Monday 29 November 2010

Shaggy dogs and salvation

Here's a Bearded Collie, from 1903:

Here's one from 1949 - a little shaggier:

And here's the Bearded Collie that won Crufts this year:
© The Kennel Club

A coat this profuse is head-shakingly stupid in a herding breed and totally impractical for all but the most dedicated pet owner. This is what the show Beardie has become on the outside. And on the inisde there are problems too. The breed suffers from auto-immune problems that are almost certainly the result of heavy inbreeding from a foundation stock of just 12 dogs. 

Fortunately, there is a population of unregistered working-bred Beardies out there that could offer the registered-population some much needed new blood. Indeed, some of them boast some rare MHC haplotypes (genes that are involved in immune function) that could be very precious indeed to a breed that suffers from immune problems

But, predictably, the UK breed clubs are resisting this ingress of what they see as tainted blood.  Their claim? There's no need beause  the KC Beardie is "basically a healthy breed". Their fear? That the working beardies are "known to have Border Collie bloodlines behind them" and so therefore could bring in collie health problems that are not in the current KC Beardies. They are also anxious about the introduction of the merle gene that exists in working Beardies but not in the KC-registered dogs.

"The health issues caused by the merle gene are well known in other breeds and to open the door to deafness and blindness seems to us to be very irresponsible, especially in these days of public interest in matters of canine health," argued the Breed Clubs Liaison Committee last week (somewhat disingenously given that one of the biggest canine health issues is the lack of genetic diveristy in KC-registered breeds).

UK show beardie:  (Photo: Creative Commons)
Now the merle gene can cause a problem. A merle x merle mating can produce blind and deaf dogs if the pups inherit two copies of the merle gene. And, according to coat colour expert Liisa Sarakontu, introducing merle into the registered Beardie population would not be as a safe as introducing merle into, say Rottweillers.

"The merle gene, even when single (M/m), slightly increases the amount of white. Beardies are irish patterned, but they have been bred close to the most extreme version of irish: they normally have a wide white collar, all white forelegs, white muzzle and blaze or at least a stripe on the face," explains Liisa. "I've seen minor white body spots and so it looks like some Beardies are "white factored" aka they do carry a spotting pattern with far more white, like piebald or extreme white."

Essentially, this means that introducing the merle gene may increase the possibility of pups born deaf.


• the merle gene has always been in Beardies. In fact merle was listed as a colour in the early breed standard - it's just that none of the original 12 foundation stock carried it and so the KC population doesn't carry it today and the colour was quietly dropped from the breed standard some time ago.

• the merle gene exists and is managed in many other breeds, including Shelties, Australian Shepherds and Border Collies.  (It is not managed so well in Great Danes but that is for reasons that don't apply here.)

• the colour would be recorded on a dog's registration certifcate and that should be enough to prevent any breeder from doing a risky merle x merle breeding. 

In their fight to prevent working Beardies from being registered, the Beardie clubs claim that even a dog with one copy of the merle gene can have sight and hearing defects. This was noted in an isolated (laboratory) population of dappled Dachshunds (dapple being the Dachshund term for merle) and hinted at in one or two other studies, although most other breeds have not reported problems, and that includes working-bred Beardies.

Brambledale Beardies' Lynne Sharpe believes the benefits far outweigh the risk. Lynne breeds old-fashioned Beardies - ie ones you can own without also employing a full-time hairdresser - and she has a long waiting list for her puppies.  She is a former show breeder who "saw the light" and she is now on her second attempt to persuade the KC to register her dogs (the first attempt was scotched by the breed clubs).

"Given the very small number of merles likely to be registered with the KC, the risk seems to be vanishingly small,"says Lynne. "The is just another attempt to frighten people into opposing the opening of the closed Breed Register to allow the much-needed new blood that working-bred Beardies could provide.

"I had no intention of continuing to press for KC acceptance as I felt - and still feel - that the KC has been responsible for the ruin of so many breeds. I then started my website, simply as a means of countering the misinformation campaign being run by the clubs.....and was amazed and delighted to receive an overwhelmingly positive response from the dog-loving public, many of them people who had owned show-type Beardies and been devastated to lose them from auto-immune disease and many more Beardie lovers who felt that the show Beardie was no longer the happy, healthy, workmanlike companion that it had been.

One of Lynne's Beardies - low-maintenance coat

"I have also been encouraged by the response of KC Beardie breeders from overseas, many of whom are all too aware of the problems caused by the limited gene pool and are desperate to do something about it. Many of them see my dogs as the only way out of the cul de sac.......but, although a few brave souls have taken Brambledale puppies and patiently gone through the long process of getting them registered in Germany and France, this is not a possibility in other countries, where my dogs would only be accepted if they were registered in the UK. So, very reluctantly, I approached the KC again and was invited to submit a formal application - which I did in July. I am still waiting for a decision."

Meanwhile, the  breed clubs are claiming that the working Beardies have other health problems that could be the ruin of the KC population. But this is certainly not true of Lynne's dogs.

"My dogs are probably the most health-tested Beardies in the world," insists Lynne. "I have five generations of eye-tested stock and my youngsters are fourth-generation working-bred, with no problems, whereas the dogs already on the Breed Register do not have to be tested, examined or monitored in any way at all. Why would it be necessary to regard mine as a threat?"

It is not quite a "no-brainer" given the merle element, but here's hoping the Kennel Club makes the right decision on this one as, indeed, it did with the Dalmatians earlier this year. 


  1. At the KC Breeders' Symposium yesterday Jeff Sampson stated quite firmly that the KC would consider requests to open the registry to previously unregistered stock where there is a good case for doing so - my guess is that this time Lynne's application will receive a much more favourable response.

    1. But now Jeff Sampson is retiring...??

  2. Good to hear, Sheila. I do think, however, that the KC should be more proactive on this given how reluctant some breed clubs are. In other words, that the KC should be raising the subject rather than waiting for someone to suggest it.

  3. How many commenters have written to 'inform' you that no genes have changed in the breed, that the coat change is due to a magic dog shampoo, whose brand then can not tell?

    Keep at it, Jemima, good post.

  4. It seems to me, that the breeders of old-fashioned and working Beardies should be the ones resisting any Rapunzel Beardie genes tainting their dogs.

    I am happy that the KC is making progess.

    There are a few colours which can hide merle, so that a double merle puppy can come from 2 non-merle parents, but in most colours, a single merle gene is dominant, and therefore, no test is required to determine which dogs have merle, because they can't CARRY a dominant color - they are merle or they are not.

    If the colours that KC Beardies can be, are all recessive to merle, then no KC Beardie breeder should ever be surprised by a merle puppy, since one parent must have the merle gene in order to get a merle puppy, and both parents must have a merle gene to get a double merle puppy.

    If KC Beardies are sometimes a colour which is dominant to merle, only then could the merle gene ever be a surprise problem.

  5. If this person has a "long waiting list" for her puppies.. why does she really care if she has KC acceptance.? So that she can sell them to people in other countries and have them 'registrable"?/ Why in the world would that make a difference to someone who is breeding "old fashioned working dogs" in any country? Seems as though this is counter productive to your agenda..why is KC approval even something you would want or even consider caring about? Why would you care if they were a "threat'.. a threat to what?
    PS anyone who has been breeding dogs for any length of time and claims to have "no problems" is either breeding VERY little and gotten lucky or is lying..there is no such thing as "no problems" in breeding any animals over a period of time.. no matter how out crossed or inbred...if she said she had "few problems indicated in the breed" then she might be more believable.

    1. She doesn't overly care about KC acceptance for her sake but cares about the breed she loves. She was previously for many years a KC registered breeder but did not like the way the breed was going so chose, of her own volition, to take working stock into her line as the gene pool in KC beardies was becoming too small. The reason for KC acceptance is if her own dogs are accepted back into the KC breed register it will broaden the gene pool as the current inbreeding ratio of KC beardies is too high. Many KC lines now have AI problems coming in. A broader gene pool can only benefit the breed. Having "no problems" is not down to luck but down to careful breeding and good research into stud dogs. I know of apparently reputable KC beardie breeders who are not open about the difficulties in their own lines and even still breed bitches who have been know to produce off spring who later develop problems,mostly AI related.

