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#1 Donald McCaig

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 06:08 AM

Dear Doggers,

A dog breed's working instincts can be extinguished by several means

We sheepdoggers fear conformation breeding for good historical reasons with stockdog breeds and other working breeds. The most telling is the Collie,which was one (or more) regional stockdog(s) until it was taken up by Queen Victoria. popularized by dog showers and crossed with Borzois to enhance its nobility (and nose). The Pre Borzoi taxideried Collie at the Zoological collection in Tring looks like a yellow Border Collie or - I've only seen pictures - A Wicklow Collie.

For many years there were "Farm Collies" and "Show Collies" and arguments raged between their adherents. The Collie "fanciers" claimed their dogs were nicer, more aristocratic and could sitll do stockwork if asked to. The Collie sheepdoggers said, "Show me! Damn it! Show me!"

The Farm Collie was very popular on American farms and Luther Burbank sold them, mail order from his Fordhook Kennels. Some prominent Ag magazines' letter columns carried the controversy between Farm and Show Collies. Over time, the Collie fanciers won and by the mid sixties, there were no Farm Collies to be found.

In less documented fashion, I suspect this is what happened to the Bearded Collie and is happening to the Australian Shepherd.

Another extinction happens when the breeder(s) of a particular dog are too few. Some years ago I heard about a Montana stockog - the "Little Blue Dog" that could be found near Dillon. It was locally popular but I don't hear anything more about it today. I presume its breeder died and nobody took his place. Arthur Allen writes about his father's drover dogs - there's nothing like them today. I fear this will happen to the Catahoula hog dog.

Another extinction happens when another breed has overwhelming marketing advantages. In the UK, the success of the (trialable/testable) Border Collie - and one man and his dog - pretty well put paid to the last vestiges of the Welsh Gray and the Hillman. Barbara Carpenter showed me a photograph of the last male Welsh Gray. No female to breed to him.

The Border Collie has added pressure on the Australian Shepherd - which has troubles enough with its show breeders.

At a certain point, working breeds go extinct because breeders are too hard to find and the breed gets no press.

Interest in rare breeds is a fairly recent phenomenon. Although I think the false claims various "herding" programs encourage confuse the public and are contemptuous of necessary skills, they have encouraged some breeders to try to breed for genetic abilities their breeds once had.
Some Shetland Sheepdog, Corgi and Farm Collie breeders are doing canine genetic archeology to reclaim what has been lost.Necessary genes are scattered and dogs that demonstrate them are few. I don't know whether they will succeed but wish them well. We may need some of those genetics in future.

Donald McCaig

#2 Sue R

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 06:20 AM

Thank you, Donald, well said but saddening.
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#3 Smalahundur

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 06:34 AM

I can confirm the gist of your post regarding the icelandic sheepdog (its name is sadly enough a bit of a misnomer nowadays), serious dog handlers (and we might be unique in that our "smalahundafélag" consist almost entirely of sheep farmers) opt for border collies, crushing the slim chance this breed ever had to make a comeback as stockdog.
I am also pretty sure the border collie was far the superior breed for this task to begin with.

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#4 Pam Wolf

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 09:59 AM

Catahoulas, in our area and others, have been popular with drug dealers somewhat in response to pit bull bans. Along with some other breeds. Unfortunately the breeding for the type of Catahoula that a drug dealer will do is not much better than what show people will do-just different.

Another breed gone by the wayside, one I've not heard about in MANY years is the Holmes Hairy mouthed Heeler (a sort of wire coated Australian Cattle dog.
I'd rather be a shepherd than a sheepdogger

#5 Smalahundur

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 11:58 AM

Catahoulas, in our area and others, have been popular with drug dealers somewhat in response to pit bull bans. Along with some other breeds. Unfortunately the breeding for the type of Catahoula that a drug dealer will do is not much better than what show people will do-just different.


Well at least it is breeding for function... :blink:

(And no misunderstanding, I don´t like that function either)

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#6 Lewis Moon

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 01:02 PM

Catahoulas, in our area and others, have been popular with drug dealers somewhat in response to pit bull bans. Along with some other breeds. Unfortunately the breeding for the type of Catahoula that a drug dealer will do is not much better than what show people will do-just different.

Another breed gone by the wayside, one I've not heard about in MANY years is the Holmes Hairy mouthed Heeler (a sort of wire coated Australian Cattle dog.


