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How working breeds are lost


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Several people have asked me to repost this so here it is:

 

Okay, here’s my attempt at explaining what I think happens when working breeds are lost. Assume the border collie is the theoretical breed, where many strong workers existed in the original breeding pool and the need for their work was not lost or reduced over time but instead the dogs became less and less useful for it.

 

I believe it simplifies the concept I’m trying to get across to think of the different levels of workers in concrete groups, even though, in reality, the scale from all to none is on a continuum. And, in reality, each dog of a breeding pair should be evaluated through actual stockwork for each of the many traits involved, and bred to the best complimentary mate in an effort to produce the proper mix of these traits in the progeny. So, this analogy is strictly my theoretical attempt at a simple representation.

 

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Imagine something such as a dart board, with a bull’s-eye and several circles that indicate areas farther and farther from the middle target. Let’s say the bull’s-eye circle is red, the next circle is orange, the next yellow, and the very outside circle is white. The actual area within these circles varies depending on the number of dogs in each class at any one time.

 

Now let’s define the groups of dogs within the different colored circles. Please remember all of these categories in this hypothetical situation represent the genetic potential of these dogs. In other words, this is what's in the gene pool. I'm not talking about what people think the dogs are or don't know whether they are or not due to not having tested them:

 

Red circle (bull’s eye) = The very best quality of working border collies. A working definition might be dogs that are exceptional enough to save a great deal of time and manpower for a livestock operation.

 

Orange circle = Useful dogs who save time and manpower for the operation but who are not top quality.

 

Yellow circle = Dogs who will work a little, but wouldn’t be considered useful workers on a real livestock operation because they would cost time and cause too much trouble to train or use. IOW, someone may want to pretend they're actually helping, but they really aren't and sometimes they're hindering. Although they may show some herding instincts, it's not the right total package for work.

 

White circle dogs = Not interested or not capable of doing anything with stock except maybe chasing or showing only prey drive. So, not useful or way less than helpful, and sometimes downright dangerous to the stock.

 

 

Livestock working ability is comprised of many complex traits. These traits all need to fit together just right and in the right amounts for the dog to be the complete package, and be considered a top worker -- the bull’s-eye. Achieving this package with the consistency needed requires stringent evaluation and selection for working ability every generation. Because of the complexity of reproducing behavioral traits such as these, it’s difficult to get this package that is a top worker, in every pup, or even close, despite crossing the best to the best. This is partly because some dogs, for whatever reason, aren’t good breeders, no matter how good they, themselves, are. So let’s say if only red circle dogs were crossed, only 80% of that number of red circle dogs would be produced in the next generation. (This is a hypothetical number – it may actually be more or less.) Therefore, breeding only red circle dogs will not replace all of the red circle dogs, and the number of red circle dogs will drop each generation if only these crosses are used.

 

As with other breeds used for other purposes, many a top sire gets bred to a mediocre bitch. Because the working genes were (are?) still highly concentrated in the border collie gene pool, the chances of hitting upon a dog that may not be a top worker herself but is a good breeder, are still pretty good. This type of good breeder would be mostly in the orange circle with a few in the yellow circle, but almost none in the white circle. Breeders of these top working sires may take a stud pup from these crosses to increase their chances of hitting on a good breeder should their top bitches not be, or not cross well with their choice of stud dog. In other words, the top breeders still rely on the peripheral pools of dogs that are not as good workers themselves but are good breeders, to provide some of their next generations of top red circle dogs. As long as the emphasis is on breeding for work and the momentum of most of the breeding is going toward breeding for the bull’s-eye and concentrating only the working genes, the number of red circle dogs will be replaced each generation and maybe even expanded.

 

Now, suppose the breed becomes popular for dog shows, pets, and dog sports such as agility. Suppose these people do not only buy puppies from the working bred dogs. Now instead of a mostly dead end gene pool -- dogs that will not be bred but only used for dog sports, etc., these dogs with no working ability will be bred as the demand increases. The number of white circle dogs increases. And since people seem to want to claim their “borders” can still herd with the best of them, or the sport dog people need to tap into the working traits for success in their endeavor, they will look to the working circles for breeding to try to get these traits in the pups. Regardless of how it happens, however, now the momentum has changed and the working genes are being diluted, instead of concentrated, in this peripheral gene pool that has formerly been the source of good breeders to help replenish the red circle top workers. As this trend progresses, the good breeders in the peripheral gene pool become rarer, the yellow circle fades more to white, the orange fades more to yellow and the red fades more to orange. Unable to replace themselves without the help of the strong working genes formerly present in the peripheral gene pool, over time, the number of dogs truly in the red circle diminishes until the gene pool is too small.