  6. It seems the KC is light years ahead of the AKC on these issues--at least the KC acknowledges there is a problem, even if it is resistant to actually doing anything about it...

  7. Dijana from Sweden30 November 2010 at 12:37

    No no NOOO! No more merle! There are several studies that point to merle being bad for the dogs, both heterozygotus and homozygotus! Dogs get ear and eye problems, it is purely irresposible to breed on this colour!
    There are several examples of why not.

    For one: besides the apparent merle coloured dogs there's also fantom merles that you can't see if they are merle or not. The only indication could be a spot in its eye, the rest of the dog may look like a sable! Which means that if you breed this dog to another merle you get excessive white puppies that have a LARGE chance of becoming deaf and blind. A percentage of these die in the womb because the gene is sublethal.
    These dogs are prone to bi- or unilateral deafness and several horrible eye-diseases such as severe CEA, retinal detachment and bleeding etc.

    "Dogs having Mm and MM genotypes typically have blue eyes and of ten exhibit a wide range of auditory and ophthalmologic abnormalities (3). Reetz et al . (4) studied the auditory capacity of Dachshunds and found that 54.6% of MM and 36.8% of Mm dogs had auditory dysfunction, ranging from mild to severe deafness. All control dogs (mm) in the study had normal hearing. Klinckmann et al . (5, 6) conducted ophthalmologic studies with three groups of Dachshunds (MM, Mm, and mm) and found that merles and double merles had significantly greater frequencies"

    Firstly we have 2 studies (which I have currently found, there are other articles about the issue but I didn't bother finding them right now) that show very obviously that there is a problem in Dachshunds and their dappled (merle) coat. The article goes on to say that these symptoms also (coincidently?) are common in the breeds that have the merle coat pattern.
    Secondly, those numbers are really not to play with, this is a large number of dogs compared to the control dogs, that show hearing defects in one of the study and the same goes with the second study when it comes to eye-problems. The merle gene is apparently bad for dachshunds!

    Lastly, the coat pattern for merles are very similar throughout the breeds (although colour variation is different) and homozygotus dogs show exactly the same problems in all breeds it is presented to; Aussies, Shelties, Collies etc. all show symptoms of uni- or bilateral deafness, eyeproblems leading to blindness (including shrinkage of the eye), infections, bleeding of the retina etc. Even Great Danes that are a product of harlequin x harlequin matings show also the same symptoms! This means that it's anything but highly unlikely that the heterozygotus merle dog does not get affected just because the breed varies, at least in shepherds. There is one though that does not seem to get affected in the same degree and that's Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog. If this is true I'm not sure but I've only "heard" it from pro-merle people.

    So NO, I do NOT think they should introduce merle coat patterning into the BC breed again. It's irresponsible breeding, you're not supposed to exchange one disease for another!

    This is a real heart-issue for me as my own breed, the Sheltie, breeds on these dogs and I have decided not to breed on this colour because of this! This was even brought up in my breeding class, by highly regarded geneticists with PhDs in animal science, that clearly said "it's not humane (and even against the law here in Sweden) to breed on these dogs and yet people do". And honestly, I do trust what the geneticists in Swedens biggest agriculture and animal science school has to say!
    And to hear a breeder say "my dogs are healty" is really not a merit and does not outweigh science for me..

  8. Dijana, steady now...
    1) yes, it´s perfectly true and should be well known to all breeders of at least the British working sheepdog breeds that the merle gene, referred to as M because it is dominant, is indeed deleterious and thought of as semi-lethal. Proof: using an M/m dog on a M/m bitch will result in a litter where 1 in 4 of the puppies is m/m and does not carry the gene at all, 50% are M/m like the parents and have a slightly higher risk of impaired vision and hearing to some degree, and the last 25% av M/M and likely to be white, deaf and blind - wholly or partially. This of course is the very reason why merle-to-merle matings are not done here!

    2)Yes, it´s quite true that certain colours (sable in my breed, the rough Collie) may disguise the merling - which occasionally shows only as a tiny merled spot in the coat, easy to overlook, or bluish flecks in the eye. I´ve once seen a Rough Collie, thought to be tricolour, with a tiny merle spot on its chest just beside the elbow - very hard to see. This makes it possible to breed M/m to M/m unwittingly and find you´ve produced a litter you did not want...
    3)And yet, Dijana, the merle gene does turn up in all the working British sheepdogs and before the showring enthusiasts got hold of them, those breeds, including merled dogs, were very able-bodied workers indeed! Yes, statistically the merle gene is clearly coupled with a higher risk even in one-copy dogs... and so
    4)I would never pick a blue merle for breeding just because his coat colour was merle. But also I would never throw a good, intelligent, healthy worker out because he was a merle!
    Select against the merle gene whenever you can, accept it if it turns up in a dog with good qaulities worth preserving in the breed - and if you do, keep and eye on that gene and keep you puppy-buyers informed.

    Statistics on the Catahoula dogs are not good at all...

  9. Two quick comments/questions to the above:
    1- Isn't every puppy in an M/m = M/m cross subject to the same 25%-50%-25% statistic? The chance of being MM, Mm or mm is the same for each puppy and not based on the number of puppies in any litter, so aren't the puppies even more at risk of being carriers?
    2- I am sure non KC registered breeders have their standards, but if there is a rush of show people looking to outcross their dogs "to save the breed" would it be fair to say that a few breeders looking for some fast money would say, "Aye, here's another one."?

  10. Lynne, if possible I would very much appreciate it if you could say a few words on what health tests you do. When you check the eyes, is it because of CEA/CRD and/or coloboma? If so, what frequencies have you found in your dogs and is anything known about the KC registered beardies? How about HD? Elbows?

  11. Thank you for your question, Bodil. My website has a detailed section on health screening, where I explain my screening programme - which covers hips, eyes, thyroid and DLA - and publish all the results for each dog, plus their COIs.
    The website also gives a decade-by-decade account of the fifty-year history of my Brambledales and includes numerous articles that I have written over the years to share much of what I have learned from experience. You can also watch a 30minute video which gives a 'virtual visit' to meet my dogs in their daily life at home, so you can judge for yourself whether I have succeeded in my aim to produce happy, healthy Beardies who are a joy to live with.
    To answer your question about eye-testing. All my puppies are tested at seven weeks old and those that I keep are tested again at two years and then every year thereafter. This is done by specialist veterinary ophthalmologists who are appointed by the BVA and the examination is designed to discover ANY disease or defect in the eyes. I started eye-testing when I first used a Working Beardie stud dog in 2001 and I now have five eye-tested generations of Working-bred Beardies. NOT ONE HAS BEEN FOUND TO HAVE ANY DISEASE OR DEFECT so far - and this includes the merles, of course.
    An important principle of my health-screening is that ALL of the dogs that I retain here go through the same screening process, regardless of whether they are likely to be included in the breeding programme. This means that, when I do plan a litter, as well as knowing the health status of the parents, grandparents etc, I also have a full record of many aunts and uncles, older siblings and half-siblings, all of which helps to ensure that good health is enjoyed by the whole family.

