22 inches tall at the shoulder, and the ideal height for females is between 20 and 21 inches tall at the shoulder.  Breed standards do not require specific weights, but most members of this breed weight between 40 and 60 pounds, with females typically weighing less.  Although most of the dog’s body is obscured beneath a copious amount of hair, this is a muscular and athletic breed.  The Bearded Collie is a well-proportioned dog, with a long, low-set tail.

 

What most observers first notice about the Bearded Collie is the breed’s hair.  Bearded Collies have a tremendous amount of long hair.  This coat is doubled-layered which provides the breed with excellent protection from the elements.  The undercoat is soft, furry, and close.  The outer coat is flat, harsh, strong, and shaggy.  It is often said that the breed’s coat resembles that of the more well-known Old English Sheepdog, although neither wooly nor curly.  The Bearded Collie’s coat naturally parts along the back, resulting in a clear line.  The Bearded Collies face is covered with the hair which is almost as long as that of the body, although the bridge of the nose has shorter fur.  The hair on the bottom of the muzzle forms the characteristic beard.  Some Bearded Collies have their eyes obscured with hair, although most have their eyes clearly visible.  The Bearded Collie comes in several acceptable colors; black, brown, fawn, and blue.  Any of these colors can have white markings.  Many Bearded Collies white chests and faces.

 

The Bearded Collie’s face is largely obscured by the breed’s coat.  Underneath that fur is an expressive face, which is often described as kind, friendly, and intelligent.  The Bearded Collie has a strong, full muzzle, which is at the end of a head which is proportional to the breed’s body.  The eye and nose are typically a color which matches the dog’s color.  A Bearded Collie’s ears are medium-sized and covered in long hair.  These ears hang down and close to the dog’s head, although they have a slight lift when the dog is at attention.


 

Temperament: 

 

The Bearded Collie is known for being an affectionate and loving breed.  These dogs become extremely devoted to their families, and will frequently shower them with affection.  Bearded Collies are known for being extremely affectionate and friendly with strangers, and will normally welcome them warmly.  The Bearded Collie’s watchdog bark comes across more like a greeting than a warning.  This breed is also known for being affectionate with children, and often becomes best friends with them.  Some Bearded Collies may be somewhat too rambunctious for very young children, although most breed members will learn how to play gently.  Bearded Collies have been known to attempt to herd children.

 

Bearded Collies are extremely playful, often well-into old age.  There are more than a few 12-year old Bearded Collies that still eagerly anticipate their daily game of fetch.  Bearded Collies love to learn, and are fond of almost every popular canine activity, from fetch, to hiking, to flyball.  If you are looking for a family companion that you can take to children’s soccer games, the Bearded Collie may be a good choice.  Always remember that proper socialization and training are important for all dogs.  Bearded Collies are known for needing attention.  These dogs crave human companionship.  This breed is known to suffer from separation anxiety.  They become extremely unhappy when left alone for long periods, and may become destructive.  If you have to leave a dog home alone for long periods of time, the Bearded Collie may not be the best breed for you.

 

Bearded Collies are generally not particularly dog aggressive.  This breed has long worked closely in small groups to herd and drove sheep and other livestock.  When properly trained and socialized, Bearded Collies generally get along well with other dogs.  In fact, most Bearded Collies prefer the company of other dogs, especially that of other Bearded Collies.  Bearded Collies are not known for being dominant, territorial, and possessive.  However, this breed is not a traditional pack hound and does not crave the company of other dogs as do some breeds.  It is always best to be careful when introducing strange dogs.  It is also important to recognize that two in-tact male dogs will almost always have some difficulties getting along.

 

Bearded Collies are livestock dogs, so it should come as no surprise that these dogs get along better with non-canine pets than most breeds.  Bearded Collies generally have comparatively low prey drives, and they have been bred to bark or nip rather than attack.  However, all dogs have a tendency to hunt if they have not properly been socialized.  Bearded Collies have strong herding instincts, and they will attempt to herd almost any creature, regardless of that creature’s feelings.  Cats in particular may resent this, so it is important to make sure your dog knows how to control its instincts.