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Here's another thought from Tea!

 

We run sled dogs. They are a team used mostly for fun, but some work in the mts. They are rescues.

 

One mal (Wheel dog) doesn't pull very well. Has health issues and not good hair for snow, but a sweet funny dog.

 

One mal (Wheel dog) bred from a musher pulls great.

 

The alaskans bred for mushing do great pulling wise...(swing and one lead) although not terribly fast, as alaskans, that's probably why they are here.

 

The village type dogs do great, (Swing and one gee haw leader) not real fast but alot of stamina, although rather predatory.

 

The mals are dogs that are typically reg, although these are not. (That I know of) I think they, as a breed, are shown AKC and I assume do not work to be shown AKC

 

The village dogs are not registered. But people keep track of their lines and I think there is some talk of forming, or has just formed a reg for them?

 

The alaskans are not registered but the mushers keep close track of their bloodlines. And they are very good sled dogs. But here's the thing.

 

They have so concentrated on speed that I worry about things like tough feet and good hair.

 

For me...a dog who has bad feet or gets frost bite even though he is fast won't do me much good in the Mts.

Which for me is their work.

 

Also the really speedy dogs are too fast/ freaky for me on really bad going, (Like there is no trails where we go!)

 

Another thing is the alaskans eat about three times as much food as the village/mal dogs. The village dogs metabolism and digestion is better suited to work for me in the mts. I must take their food.

 

The Aslaskans formed as a working breed out of various types of dogs. But now the concentration is on racing.

 

The old people have told me things about the old dogs, that they didn't need booties, that they never needed dog coats, that they could hunt for themselves, that they had common sense about traveling in rough going. The old people had maybe 4 or 5 dogs on a team.

 

Now, the teams are big.

 

So it seems the thing that developed the dogs was what people wanted the most. In the view of the old people a wise, tough dog that could move their gear. (Practical)

 

In terms of now- a fast dog that can win races.

 

Or a beautiful dog that looks good.

 

So that is interesting to me.

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Thanks, Denise, that is very helpful. I've read it before when previously posted but, for some reason, it seems to be more clear to me. Maybe I'm just reading it better or maybe the current discussions have opened up my mind to absorb it better.

 

It is a terrific explanation. Thank you!

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Livestock working ability is comprised of many complex traits.

 

The dartboard analogy was a really good one. What I'd love someone to do is list, as explicitly as possible, these specific traits. I'm sure many of us who have only ever seen bcs working sheep, but have had no direct experience understanding the process, would love to know how these traits differ expressly from those traits that are, let's say, desirable in sport dogs.

And please forgive me if this has been done before -- as it has no doubt been -- but I thought it might be useful here rather than searching for it :rolleyes: .

Ailsa

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Unable to replace themselves without the help of the strong working genes formerly present in the peripheral gene pool, over time, the number of dogs truly in the red circle diminishes until the gene pool is too small.

 

 

 

 

 

Denise,

 

You hit the bullseye with this explanation.

 

 

Carolyn

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Sorry, just a follow-up.

Tea's analysis of an optimum sled-dog lists things like:

1. Stamina rather than speed.

2. Ability to pull well.

3. Warm coat (to prevent frostbite)

4. Tough/strong pads.

5. Steady temperament, i.e. common sense.

6. Moderate appetite.

7. Ability to hunt, if necessary, but not high prey-drive.

 

This was interesting to me.

Ailsa

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I would include in a list:

 

Stamina, both mental and physical.

A certain level of speed.

An agile body, capable of making sharp and quick turns.

Intelligence, and the ability to think and work under pressure.

Biddability, the desire to work as a partner, and faith in the handler.

Balance or the ability to control stock with position.

Eye, or the ability to control stock with the eye.

Power, which is not the ability to bite but rather an attitude of strength.

Confidence, which I think is an attitude of capability.

Ears that hear the handler.

Eyes that see the stock.

The ability to read stock.

A healthy, sound body.

