History of the Rough Collie
The origin of the word Collie. One of the first facts you find out about these dogs is that very few records and writings were kept prior to the late 1800s so most of the information you read is speculative and on investigation you find that it is wrong. The word collie probably came from a Gaelic or Celtic word meaning “useful dog” although popular lore is that the name came from a breed of sheep that the dog used to herd. I think that logic is completely illogical as there were many breeds of sheep in those days.
Up until the mid-1800s they were known as Shepherd’s Dogs, Collies or Scotch Collies that originated in the highlands of northern Scotland. It has been said that the Shepherds Dogs, Collies or Scotch Collies, whatever you want to call them were the smartest and best looking dogs going and some of them actually had the ability to reason. The lowland Scottish collies of North Umbria was the forerunners of the modern day Border Collies. Up until about 1860 there were not many Scottish Collies in England and the ones that were there came with the sheep herds being drove in to market and it seems that there has been “Highland Clearances” going on in the highlands of Scotland since the early 1700s up until the early 1900s and a few Collies were brought to England when their humans migrated there looking for work. In 1848, Queen Victoria was introduced to working Collies at Balmoral Castle. She was smitten with these collies and it was love at first sight. It has been documented that it appeared that the Queen had crossed her dogs with some sort of water dog or some such breed as they did not have the pointed muzzles that Scotch Collies were noted for and looked more like the “Lowland Collies” (later called “Border Collies”). Later on the Czar of Russia gave her some Borzois and it is said that is where the pointed muzzles and narrow skulls on the Rough Collies came from. It is my understanding that DNA analysis does not back this theory up. DNA analysis does according to my studies bear out that there is greyhound lineage in the Rough Collie lineage and that would make sense as these collies were a landrace breed which means they were breed for whatever their humans needed them for. The early scotts would have enjoyed all the game they could get in those days to supplement their diet.
Once the folks in the bigger cities started getting the Scotch Collies they started breeding them for looks and brains took a back seat however some of them still retain that intelligence that they were noted for. I will relay some of the short stories told of these dogs taken from the old books that I have purchased.
If a person looks at early pictures of the early scotch collies such as “Bewick’s Dog” they had the pointed muzzles and general appearance of modern day collies. Bewick’s Dog (a wood carving) is one of the earliest known depictions of Scotch Collies.
The following taken verbatim from the “History of Quadrupeds” and titled “The Shepherd’s Dog” by T Bewick published in 1807 pages 327 and 328.
“This useful animal, ever faithful to his charge, reigns at the head of the flock; where it is better heard, and more attended to, than even the voice of the shepherd. Safety, order, and discipline, are the fruits of his vigilance and activity.
In those large tracts of land which, in many parts of our island, are solely appropriated to the feeding of Sheep and other cattle, this sagacious animal is of the utmost importance. Immense flocks may be seen continually ranging over those extensive wilds, as far as the eye can reach, seemingly without control: Their only guide is the shepherd, attended by his Dog, the constant companion of his toils: It receives his commands, and is always prompt to execute them ; it is the watchful guardian of the flock, prevents them from straggling, keeps them together, and conducts them from one part of their pasture to another; it will not suffer any strangers to mix with them, but carefully keeps off every intruder. In driving a number of Sheep to any distant part, a well- trained Dog never fails to confine them to the road, watches every avenue that leads from it; where he takes his stand, threatening every delinquent: He pursues the stragglers, if any should escape; and forces them into order, without doing them the least injury. If the herds- man be at any time absent from the flock, he depends upon his Dog to keep them together; and as soon as he gives the well-known signal, this faithful creature conducts them to his master, though at a considerable distance.
There is a very remarkable singularity in the feet of the Shepherd’s Dog, which we have likewise observed in those of the Cur and the Spaniel. All of them have one, and some two, toes more than most Dogs, though they seem not to be of much use. They appear to be destitute of muscles, and hang dangling at the hind part of the leg more like an unnatural excrescence than a necessary part of the animal. But the adage, that “Nature has made nothing in vain,” ought to correct our decision on their utility, which probably may exist unknown to us.
This breed of Dogs, at present, appears to be preserved, in the greatest purity, in the northern parts of Scotland; where its aid is highly necessary in managing the numerous herds of Sheep bred in those extensive wilds.”
There are a couple of items I would like to draw attention to, the first is that “The Shepherd’s Dog” is instantly recognizable as an early Scotch or Rough Collie and the latter is that Bewick did not even call it a Collie but called it a shepherds dog. Keep in mind this depiction of the Collie was 50 years before Queen Victoria became involved with the breed.
It has been said by some that these dogs had the ability to reason and after reading about a few of the short stories about them you have to agree. I will pass some of these stories on as the books that they come from some are over 200 years old and I don’t think I can get into copyright infringement problems.
Thoughts in Those Early Days on the Actions of a Shepherds Dog
There would be no injustice, or rather a great deal of propriety, in inflicting a fine for every tooth-mark that could be detected. When the sheep, instead of collecting round the dog, and placing themselves under his protection on any sudden alarm, uniformly fly from him with terror, the farmer may he assured there is something radically wrong in the management of the flock.
(The following g short stories taken verbatim from the book “The Dog” by William Youatt).
My Dog Sirrah
Mr. James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, living in his early days among the sheep and their quadruped attendants, and an accurate observer of nature, as well an exquisite poet, gives some anecdotes of the colley, (the Highland term for sheep-dog), with which the reader will not be displeased. "My dog Sirrah," says he, in a letter to the Editor of 'Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine', "was, beyond all comparison, the best dog I ever saw. He had a somewhat surly and unsocial temper, disdaining all flattery, and refusing to be caressed, but his attention to my commands and interest will never again be equalled by any of the canine race. When I first saw him, a drover was leading him with a rope. He was both lean and hungry, and far from being a beautiful animal; for he was almost black, and had a grim face, striped with dark brown. I thought I perceived a sort of sullen intelligence in his countenance, notwithstanding his dejected and forlorn appearance, and I bought him. He was scarcely a year old, and knew so little of herding that he had never turned a sheep in his life; but, as soon as he discovered that it was his duty to do so, and that it obliged me, I can never forget with what anxiety and eagerness he learned his different evolutions; and when I once made him understand a direction, he never forgot or mistook it." On one night, a large flock of lambs that were under the Ettrick Shepherd's care, frightened by something, scampered away in three different directions across the hills, in spite of all that he could do to keep them together. "Sirrah," said the shepherd, "they're a' awa!" It was too dark for the dog and his master to see each other at any considerable distance, but Sirrah understood him, and set off after the fugitives. The night passed on, and Hogg and his assistant traversed every neighbouring hill in anxious but fruitless search for the lambs; but he could hear nothing of them nor of the dog, and he was returning to his master with the doleful intelligence that he had lost all his lambs. "On our way home, however," says he, "we discovered a lot of lambs at the bottom of a deep ravine called the Flesh Cleuch, and the indefatigable Sirrah standing in front of them, looking round for some relief, but still true to his charge. We concluded that it was one of the divisions which Sirrah had been unable to manage, until he came to that commanding situation. But what was our astonishment when we discovered that not one lamb of the flock was missing! How he had got all the divisions collected in the dark, is beyond my comprehension. The charge was left entirely to himself from midnight until the rising sun; and, if all the shepherds in the forest had been there to have assisted him, they could not have effected it with greater promptitude. All that I can say is, that I never felt so grateful to any creature under the sun us I did to my honest Sirrah that morning."
A shepherd, in one of his excursions over the Grampian Hills to collect his scattered flock, took with him (as is a frequent practice, to initiate them in their future business) one of his children about four years old. After traversing his pastures for a while, attended by his dog, he was compelled to ascend a summit at some distance. As the ascent was too great for the child, he left him at the bottom, with strict injunctions not to move from the place. Scarcely, however, had he gained the height, when one of the Scotch mists, of frequent occurrence, suddenly came on, and almost changed the day to night. He returned to seek his child, but was unable to find him, and concluded a long and fruitless search by coming distracted to his cottage. His poor dog also was missing in the general confusion. On the next morning by daylight he renewed his search, but again he came back without his child. He found, however, that during his absence his dog had been home, and, on receiving his allowance of food, instantly departed. For four successive days the shepherd continued his search with the same bad fortune, the dog as readily coming for his meal and departing. Struck by this singular circumstance, he determined to follow the dog, who departed as usual with his piece of cake. The animal led the way to a cataract at some distance from the spot where the child had been left. It was a rugged and almost perpendicular descent which the dog took, and he disappeared in a cave, the mouth of which was almost on a level with the torrent. The shepherd with difficulty followed; but, on entering the cavern, what were his emotions when he beheld the infant eating the cake which the dog had just brought to him, while the faithful animal stood by, eyeing his young charge with the utmost complacency! From the situation in which the child was found, it appeared that he had wandered to the brink of the precipice, and then either fallen or scrambled down, the torrent preventing his re-ascent. The dog by means of his scent had traced him to the spot, and afterwards prevented him from starving by giving up a part, or, perhaps, the whole of his own daily allowance. He appears never to have quitted the child night or day, except for food, as he was seen running at full speed to and from the cottage.  Mr. Hogg says, and very truly, that a single shepherd and his dog will accomplish more in gathering a flock of sheep from a Highland farm than twenty shepherds could do without dogs; in fact, that without this docile animal, the pastoral life would be a mere blank. It would require more hands to manage a flock of sheep, gather them from the hills, force them into houses and folds, and drive them to markets, than the profits of the whole flock would be capable of maintaining. Well may the shepherd feel an interest in his dog; he it is indeed that earns the family bread, of which he is himself content with the smallest morsel: always grateful, and always ready to exert his utmost abilities in his master's interests. Neither hunger, fatigue, nor the worst treatment will drive him from his side, and he will follow him through every hardship without murmur or repining. If one of them is obliged to change masters, it is sometimes long before he will acknowledge the new owner, or condescend to work for him with the willingness that he did for his former lord; but, if he once acknowledges him, he continues attached to him until death.
