National Geographic : 1941 Dec
Working Dogs of the World BY FREEMAN LLOYD With Paintings by Edward Herbert Miner * A a sheep-dog trial in New South Wales, Australia, I once watched a dozen or more sheep-herding dogs looking on while one of their rivals, with quick dashes and feints, rounded up three sheep unaided. Instead of romping about or looking bored, these contestants awaiting their own turn to compete were observing the dog's every move with the keenest professional interest. They were kelpies (pages 781-2), and their whole attention was centered upon their life work, herding sheep. A group of doctors watch ing a great surgeon in action, or a football coaches' convention attending a big profes sional game, could not have been more intent. Dogs at dog shows do not appear to be con cerned with what the other entries in the same judging ring are doing. But any sheep dog of the working sort certainly is "all eyes and ears" when observing another of his profession in action. However, let it be borne in mind that a bench show dog may be every bit as observant and ready for "work" if given half a chance to enjoy the life of the great outdoors. An "Educated" Corgi Handles a Sow Every farmer knows the value of a good herding dog, and personally I like to think of a working dog as the opposite of one of the "white collar" kind. He knows his way around the farm. A man may learn much from his sheep or cattle dog; often a dog's judgment may be quicker and keener than that of his master. As a farm lad in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, I lived in the midst of the Corgi dog country (page 782). And it was one of those fox-headed, prick-eared, short-legged and short-tailed little demons that had the big job of handling the fend-for-themselves pigs. When Fan was urged to drive one of those long-eared Welsh sows from a garden or other place, she seized her by the end of an ear and in that way avoided the bite of the enraged hog. But when ordered to drive a bull, cow, or ox, she nipped at a hind heel of the beast, then immediately dropped flat on her belly and so avoided the ensuing kick. As for my fool town-bred spaniels, they went for the heels of both cattle and swine, and got kicked and bitten as the price of their white-collar background. The Corgis were country bred, and as farmers' working dogs they well knew the danger in the horns and heels of the beast and the teeth of an old hog. Another instance of what appeared to be quicker and better judgment than that pos sessed by an ordinary man was observed while I was watching a black, white, and tan Scottish Collie named "Bob" on the late Tom Lacey's farm at Hoby, Leicestershire, England. Noticing a lame ewe, the mounted master with his dog drove the flock to a corner of a thornbush-fenced field. While the foot was being examined, a full-fleeced ewe made a butting dash at the sitting dog sentinel and broke away. Turned aside, she swerved and ran head-on to a slight opening in the hedge, where she became entangled in the bush. "Fetch her out, Bob," came the order. I thought the dog's best plan would be to get alongside of the ewe and force her out. But Bob already had thought of a more workable plan. He galloped about forty yards to a gate, leaped through the bars to reach and face the seemingly fast-held sheep, and began a terrific barking. With this incentive, the poor creature managed to release herself and rejoin the flock. Here was revealed the wonderful functioning of a working sheep dog's brain. A friend of mine tells of an instance in which a collie was driving a flock of sheep through a narrow street in a Scottish town. The dog's bark, perhaps through over-use, had faded until it was almost gone, yet the sheep had to be driven on. Quickly the collie hit upon a plan. Choosing old ewes as his victims, he bit their ears so the bleatings would create panic among the leaders. The ruse worked. Few things can so gratify a lad's pride as to give him a trained sheep dog, place him in charge of a flock of sheep, and tell him to drive them from pasture to pasture-especially if along a road which might provide a human spectator or two. A boy, a dog, and a hun dred sheep-what a kingdom! Sheep-dog trials on a grand scale have yet to be witnessed in the United States. These tests are popular, however, in Wales, and they take the form of a national pastime in Aus tralia where wool may be described as the backbone of the Commonwealth.t * For expert advice which greatly assisted the artist in the preparation of these paintings and assured their complete authenticity, grateful acknowledgment is made to Dr. Samuel Milbank, of New York, known to the dog show world as one of the foremost execu tives and judges of the Westminster Kennel Club. '" See "Sheep Dog Trials in Llangollen (Wales)," by Sara Bloch, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, April, 1940.