Focus to keep to the job at hand in spite of distractions or discomforts.

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I would include in a list:

 

Stamina, both mental and physical.

A certain level of speed.

An agile body, capable of making sharp and quick turns.

Intelligence, and the ability to think and work under pressure.

Biddability, the desire to work as a partner, and faith in the handler.

Balance or the ability to control stock with position.

Eye, or the ability to control stock with the eye.

Power, which is not the ability to bite but rather an attitude of strength.

Confidence, which I think is an attitude of capability.

Ears that hear the handler.

Eyes that see the stock.

The ability to read stock.

A healthy, sound body.

Focus to keep to the job at hand in spite of distractions or discomforts.

 

Sue,

This is great. What I think it reinforces is that "conformation", i.e. physical appearance, has so little to do with a border collie being a border collie. With the exception of "agile body", and a healthy and sound body, esp. ears and eyes and joints, most of which can be evidence of a well-bred dog of any breed, in your list more criteria are ability and attitude related. Therefore smarts, strength of character, confidence and courage in regards to the job at hand (both the needs of the handler and the demands presented by the stock) are what really set this dog apart.

(Aside: Almost 90% of people I meet think Skye is largely GSD because of her prick ears AND think her bossiness is "herding." :rolleyes: )

 

So I have other questions (posed here because I am still wading through the *other* thread):

 

Are there differences in working ability/style between border collies and other herding breeds? For example, why would a farmer choose a border collie over, let's say, an ACD or Aussie? Are bcs the exclusive choice of sheep farmers and if so, why?

 

As our society changes and the requirement for herding dogs becomes less and less (other than their use in trialing for exhibition purposes or for relatively small "hobbyists" or the last remaining independent farmers/shepherds/etc.) and the interest in border collies (not to mention other herding breeds) for other purposes increases, does the breeding of border collies for working ability become naturally obsolete?

 

Are sheep herding trials important to working farmers or are they considered more entertainment and/or education? If largely the latter, do we want to encourage more border collie enthusiasts to take up recreational herding rather than, say, agility or frisbee? If so, is this realistic, seeing as you need a fairly rural/agricultural location + sheep + professionals to make it happen -- a real luxury for us city folk.

 

Hope this isn't redundant.

Ailsa

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Sue,

This is great. What I think it reinforces is that "conformation", i.e. physical appearance, has so little to do with a border collie being a border collie. With the exception of "agile body", and a healthy and sound body, esp. ears and eyes and joints, most of which can be evidence of a well-bred dog of any breed, in your list more criteria are ability and attitude related. Therefore smarts, strength of character, confidence and courage in regards to the job at hand (both the needs of the handler and the demands presented by the stock) are what really set this dog apart.

Ailsa - One thing that I find amusing in terms of physical standards as seen in winning dogs in the show ring, at least in the case of the Border Collie, but also for a number of other breeds, is that what wins is not often what is "sensible" in terms of conformation for a dog with a purpose. For example, the heavy-boned, stocky, upright-postured showring Border Collie versus the more moderately-boned, lanky, slinky-postured that is often the "functional" working dog. Or the showring winning GSD that is very unsound and unstable, versus the strong and functional, sane dog that is bred to be a powerful and effective military/police/sherphed dog. Or simply judging a Greyhound at a showring trot when it is a dog whose function is carried out at a blazing gallop, is kind of silly - even though I realize that demonstrating a dog (or horse) at a trot does serve a certain purpose.

 

It is much more what is between the ears that defines the working Border Collie than what is on the outside. The outside is the "vehicle" for the brains and temperment. That is what eludes many people who think you can breed for a physical "type" and not prove a dog in the work capacity it is intended for, and then not lose the mental attributes that make a breed special and functional.

 

Are there differences in working ability/style between border collies and other herding breeds? For example, why would a farmer choose a border collie over, let's say, an ACD or Aussie? Are bcs the exclusive choice of sheep farmers and if so, why?

 

I am no expert but, yes, different breeds/types of working dogs do exhibit different working styles. These differing breeds are therefore more or less suited to different livestock and working situations. However, I think a good Border Collie is (in general) most adaptable to working in varying situations, large fields/farms/ranches and smaller farms/penwork.