 We will add another story of the colley, and proceed. It illustrates the memory of the dog. A shepherd was employed in bringing up some mountain sheep from Westmoreland, and took with him a young sheep-dog who had never made the journey before. From his assistant being ignorant of the ground, he experienced great difficulty in having the flock stopped at the various roads and lanes he passed in their way to the neighborhood of London. In the next year the same shepherd, accompanied by the same dog, brought up another flock for the gentlemen who had had the former one. On being questioned how he had got on, he said much better than the year before, as his dog now knew the road, and had kept the sheep from going up any of the lanes or turnings that had given the shepherd so much trouble on his former journey. The distance could not have been less than 400 miles.  Buffon gives an eloquent and faithful account of the sheep-dog: "This animal, faithful to man, will always preserve a portion of his empire and a degree of superiority over other beings. He reigns at the head of his flock, and makes himself better understood than the voice of the shepherd. Safety, order, and discipline are the fruits of his vigilance and activity. They are a people submitted to his management, whom he conducts and protects, and against whom he never employs force but for the preservation of good order." "If we consider that this animal, notwithstanding his ugliness and his wild and melancholy look, is superior in instinct to all others; that he has a decided character in which education has comparatively little share; that he is the only animal born perfectly trained for the service of others; that, guided by natural powers alone, he applies himself to the care of our flocks, a duty which he executes with singular assiduity, vigilance, and fidelity; that he conducts them with an admirable intelligence which is a part and portion of himself; that his sagacity astonishes at the same time that it gives repose to his master, while it requires great time and trouble to instruct other dogs for the purposes to which they are destined: if we reflect on these facts we shall be confirmed in the opinion that the shepherd's dog is the true dog of nature, the stock and model of the whole species."  [After reading the above history of this truly valuable dog, it is almost superfluous for us to attempt to add anything more on this head; however, we must pause for a few moments, to call the attention of our agriculturists and others engaged in raising sheep, to the immense advantages to be derived from the introduction of this sagacious animal throughout our own country.
The following short stories were taken from “Anecdotes of Dogs” from the Gutenberg Project and is from the section “The Colley or Shepherds Dog”. Shepherds Dogs were later known as Scotch Collies which is where our modern day “Rough Collies” (Lassie Collies) came from.
THE COLLEY, OR SHEPHERD'S DOG.
"My dog (the trustiest of his kind) With gratitude inflames my mind: I mark his true, his faithful way, And in my service copy Tray."—Gay.
Who that has seen has not been delighted with the charming picture by Mr. Landseer of the shepherd's dog, resting his head on the coffin which contained the body of his dead master! Grief, fidelity, and affection are so strongly portrayed in the countenance of the poor dog, that they cannot be mistaken. We may (Page 186) fancy him to have been the constant companion of the old shepherd through many a dreary day of rain, and frost, and snow on the neighbouring hills, gathering the scattered flock with persevering industry, and receiving the reward of his exertions in the approbation of his master. On returning to the humble cottage at night, he partakes of the "shepherd's scanty fare;" and then, coiled up before the flickering light of a few collected sticks, cold and shivering with wet, he awakes to greet his master at the first glimmering of morn, and is ready to renew his toils. Poor dog! what a lesson do you afford to those who are incapable of your gratitude, fidelity, and affection! and what justice has the charming artist done to these noble qualities! I trust he will receive this fanciful description of his dog as a little tribute paid to his talents, as well as to his good feeling.
The late Mr. Satterthwaite, grandfather of Thomas Rogerson, Esq., of Liverpool and Ballamillaghyn, Isle of Man, who died some years ago at Coulthouse, near Hawkshead, soon after his marriage, resided near the Low Wood Inn, on the borders of Windermere Lake. He left home early one morning, accompanied by his shepherd's dog, to look after some sheep on the mountains near Rydal, about four miles distant; and discovering two at the bottom of a precipice between two rocks he descended, with the view of extricating them; but when he got to the bottom, he could neither assist them nor get up himself, and there he was confined (Page 187) until midnight. The faithful dog remained at the top of the precipice watching his master; but at nightfall he proceeded home, scratched the door, and was let in by his mistress, who expressed her surprise at the barking of the dog and non-arrival of her husband. She had no sooner sat down than the dog ran barking towards her, and then went to the door: but as she did not follow, the dog ran to her again, seized her apron, and endeavoured to pull her to the door; which circumstance caused her to suppose some accident had befallen her husband. She immediately called up the servant-man, and told him she was sure, from the strange conduct of the dog, that something must have happened to his master. She told the man to take a lantern and some ropes, and follow the dog, taking care to get assistance at Ambleside; which he did. No sooner had the man opened the door than the dog bounded out, leaped up at him, barked, and then ran forward, but quickly returned, leaped up again, barked, and then ran forward, as if to hasten the man's speed. The faithful dog led the man and his companions to the prison of his master. The ropes were instantly lowered, and Mr. Satterthwaite was providentially released from his perilous situation. The sheep also were recovered.
How well do I recollect the Ettrick Shepherd descanting on the sagacity and perseverance of his favourite sheep-dog! His name was Sirrah, and he (Page 188) told me the following extraordinary anecdote of him, which I give in his own words:—
"About seven hundred lambs, which were once under my care at weaning time, broke up at midnight, and scampered off in three divisions across the hills, in spite of all that I and an assistant lad could do to keep them together. 'Sirrah, my man!' said I in great affliction, 'they are awa'.' The night was so dark that I could not see Sirrah, but the faithful animal heard my words—words such as of all others were sure to set him most on the alert; and without much ado he silently set off in search of the recreant flock. Meanwhile I and my companion did not fail to do all in our power to recover our lost charge. We spent the whole night in scouring the hills for miles around, but of neither the lambs nor Sirrah could we obtain the slightest trace. It was the most extraordinary circumstance that had occurred in my pastoral life. We had nothing for it (day having dawned), but to return to our master, and inform him that we had lost his whole flock of lambs, and knew not what had become of them. On our way home, however, we discovered a body of lambs at the bottom of a deep ravine, called the Flesh Cleuch, and the indefatigable Sirrah standing in front of them, looking all around for some relief, but still standing true to his charge. The sun was then up; and when we first came in view of them, we concluded that it was one of the divi (Page 189) sions which Sirrah had been unable to manage until he came to that commanding situation. But what was our astonishment, when we discovered by degrees that not one lamb of the whole flock was wanting! How he had got all the divisions collected in the dark, is beyond my comprehension. The charge was left entirely to himself, from midnight until the rising of the sun; and if all the shepherds in the forest had been there to have assisted him, they could not have effected it with greater propriety. All that I can farther say is, that I never felt so grateful to any creature below the sun, as I did to my honest Sirrah that morning."
"I once sent you," says Mr. Hogg, some years later, in a letter to the Editor of "Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine," "an account of a notable dog of my own, named Sirrah, which amused a number of your readers a great deal, and put their faith in my veracity somewhat to the test; but in this district, where the singular qualities of the animal were known, so far from any of the anecdotes being disputed, every shepherd values himself to this day on the possession of facts far outstripping any of those recorded by you formerly. With a few of these I shall conclude this paper. But, in the first place, I must give you some account of my own renowned Hector, which I promised long ago. He was the son and immediate successor of the faithful old Sirrah; and though not nearly so valuable a dog as his father, he was a far more interesting one. He had (Page 190) three times more humour and whim about him; and though exceedingly docile, his bravest acts were mostly tinctured with a grain of stupidity, which showed his reasoning faculty to be laughably obtuse.
"I shall mention a striking instance of it. I was once at the farm of Shorthope on Ettrick Head, receiving some lambs that I had bought, and was going to take to market, with some more, the next day. Owing to some accidental delay, I did not get final delivery of the lambs till it was growing late; and being obliged to be at my own house that night, I was not a little dismayed lest I should scatter and lose my lambs if darkness overtook me. Darkness did overtake me by the time I got half-way, and no ordinary darkness for an August evening. The lambs having been weaned that day, and of the wild black-faced breed, became exceedingly unruly, and for a good while I lost hopes of mastering them. Hector managed the point, and we got them safe home; but both he and his master were alike sore forefoughten. It had become so dark that we were obliged to fold them with candles; and, after closing them safely up, I went home with my father and the rest to supper. When Hector's supper was set down, behold he was awanting! and as I knew we had him at the fold, which was within call of the house, I went out and called and whistled on him for a good while, but he did not make his appearance. I was distressed about this; for, having to take away the lambs next morning, I knew (Page 191) I could not drive them a mile without my dog if it had been to save the whole drove.
