Jump to content
BC Boards

Loss of herding instinct


Recommended Posts

I've been thinking about herding instinct recently, and how it is lost though selective breeding for other traits.


There are so many breeds which have completely changed through the show ring, including border collies, but many don't have people who continue to breed the dogs for their herding ability at all, breeds such as the norwegian buhund, the old english sheepdog, spanish water dog, etc. (at least from what I could tell, there are people who still herd with them using instinct tests and the like, but it doesn't really seem the focus for any breeder from what I could find)


There are some which have the fortunate case where they are still actually bred for their origional purpose, such as the lovely border collie, Australian shepherds, Australian kelpies and the like.

The working bearded collie did seem to be loosing numbers, but at a dog agility show I was at the other day they mentioned that working beardies were gaining popularity in agility.


Some dogs after hundreds of years of breeding for traits other than herding still retain herding instinct and can be used, such as the german shepherd, but are they really as good as the dogs of the past? Of course its a different type of herding in the form of tending for this breed, but I do wonder what the original german shepherds were able to do...

Is there even still a bloodline for the belgian shepherds and german shepherds that has remained unchanged since recognition and introduction of breeding for IPO?

A bloodline which hasn't had any influence from other lines, a bloodline that still retains the natural tending and livestock protecting abilities of the past?


Then there are the breeds which are completely unrecognised, such as the Sinka, Koolie, Blue Lacy, Welsh sheepdog, Hangin' Tree cowdogs, etc.


Then the ones are those which are used by native type people and don't draw much attention, relatively unchanged no matter what has occurred, yet is at risk when those owning them move out or replace them, such as the Basque Shepherd and Cane Di oropa, old german shepherd dogs, which have been classed as an endangered landrace!



Perhaps these could be the same as those which are unrecognised except with a difference in use, purpose, and herding ability?


As well as the breeds which are still just about viable enough to be used for herding such as the Mudi (I can't think of other breeds right now, I could do research) as well as breeders all taking herding instinct and temperament tests, yet even those who compete in herding seem to take their dogs to shows, without a single breeder that does not show their dogs, and completely focuses on herding ability from what I could find.


Perhaps its just because as a breed any dog is capable of winning, from the slim dogs with the long legs


to the short and stocky.



But even then, there is a split beginning, with the short and stocky dogs being favoured, such as this dog which is a 2 time world champion, among many other titles


and the long legged active dogs are preferred for dog sports.


And then there are the ones who have changed so much they don't look like similar breeds in the slightest.




There are also some which I reckon just happen to have herding instinct, such as the Rottweiler, Cane Corso italiano, Boxer, some lines of poodle, etc.


What do you all think about these splits?


Do you think some breeds aren't worth worrying about as they just don't have the skill of other breeds and will be just fine as show dogs?

Do you think the opposite, that there should be some breeders in the breed still trying to better the working ability of these breeds to try and preserve the original dogs for future generations?

When would you say its worth trying to preserve working ability, and when it isn't?


Sorry if this was a long talk, and wasn't about border collies much... If it is not allowed in here, then sorry!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

since herding is selectively bred from dogs which likely hunted like the wolf-cooperative pack hunting, I would expect to see individuals within all breeds which display certain factions of 'herding'. Herding is at it's base, prey drive-and since dogs are predators, having prey drive, there are actions which are part of or at least similar to 'herding'.


But Herding dogs have been selectively bred for a purpose and they tend to exhibit a high degree od trainability and tenacity for the job that is often lacking in dogs not selectively bred to help with the herding of livestock.

If you want to preserve a breed that is dwindling in numbers, go ahead. But don't tout it as the 'best' for herding. Until there are sufficient numbers to show that they are consistently superior for stock management-even if it is the type for which they were originally used.

There are breeders within certain breeds which do give more than lip service to breeding their dogs for work. However, they more often than not also want the show Ch. as well and no one can serve two masters and do well-so the doge are mediocre working dogs at best and mediocre show dogs-usually referred to as 'performance dogs'.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, if you're referring to the Mudi I was talking about, both parents have very small pedigrees. The father is from a B pedigree meaning neither of the parents were pedigree Mudi, and he was given a pedigree because he was deemed to look and act like a Mudi.

The mother is the same, except both the parents were B registered dogs.


Since they are still used to herd on farms in the country and mudi are a relatively new breed, its likely they are both bred to be farm dogs and were not bred for showing since their parents didnt have the pedigree and therefore didn't compete in shows. Unless the offspring wasn't registered. Its a case of an open pedigree for this breed


But yeah, I generally agree with you, I was just clarifying the particular example I gave. :) not arguing at all!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Even if there was the occasional breeder in one of the 'other' herding breeds who bred exclusively for working ability, without large numbers of similar-minded breeders, the gene pool of the dogs being bred for work would be extremely small and the number of dogs needed for a true viable breeding program is more than one person can realistically handle. I see a lot of the same as what Pam said - there are a handful of breeders in many breeds who really do work the dogs, but they also want to do other things (show champion or agility) so stock work isn't the only (or even primary) consideration. And again, even if those breeders have the best of intentions and even actually have some quality working dogs, if hardly any other breeders are focusing on work, who do these dedicated working-minded breeders have available to breed their dogs to? Once it's mostly gone from a breed, getting it back seems like an almost insurmountable, if not impossible, task.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dear Theorists,


Well, er . . . to start off with "herding" is a misleading term. Ain't no such thing There are countless ways dogs can be more-or-less useful on stock farms. I used to lay my Labrador Retriever down in a gateway to block my sheep and sheep guarding dogs who move sheep from danger to safety are commonplace. Huntaways who move large numbers of sheep by directed barking are trialed in New Zealand and I've been told by someone I respect that the Beardie crosses we sometimes see in the US are more useful than Border Collies on 200 + flocks. A barking drover's dog like the Smithfield Collie is apparently used in Tasmania. Some English Shepherds make stockdogs.


The landrace farm collie (sorry, forgot the name) who made up the stockwork part of the German Shepherd can still be found on some German farms. In photos it looks like a red Border Collie.


But the commercial stockman has different needs than the pet owner/dog shower/herding title seeker. The most important thing the commercial man needs is THE STOCKDOG THAT TRAINS ITSELF TO BE USEFUL. The commercial man hasn't got time (or, unlike the UK) the culture to train a stockdog. He needs a dog that is so genetically disposed to stockwork, it'll figure out what is needed - pretty much on its own. Often this means no more than outrunning and fetching with the occasional loading or chute work.


The dog that can do that without much more than the owner's praise, hand waving and curses has to be incredibly talented - more-or-less just doesn't make it. That's why we need the Border Collie.


Donald McCaig

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...