While many historians of the collie breed agree that the first known collie was black and white, within a couple generations the sable and white collie made its appearance through the efforts of those early collie breeders. Shortly after the sable and white collie, the blue merle and white collies began appearing. While many people have an affinity for a certain coat color, all collies should share the same temperament and structure, regardless of coat color.
I have spent a great deal of time researching the history of the collie breed and the history of my own collies in particular. I have recently been thinking about the changes that have occurred in the breed over the last 100 – 125 years. The original collies were known to have a slight twist to the bottom of their tails. This is now considered a fault, and a twist in the tail is not a desirable trait. The collie heads are now leaner, the eye is almond-shaped instead of round, and the stop isn’t as pronounced. While these changes aren’t dramatic, they do serve to distinguish today’s collie from the old farm type collies of the past. There are some breeders who are still breeding the old farm collies, and though they appear different than the more modern collie, they too have the wonderful collie temperament.
When attending the Collie Club of America’s National Specialty, I enjoy watching the Stud dog and Brood bitch classes. In these classes the Stud dog and Brood bitch are shown with their “get,” or offspring. The judge evaluates the quality of the get (the offspring of the dogs or bitches entered in the class) according to the requirements of the breed standard. The judge is not judging the quality of the Stud Dog or Brood Bitch, but instead is judging what that dog or bitch can produce. The judging of these classes is a great responsibility, as the winning dogs, are used more frequently as stud dogs. These winning Stud dogs, when used by many different collie breeders, can have a great impact on the next generation of the breed. So the offspring that these dogs are producing need to be carefully evaluated. The Brood Bitch also has an impact on the breed, as breeders may decide to purchase the future offspring of the winners of the Brood bitch class to add to their own kennels and breeding programs. One of the things I find fascinating about the Stud Dog and Brood Bitch classes is seeing the resemblance in certain families of collies.
I am continuing my families’ line of collies, and when I look at my collies I look for their similarities in appearance. As I look at the similarities, I also begin imaging what traits they may have inherited from their ancestors. I know their sweet expressions come from the Marnus family of collies. I know their strong herding instinct comes from the Signet family of collies. But going back ten, twenty or even thirty generations, I can’t help but wonder what traits and characteristics all those collies of the past have contributed to my own collies. I feel very fortunate that the collie breed has such a well-documented history for us to study and explore. I’m looking forward to learning more about my beloved collies, and I wonder what contributions my own collies will one day make to the breed.