"The next morning, as soon as it was day, I arose and inquired if Hector had come home? No; he had not been seen. I knew not what to do; but my father proposed that he would take out the lambs and herd them, and let them get some meat to fit them for the road, and that I should ride with all speed to Shorthope to see if my dog had gone back there. Accordingly we went together to the fold to turn out the lambs, and there was poor Hector, sitting trembling in the very middle of the fold-door, on the inside of the flake that closed it, with his eyes still steadfastly fixed on the lambs. He had been so hardly set with them after it grew dark, that he durst not for his life leave them, although hungry, fatigued, and cold, for the night had turned out a deluge of rain. He had never so much as lain down; for only the small spot that he sat on was dry, and there had he kept watch the whole night. Almost any other colley would have discerned that the lambs were safe enough in the fold, but honest Hector had not been able to see through this. He even refused to take my word for it; for he would not quit his watch, though he heard me calling both at night and morning.
"Another peculiarity of his was, that he had a mortal antipathy to the family-mouser, which was ingrained in his nature from his very puppyhood; yet so perfectly absurd was he, that no impertinence on her (Page 192) side, and no baiting on, could ever induce him to lay his mouth on her, or injure her in the slightest degree. There was not a day and scarcely an hour passed over, that the family did not get some amusement with these two animals. Whenever he was within doors, his whole occupation was watching and pointing the cat from morning to night. When she flitted from one place to another, so did he in a moment; and then squatting down, he kept his point sedulously, till he was either called off or fell asleep.
"He was an exceedingly poor eater of meat, always had to be pressed to it, and often would not take it till we brought in the cat. The malicious looks that he cast at her from under his eyebrows on such occasions were exceedingly ludicrous, considering his utter disinclination to injure her. Whenever he saw her, he drew near his bicker and looked angry; but still he would not taste till she was brought to it, and then he cocked his tail, set up his birses, and began lapping furiously as if in utter desperation. His good nature, however, was so immovable, that he would never refuse her a share of what was placed before him; he even lapped close to the one side of the dish, and left her room,—but mercy! how he did ply!
"It will appear strange to you to hear a dog's reasoning faculty mentioned as I have done; but I declare I have hardly ever seen a shepherd's dog do anything without believing that I perceived his reasons for it. I (Page 193) have often amused myself in calculating what his motives were for such and such things, and I generally found them very cogent ones. But Hector had a droll stupidity about him, and took up forms and rules of his own, for which I could never perceive any motive that was not even farther out of the way than the action itself. He had one uniform practice, and a very bad one it was; during the time of family worship, and just three or four seconds before the conclusion of the prayer, he started to his feet and ran barking round the apartment like a crazed beast. My father was so much amused with this, that he would never suffer me to correct him for it, and I scarcely ever saw the old man rise from the prayer without his endeavouring to suppress a smile at the extravagance of Hector. None of us ever could find out how he knew that the prayer was near done, for my father was not formal in his prayers; but certes he did know,—and of that we had nightly evidence. There never was anything for which I was so puzzled to discover a motive as this, but from accident I did discover it; and, however ludicrous it may appear, I am certain I was correct. It was much in character with many of Hector's feats, and rather, I think, the most outré of any principle he ever acted on. As I said, his great daily occupation was pointing the cat. Now, when he saw us kneel all down in a circle, with our faces couched on our paws, in the same posture with himself, it struck his absurd head that we were all engaged in pointing the cat. (Page 194) He lay on tenters all the while, but the acuteness of his ear enabling him, through time, to ascertain the very moment when we would all spring to our feet, he thought to himself, 'I shall be first after her, for you all.'
"He inherited his dad's unfortunate ear for music, not perhaps in so extravagant a degree, but he ever took care to exhibit it on the most untimely and ill-judged occasions. Owing to some misunderstanding between the minister of the parish and the session-clerk, the precenting in church devolved on my father, who was the senior elder. Now, my father could have sung several of the old church-tunes middling well in his own family-circle; but it so happened that, when mounted in the desk, he never could command the starting notes of any but one (St. Paul's), which were always in undue readiness at the root of his tongue, to the exclusion of every other semibreve in the whole range of sacred melody. The minister gave out psalms four times in the course of every day's service; consequently the congregation were treated with St. Paul's in the morning at great length, twice in the course of the service, and then once again at the close. Nothing but St. Paul's. And it being itself a monotonous tune, nothing could exceed the monotony that prevailed in the primitive church of Ettrick. Out of pure sympathy for my father alone, I was compelled to take the precentorship in hand; and having plenty of tunes, for a good while I came on as well as could (Page 195) be expected, as men say of their wives. But, unfortunately for me, Hector found out that I attended church every Sunday, and though I had him always closed up carefully at home, he rarely failed in making his appearance in church at some time of the day. Whenever I saw him a tremor came over my spirits, for I well knew what the issue would be. The moment that he heard my voice strike up the psalm 'with might and majesty,' then did he fall in with such overpowering vehemence, that he and I seldom got any to join in the music but our two selves. The shepherds hid their heads, and laid them down on the backs of their seats rowed in their plaids, and the lasses looked down to the ground and laughed till their faces grew red. I despised to stick the tune, and therefore was obliged to carry on in spite of the obstreperous accompaniment; but I was, time after time, so completely put out of all countenance with the brute, that I was obliged to give up my office in disgust, and leave the parish once more to their old friend, St. Paul.
"Hector was quite incapable of performing the same feats among sheep that his father did; but, as far as his judgment served him, he was a docile and obliging creature. He had one singular quality, of keeping true to the charge to which he was set. If we had been shearing, or sorting sheep in any way, when a division was turned out and Hector got the (Page 196) word to attend to them, he would have done it pleasantly for a whole day without the least symptom of weariness. No noise or hurry about the fold, which brings every other dog from his business, had the least effect on Hector, save that it made him a little troublesome on his own charge, and set him a-running round and round them, turning them in at corners, from a sort of impatience to be employed as well as his baying neighbours at the fold. Whenever old Sirrah found himself hard set in commanding wild sheep on steep ground, where they are worst to manage, he never failed, without any hint to the purpose, to throw himself wide in below them, and lay their faces to the hill, by which means he got the command of them in a minute. I never could make Hector comprehend this advantage with all my art, although his father found it out entirely of himself. The former would turn or wear sheep no other way but on the hill above them; and, though very good at it, he gave both them and himself double the trouble and fatigue.
"It cannot be supposed that he could understand all that was passing in the little family circle, but he certainly comprehended a good part of it. In particular, it was very easy to discover that he rarely missed aught that was said about himself, the sheep, the cat, or of a hunt. When aught of that nature came to be discussed, Hector's attention and impatience soon be (Page 197)came manifest. There was one winter evening I said to my mother that I was going to Bowerhope for a fortnight, for that I had more conveniency for writing with Alexander Laidlaw than at home; and I added, 'But I will not take Hector with me, for he is constantly quarrelling with the rest of the dogs, singing music, or breeding some uproar.' 'Na, na,' quoth she, 'leave Hector with me; I like aye best to have him at hame, poor fallow.'
"These were all the words that passed. The next morning the waters were in a great flood, and I did not go away till after breakfast; but when the time came for tying up Hector, he was a-wanting. 'The deil's in that beast,' said I,—'I will wager that he heard what we were saying yesternight, and has gone off for Bowerhope as soon as the door was opened this morning.'
"'If that should really be the case, I'll think the beast no canny,' said my mother.
"The Yarrow was so large as to be quite impassable, so that I had to walk up by St. Mary's Loch, and go across by the boat; and, on drawing near to Bowerhope, I soon perceived that matters had gone precisely as I suspected. Large as the Yarrow was, and it appeared impassable by any living creature, Hector had made his escape early in the morning, had swam the river, and was sitting, 'like a drookit hen,' on a knoll at the east end of the house, awaiting my arrival with great impatience. I had a great attach (Page 198) ment to this animal, who, to a good deal of absurdity, joined all the amiable qualities of his species. He was rather of a small size, very rough and shagged, and not far from the colour of a fox.
"His son Lion was the very picture of his dad, had a good deal more sagacity, but also more selfishness. A history of the one, however, would only be an epitome of that of the other. Mr. William Nicholson[O] took a fine likeness of this latter one, which he still possesses. He could not get him to sit for his picture in such a position as he wanted, till he exhibited a singularly fine portrait of a small dog, on the opposite side of the room. Lion took it for a real animal, and, disliking its fierce and important look exceedingly, he immediately set up his ears and his shaggy birses, and, fixing a stern eye on the picture in manifest wrath, he would then sit for a whole day and point at it without budging or altering his position.
"It is a curious fact in the history of these animals, that the most useless of the breed have often the greatest degree of sagacity in trifling and useless matters. An exceedingly good sheep-dog attends to nothing else but that particular branch of business to which he is bred. His whole capacity is exerted and exhausted on it, and he is of little avail in miscellaneous matters; whereas, a very indifferent cur, bred (Page 199) about the house, and accustomed to assist in every thing, will often put the more noble breed to disgrace in those paltry services. If one calls out, for instance, that the cows are in the corn, or the hens in the garden, the house-colley needs no other hint, but runs and turns them out. The shepherd's dog knows not what is astir; and, if he is called out in a hurry for such work, all that he will do is to break to the hill, and rear himself up on end to see if no sheep are running away. A bred sheep-dog, if coming hungry from the hills, and getting into a milk-house, would most likely think of nothing else than filling his belly with the cream. Not so his uninitiated brother; he is bred at home to far higher principles of honour. I have known such lie night and day among from ten to twenty pails full of milk, and never once break the cream of one of them with the tip of his tongue, nor would he suffer cat, rat, or any other creature to touch it. This latter sort, too, are far more acute at taking up what is said in a family.