I think a permutation of this is why we're seeing so many Catahoula(x) here in the Phoenix area. Maybe not drug dealers but folks that run close to those circles. When I do shelter walks looking for BCs, the usual % breakdown is 45% pits, 45% Chihuahuas and 10% other. I worry that I'll start seeing a significant uptick in Catahoulas.

#7 geonni banner

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 09:04 PM

Catahoulas, in our area and others, have been popular with drug dealers somewhat in response to pit bull bans. Along with some other breeds. Unfortunately the breeding for the type of Catahoula that a drug dealer will do is not much better than what show people will do-just different.

Well, then there's these guys from Nigeria...

I'm a big fan of spotted hyenas, but this is a bit alarming...


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#8 Gloria Atwater

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 09:13 PM

Very well said, Mr McCaig, and very sad.

Besides my BCs, I have a now-16-month-old Aussie of good working lines, but I'm coming to realize that finding those lines is getting harder and harder to do. I'm lucky in that this Aussie breeder is a good friend of mine who lives locally, and whose dogs I've watched for a dozen years.

Even so, there are people out there producing "working" Aussies who have been shown to have temperament or other issues. Between the show Aussies flooding the market and questionable working-line breeders, I'm not sure where that leaves the Australian Shepherd, as a breed. So, the working Aussie is definitely my best example of a good working breed in danger.

Meanwhile, I've often looked at the modern Sheltie, as it bounces and yaps around an arena, and wondered what its forebears must have been like. I find it a little ironic that the most instinctive, natural-working Sheltie I've seen in a long time is a local pup that came from purely show lines! Wherever those genetics went, the "work" apparently is pretty hit or miss.

Bottom line is, if people don't use a breed for the purpose for which they were bred, or if the purpose itself disappears ... over time, so does the dog.

I honestly think the border collie is the purest, most long-lived herding breed in existence today, and as such, we need to fight hard to keep the qualities we cherish. I can't imagine what the Aussie of 20 years from now will be like. I only pray the working Border Collie will continue to survive, thanks to its champions and caretakers.

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#9 Kelliwic Border Collies

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 01:50 PM

Dear Doggers, Sheepdoggers, Geneticists, Working Dog Historians, and Other Interested Forum Members, ;)

I am also pretty sure the border collie was far the superior breed for this task to begin with.


With the topic entitled "Extinction," I think there is an analogy to be found in Smalahundur's comment. Evolution didn't always get it right; far more species dead-ended and went extinct than have survived. Maybe weren't very good at (not very well-adapted) at what they had to do to survive; or maybe they were not too bad, but were unable to keep up when along came another similar species to fill the niche, one that was more successful at hunting or hiding or whatever. And so, when it comes to working dogs (at least before modernization/mechanization and Kennel Clubs), I'd say that the same type of "extinction" is also likely. The most capable or most useful working breeds survived, until other breeds, better at the job, came into being. Whether that was a hunting dog or a stockdog, there was no reason to continue to depend on a breed that could just manage the job as your hunting or shepherding partner, if there was a breed that excelled at it. I can't imagine that someone depending on a dog to help put food on the table (directly or indirectly) could keep an okay-working breed just out of nostalgia. I'm sure I wouldn't. There's no sense in perpetuating mediocrity.

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#10 Kelliwic Border Collies

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 01:53 PM

Double post.

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#11 geonni banner

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 03:35 PM

Dear Doggers, Sheepdoggers, Geneticists, Working Dog Historians, and Other Interested Forum Members, ;)



With the topic entitled "Extinction," I think there is an analogy to be found in Smalahundur's comment. Evolution didn't always get it right; far more species dead-ended and went extinct than have survived. Maybe weren't very good at (not very well-adapted) at what they had to do to survive; or maybe they were not too bad, but were unable to keep up when along came another similar species to fill the niche, one that was more successful at hunting or hiding or whatever. And so, when it comes to working dogs (at least before modernization/mechanization and Kennel Clubs), I'd say that the same type of "extinction" is also likely. The most capable or most useful working breeds survived, until other breeds, better at the job, came into being. Whether that was a hunting dog or a stockdog, there was no reason to continue to depend on a breed that could just manage the job as your hunting or shepherding partner, if there was a breed that excelled at it. I can't imagine that someone depending on a dog to help put food on the table (directly or indirectly) could keep an okay-working breed just out of nostalgia. I'm sure I wouldn't. There's no sense in perpetuating mediocrity.

what she said


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#12 Maja

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 02:33 AM

Megan,

I agree with you. I tried to say it in the topic on different herding styles using my flawed tractor-horse analogy. I think that most other herding breeds were never anywhere close to BCs. And perhaps it won't be a very popular statement here, but I don't mind if these dogs then become companion/sports/whatever dogs. Being a companion dog is a very legitimate function and need for humans.