 

A Border Collie works quietly. Sometimes, a "noisy" dog is an advantage, in rough brush or large tracts of rough land (like the brushlands of the South or areas in New Zealand) and so the Huntaway or the Catahoula may be more useful. Some folks need a gathering type of dog while others need a dog that drives, and so for one a Border Collie may fill the bill perfectly and for another, an Aussie might do a good job.

 

I think there is no breed that is more useful and adaptable than a well-bred Border Collie. Sometimes, that is because many other previously purpose-bred breeds have been so diluted with breeding for other traits (showing, pets, other uses) that their original stock abilities are largely lost or non-functional. But also because, I believe, the good working-bred Border Collie has the package that makes it generally very trainable and adaptable to differing situations

 

As our society changes and the requirement for herding dogs becomes less and less (other than their use in trialing for exhibition purposes or for relatively small "hobbyists" or the last remaining independent farmers/shepherds/etc.) and the interest in border collies (not to mention other herding breeds) for other purposes increases, does the breeding of border collies for working ability become naturally obsolete?

 

I think some people feel this is inevitable for the Border Collie and that it will go the way of many other breeds that have lost their original purpose-bred traits, at least to a generally useful degree. I think many find this to be a justification of breeding for *whatever people want* instead of preserving abilities in a breed for *what people need*. I think that to lose a valuable working breed simply because people *want* a particular type of pet, performance, or show dog is a crying shame.

 

As long as there are livestock and shepherds/farmers/ranchers, there will be a need for good dogs. Just because a majority of people are just looking for a pet, companion, or sport/fun dog is no excuse to lose a valuable contributor to lower-stress livestock handling on the farm, ranch, feedlot, or sales barn. We have just a small family farm, and could do much of the work without the help of dogs. But, for those jobs where we need that kind of assistance, there is nothing that can take the place of a good working dog.

 

Are sheep herding trials important to working farmers or are they considered more entertainment and/or education? If largely the latter, do we want to encourage more border collie enthusiasts to take up recreational herding rather than, say, agility or frisbee? If so, is this realistic, seeing as you need a fairly rural/agricultural location + sheep + professionals to make it happen -- a real luxury for us city folk.

 

I think they serve multiple purposes. First, is to test the dogs on an as-level-as-possible playing field. It is hard to compare dogs at home since those situations vary so greatly, are familiar to the dogs involved, and are oftentimes more a matter of speculation or subjective opinion. Second, is to allow handlers to see a wide range of dogs, and dogs from outside their local area, at work and in comparison, especially when considering potential breeding decisions and potential sources of future working dogs/pups. Third, is to show the public, potential handlers, and novice handlers what a good dog can be capable of doing and so they are also an educational tool.

 

Hope this isn't redundant.

Ailsa

Good, thoughtful questions from people with open minds who want to understand and learn, are never redundant.

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I think there is no that is more useful and adaptable than a well-bred Border Collie. Sometimes, that is because many other previously purpose-bred breeds have been so diluted with breeding for other traits (showing, pets, other uses) that their original stock abilities are largely lost or non-functional.

I think some people feel this is inevitable for the Border Collie and that it will go the way of many other breeds that have lost their original purpose-bred traits, at least to a generally useful degree. I think many find this to be a justification of breeding for *whatever people want* instead of preserving abilities in a breed for *what people need*. I think that to lose a valuable working breed simply because people *want* a particular type of pet, performance, or show dog is a crying shame.

 

Thanks Sue. That answers my questions quite well. I really appreciate your take on it :D and kind words. But I would also love to hear from others.....

 

I acquired both my dogs from the pound (Riley was a stray at about 10 months and Skye was relinquished at 6 weeks after being purchased from a farm), and when I got Riley, my first, they said to me, "She's a border collie. Are you sure you know what that means?" That scared me, but did not scare me off, and consequently I signed up to the Boards back then in 1992. There seemed to be much more of a working bc population from the UK and Australia at that time and the discussion centred mainly on whether it was right to work your dog all day and then have it sleep in the barn at night (yes, UK & Australia - them; and no, US & Canada - us). There didn't seem to be as much discussion, that I recall anyway, about breeding. But I did learn a lot about behaviour and training (she was my first dog, let alone bc! and had an unknown history) -- although I will be the first to admit I have a lot to learn still. When I obtained Skye, I fell in love immediately, but I didn't set out to get a border collie expressly. Now I am totally smitten and will have to think about my next move when that fateful day comes -- which I don't spend much time thinking about for obvious reasons :D . But I am committed to rescuing, since that is where the need is most here. And I do, at every opportunity, tell others about bc rescue and the possibility of making a breed-specific request at local rescue groups and facilities where a border collie is desired. But I also tell them that they need structure, exercise and training training training :D .