"The anecdotes of these animals are all so much alike, that were I but to relate the thousandth part of those I have heard, they would often look very much like repetitions. I shall therefore, in this paper, only mention one or two of the most singular, which I know to be well authenticated.
"There was a shepherd lad near Langholm, whose name was Scott, who possessed a bitch famed over all the West Border for her singular tractability. He (Page 200) could have sent her home with one sheep, two sheep, or any given number, from any of the neighbouring farms; and, in the lambing season, it was his uniform practice to send her home with the kebbed ewes just as he got them. I must let the town reader understand this. A kebbed ewe is one whose lamb dies. As soon as such is found, she is immediately brought home by the shepherd, and another lamb put to her; and Scott, on going his rounds on the hill, whenever he found a kebbed ewe, immediately gave her in charge to his bitch to take home, which saved him from coming back that way again and going over the same ground he had visited before. She always took them carefully home, and put them into a fold which was close by the house, keeping watch over them till she was seen by some one of the family; upon which she instantly decamped, and hastened back to her master, who sometimes sent her three times home in one morning with different charges. It was the custom of the farmer to watch her and take the sheep in charge from her: but this required a good deal of caution; for as soon as she perceived that she was seen, whether the sheep were put into the fold or not, she concluded her charge was at an end, and no flattery could induce her to stay and assist in folding them. There was a display of accuracy and attention in this that I cannot say I have ever seen equalled.
"The late Mr. Steel, flesher in Peebles, had a bitch that was fully equal to the one mentioned above, and (Page 201) that, too, in the very same qualification. Her feats in taking sheep from the neighbouring farms into the Flesh-market at Peebles, form innumerable anecdotes in that vicinity. But there is one related of her, that manifests so much sagacity with natural affection, that I do not think the history of the animal creation furnishes such another.
"Mr. Steel had such implicit dependence on the attention of this animal to his orders, that, whenever he put a lot of sheep before her, he took a pride in leaving them to herself, and either remained to take a glass with the farmer of whom he had made the purchase, or took another road to look after bargains or other business. But one time he chanced to commit a drove to her charge at a place called Willenslee, without attending to her condition as he ought to have done. This farm is five miles from Peebles, over wild hills, and there is no regularly defined path to it. Whether Mr. Steel remained behind, or chose another road, I know not; but, on coming home late in the evening, he was astonished at hearing that his faithful animal had not made her appearance with the flock. He and his son, or servant, instantly prepared to set out by different paths in search of her; but, on their going out to the street, there was she coming with the drove, no one missing; and, marvellous to relate, she was carrying a young pup in her mouth! She had been taken in travail on those hills; and how the poor beast had contrived to manage the drove in her state of (Page 202) suffering is beyond human calculation, for her road lay through sheep the whole way. Her master's heart smote him when he saw what she had suffered and effected: but she was nothing daunted; and having deposited her young one in a place of safety, she again set out full speed to the hills, and brought another and another, till she removed her whole litter one by one; but the last one was dead.
"The stories related of the dogs of sheep-stealers are fairly beyond all credibility. I cannot attach credit to some of them without believing the animals to have been devils incarnate, come to the earth for the destruction both of the souls and bodies of men. I cannot mention names, for the sake of families that still remain in the country; but there have been sundry men executed, who belonged to this district of the kingdom, for that heinous crime, in my own days; and others have absconded, just in time to save their necks. There was not one of these to whom I allude who did not acknowledge his dog to be the greatest aggressor. One young man in particular, who was, I believe, overtaken by justice for his first offence, stated, that after he had folded the sheep by moonlight, and selected his number from the flock of a former master, he took them out, and set away with them towards Edinburgh. But before he had got them quite off the farm, his conscience smote him, as he said (but more likely a dread of that which soon followed), and he quitted the sheep, letting them go again to the hill. He (Page 203) called his dog off them, and mounting his pony, he rode away. At that time he said his dog was capering and playing around him, as if glad of having got free of a troublesome business; and he regarded him no more, till, after having rode about three miles, he thought again and again that he heard something coming up behind him. Halting, at length, to ascertain what it was, in a few minutes there comes his dog with the stolen animals, driving them at a furious rate to keep up with his master. The sheep were all smoking, and hanging out their tongues, and their guide was fully as warm as they. The young man was now exceedingly troubled, for the sheep having been brought so far from home, he dreaded there would be a pursuit, and he could not get them home again before day. Resolving, at all events, to keep his hands clear of them, he corrected his dog in great wrath, left the sheep once more, and taking colley with him, rode off a second time. He had not ridden above a mile, till he perceived that his assistant had again given him the slip; and suspecting for what purpose, he was terribly alarmed as well as chagrined; for daylight now approached, and he durst not make a noise calling on his dog, for fear of alarming the neighbourhood, in a place where they were both well known. He resolved therefore to abandon the animal to himself, and take a road across the country which he was sure the other did not know, and could not follow. He took that road, but being on horseback, he (Page 204) could not get across the enclosed fields. He at length came to a gate, which he shut behind him, and went about half a mile farther, by a zigzag course, to a farmhouse, where both his sister and sweetheart lived; and at that place he remained until after breakfast time. The people of this house were all examined on the trial, and no one had either seen the sheep or heard them mentioned, save one man, who came up to the aggressor as he was standing at the stable-door, and told him that his dog had the sheep safe enough down at the Crooked Yett, and he needed not hurry himself. He answered, that the sheep were not his—they were young Mr. Thomson's, who had left them to his charge, and he was in search of a man to drive them, which made him come off his road.
"After this discovery, it was impossible for the poor fellow to get quit of them; so he went down and took possession of the stolen drove once more, carried them on, and disposed of them; and, finally, the transaction cost him his life. The dog, for the last four or five miles that he had brought the sheep, could have no other guide to the road his master had gone but the smell of his pony's feet. I appeal to every unprejudiced person if this was not as like one of the deil's tricks as an honest colley's.
"It is also well known that there was a notorious sheep-stealer in the county of Mid-Lothian, who, had it not been for the skins and the heads, would never have been condemned, as he could, with the greatest (Page 205) ease, have proved an alibi every time suspicions were entertained against him. He always went by one road, calling on his acquaintances, and taking care to appear to everybody by whom he was known, while his dog went by another with the stolen sheep; and then, on the two felons meeting again, they had nothing more to do than turn the sheep into an associate's enclosure, in whose house the dog was well fed and entertained, and would have soon taken all the fat sheep on the Lothian edges to that house. This was likewise a female, a jet-black one, with a deep coat of soft hair, but smooth-headed, and very strong and handsome in her make. On the disappearance of her master she lay about the hills and places where he had frequented, but she never attempted to steal a drove by herself, nor the smallest thing for her own hand. She was kept some time by a relation of her master's, but never acting heartily in his service, soon came privately to an untimely end. Of this there is little doubt, although some spread the report that one evening, after uttering two or three loud howls, she instantly vanished! From such dogs as these, good Lord deliver us!"
The following is, perhaps, a still more extraordinary anecdote of the fidelity shown by a sheep-dog to its charge. It was communicated by Robert Murray, shepherd to Mr. Samuel Richmond, Path of Coudie, near Dunning, in Perthshire.
Murray had purchased for his master four score of sheep at the Falkirk Tryst, but having occasion to stop (Page 206) another day, and confident in the faithfulness and sagacity of his colley, which was a female, he committed the drove to her care, with orders to drive them home,—a distance of about seventeen miles. The poor animal, when a few miles on the road, dropped two whelps, but, faithful to her charge, she drove the sheep on a mile or two further—then, allowing them to stop, returned for her pups, which she carried for about two miles in advance of the sheep. Leaving her pups, the colley again returned for the sheep, and drove them onwards a few miles. This she continued to do, alternately carrying her own young ones and taking charge of the flock, till she reached home. The manner of her acting on this occasion was afterwards gathered by the shepherd from various individuals, who had observed these extraordinary proceedings of the dumb animal on the road. However, when the colley reached her home, and delivered her charge, it was found that the two pups were dead. In this extremity, the instinct of the poor brute was, if possible, still more remarkable. She went to a rabbit-brae in the vicinity, and dug out of the earth two young rabbits, which she deposited on some straw in a barn, and continued to suckle for some time, until one of the farm servants unluckily let down a full sack upon them and smothered them.
The following anecdote is related by Captain Brown:—
A shepherd had driven a part of his flock to a neighbouring farm, leaving his dog to watch the re (Page 207) mainder during that day and the next night, expecting to revisit them the following morning. Unfortunately, however, when at the fair, the shepherd forgot both his dog and his sheep, and did not return home till the morning of the third day. His first inquiry was, whether his dog had been seen? The answer was, No. "Then he must be dead," replied the shepherd in a tone of anguish, "for I know he was too faithful to desert his charge." He instantly repaired to the heath. The dog had sufficient strength remaining to crawl to his master's feet, and express his joy at his return, and almost immediately after expired.
