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Above, George Barcroft and some of his collies. (Photo courtesy of Dareen Bridge,
with kind permission from Alf Kyme, the owner of the photo, via Sylvia Barcroft.)

According to the Bearded Collie Club of America, the Bearded Collie comes from an ancestry of Scottish shepherds' dogs and European herding dogs such as the Polish Lowland Sheepdog. However, there have been bearded sheepdogs in Britain for hundreds of years, and it did not take bearded breeds from the Continent to produce them, at least not in modern times. The bearded coat is just one of the types of coats that collies' genes allow them, the other two being smooth and rough. Even today, bearded coats occur in some Border Collie lines, as we can see from the two dogs below. In most cases, these dogs are registered simply as "rough coated", which makes it difficult to document this type of coat in the Border Collie. However, owners of "bearded Borders" are extremely proud of their dogs' unusual coats, and thus photographs are just beginning to document their existence.

BeardedLone.jpg Beardedjames.jpg "Lone", left, is a purebred bearded-coated Border Collie registered with the ISDS as rough coated. Her parents are both purebred, registered Border Collies that happened to throw some beardies. She belongs to Christine Reiner from Germany and she is a working dog. (Photo courtesy of Christine Reiner.)

Another bearded dog is "James", right, a registered (with the ABCA), working Border Collie that belongs to Barbara Starkey of Galena, Maryland, and Sarah Ruckelshaus of Chesterton, Maryland, and works for Polly Matzinger of Bethesda, Maryland. Polly says he has run in two (American) National Finals and is the best farm dog she's ever had. James (a.k.a. Oldfield James) is a descendent of Turnbull's Blue (registered on merit with the ISDS), who was also bearded. (Photo courtesy of Polly Matzinger.)

WhiteBob.jpgLeft, White Bob, George Barcroft's champion bearded collie.

There were bearded collies entered in many of the early sheepdog trials, and one of the most notable breeders of bearded collies were Jonathan and George Barcroft (1855-1919) who exhibited collies of both rough and bearded coat types (although his great-grand-niece, Sylvia Barcroft, says that she doubted he ever used the terms "bearded" or "collie"; she believes that to him they were simply "rough-coated sheepdogs"). George's first entry was in a trial at the Preston Guild in 1882 and then, for the rest of his life, he ran dogs in competitions all over the country. In 1889 he won first prize with his dog White Bob, a beardie, at Bala.

Some historians of the Bearded Collie breed, however, deny the relationship of the Beardie with collies altogether and claim an ancient and separate heritage for their breed: "Bearded Collies are thought to be one of Britain's oldest breeds, existing there since the 1600s-1700s (or possibly even before)." We do know that dogs with bearded coats have indeed existed in Britain for a very long time, but whether they can be called Bearded Collies (the breed) is an altogether different tale.

We say more about this on the Old English Sheepdog and Extinct Working Collies of England, Ireland, and Wales pages.

BeardedCollie.jpg ShowBeardedCollieWiki.jpg Left, a working Bearded Collie, quite different-looking from the show Bearded Collie at right.

Right, a show Bearded Collie. (Photo by sannse at the City of Birmingham Championship Dog Show, 30th August 2003. Permission to reprint this photo is granted under the Creative Commons Attribution.)

The bearded collie as a working dog is still extant in Scotland today, but it bears little resemblance to the Bearded Collies seen at shows. It has a shorter, rougher coat that is able to put up with working conditions on heather- and bracken-covered hills. It is often used in places where barking is required, since most Border Collies are silent workers.

Above, a detail from an 1848 engraving of a Bearded Collie,
labeled "Scotch Collie", artist unknown.

For more information on Bearded Collies, visit the following websites:

"The Early Trials Project: The Barcrofts" compiled by Silvia Barcroft

"Early History of the Bearded Collie" by Glenn D. Short

"Shepherds with Beardies" by Judy Max

Copyright © 2013 by Carole L. Presberg

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Last modified: August 6, 2013