The Bearded Collie
It was in the mid 1940's, after the second world war, that Mrs Willison ordered a Shetland Sheepdog from an agent of a Scottish farmer, and by mistake, got instead a red-brown bundle of fur, this energetic puppy called Jeannie, won the heart of Mrs Willison and set the Beardies on the path to popularity.
Mrs Willison knew she had to find a male to mate with Jeannie and found what she wanted while out walking on the beach, a handsome grey Beardie walking with his owner who, by chance, was looking for a new home for him. He was promptly taken home and became Bailie of Bothkennar, he along with the now Jeannie of Bothkennar, became the founding kennel of the breed as we know it today.
The first Beardie champion, Beauty Queen of Bothkennar (Jeannie's grand-daughter) earned her title in 1959, and the breed hasn't really looked back since. In 1989 Champion Potterdale Classic of Moonhill, owned by Mrs Brenda White and bred by Mike & Janet Lewis, became the first Beardie to go Best In Show at Crufts and another Potterdale, who surely isn't far away from achieving the same accolade is Champion Potterdale Prophet, top winning dog, all breeds, so far this year, having won several Best In Shows and the first Pastoral group at Crufts in 1999, repeating the same win this year.
The characteristics of the Beardie are that of an alert, lively animal that is self confident and full of activity, not a breed for the idle. Give a Beardie a problem and he'll soon sort it out, my youngster worked out exactly how to get a 5ft branch of a tree, complete with leaves, through the conservatory doors, so she could sit and chew the bark off in comfort!
Beardies are a loyal dog, though they love all other people, nothing can compare to their human family. Beardies have a steady temperament, with a personality - that some might say- is O.T.T, a Beardie likes nothing better than to stand on hind legs with front feet placed firmly on the shoulders, they don't seem to realise - or more to the point care, that all four feet should be on the ground at the same time.
It is true to say that the Beardie attracts attention from the public like no other breed I know. Give a Beardie an audience and it will perform, endearing itself to whomsoever happens to be watching at the time.
Finding a puppy is not a difficult exercise. The Kennel Club is usually the first port of call. They will give you details of registered breed clubs in your area, and you can contact the club secretary who will give you a list of breeders with puppies nearest to you.
It is always a good idea to visit one or two breeeders to meet the dogs at home and assess their temperaments, but please make an appointment first, or go to a couple of shows where Beardie classes are scheduled - these can be found in the doggy papers, Dog World & Our Dogs, ordered through your local newagents - where you will be able to speak to the breeeders and watch them in the show ring.
When choosing a puppy look for the obvious signs of health in the pups, clear eyes and nose, a nice rounded tummy - not a distended one - and a clean rear end, no signs of a runny tummy. Having established that the litter are healthy look for temperament, a friendly, outgoing personality, not a wallflower cowering in the corner, no matter how sorry you feel for it, don't buy it.
Which sex? With a breed like the Bearded Collie the temperaments are not that much different between the sexes, in fact many say the dogs are a little more loving, I have both sexes and find no difference whatsoever, both would lick you to death given half the chance!
The obvious downside to owning a bitch is of course her coming into season up to twice a year, and the boys, given half the chance, if they get a whiff of a bitch in season, can be on the missing list for days. Both problems can be overcome by having the bitch spayed and the dog castrated, and if not bought for showing or breeding this is a course I would recommend.
If you are buying a Beardie for showing you should contact a reputable breeder with a track record of producing sound animals that are true to type and are recognised for their quality in the show ring. Be guided by the breeder especially if you are a beginner, a breeder knows what to look for and would not sell you anything they would be embaressed to see in the ring, it is their reputation on the line. Having said that, do remember a puppy can only be sold as showing promise, there are no guarantees that it will turn out to be good enough to show, let alone become a champion. If the puppy doesn't turn out to be good enough, it is no fault of the breeder, just mother nature!