Mr. Blaine relates the following circumstance:—I remember watching a shepherd boy in Scotland, who was sitting on the bank of a wide but shallow stream. A sheep had strayed to a considerable distance on the other side of the water; the boy, calling to his dog, ordered him to fetch that sheep back, but to do it gently, for she was heavy in lamb. I do not affect to say that the dog understood the reason for which he was commanded to perform this office in a more gentle manner than usual; but that he did understand he was to do it gently was very evident, for he immediately marched away through the water, came gently up to the side of the sheep, turned her towards the rest, and then they both walked quietly side by side to the flock. I was scarcely ever more pleased at a trifling incident in rural scenery than this.
Page 208 The sense and recollection of the sheep-dog were shown in the following instance:—
When I occupied a small farm in Surrey, I was in the habit of joining with a friend in the purchase of two hundred Cheviot sheep. The first year we had them, the shepherd who drove them from the North was asked by us how he had got on. "Why, very badly," said the man; "for I had a young dog, and he did not manage well in keeping the sheep from running up lanes and out-of-the-way places." The next year we had the same number of sheep brought up, and by the same man. In answer to our question about his journey, he informed us that he had got on very well, for his dog had recollected all the turnings of the road which the sheep had passed the previous year, and had kept them straight the whole of the way.
It has always appeared to me that the patriarchal flocks, the shepherds and their dogs, are seen to more advantage on the wild hills of Cumberland and Westmorland, than in any other situation. When I have wandered along the sides of some of the beautiful lakes of those counties, and have witnessed the effects of light and shade at different times of the day, on the water and distant hills and valleys, and seen the numerous sheep scattered over the latter, how delightful has been the prospect! During the early morning the bright beams of the sun did not produce too (Page 209) much glare and heat, but served to give a charming glitter to the dew-drops as they besparkled the grass and flowers. The tracts of the sheep might be seen by the disappearance of the "gentle dew" from their path as they proceeded to their pasture, driven by the watchful colley. It was a scene of cheerfulness, which every lover of nature would admire.
In the evening the calmness of the lake was delightful. The light hovered over it, and the reflection of the trees in the transparent water beautified the scene. The beams of the setting sun glowed first over the valleys, and then illumined the tops of the hills; then gradually disappeared: but the grey tints of evening still had their beauty, and a diversity of them was preserved long after the greater effects of the setting sun had vanished. Deep shade was contrasted with former splendour, till at last the lovely moon appeared with her modest light, and formed a streak across the lake, which was occasionally broken as a ripple, raised by a breeze of the gentlest kind, passed over it.
While the sun still gleamed on the mountain's side the shepherd might be observed resting at its foot, while his patient dog ranged about collecting the flock, and bringing them towards his master.
Dear, lovely lake!—Never shall I forget your beauteous scenery. Seated in the cool of the evening under one of the noble trees on your shore, the only sounds I heard were the soft ripple of the water, and (Page 210) the late warbling of the redbreast—Yes, I forget the humming beetle as it rapidly passed, and the owl calling to its mate in the distant wood. How peaceful were my feelings!—
"Happy the man whose tranquil mind Sees Nature in her changes kind, And pleased the whole surveys; For him the morn benignly smiles, And evening shades reward the toils That measure out his days.
The varying year may shift the scene, The sounding tempest lash the main, And heaven's own thunder roll; Calmly he views the bursting storm, Tempests nor thunders can deform The quiet of his soul."—C. B.
Nor is the scenery from the Lakes the only thing to be admired in this delightful country. Lanes may be traversed sheltered by the oak, the ash, and the hazel, and only those who have seen the Cumberland hazels can form an idea of the beauty of their silvery bark and luxuriant growth. From these lanes there are occasional openings, through which a placid lake or a distant range of hills may be seen. And what picturesque and rugged hills they are! Huge, projecting rocks and verdant lawns, and deep channels of rugged stone, over which a foaming torrent forces its way in the rainy season, and is succeeded in dry weather by a sparkling rivulet, which trickles down to swell a little brooklet at the foot of the hill, as it winds its way (Page 211) to the neighbouring lake. These may be seen, and the patches of heather, and the patient colley watching for a signal to collect the scattered flock, dotted, as it appears to be, over the almost inaccessible heights. At some distance it is difficult to see the sheep, at least by a stranger, partly on account of the dark colour of their fleeces (for they have not the whiteness of our flocks in the midland downs), and partly from the shadow on the hills. Separated as they are from each other, as the evening closes in the sagacious dog receives a hint from his master, and the sheep are quickly collected from places to which the shepherd could with difficulty make his way. Snow and frost are no check to the labours of the colley dog. His exertions are indefatigable, and the only reward he appears to expect is the approbation of his master.
The following amusing anecdote of a sort of sheep-dog was communicated to me by its owner. The dog's name was Hero. His habits were odd enough, and he gave many instances of his sagacity. The following was one of them:—
Hero was in the constant habit of accompanying the farm-horses in their daily labour, pacing the ploughed field regularly aside the team, and returning with them to and from his meals, always taking care to scamper home at a certain hour for a more dainty portion when his mistress dined.
During one of these hasty visits he met a young woman, whom he had never seen before, wearing his (Page 212) mistress's cloak. After looking at her with a scrutinising eye, he turned round, and followed her closely, to her great dismay, to a neighbouring village four miles off, where the brother of his mistress lived, and into whose house the woman entered. Probably concluding from this circumstance that she was a privileged person, he returned quietly back again. Had she passed the house, the dog would most probably have seized the cloak, in order to restore it to his mistress.
I trust my readers will begin to feel some interest in this sagacious and useful animal, and I will add one or two more well-authenticated anecdotes of him.
Captain Brown says that his friend, Mr. Peter Macarthur, related to him the following anecdote of a shepherd's dog, which belonged to his grandfather, who at that time resided in the Island of Mull:—Upon one occasion a cow had been missed for some days, and no trace of it could be found; and a shepherd's dog, called Drummer, was also absent. On the second or third day the dog returned, and taking Mr. Macarthur's father by the coat, pulled him towards the door, but he did not follow it; he then went to his grandfather, and pulled him in the same way by the coat, but without being attended to; he next went to one of the men-servants, and tugged him also by the coat. Conceiving at last there was something particular which the dog wanted, they agreed to follow him: this (Page 213) seemed to give him great pleasure, and he ran barking and frisking before them, till he led them to a cow-shed, in the middle of a field. There they found the cow fixed by the horns to a beam, from which they immediately extricated her and conducted her home, much exhausted for want of food. It is obvious, that but for the sagacity of this faithful animal she certainly would have died.
Mr. John Cobb, farmer at Tillybirnie, parish of Lethnot, near Brechin, during a severe snow-storm in the year 1798, had gone with his dog, called Cæsar, to a spot on the small stream of Paphry (a tributary of the North Esk), where his sheep on such occasions used to take shelter beneath some lofty and precipitous rocks called Ugly Face, which overhung the stream. While employed in driving them out, an immense avalanche fell from these rocks, and completely buried him and his dog. He found all his endeavours to extricate himself from this fearful situation in vain; and at last, worn out, fell asleep. However, his dog had contrived to work his way out, and returned home next day about noon. The dog, by whining and looking in the faces of the family, and afterwards running to the door, showed that he wished them to follow him; they accordingly did so, accompanied by a number of men provided with spades. He led them to the spot where his master was, and, after scraping away the snow which had fallen from the time he had quitted the spot, he quickly disappeared in the hole by which he had effected (Page 214) his escape. They began to dig, and by nightfall they found Mr. Cobb quite benumbed, standing in an upright posture; but as life was not quite extinguished he was rolled in warm blankets, and soon recovered. As may well be conceived, he felt the greatest regard for his preserver, and treated him ever afterwards with much tenderness. The colley lived to a great age, and when he died, his master said it gave him as much pain as the death of a child; and he would have buried him in a coffin, had he not thought that his neighbours would turn it into ridicule.
A gentleman of my acquaintance had a sheep-dog, which was generally kept in a yard by the side of his house in the country. One day a beggar made his way into the yard armed with a stout stick, with which he defended himself from the attacks of the dog, who barked at and attempted to bite him. On the appearance of a servant the dog ceased barking, and watching his opportunity, he got behind the beggar, snatched the stick from his hand, and carried it into the road, where he left it.
A shepherd named Clark, travelling home to Hunt-Law, parish of Minto, near Jedburgh, with some sheep, had occasion to pass through a small village, where he went into a public-house to take a dram with some cronies whom he had met on the road, leaving the sheep in charge of the dog. His friends and he had indulged in a crack for several hours, till he entirely forgot his drove. In the meantime the dog had (Page 215) wearied, and determined to take the sheep home himself, a distance of about ten miles. The shepherd, on coming to the spot where he had left the animals, found they were gone, but knowing well that he might depend on the fidelity of his dog, he followed the straight way to Hunt-Law. On coming to a gateway which had interrupted their progress, he perceived the dog and sheep quietly reposing; and had it not been for that bar to their course he would have taken them home. Two miles of their way was by a made road, and the rest through an open moor.