  12. And here, again, is the Brambledale Beardies website address:

  13. So through your blinkered stupidity you are quite prepared to breed in to todays bearded collie, Collie Eye Anomaly a condition that the breed is free from.
    You appear to want to cause unnecessary suffering to the pedigree dogs of this country. Also you appear to back people who are producing "Designer Dogs" through cross breeding pedigree dogs and thus creating dogs with twice as many genetic problems.
    Your views are short sighted at best and dangerous at the outset.
    Go away and do some research in to genetic problems you appear to want to promote

  14. Cathie Whittaker21 January 2011 at 22:58

    I am one of those (ex) show breeders that became alarmed not only about the auto immune diseases in Beardies, but even more so by the lack of a solution. Yes, I have considered using working bred Beardies, and even of offering to collaborate with Lynn, but there is no easy solution. By introducing Lynn's Beardies into the general pool, the effects of her out crossing will be diluted within 2/3 generations and we would be back to square one. To open it up further to other working bred Beardies depends upon the integrity of the breeders to ensure that the merle gene is contained and I don't have much faith in that. Show breeders will always strive to produce a show dog first and foremost and even now will overlook basic health queries to suit the end goal. So my projection is that nothing will change. For the few adventurous breeders, the choices are limited and fraught with problems, and we haven't even mentioned epilepsy, another problem affecting other herding breeds, but not significant in Beardies.
    And for all these reasons, I don't breed any more. Show breeding is just a continual funnelling of genes and we are only now beginning to wake up to the fact that it just cannot go on.

  15. Anon wrote: "So through your blinkered stupidity you are quite prepared to breed in to todays bearded collie, Collie Eye Anomaly a condition that the breed is free from."

    Anon, did you miss the bit where Lynn mentionedthat she has five generations of eye-tested stock - with no problems?


  16. Anon wrote: "So through your blinkered stupidity you are quite prepared to breed in to todays bearded collie, Collie Eye Anomaly a condition that the breed is free from."

    Jemima Wrote: Anon, did you miss the bit where Lynn mentionedthat she has five generations of eye-tested stock - with no problems?

    (and Im not Anon - but cannot post Kim without a URL ?)

    I am sure Anon did not miss that bit but despite the apparent influence Lynn may have with the KC and others I doubt the KC will open up the register and add to existing registered bearded collies just "Brambledales with five generations of eye-tested stock". And no-one has yet confirmed that the unregistered beardie do not carry the auto immune problems that registered Bearded Collies and other breeds and cross breeds also have - some of unregistered beardies have a shorter coat (why is a short coat more healthy?) and five generations from one kennel have no Collie Eye Anomaly - not really a basis for opening up the register to allcomers.

  17. "blinkered stupidity..."

    My gosh, there are so many things factually wrong with this statement, I fear that the Anon who posted it actually breeds dogs.

    Gene pools are not like real pools. The water does not all mix. One drop of arsenic in a swimming pool and you can poison the entire batch. One outcross, even to a dog that is affected or a carrier for some disease not found in the population does not poison the population, not in the least.

    New blood is sequestered only where it has been brought in. CEA would no more become saturated in the Bearded pool than the dogs all magically becoming Chihuahuas.

    Look up genetic drift, Anon, and read up.

    The "bringing in new disease" claim is a canard. What is important is NOT the number of diseases that are possible in a gene pool. Rare diseases are eventually bred out with normal genetic drift even without witch hunts and testing. What DOES matter is lowering the over-all incidence of disease.

    What would you rather have? 5 out of 100 dogs with 5 different diseases, or 10 out of 100 dogs with the same disease?

    I think it's more ethical to have more healthy dogs, and worry less about bogus claims of tainting the "purity."

    Breeding out disease has NEVER WORKED ONCE in the history of all dog breeds. Not once. There is not a single healthier breed than a mutt.

    The proof is in the pudding. If you want to read more inbreeding canards, check out my series "inbred mistakes." Just google that, you'll find the posts.

  18. Perhaps this debate is a question of semantics rather than genetics, with a dose of relative objectiveness. Let me give my subjective experience. In October 1991 I was walking down a back street in Crewe, a small puppy followed me. He decided to stay with me. I didn't care what or who he was, we were just best friends. After about a year I saw a picture of a similar looking dog on the cover of a book about Bearded Collies. Having bought the book I found out he wasn't a Bearded Collie, he was too small and his coat was all wrong.

    Seven years later we were in a chip shop and a voice from behind said what a beautiful Bearded Collie. I corrected the man and told him why he wasn't a Bearded Collie. He said “No, he is a PROPER Bearded Collie not a Kennel Club one”. Then explained the difference, the man knew his stuff.

    Now let us go back in history. There was this breed of dog called Bearded Collies, herding and droving dogs. A Mrs Willson ordered a Sheltie, but got a Bearded Collie instead. A while later she was walking on a beach and met a man with a grey dog he didn't want. So she had two Bearded Collies. There was no conformity to a standard for these dogs, they just appeared by happen-stance and coincidence as representatives of a much larger gene pool of the Bearded Collie breed.

    Together with another 10 dogs they were the basis of the Kennel Club registered dogs. These were selected for aesthetic requirements. People liked long silky coats, so the judging process selected these dogs to more represent the Kennel Club subset of the Bearded Collie breed.

    The Bearded Collie is a high energy droving and herding dog, developed to be psychologically hard to deal with the requirements of semi wild Highland cattle and sheep. The Kennel Club subset was selected to be more docile to meet the requirements of the show ring and as a domestic pet, not the requirements of the original working dog.

    Let us look at the subject of the coat as it has been brought up here. One of the requirements of the breed, to be best adapted to its niche as an upland herding dog, is its ability to survive and operate in a cold, harsh winter climate. Another requirement would be that a hill farmer or shepherd cannot afford the time to groom all his dogs. So a Bearded Collie has a very low or zero maintenance coat, possibly just sheared in the spring along with the sheep.

    Now one of the aspects stressed about the Kennel Club Bearded Collie subset selected for the aesthetic requirements of the show ring, is the need for and the high maintenance grooming. Something that does not apply to the 'form follows function' of the main Bearded Collie gene pool and dogs.

    Perhaps the time has come as custodians of the breed is to drop the working from Working Bearded Collie, so that is just Bearded Collie. Then tag Show or KC to the Kennel Club registered ones. This differentiates the main true breed from the developed novelty subset which has been selected for the aesthetics of showing, not relating to the functionality and origins of the true breed.

    Those who want a Bearded Collie, want to preserve or be a custodian of the breed, get a none Kennel Club registered dog. Those that want a docile, high maintenance hobby, but still lovely dog get a KC Bearded Collie. Just a question of semantics drop working from one, making it Bearded Collie and add KC or Show to the other. Preserving the true breed does then not bring it into conflict with what subset KC or Show owners want.

  19. With over 100 years difference between the first and the last photo has anyone considered the following:
    1) improved diet
    2) improved vet care
    3) improved general care
    4) evolution (environmental chances cause evolutionary changes)
    5) these diseases you hear about now did not just appear overnight - we simply have the tools to identify them now.

  20. The longer coat is due to selection not better nutrition, vet care and definitely not to evolution. Natural eolution doesn't happen that quickly and, anyway, it is because a chance mutation/change confers an advantage. If working on freezing hillsides didn't give the Beardie a more profuse coat, why would being raised as a pet/showdog in a (mostly) centrally heated home?


  21. With referance to Boarder wars I am not and never have been a dog breeder
    On your argument why would you have a breed with Zero cases of CEO run the risk of introgucing 1 case of it surely 100% free is far better than 99% free. Can Lynn go back 6,7,8 generations free?
    Why would you want to run the risk of intorducing any genetic problems that does not already exist in a breed it's madness

  22. I ahve to laugh about the 'huge coats are just from grooming/food' claim. How many breeds have gone from moderate/short coats to huge, puffy, long coats once they became dominated by show breeders? From Pekes, to Beardies, to Setters, to most of the terriers... coat type and amount has changed radically, to where extreme grooming must be done to make the dogs look 'correct' to the standard or even 'presentable'.

    For people to say it's all just from food and shampoo shows a complete ignorance of coat genetics. Long coats can be sculpted into pleasing outlines and trimmed to reduce faults, that's the bottom line. Also, most show people have no qualms waking up at 3am to groom a dog to perfection for the ring, something which predisposes excessive coats to be tolerated and bred on far past where most regular pet/working dog owners would put up with it.

    The fact that these coats make the dogs do little to 'improve' these breeds original function or appearance beyond making them fancier-looking exhibits in the ring speaks for itself.

