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Above, "Sleeping Collie" by William Walls

Notes: (?) f & m are purely my idea, except where traditional, f=female m=male; b=black; bl=blue; w=white; tr=tri; r=red; sp=speckled; sb=sable; dksb=dark sable or "hemp"; fn=fawn; rmr=red merle; blmr=blue merle; Br=British; ME=middle English; C=Celtic; W=Welsh; S=Scots Dialect; G=Scots Gaelic; I=Irish; N=Norse; CN=Cornish; IM=Isle of Man; NA=Native American; Bs=Basque; @=already used i.e. my own dogs; *=like/would use, #=traditional; T =textile/dyeing/fiber connotations; ->names that indicate speed.

JohnEverettMillaisEffieDean.jpg Right, a detail from "Effie Deans" by John Everett Millais.

The earliest names that appear in the Stud Book of the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS) are Sly, Moss, Hemp, Yarrow, Jed, Bute, Jen, Meg, Bess, Gyp, Tyne, Ruby, Nell, Fan, Jess, Rye, Clyde, Tweed, and Wren. Many of these names are evocative of natural features of the land, like rivers (Jed, Tyne, Tweed, Clyde, etc.), and other indigenous properties of the native countryside and climate (Moss, Glen, Mist, etc.). Thomas Farrall, writing in 1876 (On the Agriculture of the Counties of Edinburgh and Linlithgow, and the Industrial Progress and Development of These Counties During Recent Years, Aspatria, Carlishe) said:

Where sheep exist in large numbers, especially upon the hills, a well-trained dog is invaluable, so that in the south and southwest parts of the counties several well-bred collies are kept. The instinct and sagacity of the shepherd's dog have often been commented on. The old habit of calling the dogs after the name of a river is still in full force..."Tweed," "Yarrow," and other kindred names seem to be as common as they were before the whistle of the locomotive was heard in the Scottish valleys.

It is clear that the use of this type of name for working sheepdogs is ancient and traditional. Equally common are names that farm workers bore themselves (Nell, Bob, Meg, etc.) and often gave to their animals, farm dogs, draft horses, and family milk cows alike. The names that British shepherds traditionally gave their working sheepdogs were short, possibly because they were more easily distinguished at long distances. Thus, names like Nell, Cap, Glen, and Meg have become conventional for Border Collies, but, as Marjorie Quarton says "Unless there is a prefix, the Bens, Roys and Nells are a researcher's nightmare..." (All About the Working Border Collie, Pelham Books, London, 1986). She also advises against flower names, like Daisy and Rose, which, she says "sound more like cows to me" (ibid.). However, when it comes to names, it appears to be a matter of personal taste.

Conventional names and their use have carried over to other countries where Border Collies are employed as working dogs. This is the case in the United States, particularly among traditionalist shepherds. However, here, it seems, we are willing to follow custom just so far, so that while short names are still the norm, we have expanded the vernacular to include American-sounding names like Luke, Quest, Cody, Pete, and Sioux. These may not seem like customary names to the purist, but they maintain the spirit of the tradition.

BasilBradleyLambingTimeDeta.jpg Left, a detail from "Lambing Time" by Basil Bradley shows a beautiful tricolored collie.

Longer, more lively names, often with kennel prefixes, are frequently given to show or obedience dogs: Heelalong Jalapena, Highland's Ring Side Riot, and Shoreland's Red Hot Pepper were recent American obedience Border Collies. Keep in mind that kennel names are not unheard-of in Britain and Ireland, even among working dogs, as the famous names Wiston Cap, Whitehope Corrie or Dryden Joe will attest. However the "call name" of Cap, Corrie, and Joe are embodied in their kennel names and are the traditional short Border Collie appellations, whereas the call name of an obedience or show dog may be entirely different from its registered name. Capricious names that appear to disregard custom may offend purists by their apparent flippancy, but in the context of obedience, agility or flyball, a spirited name may be appropriate; they would likely be out of place at the sheepdog trials, in the pasture, or on the hill.

While there are no hard and fast rules, there are certain standards that must be upheld for convention's sake. If a name is embarrassing to say in public, indicates negative behavior or looks, or is likely to be offensive, don't call your dog by it! It might appear amusing at first, but you will probably regret it later on.

We get the names on our list from a variety of sources, including history, tradition, literature, folklore, and even television (as you will see with the few names gleaned from Star Trek). They all have something in common--they are short (most are one syllable), and we think they are dignified. We'd be pleased if you'd use any of them for your own Border Collies. This list is extensive, but not necessarily exhaustive. If you can think of other names within the spirit of the tradition that can be added to this list, please e-mail us at carole@woolgather.org

If the names of stars and constellations for dog names interests you, go to the following page:

[A note on the "Art Gallery": We started adding pictures to this page to make it more interesting, and got carried away.
Hope you enjoy them!]

Right, Border Collie by Dutch artist Rien Portvliet, 1935-1995

Right, a Border Collie by British artist Lucy Dawson (a.k.a. "Mac"), ca. 1935

Right, a sheepdog guarding a package by late 19th century English illustrator, Harrison Weir

Three old-fashioned collies, artist unknown. What I like about this is the collies are each a different type. The one at the rear, left, is a tricolor close to the type of today's Rough Collie (show type), but not quite there yet. The one at the rear, right, also a tricolor, is much closer to a Border Collie type. And the dog at the front, a sable, has a smooth coat but is closer to todays smooth-coated Border Collie than to a Smooth Collie.

border-collieJohn-Wood.jpg Right, "Border Collie"© by English artist, D. John Wood. Reprinted with kind permission of the artist.