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#13 Donald McCaig

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 04:51 AM

Dear Doggers,

As you may know I am inordinately fond of Border Collies. That said; the notion that they have succeeded when other working stockdogs have or are going extinct because Border Collies are simply better is mistaken. As the world has learned, unfettered markets do not always produce the best results. The Border Collie is an exceptional gatherer at great distances. But: if you want a dog that routinely works great mobs of sheep, both a Bearded Collie and Huntaway - in different circumstances - can be a better choice. I am told the McNab - or McNab/Border Collie is a superior cattle dog. A Kelpie is better at pen and chute work in high temperatures. Both the Australian and English Shepherds are better homestead protectors. I don't know what the Welsh Gray, Hillsman, Farm Colie and WIcklow Collie had to offer and, alas, never will know.

The Border Collie's near rout of other farmdogs and stockdogs has not been an unmitigated blessing.

Donald McCaig

#14 Kelliwic Border Collies

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 05:09 AM

Hi Maja,

I see I am a few days' behind on this idea!

I did not read the entire rest of the Herding Styles thread (I faded off that one earlier this week), but I did catch up on a few posts, and you basically said the same thing in your post #79.

I think we are all in agreement that in today's world, yes, mechanization and Kennel Club influences have a negative impact on the working ability of breeds, or loss of the breeds entirely. But, in my OP I was pointing out that loss of breeds has been occuring long before those outside influences existed, or at least certainly before they had said influence.

I should also add that although IMO it was just good sense for folks to use the breed that did the job BEST (isn't that what these Boards advocate on a smaller, Border Collie-specific scale? breeding the dogs who can DO the job?), I am not criticizing the modern enthusiasts who attempt to "save/preserve/restore" an older/historical (or whatever) breed. If people like the breed for its other attributes, that's great. If they want to try to preserve or restore its ability to work stock, hunt, or whatever, that's even better! But the weaknesses in some other breeds in their working ability may not (only) be due to KC breeding, but due to the fact that they might not have been highly skilled to begin with. Useful, and capable, yes--in their time. But better working dogs were developed, so logically, those became the breeds of choice.

Hope this makes sense. It makes sense to me at this hour of the morning, but I'm not sure I wrote it in a way that makes sense to others...

Megan Q.

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#15 Kelliwic Border Collies

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 05:17 AM

Mr. McCaig,

Would not ranchers, shepherds and commercial farmers be using the dog that does the job best? Why would they have converted to Border Collies unless they felt the Border Collies were more successful at the jobs that needed doing? If the Border Collie proved to be less successful than what they had, I should think the "conversion" would be quite short-lived. What shepherd would say, "Gee, this Border Collie sure isn't half the dog my Huntaway was at moving huge mobs of sheep. I think I'll get me a few more Border Collies!"

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#16 Tea

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 07:27 AM

I think what I saw woprking cattle when I was a kid in the Siskiyous were McNabs. But I do not know? Any info on them? Are they extinct? That would be a shame. They seemed tough, calm dogs, but not overly friendly to people they didn't know.



#17 Smokjbc

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 07:40 AM

Mr. McCaig,Would not ranchers, shepherds and commercial farmers be using the dog that does the job best? Why would they have converted to Border Collies unless they felt the Border Collies were more successful at the jobs that needed doing? If the Border Collie proved to be less successful than what they had, I should think the "conversion" would be quite short-lived. What shepherd would say, "Gee, this Border Collie sure isn't half the dog my Huntaway was at moving huge mobs of sheep. I think I'll get me a few more Border Collies!"


There are plenty of ranchers that do not prefer border collies and still use dogs. Sometimes, what they need is too limited to keep a border collie working well - one example would be friends of mine who mostly need dogs to get cows out of the swampy parts of the pasture so the horses can finish the gather. They have tried border collies but never have the time or desire to train one so it's constantly "in the way". Most of their dogs are Aussie type or the occassional very poorly bred (for my purposes at least) border collie. They also had a (very well padded LOL) half Aussie, half Border Collie that they could send into a packed cattle truck and have her drop over the backs and start spilling cows out. Very specialized jobs that didn't take training, just a dog that happened to do it (not going to mention how many dogs they go through to get that one who will :blink: .)