  23. 100 years ago NO one would think of taking proper care of a dog's coat. The dog was there to work for its food. If needed its coat was shaved down or parts cut of, but NO one would buy or even think about buying a brush to groom a dog. This applies to ALL breeds!!! Sure selections plays a role in todays coat, but even today you'll find offspring of the same lines with a huge difference in coat. In these cases grooming IS the reason. I bet I can make a "Show Beardie" look like a "Working Beardie" just by using different grooming equipment!

    Today there are not many dogs which need to work for their feed but most are kept as companions. The food is different, the living conditions are different, health care is much better. AND as Anonymous said on Jan 22, today we are able to identify why a dog is sick, what kind of sickness troubles him, give supplements or medication if needed. Years ago a dog would just look sick or even die and no one knew why, no one would s,care to pend huge amounts of money on a „working animal“, vets were only trained to treat farm animals.
    Today dogs will turn much older than 100 years or even 50 years ago. I've been living with Beardies for more than 20 years, my dogs did turn 15 and 16y old. There are not many breeds you'll find this old age. They didn't die of any AI or other sickness, just old age.
    So far all of my Beardies were sound and healthy, they don't work on sheep but they don't live in kennels or on the sofa their whole life, they live a happy and active life.

    I for one don't see a reason why there is a need for the so called "Working Beardie" to be included in the breeding. There are still more than enough rarely used lines with healthy Beardies in the so called „Show Beardies“. I don't trust people who want to make me and others believe, there hasn't been any health problems in their lines. Like someone said before they either don't breed much or lie...
    My dogs come from lines where hip scoring, eye tests and showing goes back for more than 5 generations. I do know most of the relatives and so far I am absolutely positive, there are no hidden AI or other problems in these lines. For these dogs there is no personal hairdresser needed to keep their coat in good condition, to have a companion you want to live with.

    I am pretty happy with the Beardies of today, health wise or character or anatomy including coat. Sure like in all breeders (and I am not talking about any special dog breed, but all kind of breeders, no matter if they breed animals or potatoes) you'll find only a few who won't keep information to themselves for a personal advantage. One needs to know the dogs one wants to breed from/with and one needs to know a few honest people to be able to talk to and get honest answers, to be able breed healthy dogs which are able to cope with today's world. There is no need to turn back the wheel of time, but one doesn't need „purebred mongrels“ like Labradoodle, Cockapoo or Working Beardies either.

  24. This kind of a so called old fashioned Bearded Collies looks like a Bastard you can get from every Animalshelter.
    Sorry, but I am so tired of those peopel who are unabel to breed a beautiful and healty Beardie and try to sell their rubbish as the one and only.

  25. Anon 22 Jan 12.56

    "unabel (sic) to breed a beautiful..."

    Herein lies the problem. Bearded Collies aren't meant to be beautiful, they are meant to be functional. But beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.

    David Hume's Essays, Moral and Political, 1742, include:

    "Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them."

    Now to me as in environmental and ecological physiology etc or design "form follows function", or a Darwinian evolution "form allows better function".

    So for me the Bearded Collie is more beautiful than the Show KC Bearded Collies, because that function has generated a beautiful form.

    But for you, you consider the original breed Bearded Collie "a Bastard". Preferring the glamorous, long haired 'My Little Pony', high maintenance coat etc, subset- beautiful.

    Though they are no longer functionally and form wise representative of the breed. What your eye sees as beautiful is the KC Show subset Bearded Collie, not the original form of the breed.

    So it is in fact the KC Show Bearded Collies which are the "pure bred mongrels" Anon 22 Jan 11.22

  26. mon·grel (mnggrl, mng-)
    1. An animal or a plant resulting from various interbreedings, especially a dog of mixed or undetermined breed.

    So if you take a limited sample, (12 dogs?) of a much larger gene pool. Then interbreed those representatives within that limited sample gene pool. From this produce dogs which have diverged from the representatives of the original larger breed gene pool, eg coat, temperament, size etc.

    Is this then an undetermined breed? So are the KC or Show Beardies the mongrels? The so called working ones the true pure bred Bearded Collies, as they are more representative of the line which has evolved over 100s or 1000s of years in response to the function they undertook. Rather than later artificial requirements of the show ring?

    Is this part of the debate?

  27. Agree with Jemima

    The breed has gone to the dogs. Years ago they were classed as a healthy breed -now too many auto immune diseases are creeping in. Not to mention the temperment changes - for the worse.
    Beginning to feel that buying a dog from a breeder is encouraging them in unhealthy acts.

  28. If the working beardie is a purebred mongrel or a bastard as described by another then so is everyone of our show beardies. 99% or more of all show beardies are descendant of Bothkennars. Prior to this there were KC registered beardies with the Beardie Collie club being founded in 1912 in Edinburgh. Unfortunately due to war and other factors beardie registrations to the KC petered out. Jeanies pedigree is unknown, her parents are known but no more than that, Mrs willison did not know what kind of dog she had until it's breed was told to her by a shepherd. She then obtained David, to be known as Bailie of Bothkennar, another unknown as he was a rehome and his original breeder had emigrated and taken his dogs with him. These dogs were registered by the Kennel club as Bearded collies. These were bred and produced offspring. A further unregistered bitch Bess was purchased from a working farm, she too was bred and then her progeny too. This is the foundation stock of the modern beardie. Only 60 years ago and all working stock. Evolution takes far longer.

  29. Three seperate issues here and for some reason they are blurred into one....
    We have first of all the appearance of the breed, and if that has changed (opinions are divided as to whether for the better or not!) then that is simply down to the whims and fancies of the show ring and the way breeders and judges choose to interpret - or should that be ignore? - the breed standard which has very specific clauses regarding the coat. Nowhere in the breed standard is an excessively heavy coat described as desirable, breeders and judges need to re-read their Standard carefully with reference to the dogs which are currently shown and bred.
    Secondly, the health of the breed, and unfortunately as with many modern pedigree dogs it can be a struggle to find healthy long-lived examples, though they certainly exist. In tandem with careful studies into genetic diversity we need to look at our husbandry, years of over-vaccination and feeding of inappropriate commercial diets have seriously undermined the health of this once tough breed. Genuine scientific studies prove that vaccines alter DNA, and the effect is cumulative and cannot be "fixed", it may take at least 3 generations plus careful attention to improved and species-appropriate husbandry before vaccine damage can be undone.
    Thirdly, there have been comments about temperament. The Beardie, in the right hands, is a WONDERFUL dog, loving, adaptable and sensitive, but its great beauty and willingness to partake in any activity suggested by its owner has led to it becoming popular as a "show dog" - owned by people who know little and care less about its working background, and condemn it to a lifelestyle where it is rarely allowed off the lead, and even more rarely allowed to fulfil its heritage as a working sheep or cattle dog, out in all weathers and using its brain! Small wonder that many of them appear nervous, hyperactive or neurotic. NOT the dog's fault!
    All Beardies, whether "working" or "show" bred share common ancestry, and those who truly care about the breed, its heritage and its future, will put aside petty squabbling and pull together for the future of this unique breed.

  30. Cathie Whittaker22 January 2011 at 22:37

    But.. at least those early Beardies had genetic diversity. I thought that using breeding from European countries might help as they had used different combinations to us in the UK, but it It still boils down (in the end) to 12 original dogs!
    It really is a no brainer!
    As you say evolution takes far longer and that is the concern.---- The only hope is that BorderWars genetic drift theory drifts in to save them. Maybe that could be the light at the end of the tunnel?
    Ever the optimist :)

  31. Cathie Whittaker22 January 2011 at 22:57

    On the subject of coats, I have to say that I really don't think they have changed that much from the original, I no longer show and my dogs now are comparable to the early dogs coatwise. hours and hours of tender loving care goes into producing a 'show' coat, but your average 'pet' Beardie doesn't look like that (I am a dog groomer.. I know). Lynn's short coated Beardie looks like a juvenile to me

  32. Anyone who is sure that "working Beardies" and KC Beardies are two very different breeds may like to take a look on YouTube at Mirk in action, a sample
    I can guarantee that Mirk is KC Beardie through and through, with a show champion sire and a pedigree full of red ink!
    In appearance and work style he looks every inch the worker, so put it to the vote: does he exemplify the Breed Standard? and if not, why not?