Above right, "A Border Collie" by TS Cooper, thanks to Colin Kellam. Of this painting, Alan Harris from The Old Rectory, Petham Nr Canterbury, Kent, wrote to Colin Kellam, "The original painting is on display in Canterbury Library. The dog was known to Cooper...This painting, done in 1838, remained with Cooper throughout his life until his death in 1902. It strikes me as one of the finest paintings of an animal I have ever see." It is a beautiful painting, but I'm not altogether sure it is of a Border Collie. If it is, I don't think Cooper got the ears quite right.

Right, "Winter Friends"© by English artist, John Silver. Reprinted with kind permission from the artist.

Right, "A Sheepdog's Life" is an acrylic painting by Valerie Graves, a Taos, New Mexico, artist, and is reprinted here with her kind permission. Copyright by Valerie Graves, all rights reserved, prints available from Valerie's website www.TaosArtist.com and www.BestDog.com.

At right is "Shepherd's Delight"© painted by British artist, Gayle Mason who breeds and shows Glenspey Rough Collies. It is reprinted here with kind permission from the artist.

Above, "Scotch Collies" by English artist Basil Bradley (1842-1904).

OCollie.jpg Right, "A Lovely Afternoon", a miniature painting of a Border Collie by Maine artist and Border Collie owner/breeder, Carol Scherr, who paints under the name of O. Colley. Reprinted here with kind permission from the artist.

Right, a detail of a collie portrait by David Johnson.

Right, "Motherhood" by British artist Mick Cawston. Copyright Sally Mitchell Fine Arts 2006 and reprinted here with permission from the holder of the copyright .

HarrisonWeirShepsDog.JPG "Shepherd's Dog" by late 19th century English illustrator, Harrison Weir

Above, right, a 1931 drawing of a collie by artist Diana Thorn. Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Thorn studied art in Munich and Berlin, but was detained by the German's at the beginning of the First World War. She escaped to England where she supported herself for several years as a reporter, librarian and writer, and began illustrating and etching. Moving to the United States in 1917, Thorn became one of the most recognized canine artists of the period.

Right, a cereal advertisement card from the early 20th century.

Above, an illustration of a Bearded Collie or an Old English Sheepdog, artist unknown.

Right, "Cap", a portrait by Colorado artist, Julia MacMonagle of Innervoice Art Studio. Reprinted here with kind permission by the artist.

Right, a 1902 painting of a black and tan collie, artist unknown.

collie1.jpg collie4.jpg Far right, a lovely little painting of a sable or saddle-patterned collie. The painting is signed (right) but the name is hard to make out. We think it is "Mary L. Pulver"--if anyone knows this artist, please contact me at carole@woolgather.org. What struck us about this painting is that the dog looks exactly like Ruswarp, whose story we have on our "Forever Faithful: Memorials to Shepherds' Dogs" pages (if you go there, scroll down to the bottom of page 2).

Right, "Guardian of the Flock" by British artist, Edwin Douglas (1849-1914). This is definitely more of a show collie-type than the collies in his other paintings.

collieTartanpc.jpg A post card with a Scottish theme from the early 20th century. Note the herding scene with "Scotch Sheep Dog", the Scottish Lion, heather, and the Buchanan tartan.

CerealCard.jpg Another cereal card from the early 20th century.

EnglishSchoolRoughCollie.jpg A rough collie painted in the "English School". The artist has signed his initials, but we don't know who he is. The collie in this painting is more akin to the working collies of the 19th century than the rough show collies.

JohnEmmscollie.jpg Right, a collie by English painter John Emms (1844-1912) of Lyndhurst, Hampshire.

JohnHenryLorimer1896.jpg A collie by John Henry Lorimer (1856-1936), a Scottish painter. If you take a close look at this painting you will see that Lorimer painted in his own reflection in the mirrow over the dog's head.

Right, collie by G. Hansh.

SheepDogs1859IllusLonN.jpg A painting of two collies from an 1859 edition of the Illustrated London News.

Right, by Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873), this engraving shows a collie guarding his master gear.

TwoColliesInFarmyardSc.jpg Two collies in a farmyard scene, artist unknown. These two have the look of working collies on their way to become show collies. The one on the left is a handsome black and tan like we rarely if ever see today in the Border Collie, the other a saddle-patterned.

Right, "Waiting for Master". Quite frankly, I can't tell if this is a "Still Life with Collie" painting or a highly posed photograph. Whichever, it shows a black and tan collie.

An illustration called "Two's Company" from a childrens' book (1890), artist unknown (thanks to Jan Hilborn).

Compiled and copyrighted © 1996 through 2009 by Carole L. Presberg

If you are interested in the names that appear in the ISDS Stud Books with the number of dogs/bitches that have been registered by that name, go to Teun C. van den Dool's web page Dog Names. Mr. van den Dool has done a statistical analysis of all the ISDS Stud Books, an enormous job, and you will be able to see from his list, what names have been most popular for Border Collies, at least in the UK.



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with technical help from webwizard David Presberg
If you are interested in using ANY material on this website, you MUST first ask for permission.

You may email us at carole@woolgather.org.

Last modified: July 14, 2013