Animal Stories

Collie Dog Experiences

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The collie breed of dog was very much part of Michael’s early life. His family owned an extensive farm near Moville in Donegal, Ireland. He recalls the very special status of the six or so collies that worked the farm with the landowners.

Purebred border collie herding a flock of sheep on a summer day.

When it was time to winter the sheep at summer’s end each of the collies would be instructed to ‘bring the creatures home.’ The collies on their own would spread out across the region’s mountains and valleys and having rounded flocks up would guide them to the wintering sheds.

As the semi-wild creatures were shepherded into the enclosures a member of the family would count the number of returned sheep which numbered in the hundreds. If at the end of the count, one or two sheep were missing the collie dog would go off and either return with the lost sheep or take the farmer to the sheep if it or they had died.

If a non-family member were to approach the farm the dogs would form a perfect protective circle around the rocking chair where rested the farm’s matriarch. Routinely, a dog would collect the post from the occasional visit of a postman and bring it to the farmstead.

The dogs were not unique as he witnessed similar extravagant examples of discipline, training and intelligence as a pre-teen when he lived in North Wales. The barn interiors of his school friend Meredith were covered in rosettes and other awards won by the farm’s Welsh collies at dog breeding and sheepdog trials.  

He recalls occasions when the farm bull needed to be sent to or returned from pasture. In the soldierly formation that would make the Queen’s Lifeguards envious the collies would take up their position as escorts. At the front legs of the bull was a collie on each side, likewise flanked by another two dogs with two more at the bull’s rear. Twice a day the operation was repeated with only the farmer opening and shutting the gate to assist the collies.

Interestingly, Michael’s collie had a fascinating background. One year before Scot was born his mother had given birth to six puppies. As demand for collies had dropped, the puppies were placed in a sack, taken to the river and drowned.

The pups’ mother was beside herself with grief and looked everywhere for her missing puppies. Then a few mornings later the farmer’s wife opened the door to see the bodies of the six puppies each neatly laid on the step. With the dead brood was the mother who had searched and found the sack holding her dead offspring. Taking each pup to the farmyard step was her way of letting her owners know that their sin had been exposed.

The following year the farmer and his wife were bemused when food was frequently stolen from the farm. Keeping watch, they realized that the mother of the dead puppies was stealing food and disappearing in the direction of a mountain with her ill-gotten plunder. The direction in which the mother disappeared was noted and the location of a new litter was discovered in a small mountain cave.  

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2 replies »

  1. Interesting, but the dog in the photo with the caption “Purebred border collie …” is actually an Austalian shepherd/sheepdog. Close, but not enough.


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