  33. My Beardies DO look like working beardies when I don't brush for a month (and no I don't need to brush weekly as mine have good strong coats)....If I gave them the "crap" food they got back then their coats and general well being would reflect that. They would pass away at a much younger age and there would be no known reason for it if the vet care hadn't improved and DNA testing introduced. Breeders should test for genetic conditions and try to breed them out (and yes there are idiots out there who refuse to learn and don't care for much other than the almighty dollar) But don't forget that the diseases we are talking about also occur in humans - what will you do there? DNA test everyone before they have kids? Is it the parents fault? Or would you like to blame it on the science that identifies the problems?

  34. If 100 years (or potentially 80 generations) isn't enough to show evolutionary changes then what is? We havn't been using anthalmic preparations for parasite control for 100 years but researchers are already seing evolutionary change causing resistance in the host and the parasite. The silver fox experiment, although selective breeding - but only for temperament, showed evolutionary changes in less than 10 generations. Canine evolutionary history cleary shows that the canine is one of the most evolutionary adaptable animals on the planet. Adaptable almost to the level of the "mutualist parasite". Don't measure evolutionary adaptability of the dog to man - not without considering the dog breeds more profusely, at a younger age, and adapts far better than we do.
    As already stated here - the conditions we see within pure breed dogs did not just happen over night. Science has identified them and in many cases developed a method by which to isolate the problem - but that does not mean they did not previously exist. That's like saying people didn't die from cancer, stroke or heart attack 100 years ago. The reason more pure breed dogs are identified as having these problems is simple - more pure breed dogs get tested for it - after all who is going to spend the kind of money we do on pure breeds on the common mutt?

  35. >why would you have a breed with Zero cases of CEO run the risk of introgucing 1 case of it surely 100% free is far better than 99% free.

    Actually, if a breeder cared about CEA, there's a DNA test for it, so no one ever need breed a case of it again if they wanted to do so.

    > Can Lynn go back 6,7,8 generations free?
    Why would you want to run the risk of intorducing any genetic problems that does not already exist in a breed it's madness

    With the DNA test there's no need to go back any generations, you can tell if a dog is a carrier or affected.

    But let's look at your larger point, that somehow, inbreeding, which is the cause of expressing recessive diseases is also the cure to recessive disease by more inbreeding and more limiting of the gene pool.

    This is madness, not outcrossing. There is no system of outcrossing that can create a recessive disease problem within a breed. Only inbreeding does that. For CEA, or any other disease to become a problem in Beardies, the introduced gene would have to be doubled up. And that only happens with inbreeding.

    If it was introduced, the odds are in favor of it disappearing rather quickly if the resulting puppies aren't inbred with each other right away. Outcrossing works by making recessive genes impotent by pairing them with non-like genes.

    So even if CEA entered the gene pool, the odds of it getting paired with another CEA gene is remote.

    So to answer your question, NO, 100% free is not better than 99% free of CEA if you consider that you'd cut *all* the other recessive diseases that aren't shared by the new blood dog down to 0% affected in the first generation, and much much smaller numbers than the current population in subsequent generations even with inbreeding.

    That's a trade I'd make in a second.

    Double the MHC genes, double the sire and damn line diversity, make affected lines carriers and carrier lines clear. Make the dogs live longer.

    Yes, all that is worth a small chance of a rather minor disease like CEA.

    CEA is one of the most overblown diseases as it is. I've seen witch hunts against it from breeders who don't care that their litter sizes are half what they were 20 years ago and their dogs are living 5+ years less.

    As if CEA ever caused a breed to lose 25% of its lifespan.

  36. I wonder how this all fits with breeding in other species. People seem to feel that opening the genetic pool to a broader community will remove or reduce the chance of genetic problems. This certainly hasn't happened in the human gene pool. It could be argued that with our diverse interbreeding populations there should be a reduction in genetic problems, but this is not so. In fact with diagnostic and health care improving we have a larger, not smaller, array of disease and disability.

    On the point of evolution being slow - recent studies into evolution have shown that it can be surprisingly fast. Without any wish to inflame or offend a recent scientific study of racial features across a range of locations revealed that humans adapt much quicker to their environment than originally believed. People in hot climates, without any 'out-crossing' to the local population have begun to show signs of recessing eyes and widening nostrils. People in colder climates again without any 'out-crossing' show signs of adaption too. This has been found to be a speedier process in females. If you think about it logically, evolution would have to be pretty fast to adapt to global changes... otherwise previous global impact events would have wiped out all life... but it didn't. Species adapted. cont...

  37. cont...However, when breeding dogs to show you are restricting the gene pool to achieve a goal that nature really wouldn't bother with. If you are going to seriously argue for opening up breed registers perhaps you should just abandon the idea of a 'breed' altogether. All breeding to maintain a type/breed.. working Beardie or KC Beardie is unnatural. Surely by the examples given here the kindest thing to do for dogs is to give it up completely. But no, people who are fighting for their self-serving purposes wouldn't want this either! They want the register opened so they can join in with the process???? Give it up. The human population is massive and out-crossed for many generations and yet still we have genetic issues, disability and disease. Open the register, Don't open the register... the problems will change but they won't go away!

    By now you're thinking I'm some anti-pedigree person, but I am not. I love my Beardies... all Beardies and I hope that the work that Breed clubs are supporting financially, at great expense, into genetic research will provide us with ways to reduce genetic problems in the breed. Perhaps some of our working breeders would like to contribute? No?

    All I hear, lately, is the uneducated notion that designer dogs or mongrels are healthier. Where is the evidence for this? Lynne can argue for the health of her dogs... she has evidence. Breed owners can know theirs because vets can tick a box for Bearded Collies or other pedigree breeds so their general health is recorded. However, who is ticking boxes for designer dogs or mongrels? If a mongrel has an AI condition, and it does happen, where is it noted? How are these comparisons made? Where is the justification for saying this?

    Finally, I've seen Liz's dogs and they can work it! Many show Beardies can be seen at agility, obedience and working. The whole coat issue? I have show coats. I don't groom everyday... don't need to. I don't wash to show... don't need to. My dogs roll in things I am too polite to mention. They run play and sometimes riot. We enjoy healthy lives and occasionally we pop to a show to spend a day together. On those days I groom to show and out pops the glamorous dogs for the ring. By lunchtime they are back to their normal scruffy selves. Don't be fooled by a hairdo - we can all glam up, but underneath it our construction, our personality doesn't change. And as for length a friend of mine told of an interesting conversation he had with an old-school shepherd he met in a pub with his Beardies. On asking the shepherd what he thought of the show coat, the shepherd answered, 'Oh we had them like that, we just used to shave it off cos it's easier.' When you think about it, you can select for traits you want... like a glamorous long show coat, but the trait has to be in there to begin with!

  38. "If you are going to seriously argue for opening up breed registers perhaps you should just abandon the idea of a 'breed' altogether."

    This is ridiculous to say. Almost every other domestic purebred animal (cats, horses, etc) allows selective outcrossing of breeds for various purposes and they have managed to maintain their breeds and types just fine. Why people seem to believe that dogs are a special case immune from that ability to survive occasional new blood is beyond me.

    Every modern purebred did not spring fully formed from the forehead of God... if people could take a generic 'canine' and shape it into the hundreds of diverse types we have today, then obviously intelligent outcrossing done for a purpose, with careful selection to preserve breed traits while infusing greater genetic diversity and viability is possible in the modern age! The drawback is, of course, that such practices tend to not produce perfect 'show quality' offspring in a single generation. And therein lies the core issue.

  39. The sad thing is that breeds are so homozygous on the few traits that really matter most when it comes to conformation that almost any outcross could be "undone" --visually-- in a very few number of back-cross generations.

    Since this selection will be done on just the visual aspects, leaving all the other beneficial aspects left to chance, we could really see a lot of benefit to breeds with very little work.