Ailsa

P.S. I fear we are the only ones here :rolleyes:

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Ailsa,

 

It would be really hard to tell someone who doesn't work with livestock every day, and on top of that doesn't use a dog every day to do that, what you need. When I talk to people who are outside of that experience, I frame it in terms of usefulness. When you start saying, "A dog that is X-Y-Z is the kind of do that can do this work" - well, that may or may not be true. It's more of a negative thing - you try the dog and if there's useful characteristics there, you look for that in the next generation. If there are weaknesses, you either decide it's not a hill you will die on, or you breed away from that.

 

You are seeking balance. So yes, you may want eye, but not too much. What's too much? You'll never know until you work the dog and realize that level of eye just makes more work than it is worth. Ditto the other way. If you are a newbie, a dog with little eye is going to make you tear your hair out by the roots. But, a more advanced handler might want such a dog so that it's easier to place here and there on the trial field, or during very distant range or hill work. So you can't say, "This is the ideal sheepdog." There's no such thing, really.

 

So moving in and out of the red and orange ranges helps us preserve a healthy and useful variety in the breed.

 

Denise, I don't know whether I've mentioned this before, but I've used this explanation in the past with AKC breed fanciers and it made perfect sense to them. So thank you so much for sharing. I'll have to file this somewhere safe now. One time I drew it on the side of my refrigerator for someone who was into Tervs, and I couldn't remember one important piece (the "good breeder" part) - I had to send it later to her.

 

I vote to make this a sticky!

 

Tea, I think I know what you are saying and the situation isn't exactly parallel. The Border collie grew out of a gene pool of already fairly talented working dogs, as a result of people calling for refinement of the sheepdog through the competitions. A standard, if you will. The standard itself calls for balance of working traits, unlike a race which just rewards speed and a particular type of stamina. If the races disallowed certain "helps" like the booties, the special foods, the extra dogs, etc, that you mention, I would venture a guess that folks would start breeding a more balanced dog.

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You are seeking balance. So yes, you may want eye, but not too much. What's too much? You'll never know until you work the dog and realize that level of eye just makes more work than it is worth. Ditto the other way. If you are a newbie, a dog with little eye is going to make you tear your hair out by the roots. But, a more advanced handler might want such a dog so that it's easier to place here and there on the trial field, or during very distant range or hill work. So you can't say, "This is the ideal sheepdog." There's no such thing, really.

 

So moving in and out of the red and orange ranges helps us preserve a healthy and useful variety in the breed.

 

Thanks Rebecca,

I did have an inkling that this was also the case, since the border collie's usefulness can be a fairly subjective thing in terms of the conditions and requirements involved (stock, landscape, climate, specific type of work needed, etc.) as well as the relationship between he/she and the individual handler.

 

And Tea, sorry I didn't mean to disregard your original post re: sled dogs. Didn't know if you were still following. Any additional insights are great :rolleyes: . Anyone?

Ailsa

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Here are a few articles from Country Life In American from 1903-1913 about the "Old Fashion Collie." Very interesting read if you have the time and I think it goes nicely with the thread as we can see the outcome, a hundred years later. :rolleyes:

 

http://izebug.syr.edu/~gsbisco/clife/cla.htm

 

Katelynn

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That is true Rebecca, I added it because it provokes thoughts in my head. :rolleyes:

 

Thanks Aisla!

 

My only other thought is with my dogs that work my sheep browsing road thing......I need a couple of different types of dogs.

 

One of my dogs works pretty close and is pretty tough and direct. The other works wider and is looser eyed and a diplomat.

 

What the pup will be I will have to wait and see. I work my dogs together as a team, very useful.

 

But having a couple of different types helps me alot when moving alot of sheep loose through varying terrain.

 

Ok I have another thought, someone brought me a couple of dogs to try once.

 

One just lay there and watched the stock intently but would not move, sticky.

 

The other had been allowed to chase horses and nip! Something that my little herding ponies would not put up with very well. But if these dogs had been in someones expert hands they might have been great working dogs. And even worthy of being bred.

