Friday, August 11, 2023

The Collies of Tazewell

One of greatest authorities on “all things collie” was Dr. Ora P. Bennett.  But that wasn’t always the case.  He started out his life with collies in an unusual manner! Someone offered to trade him a pair of collies for two of his breeding chickens.  Breeding the collies, and subsequently raising his first litter, was all it took to spark his interest in the collie breed.  He began his Tazewell collie kennel in 1903, in Washington, Illinois, and began learning everything he could about the collie.

During his lifetime he became one of the foremost authorities on the collie breed, and his book The Collie is still read and referenced today.  He was a family physician for over 50 years, he served as president of the Collie Club of America and also became a highly respected collie judge.  

His first pair of collies were not able to produce the quality of collies he desired, so he began searching for new collies to build his Tazewell line.  He decided to purchase a bitch, sired by Parbold Premier.  Under the advice of another breeder, he bred her to Parbold Pierrot.  Like many of of the American collie breeders of that time, it was the Parbold collies that helped start his family line of collies.  

As with many collie breeders of that time, Dr. Bennett was focused on importing, breeding or obtaining the top stud dogs for his line of collies.  During his years as a collie breeder Dr. Bennett’s owned many of the breed’s foundation sires at one point or another.  It’s said that each time he would bring in a new stud dog, he would breed all of his bitches to that one dog, then sell the dog to another kennel or place the male in a pet home.  The resulting puppies, that he kept, would then be bred to the next stud when they were old enough.  In this manner he built a family of collies that had a recognizable type. His line included:

Eng CH Seedley Superior

CH Parbold Peacock

CH Cock Robin of Arken

Eng CH Eden Emerald (who he obtained from Mrs. Lunt of Alstead collies, mentioned in our earlier post.)

During this time, and up until recent years, collie breeders would visit other kennels. They would sit and “speak collie,” discussing the history of the breed, the virtues of various collies of the time, and their goals as breeders.  This enabled collie breeders, and newcomers, to discover firsthand the qualities that the different kennels were producing, and to also make educated choices in their breeding programs.  By visiting other kennels they might discover that dog or bitch that could improve their own line or even correct fault.

Dr. Bennett was able to actually visit Parbold and Laund collie kennels in Europe, as well as many other important collie breeders, these were the kennels where so many of the British imports originated.  Through the connections he made, he was able to import both Parbold Prior and Eng. CH Seedley Superior.

Parbold Prior was sired by the legendary Eng. CH Anfield Model. (Below)

Dr. Bennett also imported CH Parbold Picador in 1913.  Picador had Anfield Model on both the Sire and Dam’s side of his pedigree.  Picador became Dr. Bennett’s first champion.  Before he was imported, Picador sired both Eng. CH Laund Limit and Southport Seal, both important collies of their time.

While successful at dog shows with with his imports, he didn’t finish his first home bred champion until 1924, with his CH Tazewell Tricolor.  This was twenty years after he first began his Tazewell collies! But soon after Tricolor, more of his Tazewell collies began earning their championships.  Then in 1927 Dr. Bennett purchased Eng. CH Alstead Eden Emerald from Mrs. Lunt.

Dr. Bennett claimed that Piccador and Emerald were the two greatest sires he had ever known.  He went on to purchase an Emerald son, CH Cock Robin of Arken, after judging the dog at the 1932 National Collie Specialty.  Robin was bred by the Arken kennel, a top winning kennel on the East coast. (And the subject of next week’s post)

From reading different stories, it’s said that Dr. Bennett expressed numerous times that he regretted that his top sires were not utilized as often as they should have been, and this was a loss, as they could have made a positive impact on the breed.  Unfortunately, at that time period most of the top collie kennels were on the East coast, he was in Illinois, and since travel back then was more difficult his sires were not used as often as he would have liked.

It’s interesting that the breeders of this time considered the stud dog of higher importance, as there as been a shift in focus over recent generations to the brood bitches as the foundation of  a good breeding program.  But in the early years of creating their family lines the breeders were concentrating on the stud dog.  That doesn’t mean they weren’t looking for beautiful bitches as well, but the majority of the British imports were males.  It was actually the bitches that Dr. Bennett bred that had the biggest impact on both his Tazewell line and future generations of collies.  Most of today’s pedigrees trace back to Tazewell collies through his bitches, not his stud dogs.  They were known to produce quality offspring whether they were outcrossed or linebred.

I am currently rereading his book, The Collie, which he wrote in the 1920’s, and it contains such valuable insight, I hope more collie breeders and collie fanciers have the chance to read it. For those interested I did find it available on Kindle also.


  1. That was so interesting! I have such fond memories of our collie, "Lady," that I grew up with. She was my dream dog. I always loved Lassie and when my parents rescued Lady from a nearby farm I was ecstatic! (She had been shot by a hunter and they did not want her, so we took her in)...Lady was an amazing dog. Beautiful and so devoted to our other adopted dog, an English Shepherd. They were inseparable and would follow me on my horse everywhere. Collies hold such a special spot in my heart. Reading this was just so interesting to me! Thank you for sharing.

  2. That is quite the interesting history. I wonder if he thought he'd be "the" collie wizard when he was growing up?