    Dogs that are indistinguishable from "pure" breds but have much more diversity in all the places that it matters for health but not for winning a ribbon. Re-tool the engine without damaging the body. Recondition the leather seats but leaving the paint alone.

    There are Beardie crosses in the Border Collie pool that look 60% Beardie, 40% Border Collie that behave like Border Collies. They win trials and are thus registered BCs. While the look of their offspring will continue to look like BCs each generation, the new sire line for the male dogs and dam line for the female dogs will last for all of those male and female offspring. So too will the other new genes take longer to "dilute" and disappear than the coat style and conformation issues resolve.

    Some of the new genes might become saturated in the breed or reach a stable level. Some will disappear. But while they are still in the breed they will give the benefit of heterozyosity.

    That's why selective smart outcrosses should be a regular part of maintaining a gene pool every few generations here and there across different lines. The goal is not to turn every purebred into a mix tomorrow, the goal is to pump new blood into the gene pool like you pump oxygen into a pond... to prevent it from becoming stagnant.

    We should use the same tools as the breed founders did, and abandon the notion that purity exists and is a magic shield against all ills.

    If you truly believed in the efficacy of the current system, tell me, why haven't you married your father?

  40. ""If you are going to seriously argue for opening up breed registers perhaps you should just abandon the idea of a 'breed' altogether."

    This is ridiculous to say. " That was my point!!!

  41. I do not understand this obsession of Lynne Sharpes. If she wants to breed Beardie lookalikes so be it but why does she have to inflict it on the rest of us. If the Beardie fraternity are so awful why does she want her dogs registered. Is she so certain that she knows best? Let's take a sensible view of the world of dogs. As most dogs finish up in pet homes I maintain that whatever the breed of dog it must have a good "domestic" temperament. Bearded Collies, along with many other breeds, are no longer bred for their original purpose. There is no point in harking back to the days when dogs were exclusively bred for purpose, they are not and most of them never will be now. As for introducing so called working Beardies into the gene pool I cannot see the point. As many of you will know I have been treasurer of beardie rescue in one form or another since 1974 and know of many of the problems that arise from unacceptable temperament. During the 80s and early 90s Beardie Aid and Dorothy Jarrett dealt with a large number of rescues many of which were what she called nearly Beardies. These were dogs from working stock that had been sent down South and sold as pets. SBA was asked to re-home them as they could not adapt to domestic life having been raised on a farm. In many cases we had to have them put down as we could not rehome them. I am not saying that all nearly Beardies raised on farms make bad house pets it is that they are not bred for that purpose.

    Anyhow take a look at the carefully selected pictures above. I don't see the point of them as things change over the years. Man lives longer and is taller. Women have bigger hips, thighs and breasts (see M & S web site) This does not mean that only people who had the physical appearance of people a hundred years ago should have babies. Things have moved on.

    Back to the carefully selected pictures. Have a look at the 1934 edition of Hutchinson's vol.1 pages 372 and 373. Under the picture of Balmaeniel Scott it reads "Observe the remarkable coat" Not much changed since 1934 then.

  42. Mention is made above of 12 foundation animals. This is not accurate, as there are, to my certain knowledge, at least 16 (I jotted names down from memory, so may have missed an odd one!)
    There were also another three (possibly more) registered but never bred from, and therefore not eligible in the list of foundation stock.
    Looking at the photographs at the top, I have always thought that Mrs H. Panmure Gordon's animal from 1903, had been clipped and was just growing coat back again. On Lynnes website is a picture of Lord Arthur Cecil's Ben, photographed by a photographer from a town very near me. The photo is from early last century also, and he has clearly appreciably more coat than Mrs Panmure Gordon's.

  43. Why do so many like Stephen Appleby feel threatened by Lynn Sharpe. I don't think your points are particularly relevant, just personal: beardie lookalikes - they are not lookalikes but old fashioned beardies. As for domestic temperaments, many beardies now are not bred for their nature but their looks. Too many are using too few stud dogs. I am not saying Brambledales should or should not be included but too close breeding does lead to genetic deformities.

  44. Now my first Beardie was a full on, full fat, high sugar, high energy and highly intelligent working line.

    Farmers and experts in working dogs were completely upfront with me and said if he hadn't come to me he would have probably been put down as unmanageable. But we never had a single problem in 17 years, because are relationship was balanced with respect to his temperament. He went everywhere with me never on a lead. So he was always occupied and constantly exploring and learning new things.

    I was repairing a garage roof. It was too hot to leave him in the car and unreasonable to make him stay at the foot of the ladder for a couple of hours. So I took him on the roof with me.

    About an hour later the owner called me. I went to the edge and he was there with two customers, and asked to see Ruskin, so I called him over. "There a dog, I told you". Turns out Ruskin had been running around and the customers had said "that's a big bird". The garage owner told them it was a dog. They thought he was having a laugh and didn't believe him. So he had to show them there really was a dog on the roof.

    Everyday was another adventure, another experience for us. Now if he had been left at home all day he might have had temperament issues. But these aren't intrinsic to the working beardie. Their manifestation is largely a result of inappropriate management.

    My present Beardie came from Beardie rescue in Scotland for fostering and assessment. Usual story rehomed twice, list of behavioural issues as long as your arm, I couldn't really be bothered with them. A week later he turned up at a BCC Scotland Branch show at Alva. A well behaved, happy, polite little dog. Yes he still has some issues, some surfaced over Christmas. But we will deal with them. These being as a result of his previous environment not of his genetics.

    On my web site on working bearded collie information, I warn about getting a WBC if you don't understand the requirements. Quite frankly I am amazed WBCs are as docile as they are considering the breed's background. The last wolf was killed in Scotland in the 1740s, so for most of their history the Beardie would have to protect stock from wolf predation to some degree. The stories of farmers putting the money from livestock sales in their jacket pocket and letting the beardies use it as a bed, as they were such ferocious dogs no one would go near them.

    Personally I love beardies partly because of this duality. The cuddly teddy bear with the wild darkside beneath. If we say the criteria of the breed is it to be some docile domestic pet. Then are we, not being the custodians of the breed. We are changing the breed to fit in with some new function. We lose their and our heritage.

    Is it not more important to preserve the breed by education and information to people so the dogs do not end up in homes, where they find they have more dog than they can handle.

    The WBC has a bloodline that goes back to the first colonisation of Britain again after the last ice age. These dogs have walked with us through more than 10,000 years of history. These dogs have looked after our animals, protected our children and guarded our homes.

    Are we really going to throw that away to force them to conform to some cream carpet, walk-on-a-Sunday, domestic docility. WBCs are the greatest dogs in the world. Don't change the bred, change peoples' understanding of them.

  45. Amusing.

    There are at least a few breeds that have open registries which allow country of origin dogs to be critiqued and registered, with their offspring eventually being allowed full registration. I own two such breeds, Salukis and Azawakh. SPDBS has been recognized by the AKC as a domestic registry for Salukis since 2002, and certain kennel clubs in Europe have been registering desert bred imports for far longer. People do make the same arguments: diseases, improper (meaning not Show Dog) type, OMG they could be impure, etc. The dreaded disease prediction has not come to pass. And no one is forced to breed to a desert bred dog or it's descendants, it's quite easy to look at pedigrees and find any imports. Selective breeding can refine the more rustic type for those that care (I prefer the rustic look, myself. )

    Azawakh are a young breed outside of Africa, and imports are vitally important to maintain diversity for them.

    Salukis have had one really, really *awful* side effect associated registering and breeding from desert bred dogs: they have the largest, most diverse number of DLA genes out of all the breeds tested so far. Most of that diversity is contained within the population of dogs with more recent desert bred ancestors. The horror!

  46. Just wanted to add, that there is no question about closed registries being viable in the long term. They aren't. Period. Breed clubs should really be putting their money into cloning research.

