Written by Roy Saunders, from
the book "Sheepdog Glory" 55 years ago:
The Border Collie Breed The Border Collie is never seen at dogshows and unlike
he is not to be judged by any physical characteristics. He
need not conform to a particular colour, shape or size, length of
or height of shoulder. His coat may be fine long and glossy,
and curly, or very short and sleek; all that matters is his
brain, temperament, reactions to work and the consistency of his performance behind sheep. If he has a cast, a wide gather,
a strong eye to single out a required sheep; if he moves freely,
never barks, never bites; if he is prepared to take orders, is
affectionate towards those he knows, regards his master as a sort of god
the sheep pastures as the equivalent of heaven, then and only
then can he be called a first class specimen of his breed. No man-dictated fashions have governed the Border Collies
bodily proportions; his outline has been modelled by the bleak
run with its gullies, screes, stone walls, wind, rain snow and
of heather, fern and rock. Centuries of running on wide hills
have evolved a small lightly built animal with a light well
co-ordinated frame and a stamina for work mentally and physical beyond
anything else on four legs. Despite the apparent insistence on breeding for working
qualities alone, most Border Collies are in fact of a handsome
The homozygous tendencies are very strong and although greys
and tans occasionally crop up, about ninety percent of these dogs
are a smartly proportioned black and white. If the dog is
in black and white in the right places and is generally
pleasant to look at, it is of course so much the better, but a collie
a layman might find striking handsome would look ugly and
ridiculous to the shepherd if his head and tail were held high. The dogs "intelligence quotient" is shown more clearly in the
carriage of his tail than by any other physical sigh, and it is
perhaps a pity that we cannot test a child's IQ so simple and with
such a degree of accuracy. In any case the plain mismarked
miscoloured sheepdog whose breeding is right can give a stylish
performance which is fascinating and beautiful and will easily surpass
the performance of the most splendid looking dog with less good
by Baxter Black
Excerpt from Cactus Tracks & Cowboy Philosophy: Commentary
Cowboy Poet and Former Large-Animal Veterinarian
Just a word about one of the greatest genetic
creations on the face of this earth...the border
Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a
leap tall fences in a single bound.
The dog that all sheep talk about but never want to meet. The
fur that legends are made of.
Makes coyotes cringe, sheep trip the
fantastic, and eagles soar somewhere else.
Invested with the energy of a litter of puppies, the work
ethics of a
boat person, and the loyalty of Lassie,
they ply their trade on
sagebrush flats, grassy fields, and precipitous peaks from sea
"Away to me!" I command. They streak and sail, zipping like
Black-and-white hummingbirds, in out, up down, come by.
Sheep. With head up, one eye cocked over their shoulder asking
directions. To the gate through the race.
Mighty dog moves behind the
bunch like a towboat pushing barges around a bend.
And heart. Do they try? "Just let me at'em, Dad!"
Stay. "C'mon, I'm
ready!" Stay. "Can't you feel me hummin'!
Listen to my heart! It's
purrin' like a cat! I am primed! Aim me, point me, pull the
"Away to me!" It makes me feel like Robin Hood. He leaves my
Workin' dogs is like manipulating a screwdriver with
doing calligraphy with a plastic whip.
Like bobbing for apples. Like
threading a needle with no hands. Like playing pool on the
There are no straight lines in nature. Only arcs. Great
of sight and thought and voice and dog.
Always having to lead your
command about a dog's length.
Sheep bunched like logs on the river. Dogs paddling in the
Always pushing upstream.
A ewe breaks loose. Then another, amd another.
The logjam breaks. Dogs and sheep tumble about in the white
Calm again, they start back upstream.
Are they truly smarter than a chimpanzee? Cuddlier than
a koala? More dedicated than Batman's valet?
Can they change course in midair? Drag Nell from the tracks
the missing microfilm?
Yes. I believe they can. They are the best of the best, the
"above and beyond the call of duty."
Head dog. Top Gun. I salute
you, for man has never had a better friend.
Originally aired on National Public Radio on June 28, 1994
Glenfillan Sheepdog Trials
Once it took the field
we forgot its ripsaw profile
and the tail barely a rope fray,
no rudder, and the whole
satchel-with-legs look of it
alongside the Sampsons
and Delilahs of the breed.
Locked in its work trance,
mind over sheep-fuddle,
streaking out low it collected
and bullied them as though
they were stray thoughts
of the shepherd who stood,
cap over brow, canny,
whistling his dog through all
the right moves: when
to charge, lie low, display
just the exact hint of threat
to back that big ewe down,
then go neat-footed, closing
the distance, adjusting
the angle, black-and-white
verb to the flock's blackfooted
How long after these canids
willingly approached our fires
did it take for some magus
to train one up to these workaday
marathons, this serious play
that involves everything from
pick-up-sticks to a log-roller's
quickstep over the backs
of Charolais built like a herd
Now it has queued
the flock up at the second gate,
walked them through it and home
again to that foxy whistler
who's swapped his Wellingtons
for soft Italian loafers today.
The dog cuts two out of the flock,
melds them in again, heads them
toward the pen while a beauty
without vanity shimmers unaware
of itself over the rough field,
shivers the spine as-applause
like a smattering of stock doves
flying-the white gate closes.