The Border Collie is one of the most popular breeds on the planet, and that should come as no surprise. The breed is hyper energetic, extremely intelligent and loves to work. What’s not to love?
While some other breeds were brought to Britain and may sometimes be thought to originate from these beautiful islands, the Border Collie was actually created in Northumberland on the border between England and Scotland. That’s the sole reason they are called Border Collies, as they at one point where separated from the regular Collie breed.
Old Hemp was bred and owned by Adam Telfer, a farmer who was extremely impressed with his dog’s working qualities. He’d never seen a dog using the technique of controlling his flock through body position rather than barking before, and Old Hemp turned out to be used as a stud and is believed to have produced around 200 puppies through his life. He is considered to be the founding sire of the Border Collie as a breed. From his lineage comes almost 30 champions in the International Sheepdog Society’s (which was founded in 1906) herding trials, although Old Hemp himself hasn’t been found in any records. His grandson, Sweep, and another offspring named Young Hemp, were two of the champions from his lines.
Old Hemp was such an extraordinary dog that breeders around sought to emulate his traits in their own dogs, to further strengthening the breed.
And once breeders were producing dogs with similar looks, mentality and working traits, it was time to name the breed and declare it a specific breed.
James Reid was the secretary in the International Sheepdog Society, and he was the first to refer to these dogs as “Border Collie” in 1915. Reid wanted to distinguish the dogs he registered in the Society from other types of Collies, such as the Scotch Collie, the Smooth Collie and the Rough Collie. All Collies originated from the same stock of dogs, but as dog shows became more popular in the 1850s and 1860s and breed standards were set in place, it became more important to differentiate the variations into specific breeds to meet the new standards.
The name “Border Collie” has many meanings, where the “Border” part is the most obvious one, referring to the physical location on the border between England and Scotland. The “Collie” can have at least two meanings, where one is the celtic meaning of the word, which is “useful”. Another meaning is that Collie refers to “colley”, which is an old Anglo-Saxon word for black. With the Border Collie’s black markings, it is thought that this reference is more likely than the meaning of being useful, although both seems more than appropriate.
Already in the 1880s and 1890s, there were Border Collies exported to other countries where sheep raising were leading agricultural practices. They were so popular that breeders around the world got their breeding stocks and breeding practices from Britain to not destroy their working traits. Extreme high-level working dogs were shipped off to Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and Argentina. No matter where they landed, farmers were in awe over their outstanding herding techniques and capabilities. In the US, the prairies proved to be excellent grounds for these amazing sheepdogs to work their magic, and from written records from these days, it was said that a flock of 1 000 sheep could be handled by one rancher and one good sheepdog. That’s amazing. Even at this time, a good sheepdog would not bark if not warning for danger. No sheepdog would leave the flock unattended and would not be distracted by anything.
The first sheep herding trials in the US was held in 1880 in Philadelphia. At this time, the Border Collie was not yet a specific breed, so all dogs participating went under the name “Collie”. The dog who caught most attention, however, was a Scottish import named Oscar, a sheep herding trial champion in Scotland where he’d been admitted by his breeder and owner, a gentleman named Steele.
If Old Hemp was the dog that set the beginning of this amazing breed, the American dog Wiston Cap is the dog who has the strongest influence on the Border Collie we know and love today. He was born in 1963, bred by W.S. Hetherington and handled and shown by John Richardson. Wiston Cap is the dog who set the standard for the breed, which is no small thing to accomplish. Ever since then, every Border Collie has been measured and evaluated against this standard.
The Border Collie received its recognition by the AKC as late as 1995.