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The Bearded Collie is used to herd both sheep and cattle. It is essentially a working dog�bred to be hardy and reliable, able to stand up to the harshest conditions and the toughest sheep. The working Bearded Collie has become less common in the last few decades and might have died out; however, thanks to the efforts of a few shepherds like Tom Muirhead and Peter Wood (and breeders like Brian Plummer) the "working Beardie" has survived and is becoming more popular. It has been exported to Australia and the United States, and finds favour among those looking for an independent and intelligent sheepdog. The Working Bearded Collie Society's mission is to preserve the working abilities of non-registered working dogs from "bearded" ancestors. The website Shepherds with beardies has much valuable information on the small population of working Beardies.
The KC-registered Bearded Collie has fallen into disfavour with the shepherds of Wales, Scotland and elsewhere because of the show-breeding community's lack of interest in producing "hardy and reliable" animals; show-bred lines tend to develop excessive coats, in particular. However, in some countries (notably Sweden and the United States) herding programmes have been developed for the breed. The breed organisations in those countries now actively encourage breeders to emphasise qualities other than appearance.
The Bearded Collie may have earned its nickname "bouncing Beardie" because the dogs would work in thick underbrush on hillsides; they would bounce to catch sight of the sheep. Beardies also have a characteristic way of facing a stubborn ewe, barking and bouncing on the forelegs. Whatever the reason, a typical Bearded Collie is an enthusiastic herding dog which requires structure and care; it moves stock with body, bark and bounce as required. Very few Beardies show "eye" when working; most are upright.
Herding instincts and tractability can be assessed in noncompetitive herding tests. Beardies exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.
November 29th, 2012
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