The Bearded Collie, also known as the Hairy Mou'ed Collie, the Highland Collie, the Mountain Collie, the Hairy Mountain Dog or simply the Beardie, is one of Britain's oldest dog breeds. They were introduced to the United States in the late 1950's, but it was not until 1967 that the first litter of Bearded Collies was officially born in this country. The Bearded Collie Club of America was founded in 1969. The breed became eligible to be shown in the Miscellaneous class in American Kennel Club dog shows in 1974. The AKC Stud Book was opened to Beardie registrations in 1976, and the breed became officially part of the Working Group in 1977. In 1983, Bearded Collies joined the newly-formed AKC Herding Group.
The ideal adult height for a Bearded Collie is between 20 and 22 inches at the withers. Height over or under the standard is to be severely penalized in the breed. Beardies have beautiful long double coats which require significant attention and grooming. They need to be brushed and cleaned on a regular basis, or their beautiful fur can become tangled and matted. They are quick and agile dogs, and for their size they have a uniquely graceful gait. They need exercise and attention more so than many other breeds, as they are exuberant, energetic and high-spirited. These dogs are uniformly bouncy, bubbly and boisterous, but can be stubborn and strong-willed as well.
The original history of this humble herding breed has largely been lost to history. However, photographs of the breed date back to the 1770's. There are several theories about the origin of this breed. Some think it began as a cross between the Scotch Collie and the Bobtail, or Old English Sheepdog, although this is unlikely. Some think that the Beardie descended from the shaggy-coated Polish Lowland Sheepdog and/or the Old Welsh Grey, which may now be extinct. Others put the Beardie's ancestors as the Icelandic Dog or the Polski Owczarek Nizzinny.
Regardless of its origins, the popularity of the Beardies began in Scotland at the end of the Victorian era, where they were prized as both working and competition show dogs. With the advent of World War I, the breed almost became extinct. By the 1930's, there apparently were no kennels breeding show Bearded Collies in Great Britain. Fortunately, the shepherds in Scotland continued to highly value and breed their Beardies during this time.
After World War II, several breeders in Britain began to breed Beardies again for show purposes. The Bearded Collie Club of Britain was founded in 1955, and in 1959 the Kennel Club of England allowed Beardies to be shown. Thereafter, the popularity of this breed began to steadily increase.
Beardies were introduced in the United States in the late 1950's, and they were approved by the American Kennel Club in the late 1970's as part of the Working Group. They joined the Herding Group in 1983. Perhaps the crowning moment for this breed came in 1989, when a Bearded Collie won Best in Show at Crufts.
The average life span of the Bearded Collie is 12 to 14 years. Breed health concerns may include allergies, autoimmune disorders, congenital elbow luxation, eye problems, hip dysplasia and hypothyroidism.
The Bearded Collie is one of Great Britain's most ancient breeds. This shaggy, humble herding dog is still prized by shepherds because it is smart, strong, focused, agile, and willing to put in a good day's work. Butchers and cattlemen/cattlewomen in Great Britain and elsewhere also value their assistance in herding and moving cantankerous cattle.
Beardies are happy dogs, with an adorable, inquisitive personality. They bond firmly with their people but are not particularly possessive or protective. They are attentive, stable and self-confident, and should show no signs of shyness, fearfulness or aggression.
Beardies are active, athletic animals. They have been bred for centuries to be persistent and tireless, and therefore they normally do not flourish without a regular job to do. They probably are not the best choice for apartment-dwellers with full-time jobs outside of the home, unless daily dog-walkers are part of the picture.
There are a multitude of activities that Beardies enjoy. With their intelligence and energy, a busy Beardie is a happy Beardie. They can excel in agility and in the conformation ring. Herding can be an enjoyable pursuit for both dog and handler. Many Bearded Collies have been certified as therapy dogs and regularly visit hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. This can be a rewarding experience for owners as well as dogs, and perhaps especially for the patients. Beardies seem to thrive with this type of attention.
Bearded Collies are trainable and thrive with obedience, agility, herding, utility and/or other performance tasks. Their enthusiastic personality makes them stand out in the conformation show ring as well. Obedience training can be a wonderful performance activity for both owner and dog. However, Beardies do have an independent spirit that can make them challenging to train. They are easily bored, so keeping the training interesting is important. When done with patience and good attitude, the results of training Bearded Collies can be incredibly rewarding.
The Bearded Collie is hardy and active, with an aura of strength and agility characteristic of a real working dog. Bred for centuries as a companion and servant of man, the Bearded Collie is a devoted and intelligent member of the family. He is stable and self-confident, showing no signs of shyness or aggression. This is a natural and unspoiled breed.
The Bearded Collie is a medium sized dog with a medium length coat that follows the natural lines of the body and allows plenty of daylight under the body. The body is long and lean, and, though strongly made, does not appear heavy. A bright inquiring expression is a distinctive feature of the breed. The Bearded Collie should be shown in a natural stance.