"One of the most interesting anecdotes I have known," says Sir Patrick Walker, who related this anecdote to Captain Brown, and the one which follows, "relates to a sheep-dog. The names of the parties have escaped me just now, but I recollect perfectly that it came from an authentic source. The circumstances were these:—A gentleman sold a considerable flock of sheep to a dealer, which the latter had not hands to drive. The seller, however, told him he had a very intelligent dog, which he would send to assist him to a place about thirty miles off; and that when he reached the end of his journey, he had only to feed the dog, and desire him to go home. The dog accordingly received his orders, and set off with the flock and the drover; but he was absent for so many days that his master began to have serious alarms about him, when one morning, to his great surprise, he found the dog returned with a very large flock of sheep, including (Page 216) the whole that he had lately sold. The fact turned out to be, that the drover was so pleased with the colley that he resolved to steal him, and locked him up until the time when he was to leave the country. The dog grew sulky, and made various attempts to escape, and one evening he fortunately succeeded. Whether the brute had discovered the drover's intention, and supposed the sheep were also stolen, it is difficult to say; but by his conduct it looked so, for he immediately went to the field, collected the sheep, and drove them all back to his master."
"A few years ago, when upon a shooting party in the Braes of Ranoch, the dogs were so worn out as to be unfit for travel. Our guide said he knew the shepherd, who had a dog that perhaps might help us. He called, and the young man came with his little black colley, to which, as soon as he had conversed with the guide, he said something in Erse. The dog set off in a sneaking sort of manner up the hill, and, when he showed any degree of keenness, we hastened to follow, lest he should set up the birds; but the lad advised us 'to be canny, as it was time eneuch when Lud came back to tell.' In a short space Lud made his appearance on a knoll, and sat down, and the shepherd said we might go up now, for Lud had found the birds. The dog waited till we were ready, and trotted on at his master's command, who soon cautioned us to be on the alert, for Lud signified we were in the midst of the covey. We immediately found this to be the case, (Page 217) and in the course of the day the same thing occurred frequently."
The following anecdote will serve to show the strong affection of the sheep-dog; I will give it in the words of a gentleman who witnessed the fact in the north of England.
"The following instance of canine affection came under my observation at a farm-steading, where I happened to be. A colley belonging to the shepherd on the farm appeared very restless and agitated: she frequently sent forth short howls, and moaned as if in great agony. 'What on earth is the matter with the dog?' I asked. 'Ye see, sur,' said the shepherd, 'au drownt a' her whelps i' the pond the day, and she's busy greeting for them.' Of course, I had no objection to offer to this explanation, but resolved to watch her future operations. She was not long in setting off to the pond and fishing out her offspring. One strong brindled pup she seemed to lament over the most. After looking at it for some time, she again set off at a quick rate to a new house then in the course of erection, and scooped out a deep hole among the rubbish. She then, one by one, deposited the remains of her young in it, and covered them up most carefully. After she had fulfilled this task, she resumed her labours among her woolly charge as usual."
In the winter of the year 1795, as Mr. Boulstead's son, of Great Salkeld, in Cumberland, was attending the sheep of his father upon Great Salkeld Common, (Page 218) he had the misfortune to fall and break his leg. He was then at the distance of three miles from home—there was no chance of any person's coming in so unfrequented a place within call, and evening was fast approaching. In this dreadful dilemma, suffering extreme pain from the fracture, and laying upon the damp ground at so dreary a season of the year, his fearful situation suggested to him the following expedient. Folding one of his gloves in his pocket-handkerchief, he fastened it round the neck of the dog, and rather emphatically ordered him 'home.' These dogs, trained so admirably to orders and signals during their attendance upon the flock, are well known to be under the most minute subjection, and to execute the commands of their masters with an alacrity scarcely to be conceived.
Perfectly convinced of some inexplicable disquietude from the situation in which his master lay, he set off at a pace which soon brought him to the house, where he scratched with great violence at the door for immediate admittance. This obtained, the parents were in the utmost alarm and consternation at his appearance, especially when they had examined the handkerchief and its contents. Instantly concluding that some accident had befallen their son, they did not delay a moment to go in search of him. The dog, apparently conscious that the principal part of his duty was yet to be performed, anxiously led the way, and conducted the agitated parents to the spot where their son lay (Page 219) overwhelmed with pain, increased by the awful uncertainty of his situation. Happily he was removed just at the close of day; and the necessary assistance being procured, he soon recovered. He was never more pleasingly engaged than when reciting the sagacity and affection of his faithful follower, who then became his constant companion.
Mr. Hawkes, farmer of Halling, returning much intoxicated from Maidstone market, with his dog, when the whole face of the country was covered with snow, mistook his path, and passed over a ditch on his right-hand towards the river; fortunately he was unable to get up the bank, or he must have fallen into the Medway, at nearly high water. Overcome with the liquor, Hawkes fell amongst the snow, in one of the coldest nights ever remembered: turning on his back, he was soon asleep; his dog scratched the snow about him, and then mounted upon the body, rolled himself round, and laid him on his master's bosom, for which his shaggy hide proved a seasonable covering. In this state, with snow falling all the time, the farmer and his dog lay the whole of the night; in the morning, a Mr. Finch, who was out with his gun, perceiving an uncommon appearance, proceeded towards it; at his approach, the dog got off the body, shook the snow from him, and by significant actions encouraged Mr. Finch to advance. Upon wiping the snow from the face, the person was immediately recognised, and was conveyed to the first house, when a pulsation in the heart being evident, the (Page 220) necessary means to recover him were employed, and in a short time Hawkes was able to relate his own story. In gratitude for his faithful friend, a silver collar was made for his wearing, and thus inscribed:—
"In man, true friendship I long strove to find, but missed my aim; At length I found it in my dog most kind; man! blush for shame."
The following tale is copied from the "Glasgow Post:"—
"A few days since, while Hector Macalister was on the Aran Hills looking after his sheep, six miles from home or other habitation, his two colley dogs started a rabbit, which ran under a large block of granite. He thrust his arm under the stone, expecting to catch it; but instead of doing so, he removed the supports of the block, which instantly came down on his arm, holding him as fast as a vice. His pain was great; but the pangs he felt were greater when he thought of home, and the death he seemed doomed to die. In this position he lay from ten in the morning till four in the afternoon; when, finding that all his efforts to extricate himself were unavailing, he tried several times, without effect, to get his knife out of his pocket to cut his arm off.
"His only chance now was to send home his dogs, with the view of alarming his friends. After much difficulty, as the faithful creatures were most unwilling to leave him, he succeeded; and Mrs. Macalister, seeing them return alone, took the alarm, and col (Page 221) lecting the neighbours, went in search of her husband, led on by the faithful colleys. When they came to the spot, poor Macalister was speechless with crying for assistance. It required five strong men to remove the block from his arm.
"A further instance of reason and self-judgment was shown in the colley, which, having to collect some sheep from the sides of a gorge, through which ran a morass, saw one of the animals precipitate itself into the shifting mass, where it sank immediately up to the neck, leaving nothing but its small black head visible. The dog looked at the sheep and then at its master with an embarrassed, what-shall-I-do kind of expression; but the latter, being too far off to notice the difficulty or to assist, the dog, with infinite address, seized the struggling animal by the neck, and dragged it by main force to the dry land, and then compelled it to join the flock he was collecting."
The care a sheep-dog will take of the sheep committed to his charge is extraordinary, and he will readily chastise any other dog which happens to molest them. Col. Hamilton Smith relates that a strange cur one day bit a sheep in rear of the flock, unseen by the shepherd. The assault was committed by a tailor's dog, but not unnoticed by the other, which immediately seized the delinquent by the ear and dragged him into a puddle, where he kept dabbling him in the mud with the utmost gravity. The cur yelled. The tailor came slipshod with his goose to the rescue, and flung it at (Page 222) the sheep-dog, but missed him, and did not venture to pick it up till the castigation was over.
And here I cannot do better than introduce Dr. Walcot's (Peter Pindar) charming lines on "The Old Shepherd's Dog:"—
"The old shepherd's dog, like his master, was grey, His teeth all departed, and feeble his tongue; Yet where'er Corin went he was follow'd by Tray: Thus happy through life did they hobble along.
When fatigued on the grass the shepherd would lie For a nap in the sun, 'midst his slumbers so sweet His faithful companion crawl'd constantly nigh, Placed his head on his lap, or laid down at his feet.
When winter was heard on the hill and the plain, When torrents descended, and cold was the wind; If Corin went forth 'mid the tempest and rain, Tray scorn'd to be left in the chimney behind.
At length, in the straw, Tray made his last bed— For vain against death is the stoutest endeavour— To lick Corin's hand he rear'd up his weak head, Then fell back, closed his eyes, and ah! closed them for ever.
Not long after Tray did the shepherd remain, Who oft o'er his grave with true sorrow would bend; And when dying, thus feebly was heard the poor swain, 'O bury me, neighbours, beside my old friend!'"
