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Rough to smooth mating -necessity or not?

Dianne: I am proposing a new topic - not as one of my firmly held beliefs, but as something I toy with as an idea and I would like to share this subject to hear your ideas. This topic is the result of a lot of reading I have done on this forum and my reactions to various statements of ideas and beliefs I have seen here. So here goes. Given that all herding dogs in the British Isles probably had a common ancestor, these dogs were developed in different ways with different talents and various coats to deal with the climatic and working conditions of the dogs in question. A shepherd dog working on mountains might need some protective coat to protect him from gorse, heather and any other brambles or thorny bushes found there. The coat could not be too heavy because it would be weighed down by ice and snow. A drover's dog, working more in fields and on the roads, would not need this protective coat, but would none-the-less, need a warm undercoat against the cold. Here is the scene set for the rough shepherd's dog and the smooth drover's dog. The famous engraving by Bewick in his 1790 book, "A General History of Quadrupeds", of a smooth docked dog called a cur dog or collie doesn't need any introduction to you.So we can say that the smooth collie as a type of dog existed long before show dogs were developed and roughs were mixed with smooths to give the smooths pedigrees. (As they were introduced to showing slightly earlier, the roughs already benefited from a few generations of pedigree) So, if we are face with two already established and morphologically similar breeds (who, because of showing, share an almost identical standard and can be considered as two branches of a similar type of dog), why hanker after breeding rough to smooth again? As we distance ourselves from rough to smooth mating, perhaps the original smooth is re-emerging - do we want to lose this dog again? PS -There have been no wolves in England since the 12th century and none in Scotland since they were hunted to extinction in the late 1700s, so the collie has had no need of a vocation as a "wolf dog" for quite some time, hence, some people say, his gentler nature.

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Dianne: Alertness wrote: I recall reading something similar, that the smooth and the rough variety might have been separate "breeds" (or rather varieties produced for slightly different working functions) in the very early days before they became "breeds" and pedigrees were written down.[/ Hello Alertness - thanks for your message. I have to admit that the evidence is conflicting as to whether the smooth and rough collie are varieties of the same breed or two separate breeds. I realise, that there is no proof either way, but although it is mainly conjecture, reading I have done leads me to come down on the side of there being two distinct breeds. But as you say, it does somehow boil down to the definitions of "breeds" and "varieties." That said, I have just looked at another book in my library called: Old Farm Dogs by David Hancock. It is published by Shire Albums in 1999. ISBN0 7478 0429 X He talks about different varieties of sheepdog living in both Britain and Europe. He emphasises the fact that sheepdogs were bred very specifically in small areas for very specific needs. He also points out that sheepdogs also had to be versatile dogs carrying out other roles than that of sheepdog. After all, how many dogs can a farm support? Different roles that a dog could fulfill would be to control, drive, herd, pen heel or even pin cattle, sheep and other farm animals and also to hunt. The book is illustrated with photos from any time from the 1800s to the early 1900s. In one photo, a group of farmers have been fox hunting and a collie is a member of the team. Multifunctional!!!! David Hancock points out that climate also played a large role in the selective breeding of farm dogs. So many breeds have been lost says Mr Hancock- the building of the railways removed the need for drovers - perhaps if our smooths were drovers as is often claimed, then we owe their survival to showing. I remember that, as a child, living in Birmingham, we always referred to the Welsh Collie (is this the same as Welsh Hillman?) - Scotland was far away for us - Wales much nearer - the farm dogs we knew of were Welsh collies. Where is he now? Ha ha - I have just found that the Welsh collie is alive and well - just Google "Welsh collie" Many other types of sheepdog are mentioned - a Cotswold bearded sheepdog, a Scottish black and tan, a Blue Shag, Welsh Grey, a Black Merle, and of course, the Border, the Bearded and the Old English, the Corgi and many more. Among so many, the smooth is only briefly mentioned. Finally in this book, is a very is a very interesting speculation. The lurcher is a collie greyhound/ cross which is bred and used today. Two of my friends have had lurchers for many years.The book says quote "Drovers needed to feed themselves on their long journeys and used a sheepdog cross greyhound, known as a lurcher, to fill their pots with meat. The smooth Collie is considered by some experts, to have developed from such a cross. If any of these other lost farm dogs had been picked out as show dogs, their story would have been different. Sorry to go on at such great length. Hope that someone will want to comment and add to this subject, which as usual, started out as a very different topic. Dianne

Alertness: Hi Dianne Again very interesting read . I like the idea of the smooth collie originating from the lurchers; I've always been fascinated by them and their history. Even though the early history of the smooth and rough collie is very cloudy at its best, it seems the two varieties might have been put to slightly different use, apart from being low and high land based (climatic differences requiring a longer and thicker coat for the rough). Berit

Dianne: Hi Berit - my thinking is going along the same lines, but we are changing our ideas as we exchange our ideas - and they are only ideas - we shall never know as you say. Still, it is interesting and hopefully, we will go on researching and talking about the origins of the smooth. Whether this affects the question of mating rough to smooth, I don't know, but it could throw some light on it. Dianne

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