 

Bearded Collies are extremely trainable dogs.  This breed is very intelligent and learns quickly.  This breed has experienced a good amount of success in agility and obedience trials.  However, the Bearded Collie is definitely more independent and willful than most herding breeds.  This breed needs a calm, firm owner who will make it clear to the dog who is the boss.  Otherwise, Bearded Collies have a tendency to take charge and become the pack leader.  Bearded Collies are a breed that will obey merely because their owner commands, but they obey better when it is a task which interests or excites them.  These dogs also respond very well to rewards.  The more energy and time that an owner spends working with a Bearded Collie, the better training results that they expect.  Even the best trained Bearded Collies may decide that what they want to do is better than what you want them to do.

 

The Bearded Collie is a very playful dog with a very high energy level.  These dogs need a large amount of vigorous physical exercise ever day.  Two twenty minute potty walks will not satisfy a Bearded Collie.  Bearded Collies need to go for a daily run, preferably off-leash in a secure area.  Bearded Collies do best when their exercise is an activity also stimulates their minds.  This is a working breed that is happiest when they have a job.  Bearded Collies enjoy sports such as Frisbee and flyball.  There are also many places with sheep that allow dog owners to come and have their dogs herd the sheep.  Bearded Collies also make excellent therapy dogs.  If you are looking for a dog to go on long hikes, the Bearded Collie would love to accompany you.  Bearded Collies which are not properly exercised and stimulated have a tendency to become bored.  Bored Bearded Collies may become nervous and stressed, and may also become destructive or vocal.

 

The Bearded Collie is not known as a particularly vocal breed, but they will bark when something catches their attention or when at play.  This breed does have a tendency to bark if they are not properly stimulated or exercised.

 

Grooming Requirements: 

 

The Bearded Collie has surprisingly low grooming requirements for a dog with such long hair.  Most Bearded Collies do not require professional grooming.  However, this breed does require regular brushing.  Bearded Collies have a tendency to mat, and these mats must be carefully brushed out to prevent discomfort and pain.  A Bearded Collie should be lightly brushed several times a week, preferably every day.  Many experts advise misting the Bearded Collie’s coat before brushing.  The Bearded Collie requires at least one thorough brushing every week.  Many owners choose to have their Bearded Collies professionally groomed in order to have a short cut to keep the dog cool.

 

All Bearded Collies are shedders, and some are heavy shedders.  If you or a family member is an allergy sufferer or someone who cannot stand the thought of cleaning up dog hair, the Bearded Collie is not the ideal breed.  However, these dogs do tend to leave less hair around as a substantial amount of their shed hair is caught by their long coats.

 

Health Issues: 

 

The Bearded Collie is a generally healthy breed with a lifespan of between 11 and 13 years.  Studies and health surveys conducted in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom have shown that the leading cause of Bearded Collie death by a wide margin is old age, followed by cancer in both countries.  Cerebrovascular disease and kidney failure were the next leading causes of death.   These dogs were bred as working dogs in a harsh environment for hundreds of years.  Dogs with health problems would either not have survived or not have been bred.  However, most health problems common to pure-bred dogs are found in the Bearded Collie.  The percentages of these problems are lower in the Bearded Collie than most breeds.  One problem which is unique to Border Collies is that their long coats tend to obscure external parasite such as fleas and ticks.

 

The most common serious health problem which is known to occur in Bearded Collie is hip dysplasia.  Hip dysplasia is caused by a malformation in the hip joint.  As the dog ages, the dog begins to experience pain and arthritis in the hip.  In severe cases, hip dysplasia can result in lameness, although the condition is not fatal.  Hip Dysplasia is a genetically inherited condition, but environmental circumstances can influence the onset and severity of the disease.

 

It is always advisable to get your pets tested by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and/or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, particularly if you intend to breed.  The OFA and CERF test for various genetically inherited disorders such as blindness and hip dysplasia that may impact either your dog or its descendants.

 

A list of health conditions which the Bearded Collie is known to suffer from must include:

 

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Cancer
  • Cerebrovascular Disease
  • Kidney Failure
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Allergies
  • Auto-Immune Disease
  • Eye Problems
  • Addison’s Disease
  • Gastro-Intestinal Difficulties

 

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