There can be little doubt but that the dog I have been describing is possessed of almost human sagacity. The following is an extraordinary instance of it. It is related by Dr. Anderson:—
A young farmer in the neighbourhood of Inner (Page 223) leithen, whose circumstances were supposed to be good, and who was connected with many of the best store-farming families in the county, had been tempted to commit some extensive depredations upon the flocks of his neighbours, in which he was assisted by his shepherd. The pastoral farms of Tweeddale, which generally consist each of a certain range of hilly ground, had in those days no enclosures: their boundaries were indicated only by the natural features of the country. The sheep were, accordingly, liable to wander, and to become intermixed with each other; and at every reckoning of a flock a certain allowance had to be made for this, as for other contingencies. For some time Mr. William Gibson, tenant in Newby, an extensive farm stretching from the neighbourhood of Peebles to the borders of Selkirkshire, had remarked a surprising increase in the amount of his annual losses. He questioned his shepherds severely, taxed them with carelessness in picking up and bringing home the dead, and plainly intimated that he conceived some unfair dealing to be in progress. The men, finding themselves thus exposed to suspicions of a very painful kind, were as much chagrined as the worthy farmer himself, and kept their minds alive to every circumstance which might tend to afford any elucidation of the mystery. One day, while they were summering their lambs, the eye of a very acute old shepherd, named Hyslop, was caught by a black-faced ewe which they had formerly missed (for the shepherds generally know every parti (Page 224) cular member of their flocks), and which was now suckling its own lamb as if it had never been absent. On inspecting it carefully, it was found to bear an additional birn upon its face. Every farmer, it must be mentioned, impresses with a hot iron a particular letter upon the faces of his sheep, as a means of distinguishing his own from those of his neighbours. Mr. Gibson's birn was the letter T, and this was found distinctly enough impressed on the face of the ewe. But above this mark there was an O, which was known to be the mark of the tenant of Wormiston, the individual already mentioned. It was immediately suspected that this and the other missing sheep had been abstracted by that person; a suspicion which derived strength from the reports of the neighbouring shepherds, by whom, it appeared, the black-faced ewe had been tracked for a considerable way in a direction leading from Wormiston to Newby. It was indeed ascertained that instinctive affection for her lamb had led this animal across the Tweed, and over the lofty heights between Cailzie and Newby; a route of very considerable difficulty, and probably quite different from that by which she had been led away, but the most direct that could have been taken. Mr. Gibson only stopped to obtain the concurrence of a neighbouring farmer, whose losses had been equally great, before proceeding with some of the legal authorities to Wormiston, where Millar the shepherd, and his master, were taken into custody, and conducted to the prison (Page 225) of Peebles. On a search of the farm, no fewer than thirty-three score of sheep belonging to various individuals were found, all bearing the condemnatory O above the original birns; and it was remarked that there was not a single ewe returned to Grieston, the farm on the opposite bank of the Tweed, which did not minny her lambs—that is, assume the character of mother towards the offspring from which she had been separated.
The magnitude of this crime, the rareness of such offences in the district, and the station in life of at least one of the offenders, produced a great sensation in Tweeddale, and caused the elicitation of every minute circumstance that could possibly be discovered respecting the means which had been employed for carrying on such an extensive system of depredation. The most surprising part of the tale is the extent to which it appears that the instinct of dumb animals had been instrumental, both in the crime and in its detection. While the farmer seemed to have deputed the business chiefly to his shepherd, the shepherd seemed to have deputed it again, in many instances, to a dog of extraordinary sagacity, which served him in his customary and lawful business. This animal, which bore the name of "Yarrow," would not only act under his immediate direction in cutting off a portion of a flock, and bringing it home to Wormiston, but is said to have been able to proceed solitarily, and by night, to a sheepwalk, and there detach certain individuals previously (Page 226) pointed out by its master, which it would drive home by secret ways, without allowing one to straggle. It is mentioned that, while returning home with their stolen droves, they avoided, even in the night, the roads along the banks of the river, or those that descend to the valley through the adjoining glens. They chose rather to come along the ridge of mountains that separate the small river Leithen from the Tweed. But even here there was sometimes danger, for the shepherds occasionally visit their flocks even before day; and often when Millar had driven his prey from a distance, and while he was yet miles from home, and the weather-gleam of the eastern hills began to be tinged with the brightening dawn, he has left them to the charge of his dog, and descended himself to the banks of the Leithen, off his way, that he might not be seen connected with their company. Yarrow, although between three and four miles from his master, would continue, with care and silence, to bring the sheep onward to Wormiston, where his master's appearance could be neither a matter of question nor surprise.
Near to the thatched farmhouse was one of those old square towers, or peel-houses, whose picturesque ruins were then seen ornamenting the course of the Tweed, as they had been placed alternately along the north and south bank, generally from three to six hundred yards from it—sometimes on the shin, and sometimes in the hollow of a hill. In the vault of this tower it was the practice of these men to conceal the (Page 227) sheep they had recently stolen; and while the rest of their people were absent on Sunday at the church, they used to employ themselves in cancelling with their knives the ear-marks, and impressing with a hot iron a large O upon the face, that covered both sides of the animal's nose, for the purpose of obliterating the brand of the true owner. While his accomplices were so busied, Yarrow kept watch in the open air, and gave notice, without fail, by his barking, of the approach of strangers.
The farmer and his servant were tried at Edinburgh in January 1773, and the proceedings excited an extraordinary interest, not only in the audience, but amongst the legal officials. Hyslop, the principal witness, gave so many curious particulars respecting the instincts of sheep, and the modes of distinguishing them both by natural and artificial marks, that he was highly complimented by the bench. The evidence was so complete, that both culprits were found guilty and expiated their crime on the scaffold.
The general tradition is, that Yarrow was also put to death, though in a less ceremonious manner; but this has probably no other foundation than a jeu d'esprit, which was cried through the streets of Edinburgh as his dying speech. We have been informed that the dog was in reality purchased, after the execution of Millar, by a sheep-farmer in the neighbourhood, but did not take kindly to honest courses, and his new master having no work of a different kind in which to (Page 228) engage him, he was remarked to show rather less sagacity than the ordinary shepherd's dog.
An instance of shrewd discrimination in the shepherd's dog, almost as remarkable as that of poor Yarrow, was mentioned a few years ago in a Greenock newspaper. In the course of last summer, says the narrator, it chanced that the sheep on the farm of a friend of ours, on the water of Stinchar, were, like those of his neighbours, partially affected with that common disease, maggots in the skin, to cure which distemper it is necessary to cut off the wool over the part affected, and apply a small quantity of tobacco juice, or some other liquid. For this purpose the shepherd set off to the hill one morning, accompanied by his faithful canine assistant, Ladie. Arrived among the flock, the shepherd pointed out a diseased animal; and making the accustomed signal for the dog to capture it, "poor Mailie" was speedily sprawling on her back, and gently held down by the dog till the arrival of her keeper, who proceeded to clip off a portion of her wool, and apply the healing balsam. During the operation, Ladie continued to gaze on the operator with close attention; and the sheep having been released, he was directed to capture in succession two or three more of the flock, which underwent similar treatment. The sagacious animal had now become initiated into the mysteries of his master's vocation, for off he set unbidden through the flock, and picked out with unerring precision those sheep which were affected with mag (Page 229) gots in their skin, and held them down until the arrival of his master; who was thus, by the extraordinary instinct of Ladie, saved a world of trouble, while the operation of clipping and smearing was also greatly facilitated.
Often as I have attempted to make acquaintance with a colley-dog, I have never been able to succeed in producing any degree of familiarity. On the contrary, he has always regarded me with looks of shyness and suspicion. His master appears to be the only being to whom he is capable of showing any degree of attachment; and coiled up on his great-coat, or reposing at his feet, he eyes a stranger with distrust, if not with anger. At the same time there is a look of extraordinary intelligence, which perhaps is possessed by no other animal in a greater degree. It has been said of him, that although he has not the noble port of the Newfoundland dog, the affectionate fondling of the spaniel, nor the fierce attachment which renders the mastiff so efficient a guard, yet he exceeds them all in readiness and extent of intelligence, combined with a degree of docility unequalled, perhaps, by any other animal in existence. There is, if the expression may be used, a philosophic look about him, which shows thought, patience, energy, and vigilance. During a recent visit in Cumberland, I took some pains to make myself acquainted with the character of this dog, and I am now convinced that too much cannot be said of his wonderful properties. He protects with indefatigable (Page 230) exertions the flock committed to his charge. When we consider the dreary wilds, the almost inaccessible heights, the rugged hills and lofty mountains to which sheep have access, and to which man could scarcely penetrate—that some sheep will stray and intermix with other flocks—that the dog knows the extent of his walk as well as every individual of his flock, and that he will select his own as well as drive away intruders, we must admit his utility and admire his sagacity.
Let me give another instance of this in the words of the Ettrick Shepherd. It was related to me by himself, and has since been published in the "Percy Anecdotes."