  47. Too true close breeding leads to problems and this must be avoided by breeders. Also, people are using labels to describe the differences that could be mis-understood. As we have no agreed common labels, this is bound to happen.. working, show, look-a-like, old-fashioned. Arguing semantics isn't going to suddenly make one side comply with the other. Once again I am left wondering why there is an argument at all. If all that has been said is taken into account. The majority of show people are happy with the show breed as it stands. Working people are happy with their working breed as it stands... so why is there an argument for opening the register. Are the show breeders requesting it? If this is a request coming from working breeders, why? What is the benefit to them? If they had wanted show dogs, they could have bought one in the first place. From all the arguments I really fail to see why working breeders would want to mix what they keep arguing are inferior over-coated bred-for-their-looks dogs into their lines... and the resistance coming from show breeders would indicate that a majority of them will never use a dog from working lines, or any of its progeny. So opening the register won't broaden the gene pool at all, will it? So why are working breeders even interested? I actually don't think these comments are aimed at Lynn Sharpe at all, if the register opens by KC regs it won't just be her dogs coming in, and I believe that is where the resistance lies. With no wish to inflame Lynn has approached breeding her dogs in the same way as a good show breeder does.. careful selection, health tests, out-crossing... Oh hang in isn't that what everybody is trying to do... and wasn't that where Mrs W. started with the foundation stock. Perhaps if we want to do something bold in Beardies we should out-cross to another breed, as was originally done? No? Why not? The sceptic in me is beginning to wonder where the money is in all this. I can't really see a true benefit, I can't see a logical reason, so now I have to ask where's the financial gain? and to whom?

  48. So, ''beggining to think that buying a dog from a breeder is encouraging them in unhealthy acts''
    So as a breeder that complies with the Kennel Club guidelines for health issues, is classed as unhealthy for the dog, any litter bred with me is carefully thought about, mostly out-crossed with health and temperament first and foremost. Let the working beardie be a working beardie and let things be.
    Just need to know what happens if these 'working dogs' bring in more health issues, will we hold Jemima responsible for stiring the shit once again.

  49. Yeah, you're right...why bother? Let's just leave the conformation breeders to it. Except it's not that simple because there is overwhelming evidence - as Jess says - that the way most are breeding dogs today is simply not viable long-term.. Clearly impossible for some out there to accept, but change is not being suggesed in order to stir the shit or fuel ego or any of the other unpleasant motivations ascribed to those who lobby for change. It's because you are breeding your inreasingly sickly, immune-compromised dogs into a genetic cul-de-sac and you just don't see it. And the dogs deserve better.

  50. I am all for expanding the gene pool with these working Beardies. By all means, if you are a breeder who thinks that is a horrible idea, then don't breed your Beardies to them, but that is no reason to prevent others from doing so. As for the issue of the merle gene being a devastating health issue, that has not been my experience, except in merle to merle matings. I am not a breeder, but have been around plenty if single merle dogs (Shelties, Australian Shepherds, and Rough Collies), and I can assure you none of them are deaf or blind. Should the merle gene be noted on the registration so people can avid accidentally breeding 2 merles? Of course. But the merle gene in and of itself has never caused problems in any of the merles I have met or known long term. As for worrying that these working Beardies would bring in genetic diseases unknown to the KC Beardies, that is simple. All you have to do is have the breed club REQUIRE all possible genetic testing of both sire & dam prior to a breeding being approved. If the breeding is not approved, and an irresponsible breeder goes ahead anyway, make the rule be that the puppies cannot be registered, shown, and worked in trial.

  51. Someone suggested I might find this blog interesting but I feel like the introduction and some of the posts are an advertisement for the "one true and pure Beardie breeder." I am all for discussing how to breed for good health, reasonable coats, and correct structure but working line Beardies are not for everybody.

  52. "Are we really going to throw that away to force them to conform to some cream carpet, walk-on-a-Sunday, domestic docility. WBCs are the greatest dogs in the world. Don't change the bred, change peoples' understanding of them." Yes Celticlion I'm afraid I am going to say we must. We live in a society that doesn't understand this side of dogs at all... the number of deaths from dog attacks proves this and I agree that owners should choose the breed responsibly, but the Rottie, Staff etc. brigade haven't managed this and the darker side of these breeds has been publically highlighted. And No I am not anti these breeds as they are. No I am not saying your ideal of the Beardie is wrong or should go, but sadly there are very few owners of your quality around and we live in a fastly growing society that is critical of dogs in general. What would the lovers of any breed prefer? The breed, or a banned breed? Yes dogs have lived in harmony with man for thousands of years... by adapting to man's needs. We can't live in the past where Beardies are working dogs, they have to live in today and so do we.

  53. Mary & Asher I like your thinking on the genetic testing anyway. For those who believe show Beardies will breed themselves into oblivion, much as this is unfair to the dogs. Why are you fighting it? Sounds to me like you have a self-solving problem. Leave it alone and it will either come to show breeders themselves calling for the open register, or the breed will decline and the working Beardie will rule! I only wish I could believe in the nobility of mankind. That wars are fought over freedom not oil? That countries invade to improve infrastructure, not steal resources. Sadly I see no historic or current evidence for it. It's always about the money, however you try and wrap it up! There may indeed be a few stoic noble people out there... but I bet they don't give their puppies to good homes for nothing. Not one of them! Perhaps I have grown too cynical in life, but everyone knows there is a significant price difference per puppy between show Beardies and working Beardies. and once again for Mary &amo; asher, the problem with merles in Beardies is that it can be almost impossible to spot, so a dog could be mis-registered as a dominant colour resulting in a merle-merle mating, which all breeds already with merle ackonwledge can have serious side effects. Why add a colour into an already beautifully varied breed that could harm future offspring?

  54. And we do not breed from 'SICKLY, IMMUNE-COMPROMISED DOGS' you cheeky mare, coments like that are slanderous.

  55. Over the weekend of 20/21 August 2011 there will be a canine themed event in Perth Scotland. Dog Days. The format is being put together now.

    As well as the disc dog, agility, obedience, HTM etc competitions and displays, there will be speakers and discussions on many aspects of the relationship between dogs and man.

    Everyone with an interest in dogs is invited to turn up and be involved or contribute to the event. The themes we have been discussing here will be covered.

    Anyone can contact me and register their interest, get more information and most importantly have their input into what they would like to see or do at the event.

    Over the next month the UK dog world will know of the event. It will be what we make it.

  56. Pertti Kellomäki24 January 2011 at 20:15

    When talking about evolution, it is good to keep in mind that while good health, fitness for (whatever) purpose, etc. are all important, they are just indirect factors in genetic change. At the end all that matters is who gets to reproduce and rear the next generation to a point where it can further reproduce. A superb specimen that does not leave offspring could just as well not have existed in evolutionary terms.

    Evolutionary change is usually relatively slow, because no genotype enjoys drastically better chances of producing offspring. This is not a case is breeding of domestic animals like dogs. Humans have almost total control over pure bred dog reproduction, which can result in rapid genetic change.

    Because humans are part of nature too, genetic change brought about by man is just as "natural" as change caused by predators eating the slower running animals.

  57. Pertti Kellomäki24 January 2011 at 21:04

    Genetic diversity is an interesting numbers game. Genetic testing of Bearded Collies has so far revealed seven different haplotypes (see e.g.

    There is evidence that homozygocity with respect to the DLA genes is not desirable, and the seven haplotypes give 21 heterozygous combinations: 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 34, 35, 36, 37, 45, 46, 47, 56, 57, and 67. DNA is symmetric, so e.g. 45 and 54 are really the same combination.

    Adding a single new haplotype would give rise to seven new heterozygous combinations 18, 28, 38, 48, 58, 68, and 78.

    A second new haplotype would give rise to eight further heterozygous combinations 19, 29, 39, 49, 59, 69, 79, and 89.

    In other words, bringing in just one dog with two previously unencountered haplotypes would raise the number of possible heterozygous combinations from 21 to 36, an increase of 15/21 = 71%.

