The Dogs of Heatherhope
Border Collies are the world’s premier stock dogs. Many breeds will move or guard sheep or cattle, but Border Collies can do a great variety of jobs because they are so intelligent, eager to please the handler, focused on their work, and possessed of tremendous stamina. A team of four or five Border Collies can gather thousands of sheep from a hundred square miles of mountains in Scotland, or a single dog can single off one pregnant ewe for the shepherd or gently push a lamb back to its mother’s side in a barn. They have been doing this sort of work, responding to shepherd’s whistles or voices, for several hundred years in Britain, and since colonial days in the Americas.
Love of Border Collies led us to begin to visit shepherds in Britain starting in 1994. Since then we have averaged at least one visit to Scotland, England, Wales or Ireland each year, establishing warm relationships with some of the finest breeders and trainers of working sheepdogs in the world.
All of our Border Collies come from the finest working lines, and all of them have exhibited strong herding instincts as well as great stamina and sociable personality. We belong to the United States Border Collie Handlers Association (www.usbcha.com) and Britain’s the International Sheepdog Society (www.isds.org.uk), and compete in numerous herding competitions sponsored by the USBCHA each year.
Currently we own seven Border Collies and a Great Pyrenees guard dog. They include:
Cap, born 12/25/03, has taken over from his father, Mirk, as our go-to dog on the farm, and has become our top trial dog. We helped our friend, Wally Yoder, to purchase Cap’s dam, Liz, at the same time we brought Mirk back from Scotland, in 2003. Liz was also a fine nursery dog for Bill Elliot in the Borders. Her dam is Roddy MacDiarmid’s Dot, a bitch that has won the 2000 Scottish and International Brace Championship and numerous other open class wins. Liz’s father, also named Cap, is of Bill Elliot’s breeding and goes back to Johnny Wilson’s two-time International Supreme Champion, Spot. Our Cap is very athletic and confident in moving sheep in just about any situation. Cap’s hips have been scored OFA “Good” and his eyes have been tested by Optigen as normal, so he does not carry the gene for Collie Eye Anomaly.
Bess, born 4/3/2005, is of our own breeding (out of our Tess by Mirk–both of whom are now deceased), and in her career on the farm is showing all the power of both her parents. Frankly, she is a bit of a handful—her keenness making her the most hard-headed dog I’ve trained. Being a bit of a “free-lancer” we kept her away from the stock much of the time for a couple years, but have recently been surprised to find that she has settled well and has become a good farm worker.
Imported Abbie, born 1/4/2007, has shown that she can handle anything on the farm or on the trial field. She was born in the Lake District of England, the son of Derek Scrimgeour’s Cap (ISDS #266571) who had a very strong nursery career before suffering a soft tissue injury and being sold to the United States. Cap was himself the son of Raymond MacPherson’s Dolwen Chips, a dog that took two International Driving Championships, was Reserve English Champion in 1996 and 10th in the International Supreme in 1994. We bought Abbie when she was a year old, after she had been trained as a youngster by 2005 World Champion handler, Gordon Watt. She can move extremely fast around sheep so we have been working to slow and steady her flanks. She has always had great scope in working big gathers. Her hips have been scored OFA “Good” and her eyes have been tested by Optigen as normal, so she does not carry the gene for Collie Eye Anomaly.
Spot, born 11/18/2009 is our up and coming hopeful. We have great expectations for him since he is by our Cap and out of our Abbie—two very sound parents who we think are of the absolute best quality of breeding and who show the best talents for herding. Spot has been a handful to train, but he is about to start his trialing career.
Hector and Betty, born 11/16/2011 in a litter of five pups to our Cap and Abbie. Betty is petite and Hector quite large and still growing fast. They both get along wonderfully with all the other dogs and with people of all ages. They have both shown plenty of good instincts and started their first stages of training with sheep in the summer of 2012. Their litter sisters (Sian and Olive) and brother (Bart) are now herding with their new owners in Missouri and Michigan.
Frodo, born in 2003, is our gentle giant, Great Pyrenees guard dog. He was bred by Dave Birch of Perry, Missouri, who kept him with sheep from birth. We brought him to Heatherhope as a puppy because soon after we started keeping sheep, a dog severely scratched one while we were away at our work. The sheep survived, but we often hear of sheep owners losing twenty or more sheep in a single night to coyotes, and we knew we had many of those predators in our area. Frodo lives day and night with the sheep, and this, happily, keeps stray dogs and coyotes at bay.
On July 25, 2010 we said goodbye to Mirk. He had been born 11/22/97, and had been one of our best all-‘round working dogs. He came here after working four years on the hills with Bill Elliot of the Borders region of Scotland where he won most of his nursery trials. He was a son of Norman McDonald’s Zac, one of the top stud dogs of recent times in Scotland. On that sire’s side he also went back to John Templeton’s Ben and Roy and on the dam’s side to George Turnbull’s Nickey, John Bathgate’s Vic, Dryden Joe and again to Templeton’s Roy. Mirk himself showed everything you would want in a working dog, and he sired our Bess and Cap—both dogs that show good confidence and power in herding. Mirk had an uncanny ability to control feisty ewes with lambs and rams. He had soulful eyes when he snuggled up with us for a late-night dram of Scotch, and a relentless work ethic in the field. He will be greatly missed.
Imported Floss, 2/11/96 to 11/5/2011, lived to be our oldest dog before she died during her 16th year of life. Just a couple days before she died we discovered that sheep had gotten out of a poorly secured gate during the night and Floss helped return them safely to their pasture. You would never find her playing ball or frisbee—she lived to work sheep. She spent the first three years of her life on a farm in Shropshire, England with shepherd Ken Gwilliam. She was the dam to Queen, one of our best competitors in herding trials, who, unfortunately died in 2008. Floss died in early November of 2011. You can find our tribute to her here: http://heatherhopefarm.com/2011/11/05/a-tribute-to-floss/
Jock: born 5/4/2008 is the son of our Cap and is out of Graham and Margaret Phillipson’s bitch Rose (ABC 275067). Rose is a very capable farm dog. Her father is the Phillipson’s Imported Don, who goes back to Scottish breeding. Rose’s dam is Marta Engel’s Skye who was by Jean Bass/Jack Knox’s Imported Coon (ABC 63353). Jock has gone to a wonderful family in Pennsylvania to work with their sizable flock of sheep. He is fitting in marvelously with both the family and the work. We wish them all the best as they enjoy their work and life on the farm.