IS THE AUSSIE REALLY A SCOTCH SHEPHERD?

by Linda DeHaven

a letter published in the Aussie Times Magazine in 1973

Aussie Times editor’s note: This letter was written to Linda Boysal from Liz DeHaven about some old-time Aussie-type dogs in Oregon.  Thank you, Linda, for sharing it with us.   

Dear Linda,

Alan is is Miami, Fla. for the next two weeks and asked me to write you.  He really enjoyed meeting you and we are looking forward to seeing you when you come to Arizona.

I had a couple of pictures made for you.  These are of “Cindy” (I’m sure Alan told you about her.)  She was one of the best two dogs in world.  The other was her litter sister, “Fiddle” (mine.)  These were “Scotch Shepherds.”  We feel this is the origin of the breed and that they were Scotch Shepherds before they went to Australia and became “Australian Shepherds.”

There are (or were) quite a few sheepmen in Oregon of Scotch descent, some second generation and most of them had these “Scotch Shepherd,” always black with white markings.  When they began to register Border Collies, at least in our area (coast) everything with black hair and white markings suddenly became registered “Border Collies.”  I know for a fact of sheepmen who had Scotch Shepherds one year and the same dogs were registered Border Collies the next.  By now, of course, they have become a mixed breed, we feel the worse for both.  Notice the difference in working style of imported Border Collies and domestic ones.

After reading the standard of the Kelpie in the National Stock Dog magazine, I feel that the original Border Collies were of the stock of the North County or Fox Collies described in that article, winter 1972-1973.

For these reasons:

1.  The working style.  The little sheep dog of Californie, used by the Basque and Portuguese sheepherders and to be found on most every ranch with big herding problems, was usually a prick eared, short legged dog.  They were born, not trained. to that famous ducking style of action.  Head down as they ran, almost a slink or a glide, duck, glide and stare or eyeball the sheep.  They were uncanny in working sheep, but worse than useless on cows.

The Scotch Shepherd ran with a style of his own, almost a bird dog style.  A fast, sharp, heads up, wide cast.

2.  Where a Border Collie would head a running bunch of sheep and duck or crouch and “eyeball” the leader over and over until she gave up, the Scotch Shepherd would more likely hit the leader with his shoulder and turn her and never ducked and stared.  Could be trained for cattle as well.

Both were wonderful sheepdogs and both so great in their own way that they should have never been confused or blended.

There was an old Scotch lady in Oregon.  She was in her 80’s in 1950 and had some famous dogs.  The story goes that her father had brought them from Scotland at least that long ago and no one could get one unless he managed to steal it.  For 50 years she had allowed no new blood into the strain, breeding mother to son, father to daughter, only when she needed a replacement.  She would choose the one she wanted and then destroy the rest of the litter.  When she was this age, she was ailing and had to move to town.  She had a manager living on her ranch caring for about 500 sheep and what looked like millions of turkeys.  She had bred her pair of dogs and picked the male for the next generation and ordered him to kill the rest of the pups.  Instead, he gave one to a friend of his, who helped up to get ours.  We went up to see him and he had the two little females left.  He gave them both to us,  after we swore we would never tell anyone where we got them as long as the old lady was alive.  We never did.  He said she would fire him, at least, but he couldn’t bring himself to kill them.

These two pups were Cindy and Fiddle and if I told you all the things they could do, you would give me the liar of the year award.  Fiddle looked just like Cindy, except she had freckles on her nose and feet.

They were high heelers (on the hock) and as we had some mean range cows and thick brush we sent to Montana and got Mollie.  I have a picture of Mollie, but no negative so can’t send you a reprint.  She was a low heeler (under the dew claw) and Alan always said she could put a bull up a stove pipe if that was the only way out.  She was a light silver color merle with two blue eyes, long tail, white ring and trim.  She would not face a cow.  She never had pups until she was 10 years old.  Her “pup,” Cisco, died last year.  He was 12 yrs. old.  We had to have Mollie put to sleep at 16 with cancer.  If not for the cancer, she probably would have lived forever as she was tough as nails.

Those are the good dogs we have had since we were married.  Alan’s family had Australian Shepherds and Scotch Shepherds before he was born.  The question of size comes up all of the time.  He thinks they were just strains as in any livestock.  If they wanted them for cow dogs, they bred them bigger and long legged (to keep up with horses.)  For sheep they went toward the small ones.  They would have to pick up and change dogs on long, hot drives as they tired or became sore-footed, etc.  Herders who rode horses would sometimes carry their dog on the horse to rest it.