Other, more dog-oriented people I know prefer Kelpies or a mix of the two. Still, one of those that lamented the weakness of one of his border collies expressed to me how much he missed her on the job after she was accidently killed. "She wasn't strong, but she was intelligent about getting the job done."

Another person I met wanted kelpies but only if they barked (which is mostly discouraged) because he had brushy country and if he sent the dog after the cattle, he needed to know where they were. Another would use border collies for his bigger numbers but his favorite dogs were a Catahoula and a pit bull because he could take them after wild cattle and they'd hold one up long enough for him to rope it.

While I think that border collies are the most popular and useful dogs on the ranch/farm, I know that's not true for everyone. Watching some of the New Zealand trials on RFD and those huntaways are just completely foreign to me but obviously they are extremely useful in that environment.

#18 Maja

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 08:23 AM

if you want a dog that routinely works great mobs of sheep, both a Bearded Collie and Huntaway - in different circumstances - can be a better choice.

I would like to point out, that as for as I know the huntaways are not being replaced by the border collies, and I said "most" breeds, recognizing the fact that (1) not all breeds vanished because of an appearance of a better dog (2) not all breed were replaced (by BCs or otherwise). My line of thought was this:

If there is a better breed for a given job, it is likely that the better breed will replace the original one. BCs are not better for the job of a huntaway than the huntaway, so they are not likely to replace them.

That said; the notion that they have succeeded when other working stockdogs have or are going extinct because Border Collies are simply better is mistaken

So in view what I wrote above, I beg to differ.

And I am not saying that BCs replaced all breeds, I am not saying they are better than all other breeds, I am not saying they are the only source of the disappearance of other breeds.

I am saying they are an important part in th process of disappearance of working dogs whose jobs they were better suited to perform.

The Border Collie's near rout of other farmdogs and stockdogs has not been an unmitigated blessing.

I agree. But the disadvantages of the BCs dominance stockwork do not nullify its existence.

Megan,
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#19 Kelliwic Border Collies

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Posted 16 October 2011 - 09:13 AM

There are plenty of ranchers that do not prefer border collies and still use dogs.
<snip>
While I think that border collies are the most popular and useful dogs on the ranch/farm, I know that's not true for everyone. Watching some of the New Zealand trials on RFD and those huntaways are just completely foreign to me but obviously they are extremely useful in that environment.


(Bold emphasis mine.)

Hi Jamie, I may not have been clear. I wasn't trying to make a blanket statement that all Border Collies were the best at all types of stock work, and therefore would replace every stock breed. I was trying to give an example that when a Border Collie was found to be better at something--a particular task or tasks, or even just better at being the jack-of-all-trades--it wouldn't make sense a shepherd or cattle rancher continue to work with a breed that could "sorta" do it...but less efficiently (and I tried to also extend this concept to hunting breeds and other dogs who provide useful help to humans in other ways).

Maja basically said what I was going for (edited to shorten and with bold emphasis added by me):

If there is a better breed for a given job, it is likely that the better breed will replace the original one. BCs are not better for the job of a huntaway than the huntaway, so they are not likely to replace them.

<snip>

I am saying they are an important part in th process of disappearance of working dogs whose jobs they were better suited to perform.


PS, Tea, I believe yes, there are still McNabs, but I know little about them; how rare they are, I do not know.

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#20 juliepoudrier

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 10:56 AM

(it wouldn't make sense a shepherd or cattle rancher continue to work with a breed that could "sorta" do it...but less efficiently (and I tried to also extend this concept to hunting breeds and other dogs who provide useful help to humans in other ways).

I think what you're missing with this statement is the rancher who has always used some other breed, one that is good enough for the tasks he needs done. If the dog gets the job done, and the rancher happens to like that breed, he has no motivation to go find something better. To those of us who use border collies, it's easy to say it doesn't make sense to use a "lesser" dog, but to folks who have only ever known those other dogs, dogs who have done the work they needed to get done, it might make sense to stick with what they know. Someone in one thread or the other compared another breed vs. a border collie to a what? tractor? vs, a ferrrari. So let's say a Smart Car vs. a Ferrari. If the Smart Car meets your needs, do you really want (or need) a Ferrari? I think there are plenty of farmers and ranchers out there who feel just that way.

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