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Here are a few articles from Country Life In American from 1903-1913 about the "Old Fashion Collie." Very interesting read if you have the time and I think it goes nicely with the thread as we can see the outcome, a hundred years later. :rolleyes:

 

http://izebug.syr.edu/~gsbisco/clife/cla.htm

 

Katelynn

 

 

Thanks for posting the link Katelynn, kinda a sad read.

 

Something struck me though, the picture of the depicted "Old Fashion Collie" helping with the goats. How many would cull a dog that only had enough drive to help, as oppossed to being able to get out there and manage the task on their own, regardless of the breed? I think not only have the dog changed but the work has changed quite a bit too.

 

Deb

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I like the dart board analogy a *lot*. I would also love to see this as a sticky.

 

Now off to wade through the rest of the weekend. We're there no events this weekend people? Looks like I missed a whale, several whales.., of discussion :rolleyes:

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I'm wondering if the discussion over on other topics about "different dogs for different jobs" (trials, hobby farm, commercial ranch work, cattle vs. sheep work) can be sort of reconciled with the "dart board" metaphor by considering that there might be a number of different "border collie dartboards", all sort of overlapping like a Venn diagram. So there are "red circle" dogs for each area of work, some of which might be only "orange circle" for others, and a few dogs that are "red circle" for all of them.

 

If there are healthy populations of dogs on all those dartboards, there ought to be a relatively big total "red circle", encompassing dogs with a variety of different working traits, and also maintaining an effective and high quality "orange circle" for each different area of work, so that people working and breeding dogs on one "dartboard" can dip into another for some different collections of traits when necessary. Maintaining those different dartboards might be important to the usefulness, versatility and health of the border collie as a working breed.

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Are there differences in working ability/style between border collies and other herding breeds? For example, why would a farmer choose a border collie over, let's say, an ACD or Aussie? Are bcs the exclusive choice of sheep farmers and if so, why?

 

Where I live in and work in agricultural Australia kelpies and BCs are the choice of sheep farmers in the wheat /sheep/cattle agricultural areas.

 

Many years ago when I was working up in the cattle station country ACDS were popular because they were purpose bred to handle conditions such as thick scrub, extreme heat, extremely wild cattle. They were noisy, bitey, intelligent, independant and fearless and were bred to duck their heads under cow kicks and turning charging cattle having tough muscular bodies and not afraid to bite hard. In those days I worked with the horses and was not a dog person but I couldnt really imagine a BC in these extreme conditions. Those pastoral cattle were not like agricultural cattle.

 

These ACDS I knew would not be a good option for sheep or even the more domesticated cattle I would suspect - much to rough and bitey. Where I live people tend to use ACDS these days as working dogs for feral pig hunting.

 

The agility team that entered the nationals from the Northern Territory a couple of years ago were made up of ACDS, Kelpies and crosses there of, so I guess they still use that style of dog in cattle station country.

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Wow, feel under the weather for a couple of days and look how fast things have moved on these boards in that time!

 

This analogy is certainly not perfect and can be interpreted many different ways. I continue to post it every few years partly because in its simplicity, it seems to provide a jumping off point for further thoughts and refinements.

 

Thanks for the responses thus far.

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Or you could say that the ideal red area dogs are the true "do it all" dogs (so very rare!), and then shade out the orange in various "types" of orange/yellow which overlap, flow into each other into a third dimension - it would be impossible really to represent physically in two dimensions how the gene pool produces and maintains variety and mixing of characteristics and the ability to pass on those.

 

I do grazing too (not for a living - to utilize unfenced pasture) and it's true that it's almost a requirement to have two different types of dogs. Oddly, even if you don't have dogs that are fundamentally different from each other, they will start to work in different ways to get the job done.

 

And just for fun someday out on your graze, try this. Ask your dog with a lot of eye to do the job normally taken by the plain working dog, and ask the plain working dog to hold balance. I feel like it's a good exercise to help me see how these things are done, and also to help expand the dog's abilities.

 

Assuming your stock are relatively cooperative. I like to do this in early fall when the grass is nice and the ewes are quiet and have nothing on their minds but eating. :rolleyes:

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Or you could say that the ideal red area dogs are the true "do it all" dogs (so very rare!), and then shade out the orange in various "types" of orange/yellow which overlap, flow into each other into a third dimension - it would be impossible really to represent physically in two dimensions how the gene pool produces and maintains variety and mixing of characteristics and the ability to pass on those.

