The Bearded Collie is a medium-sized, hardy, agile, active herding dog. Bearded Collies were initially intended to work in the Scottish Highlands herding sheep.
They weigh 45-55 pounds and stand 20-22 inches at the withers. They are easily recognized because they are covered head to tail by a shaggy double coat. And, of course, they have a beard.
Bearded Collie History
The breed’s true history is not known with any degree of certainty. However, there are a couple of theories.
According to a folktale, Polish Lowland Sheepdogs were abandoned on the Scottish coast and crossed with local herding dogs to produce the Bearded Collie. Some records show the dogs were brought to Britain in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Another view is that a Polish merchant, Kazimierz Grabski 1514, traded for some sheep and bought some Polish Lowland Sheepdogs to help with the sheep. The theory is that other sheepdogs got mixed in and eventually evolved into the Bearded Collie.
It is widely accepted that Mrs. G. Olive Willison and her brown female dog, Jeannie of Bothkennar, produced the contemporary Bearded Collie in 1944. Jeannie, a Bearded Collie, was accidentally given to Mrs. Willison when she was expecting a Shetland Sheepdog.
Mrs. Willison wanted to start breeding her accidental dog because the dog intrigued her. So she started looking for a mate for Jeannie. Mrs. Willison met a man emigrating from Scotland while strolling along the beach. She adopted his grey dog, David, who became Bailie of Bothkennar. Thus, the founders of the contemporary breed are Bailie (male) and Jeannie of Bothkennar (female).
A Bearded Collie, known as Potterdale Classic at Moonhill (who would give their dog that name), took home Best in Show honors at Crufts in 1989. That helped the breed gain popularity in the latter half of the 20th century.
The Bearded Collie is used to herd both sheep and cattle. It is a working dog, bred to be hardy, reliable, and able to stand up to the harshest conditions.
The working Bearded Collie has become less common in the last few decades. 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.
As a Family Pet
The bearded collie is a friendly dog who makes a great family pet, working dog, and show dog. The breed was introduced as a pet in the United States in the1950s. They are good with children and family and can be trained very quickly. In 2021, The American Kennel Club ranked the Bearded Collie at 143 out of 197 recognized breeds in popularity.
The Beardie is a devoted and friendly dog that can bring years of delight to the home as a pet. Bearded collies make lovely pets for those willing to accommodate their high energy level and grooming needs. They are exciting to watch and have excellent problem-solving skills.
You must brush their lengthy hair once a week to prevent mats. Some Bearded Collie owners opt to keep their pets in a “puppy cut” haircut, reducing (but not eliminating) the need for brushing. Some owners will choose to have their dog professionally clipped.
Remove mats before they get to become a big problem. Check the dog’s armpits and areas that are high wear for mats as you work over their coat. Check ears and eyes daily and clean as needed. This dog should have baths but only do it when needed.
Bearded Collie owners in the UK reported that living dogs’ most common health issues were musculoskeletal—mostly arthritis and cruciate ligament rupture (CLR)—gastrointestinal (primarily colitis and diarrhea), and urologic diseases.
Morbidity in the two studies is not easily compared. Beardie owners in the US and Canada reported that the most common health problems were hypothyroidism, cancer, Addison’s disease, arthritis, and skin problems. However, the UK report grouped diseases, while the USA/Canada report ranked more specific conditions.