The head is in proportion to the size of the dog. The skull is broad and flat; the stop is moderate; the cheeks are well filled beneath the eyes; the muzzle is strong and full; the foreface is equal in length to the distance between the stop and occiput. The nose is large and squarish. A snipy muzzle is to be penalized. (See Color section for pigmentation.) Eyes: The eyes are large, expressive, soft and affectionate, but not round nor protruding, and are set widely apart. The eyebrows are arched to the sides to frame the eyes and are long enough to blend smoothly into the coat on the sides of the head. (See Color section for eye color.) Ears: The ears are medium sized, hanging and covered with long hair. They are set level with the eyes. When the dog is alert, the ears have a slight lift at the base. Teeth: The teeth are strong and white, meeting in a scissors bite. Full dentition is desirable.
The neck is in proportion to the length of the body, strong and slightly arched, blending smoothly into the shoulders.
The shoulders are well laid back at an angle of approximately 45º; a line drawn from the highest point of the shoulder blade to the forward point of articulation approximates a right angle with a line from the forward point of articulation to the point of the elbow. The tops of the shoulder blades lie in against the withers, but they slope outwards from there sufficiently to accommodate the desired spring of ribs. The legs are straight and vertical, with substantial, but not heavy, bone and are covered with shaggy hair all around. The pasterns are flexible without weakness.
The body is longer than it is high in an approximate ratio of five to four, length measured from point of chest to point of buttocks, height measured at the highest point of the withers. The length of the back comes from the length of the ribcage and not that of the loin. The back is level. The ribs are well sprung from the spine but are flat at the sides. The chest is deep, reaching at least to the elbows. The loins are strong. The level back line blends smoothly into the curve of the rump. A flat croup or a steep croup is to be severely penalized.
The hind legs are powerful and muscular at the thighs with well bent stifles. The hocks are low. In normal stance, the bones below the hocks are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other when viewed from the rear; the hind feet fall just behind a perpendicular line from the point of buttocks when viewed from the side. The legs are covered with shaggy hair all around. Tail: The tail is set low and is long enough for the end of the bone to reach at least the point of the hocks. It is normally carried low with an upward swirl at the tip while the dog is standing. When the dog is excited or in motion, the curve is accentuated and the tail may be raised but is never carried beyond a vertical line. The tail is covered with abundant hair.
The feet are oval in shape with the soles well padded. The toes are arched and close together, and well covered with hair including between the pads.
The coat is double with the undercoat soft, furry and close. The outercoat is flat, harsh, strong and shaggy, free from wooliness and curl, although a slight wave is permissible. The coat falls naturally to either side but must never be artificially parted. The length and density of the hair are sufficient to provide a protective coat and to enhance the shape of the dog, but not so profuse as to obscure the natural lines of the body. The dog should be shown as naturally as is consistent with good grooming but the coat must not be trimmed in any way. On the head, the bridge of the nose is sparsely covered with hair which is slightly longer on the sides to cover the lips. From the cheeks, the lower lips and under the chin, the coat increases in length towards the chest, forming the typical beard. An excessively long, silky coat or one which has been trimmed in any way must be severely penalized.
Coat: All Bearded Collies are born either black, blue, brown or fawn, with or without white markings. With maturity, the coat color may lighten, so that a born black may become any shade of gray from black to slate to silver, a born brown from chocolate to sandy. Blues and fawns also show shades from dark to light. Where white occurs, it only appears on the foreface as a blaze, on the skull, on the tip of the tail, on the chest, legs and feet and around the neck. The white hair does not grow on the body behind the shoulder nor on the face to surround the eyes. Tan markings occasionally appear and are acceptable on the eyebrows, inside the ears, on the cheeks, under the root of the tail, and on the legs where the white joins the main color. Pigmentation: Pigmentation on the Bearded Collie follows coat color. In a born black, the eye rims, nose and lips are black, whereas in the born blue, the pigmentation is a blue-gray color. A born brown dog has brown pigmentation and born fawns a correspondingly lighter brown. The pigmentation is completely filled in and shows no sign of spots. Eyes: Eye color will generally tone with the coat color. In a born blue or fawn, the distinctively lighter eyes are correct and must not be penalized.
The ideal height at the withers is 21-22 inches for adult dogs and 20-21 inches for adult bitches. Height over and under the ideal is to be severely penalized. The express objective of this criterion is to insure that the Bearded Collie remains a medium sized dog.
Movement is free, supple and powerful. Balance combines good reach in forequarters with strong drive in hindquarters. The back remains firm and level. The feet are lifted only enough to clear the ground, giving the impression that the dog glides along making minimum contact. Movement is lithe and flexible to enable the dog to make the sharp turns and sudden stops required of the sheepdog. When viewed from the front and rear, the front and rear legs travel in the same plane from the shoulder and hip joint to pads at all speeds. Legs remain straight, but feet move inward as speed increases until the edges of the feet converge on a center line at a fast trot.
--flat croup or steep croup
--excessively long, silky coat
--trimmed or sculptured coat
--height over or under the ideal
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Sources: American Kennel Club