"I once witnessed a very singular feat performed by a dog belonging to John Graham, late tenant in Ashiesteel. A neighbour came to his house after it was dark, and told him that he had lost a sheep on his farm, and that if he (Graham) did not secure her in the morning early, she would be lost, as he had brought her far. John said he could not possibly get to the hill next morning, but if he would take him to the very spot where he lost the sheep, perhaps his dog Chieftain would find her that night. On that they went away with all expedition, lest the traces of the feet should cool; and I, then a boy, being in the house, went with them. The night was pitch dark, which had been the cause of the man losing his ewe, and at length he pointed out a place to John by the (Page 231) side of the water where he had lost her. 'Chieftain, fetch that!' said John. 'Bring her back, sir!' The dog jumped around and around, and reared himself up on end; but not being able to see anything, evidently misapprehended his master, on which John fell to scolding his dog, calling it a great many hard names. He at last told the man that he must point out the very track that the sheep went, otherwise he had no chance of recovering it. The man led him to a grey stone, and said he was sure she took the brae (hill side) within a yard of that. 'Chieftain, come hither to my foot, you great numb'd whelp!' said John. Chieftain came—John pointed with his finger to the ground, 'Fetch that, I say, sir—bring that back—away!' The dog scented slowly about on the ground for some seconds, but soon began to mend his pace, and vanished in the darkness. 'Bring her back!—away, you great calf!' vociferated John, with a voice of exultation, as the dog broke to the hill; and as all these good dogs perform their work in perfect silence, we neither saw nor heard any more of him for a long time. I think, if I remember right, we waited there about half an hour, during which time all the conversation was about the small chance which the dog had to find the ewe, for it was agreed on all hands that she must long ago have mixed with the rest of the sheep on the farm. How that was, no man will ever be able to decide. John, however, still persisted in waiting until his dog came back, either with the ewe or (Page 232) without her. At last the trusty animal brought the individual lost sheep to our very feet, which the man took on his back, and went on his way rejoicing."
The care the shepherds of the north of England take in preserving a pure breed of these dogs is very great, and the value set upon them is proportionably high. Nor must the shepherds themselves be passed over without notice. They are a shrewd, sagacious set of men, many of them by no means uneducated, as is the case generally with the peasantry in the north of England. Indeed, it is from this class that many scholars and mathematicians have done so much credit, and I may add honour, to the counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland. An anecdote is related of a shepherd, who was found by a gentleman attending his flock, and reading a volume of Milton. "What are you reading?" asked the gentleman. "Why," replied the shepherd, "I am reading an odd sort of a poet; he would fain rhyme, but does not quite know how to set about it."
The valleys, or glens, which intersect the Grampian mountains, are chiefly inhabited by shepherds. The pastures over which each flock is permitted to range extend many miles in every direction. The shepherd never has a view of his whole flock at once, except when they are collected for sale or shearing. His occupation is to make daily excursions to the different extremities of his pastures in succession, and to turn back, by means of his dog, any stragglers that may be (Page 233) approaching the boundaries of his neighbours. In one of these excursions, a shepherd happened to carry along with him one of his children, about three years old. This is a usual practice among the Highlanders, who accustom their children from their earliest infancy to endure the rigours of the climate. After traversing his pasture for some time, attended by his dog, the shepherd found himself under the necessity of ascending a summit at some distance, in order to have a more extensive view of his range. As the ascent was too fatiguing for the child, he left him on a small plain at the bottom, with strict injunctions not to stir from it till his return. Scarcely, however, had he gained the summit, when the horizon was suddenly darkened by one of those impenetrable mists which frequently descend so rapidly amidst these mountains, as almost to turn day into night, and that in the course of a few minutes. The anxious father instantly hastened back to find his child, but, owing to the unusual darkness, he missed his way in the descent. After a search of many hours amongst the dangerous morasses and cataracts with which these mountains abound, he was at length overtaken by night. Still wandering on without knowing whither, he at length came to the verge of the mist, and, by the light of the moon, discovered that he had reached the bottom of his valley, and was within a short distance of his cottage. To renew the search that night was equally fruitless and dangerous. He was, therefore, obliged to return to his (Page 234) cottage, having lost both his child and his dog, who had attended him faithfully for years.
Next morning by daybreak, the shepherd, accompanied by a band of his neighbours, set out in search of the child, but, after a day spent in fruitless fatigue, he was at last compelled, by the approach of night, to descend from the mountain. On returning to his cottage he found that the dog, which he had lost the day before, had been home, and on receiving a piece of cake, had instantly gone off again. For several successive days the shepherd renewed the search for his child, but still, on returning at evening disappointed to his cottage, he found that the dog had been home, and, on receiving his usual allowance of cake, had instantly disappeared. Struck with this circumstance, he remained at home one day, and when the dog, as usual, departed with his piece of cake, he resolved to follow him, and find out the cause of his strange procedure. The dog led the way to a cataract, at some distance from the spot where the shepherd had left his child. The banks of the cataract almost joined at the top, yet separated by an abyss of immense depth, presenting that appearance which so often astonishes and appals travellers who frequent the Grampian Mountains, and indicates that these stupendous chasms were not the silent work of time, but the sudden effect of some violent convulsion of the earth. Down one of these rugged and almost perpendicular descents, the dog began, without hesitation, to make his way, and at last (Page 235) disappeared into a cave, the mouth of which was almost on a level with the torrent. The shepherd with some difficulty followed, but upon entering the cave, what were his emotions when he beheld his lost child eating with much satisfaction the cake which the dog had just brought to him, while the faithful animal stood by, eyeing his young charge with the utmost complacence.
From the situation in which the child was found, it appears that he had wandered to the brink of the precipice, and then either fallen or scrambled down till he reached the cave, which the dread of the torrent had probably prevented him from quitting. The dog had traced him to the spot, and afterwards prevented him from starving by giving up to him the whole, or the greater part of his own daily allowance. He appears never to have quitted the child by night or day, except when it was necessary to go for food, and then he was always seen running at full speed to and from the cottage.
This extraordinary and interesting anecdote is taken from the "Monthly Magazine" of April, 1802, and bears every appearance of authenticity. It affords an instance of the sense, affection, and self-denial of a faithful animal, and is recorded to his honour, and as an example to the whole race of human beings.
Mr. Daniel, in the Supplement to his "Rural Sports," gives the following account of the shepherds' dogs in (Page 236) North Wales. He says, "The sheep in this country are the ancient Alpine sort, (how excellent the mutton is!) and that from their varying mode of life they assume very different habits to the sheep of an inland country, while those of the shepherds' dogs are no less conspicuous. The excellency of these animals renders sheep-pens in a great degree unnecessary. If a shepherd wishes to inspect his flock in a cursory way, he places himself in the middle of the field, or the piece of ground they are depasturing, and giving a whistle or a shout, the dogs and the sheep are equally obedient to the sound, and draw towards the shepherd, and are kept within reach by one or more dogs, until the business which required them to be assembled is finished. In such estimation was this breed of dogs, when cattle constituted one of the grand sources of wealth to the country, that in the laws of Hywell Dda, the legal price of one perfectly broken in for conducting the flocks or herds to or from their pasturage, was equal to that of an ox, viz. sixty denarii, while the price of the house-dog was estimated at only four, which was the value of a sheep. If any doubt arose as to the genuineness of the breed, or his having been pastorally trained, then the owner and a neighbour were to make oath that he went with the flocks or herds in the morning, and drove them, with the stragglers, home in the evening."
I delight in seeing a shepherd's dog in full activity, (Page 237) anxious to obey the directions of his master. He runs with his utmost speed, encompassing a large space of open country in a short time, and brings those sheep that are wanted to the feet of his master. Indeed the natural talents and sagacity of this dog are so great, partly by being the constant companion of his master, and partly by education, that he may almost be considered a rational being. Mr. Smellie says, "that he reigns at the head of his flock, and that his language, whether expressive of blandishment or of command, is better heard and better understood than the voice of his master. Safety, order, and discipline are the effects of his vigilance and activity. Sheep and cattle are his subjects. These he conducts and protects with prudence and bravery, and never employs force against them, except for the preservation of peace and good order. He not only understands the language of his master, but, when too distant to be heard, he knows how to act by signals made with the hand." How well Delille describes this faithful animal!—
"Aimable autant qu'utile, Superbe et caressant, courageux et docile, Formé pour le conduire et pour le protéger. Du troupeau qu'il gouverne il est le vrai berger; Le Ciel l'a fait pour nous; et dans leur cours rustique, Il fut des rois pasteurs le premier domestique."
Mr. Charles Darwin, in his interesting travels in South America, informs us, that when riding it is a (Page 238) common thing to meet a large flock of sheep, guarded by one or two dogs, at the distance of some miles from any house or man. He often wondered how so firm a friendship had been established, till he found that the method of education consisted in separating the puppy, while very young, from the mother, and in accustoming it to its future companions. In order to do this, a ewe is held three or four times a-day for the little thing to suck, and a nest of wool is made for it in the sheep-pen. At no time is it allowed to associate with other dogs, or with the children of the family. From this education, it has no wish to leave the flock, and just as another dog will defend his master, so will these the sheep. It is amusing to observe, when approaching a flock, how the dog immediately advances barking, and the sheep all close in his rear, as if round the oldest ram. These dogs are also easily taught to bring home the flock at a certain hour in the evening. Their most troublesome fault, when young, is their desire of playing with the sheep; for, in their sport, they sometimes gallop their poor subjects most unmercifully. The shepherd dog comes to the house every day for some meat, and immediately it is given him he skulks away as if ashamed of himself. On these occasions the house-dogs are very tyrannical, and the least of them will attack and pursue the stranger. The minute, however, the latter has reached the flock, he turns round and begins to bark, and then all the house-dogs take very (Page 239) quietly to their heels. In a similar manner, a whole pack of hungry wild dogs will scarcely ever venture to attack a flock when under the protection of even one of these faithful shepherds.