    More diversity translates to more freedom in breeding. Assume that a breeder has a bitch with the haplotypes 12. If one wants to avoid homozygosity, the potential partners must not have haplotypes 1 or 2, which leaves the combinations 34, 35, 36, 37, 45, 46, 47, 56, 57, and 67. If the haplotypes were evenly distributed in the population (which they sadly are not), this would mean 10/21 = 48% of dogs as potential partners.

    In a population with the two hypothetical new haplotypes, the further potential partners are 38, 48, 58, 68, 78, 39, 49, 59, 69, 79, and 89. The portion of potential partners in the population is 21/36 = 58%.

  58. Wow... just shows how useful, genetically, just one new dog could be. Thanks for this, Pertti. Are you a breeder yourself?

  59. Thanks Jemima. As of yet I am just a wannabe breeder, but I would eventually want to become one. We run a small hobby farm with a handful of sheep, and I am quite interested in the working qualities of the Beardie.

    Someone asked why a breeder of registered Beardies would be interested in working lines at all. For me the answer is pretty simple. In my neck of the woods (Finland), there are no unregistered working beardies running around. In practice this means that if I want to breed Beardies, mine need to be registered unless I'm prepared to go really far afield. My dream come true would be a registered foundation bitch from working lines. This would give me lots freedom to choose from those registered Beardies that I have seen do nice sheep work.

  60. Why are so many of you anonymous? If you have something worthwhile to say then say it but have the good manners to identify yourself.

  61. There are breeders of working Beardies who are very passionate about keeping the lines pure, and there are also those - who are interested mainly in the dog as a dog and its working ability - who will happily cross in Border Collie (actually "working sheepdog" as I doubt they would wish to use the KC Border Collies), to improve the trainability and work ethic, while still preserving a shaggy coat and some cute whiskers.
    Selecting a stud dog requires research and real thought, knowledge of your bitch's lines, qualities and weaknesses, and should never be a decision made lightly. Unfortunately the demand for puppies means that most buyers care little about what is behind their pup, and are influenced more by arbitrary factors such as price, pretty markings, and availability, not wanting to travel far, pay too much, or wait too long. They will "breeder hop" to bypass waiting lists and as far as many are concerned one breeder and their dogs is pretty much the same as any other.
    Until the puppy-buying public wake up and smell the coffee, there is little motivation for breeders to become any more than "producers of puppies" with quality control down to their own personal integrity, and in that respect breeders of Bearded Collies are streets ahead of those of many other breeds.
    The merle argument aside, Bearded Collie breeders are lucky to have the possibility of "outside blood" whether they decide to take advantage or not. Many breeds are not so fortunate and could easily be headed for extinction soon

  62. This is, in my opinion, a good and unbiased analysis of the present situation.

  63. Jemima

    Have a look at BorderWars 22 January 2011 00:21 again re the swimming pool analogy. For one dog to make a difference across the whole genepool it or progeny would have to sire all (or many)of the bitches. Then this returns to the original problem, of genetic diversity, limited number of stud dogs being used etc.

    This is one reason why I don't hold much, along with others, regarding the official line of the Beardie resulting from 3 Polish Lowland being introduced in 1514. 3 dogs at a time when communication and travel was limited, albeit we are dealing with stock and droving dogs, would make very little difference across the whole Beardie population. Just a minimal addition diluted into the main genepool.

    Neither do I believe the earlier accounts of the addition of the Komondor, from 14th C trade with the Magyar people, made much difference. Though its description may ring a bell with the Working Bearded Collie: The Komondor's temperament is like that of most livestock guarding dogs;[8] it is calm and steady when things are normal, but in case of trouble, the dog will fearlessly defend its charges. It was bred to think and act independently and make decisions on his own.

    My own belief is the WBC has a bloodline that goes back to pre bronze Age early Neolithic or before. In Scotland there was sufficient population to maintain a healthy breed, but geographically isolated enough to maintain the bloodline pure. Hopefully the geneticists one day might prove me right. One reason why I think it is important to maintain the WBC and not allow it to genetically drift into cream carpet..etc..docile domesticity. It may be hold one of the most ancient genepools of all dogs and should be a national treasure.

  64. Ken Hines Wendy Hines21 November 2011 at 12:53

    A few comments on the Finnish study mentioned by Pertti Kellomaki....

    Genetics is much more complicated than an “interesting numbers game”. When reporting scientific papers, it is vitally important to quote the source and authors of such papers so that others can critically appraise them. Beacon for Health reproduced a paper published in Finland. It involved detailed study of only 77 Beardies which had been selected from a larger group, on the grounds they were as far as possible not closely related. Only 48 had been bred in Finland and of those 32 had an imported parent. So there was no random selection, an essential requirement to avoiding distortion of the results.

    The importance of widening the gene pool has been well understood in Finland as dogs in this study came from Sweden, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Norway, the USA, Czech Republic, Poland, Spain and Germany.

    Pertti misleads you when he states "Genetic testing of Bearded Collies has so far revealed seven different haplotypes" The study refers only to the haplotypes to be found on chromosome 12 in the region known as the Major Histocompatibility Complex (otherwise referred to as the MHC or sometimes as the Dog Leucocyte Antigen, DLA). This area is significant when studying autoimune disorders.

    The 100 or so genes that form the DLA are grouped together in threes to form Haplotypes. Pertti implies that these haplotypes are responsible for all genetic diversity. This is totally untrue as these Haplotypes relate only to possible predisposition to - or protection from - some auto immune disorders, on a small part of one chromosome.

    Pertti suggest that introducing a single dog with different haplotypes is all that is needed to make a significant difference in genetic diversity. Seven different haplotypes were identified in Beardies at this location compared with only five in the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, and eight in Lowchens and Finnish hounds, Beardies appear to have similar numbers to other breeds

    The study also showed that in 80% of the Beardies studied the same two dominant haplotypes were present with the other 5 scattered amongst the other 20% of dogs. It could well be equally true that this combination of dominant haplotypes in Beardies is why more than 90% of the breed are healthy normal dogs. Much more study is needed to see if particular combinations should be preferred to give protection, or avoided because they cause a predisposition. It cannot be argued that out crossing to produce more variety of haplotypes is essential, or even desirable, on the basis of this very small study. The study has raised interesting ideas, but now has to be reproduced in different countries with numbers in excess of a 1000 or so before any statistical significance can be deduced from it,

    Dr K C Hines MBBS FRSH MRCGP; Wendy Hines MSc


    PLEASE Jemima, have look at this link



    Jemima, PLEASE look at this. Sadly merles do not always remain in the hands of those who appreciate the possible problems they can carry. Litters like this can be the result. Poor, poor puppies.

  67. The most inbred dogs in Beardie history came from Brambledale. There is no other breeder, today or "yesteryear", that even comes close to the numbers of litters from the same bitch, the number of repeat breedings or the number of heavily inbred litters. For someone who is familiar with Beardie history, the attempt to tout Brambledale as some kind of breed savior is ridiculous and only goes to show how little substance is most likely behind any other article on this blog.

    1. Any beardie mating can be tested for inbreeding factor and infact Brambledales come out with the lowest inbred factor, some as low as 0. There are a few sites, Beacon included that allow you to do this.

  68. Length of coat depends on the age of the dog, and depending on when you last brushed it out it will look longer and shorter. I have plenty of pictures of my boy looking like photo's 1 and 2 and some closer to 3. There is no magic but an outdoor dog will look like it has a shorter coat as it gets caught up, tangles and so on when wet. Also the hair will get damaged and break if the dog is outside and running through gorse, heather and grass, keeping it shorter through the working.

    Your making out that these are "definitive" looks for the breed in 1903 or 1949, and that's a groomed to todays standard coat. Go look at and then go on Flickr and look at photos of non-show BCs, brushed and unbrushed and you'll see how much the grooming changes the way the coat presents for full show Beardies. Putting up a photo of the Crufts champion in full groom does not represent how most dogs coats are. Of course a coat like that is impractical, and most BCs don't have a coat like that as natural damage and breakage keeps it shorter. Grooming is also about comfort and I remmember meeting badly matted Boarder collies on farms in the 70's as shepherds didn't spend the time brushing them out.