by John Buddie, Tartanside
The 2004 Collie Club of America yearbook used the theme "The Times They Are a Changing" -- a theme which reflected a bit on the past and that also allowed people to make some comparisons with the present.
The times certainly have changed! Some of this has come about through technological advances in our world that have made travel easier (for both man and dog), feeding and maintenance more efficient, and it certainly has offered new avenues and methods for the breeding and rearing of our dogs.
Terms like "Animal husbandry" "stockmen" or "dog men" have become passe, but I fear we might be in danger of losing the very essence of what these terms reflected.
We must always remain cognizant of the fact that the Master Breeders of the past had a far greater plight in their efforts than the modern breeder of today. They would purchase the best breeding stock that they possibly could -- and sometimes at great expense when these individuals had to be shipped across the world. That did not guarantee that these particular dogs were excellent representatives of the breed -- nor did it insure their ability to even reproduce. Many a high price was paid for a bitch who was barren or a male who was sterile. Pedigree's were sometimes questionable, and on various occasions above average quality bred to above average quality would produce poor to mediocre specimens at best. This would cause these stalwarts of our breed to go back to the drawing board and begin again. On the rare occasions that a breeding would yield some oustanding results, breeders often faced loss due to viruses and diseases for which no immunizations or medications were available. And still they
By the time the "American Collie" was firmly entrenched as an entity, a few very serious individuals began creating families who were able to incorporate some form of homozygosity within their breeding program, and the strong American families began to usher forth. These later Master Breeders began concentrating on certain characteristics which they wanted to become hallmarks of their particular families. They set up stringent selection criteria for the dogs that would become part of their "strain" trying to select only those who shared the hallmark. One must remember that the overall gene pool of Collies was widespread and the overal quality varied tremendously -- not just from place to place but from time to time. Thereby followed the "extremes" in order to try and create the overall ideal. It was not uncommon at one time to find advertisements offering dogs at stud who were "rangy" with that term being a positive to try and counteract the short legged, short headed variety of Collies which were common. As heads lengthened -- the extremes of long forefaces emerged, and along with that came full stops, receeding skulls, and a variety of head types, which shared the common virtue of being "long" but a variety of faults in profile. After much work in all these areas, the overall make and shape of the breed began to take on a particular look that set it apart, and from there the Master Breeders began putting the stamp of their strain on their own dogs.
From the dogs of the best "make and shape" some breeders concentrated on consistently producing the best muzzles, others the best skulls, and while all took expression seriously, there was still variation in that department. Body types varied, with some breeders concentrating on a plain, more sound dog, while others consistently selected for an elegant carriage. This all took years of hard work, years of very stringent selection, a stiff upper lip when one had to fight mother nature and disappointment, and a lot of personal sacrifice in order to achieve these goals. There is no doubt about it that this was hard work, and those individuals who were willing to work at it, were dedicated and serious individuals who always had the "best of the breed" in mind. These were the times when the dog shows truly were "a place to evaluate breeding stock." Their wins and records were always less important than the validation of other serious breeders, and breeders looked to each other for continuing support on the path of excellence as a "group effort" rather than an individual achievement.
When I hear the term "survival of the fittest" -- I don't necessarily think about certain dogs or certain families. I often use that term to describe these strong-willed individuals who dedicated their lives to the improvement of OUR breed. These are the inviduals who helped put all of us where we are today. They are the ones who made our entrance into the breeding arena that much easier. For those of us who are active today, we were fortunate to start with a much better grade of breeding stock than these individuals. We began with breeding stock that was not only an upgrade in quality, but generally an upgrade in their inherent ability to reproduce. We were also blessed with the advances in technology and medicine which made our everyday lives that much easier, but we still owe a debt of gratitude to some of these talented individuals. It is imperative that any breeder with serious intent acquaint themselves with not only the knowledge and contributions of these individuals, but also with a sense of "who" they were.
All of this leads up to the reason that this article is being written. The Collie Club of America Breeders Education Committee has undertaken a new project -- a project we are labeling "Capturing the Moment." In an effort to document this aspect of Collie history that deals with these great breeders and kennels, we are currently doing interviews about breeders of the past which we hope to make available to the fancy in short order.
To help "capture" these moments, we are asking for help from the entire fancy. We are seeking film footage of some of the major kennels of the last 50 years. During the last century many people have kennel hopped, done breedings at, or stopped for coffee at some very influential kennels. Have YOU gone kennel hopping, puppy looking or just made a visit to one of the influential kennels in Collie history? Do you have home movies (16mm or 8 mm) . . . or video format of one of these visits?
Would you be willing to share this with the fancy at large?
The CCA Breed Education Committee plans to make copies of these films and tapes (returning the originals to their owners) and combine them into one or two videos that "Capture the Moments" for everyone. PLEASE . . . if you have anything that you would be willing to share (and for which you will receive credit) please contact:
Jackie Caruso , Chairman CCA Breed Education Committee firstname.lastname@example.org 42 Barrack Hill Road, Ridgefield, CT 06877 203-438-8022 or John Buddie Tartcollie@aol.com 1206 Miller Road, Pottstown, PA 19465 610-970-7580