I took some notes to answer your questions.  Some he will tell you when he gets the chance.

1.  How long have you owned or been around Aus. Shepherds?
All of his life.  He went to the mountains with the sheep when he was 6 weeks old or so.  On a pack mule.  His parents had a string of pack mules, 18, I think and packed into the summer range, kids, dogs, herders and all.

2.  What do you recall about the dogs that came over from Aus. with bands of sheep, etc.?
We read that in Stodghill’s magazine, which we don’t get now.  A letter from Mrs. Bernard E. Ely.  Winter Issue 1968-1969.  If you don’t have it, Alan can Xerox a copy.

3.  Give some of your background, etc.
Pretty well answered that.  Raised sheep and/or cattle until fourteen years ago.  Raised purebred dairy goats for hobby.  Not much need to use dogs there.  But did sometimes.

4.  Tell any stories that you might think of interest, etc.
When we lived on the Ore. coast, we met a man named Bob Hogan.  He and his wife were running about 200 goats on a ranch near Gold Beach.  Mr. Hogan was completely blind from a logging accident.  They had two Australian Shepherds, Alice and her son, Rex, a castrated male.

They raised calves on the goat mill to get their project started, and would have forty or so at one time.  Raise them and turn them out on the range which was cut over timber land.  Later, they sold the goat mile to a cheese factory.  To watch those dogs work was a real treat!

Alice was the leggy, sort of weedy light blue merle with blue eyes and long tail.  Much like our Mollie.  Her job was to go out and bring in whatever needed bringing.  Calves and goats.  Their range lay next to forest land and they could be anywhere.  She had to find them first, gather them together and convince them to leave their lush food and come home.  She always got them home.  Then she had to go to the house and baby sit with their little granddaughter who lived with them.

Rex had taught himself to be a seeing-eye dog.  No one know how he knew Mr. Hogan was blind.  Mr. Hogan milked the goats by machine.  Rex would bring them up to the milking stand, 4 at a time.  When no more came, Mr. Hogan would say, “Is that all?”  Rex would go smell their udders, that way he could tell if they had been milked.  If there were no more, he would bark one bark.  Then Mr. Hogan would open the door and the goats would go out.  As the last one went out the door, Rex would go under Mr. Hogan’s hand to show, that’s all.  Between the “sets” of milkers, he would bring the kids up to the stanchions to be fastened in and fed their milk and the calves on the other side.

He would be very irked if a visitor left a gate closed that was supposed to be open or vice versa and would bark until it was right.  If anyone started to sit in Mr. Hogan’s chair, he would jump in front of it and growl.

Rex was a darker blue merle with one blue eye and bob tail.

The first one Alan remembers is Bob.  Alan was about 4 yrs. old.  Bob was the leggy type and an excellent sheep dog.  He had a pronounced overshot jaw.

Rip was reddish brown merle with white chest, natural bob tail.  He can’t remember the eye color of either.  Rip was a cow dog, a great heeler and wicked dog fighter.  He was the short coupled type (as compared to leggy.)

His uncle Ollie DeHaven, sheepman, had a strain of black with white rings, no tan, natural bob tailed, leggy type.  Had them until his death.  If anyone asked Uncle Ollie what kind of dogs they were, he said, “Damn good ones, friend!”  None of that family believed in registering working dogs!

Alan’s uncle, Lawrence Etzler, cattleman, had blue ones, leggy type bob tail either natural or docked.  Good heelers.

There you have it.  It seems they bred the blues to blues (and no one heard of blind or deaf ones) and the blacks to blacks and if an off color came, they asked, “Is it smart or can it bite a cow?”  One of the best sheepdogs I ever saw (1939) was a snow white Australian Shepherd, with one black ear.  No, he was not deaf or blind!

The culling was simple.  Not by how the tail set or ears hung.  The good ones lived and they had to be good as so much depended on them.  Alan’s mother used to laugh about his Dad culling dogs.  Said he had about twenty one time and two of them were  what he considered good.  So, he just shot them all but the two, Skunks and Flora, and started over.

Alan thinks you are really interested in keeping the working ability in the Aust. Shepherd.  I’m sure there some of them around and wish you the best of luck.

Alan should be home the rest of the year.  They are supposed to be through with this project by the 1st of Oct.

Sincerely,   Liz DeHaven.

this letter was first published in Aussie Times, Winter 1973-1974, Volume 5, No. 3, pg.45

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