Yep. Agreed.

 

But seriously, are there any "true red" dogs? I can't imagine that too many full-time large farm working dogs (or their owners), working on various species and breeds of stock have the time to train and trial to the very top standard in cattle/sheep trials...

 

And, more importantly, one person's "red" dog is another's "orange", depending on the job/stock/trials/personal preferences. Reading the ISDN articles and interviews, its obvious that disagreement on what makes a great dog is an international phenomenon.

 

I guess all I was saying (I think that's what you were referring to?) is that its probably a great thing that there are people shooting for different targets within the working border collie breed.

 

(and by that I'm not talking about non-stock-working "targets" like sport)

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Overseas it is still the case that the top winners are the "pros" those who make their living from flock management.

 

Here it's probably fifty fifty, but the top handlers are still the ones with some of the biggest flocks. There are not many at the top who are hobby farmers. We can figure it out this week at the Finals - we've just had Soldier Hollow and the Meeker - maybe we can list the names and just note what type of operations these people have (or where the dog works). Would that be declasse'?

 

Even though I've got a for-profit operation here it's a small flock and I'm sending Ted off for a month of training or so, to see how he does in big flock situations. I do this with every "hopeful" I get. I know a dog can be useful here and have huge holes that are obvious on different kind of sheep or a different type of operation.

 

Again, as I've been around, I've seen how adaptable to a wide variety of circumstances that the true red circle dog is. Mick, for instance, is a dog that works a smallish farm (about my farm size), on similar sheep to mine, but much more well treated and so inclined to "mind" the dog and handler. But any question in my mind about whether pups like him would do well here, are answered when I see him handle a variety of sheep on different courses around here - both "out bye" and "at hand" - gathering and driving and at hand work. I saw him on the difficult test of Edgeworth at least two times - once as a young dog and one near retirement. I "saw" him at Bluegrass handle Western sheep with applomb (not literally there, unfortunately - but I've seen him work there a couple times). And he's gone out west and worked both trial courses and on the ranch. He's worked, I believe, cattle, and of course goats, and if he hasn't done ducks I'd question whether any dog that he done so many different things couldn't be persuaded with patience to work ducks (sometimes you have to start with peepers instead).

 

Please note, Mick's "Big Wins" have been limited. When we start putting names in the "red circle" we'd be tempted to start with all the BG, Edgeworth, Fl TC, Winter Olympics, SH, Meeker, Finals winners and possibly just end there.

 

Also, as I was saying to Patrick last night, this is a model - it's not a standard or a system for classifying our breed as it is. As such, to describe the way the "colors" meld into each other and flow would require something more like a model of a star or planet with mixing and spurts of material between the layers.

 

My husband does a Bible studies series at our church and likes to use models to explain his views of difficult concepts like the difference between how an eternal unchanging personal God views time, and how we see it. He always prefaces these models with, "It's just a model. The model is not the real thing, nor is it intended to cover every detail of the real thing, nor can we draw any conclusions based on weaknesses in the model versus the actual concept."

 

This is because he has a smart-alecky wife who is way too literal and has difficulty with exactly that. "Okay, if the beach ball is time, and we are on the outside seeing only the parts around us and God from the inside can touch every point at any time - wait, doesn't that mean the God is actually inside time?"

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If you mean my Mick here, Becca, thank for your kind words. He has more scope than any dog I've ever had and is probably the best dog I'll ever have. Living with and using a dog day in and day out over years for various types of work gives a perspective on character, etc., trials alone often don't. However, trials have their place for sorting dogs IMO. If I see a dog at enough trials in enough different situations with enough different types of sheep, I can usually see that dog's strengths and weaknesses, no matter who's handling it. I do wish we had more trials that sorted dogs though rather than the many "handler trials" we have in this area.

 

On the matter of using two or more dogs and seeing different roles emerge as they work together, I think this is very interesting. It probably goes back to the pack hunting structure where there is a hierarchy within the pack and each member has its own role. But that's another topic for another time :rolleyes:

 

Thanks for reading and the responses. I gain new perspective and depth each time this analogy is discussed.

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