WICANI: The home of happy collies!

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Lassie comes home to Yorkshire

Posted on January 8, 2014 at 12:35 AM

About 5 years ago I began to ask myself a serious question, "Are the Collies we generally see here in the UK in 2009  the same as the Collies we saw a few years ago, and in particular in and around 1970"?

It is now 40 years since I bought my first Rough Collie, and I decided to take a long hard look at the breed (having owned it since my youthful teen years), and I found myself asking the above question. I first began worrying about such things many years ago in the early 1980's when i noticed that many of my fellow exhibitors were fixated on breeding a certain type of head, I must be rather strange, because I have always placed greater importance on construction, movement, overall balance and that certain look of 'impassive dignity' that for me is the very essence of the Collie. It would appear that perhaps I am in a small minority. 

Many of us fell in love with LASSIE  and I am no exception, although Lassie was not my first reason to fall in love with the Rough Collie. However many of us began 'cutting our Collie teeth' by virtue of the film 'Lassie come home' and how can we help but fall in love with this canine star of  the silver screen! Formed in all her natural beauty, intelligent and wistful, almost otherworldly in her understanding and perception, forever dignified and loyal. Did we worry about the finer details of her head and expression...or were these a part of the overall charm?............... 'Lassie' had the long noble head,  the sweet dignity and intelligence of  expression, the alert outlook, the agility and grace...that breeders had planned to produce from the early blueprint they called the BREED STANDARD in the beginning of the 1900's and earlier. The discription still reads.."standing with impassive dignity, with no part out of proportion to the whole"...and this is the first thing we should 'see' when we look at the Collie...a picture of impassive dignity, harmony and perfect balance. 

Back we go to the year 2009 and again i ask, "was I seeing this impassive dignity and harmonious construction within the breed here in the UK, or had we begun to lose it just a little bit " ? I looked first within my own kennel and next at the Collies I was seeing in the show ring, I looked with a critical eye, not wanting to hoodwink myself in any way. It is easy and natural for us to want to protect what we have in our own back yard, what we have worked to achieve over the course of many years. I decided the breed in general was losing size and substance. This is not to say that every Rough collie was small and lacking substance, but a loss of size, bone and strength of limb was definitely noticeable. The majority it seemed (myself included) had been oblivious to a gradual process whereby the breed had become  smaller, lighter in frame, and in many instances the head, neck, legs and body had become shorter and deeper, a far cry from the well bunted wedge shaped head with slight (but preceptible) stop. It was becoming increasinlgy difficult to find that heart stopping 'flash of dignity' that was almost taken for granted by breeders pre-1980. I asked myself this and many other questions and decided to do something about it, I imported a handful of American bred Collies, the intention being to integrate then into my own  English bloodlines, and gain back some of what I felt we had lost. I had other reasons too numerous to mention in this small blog. This is entirely my own opinion and I  would add that I do not expect all and sundry to agree with me. I also have to add, that I had previosly worked to maintain Collies in my own kennel that I felt best fitted the breed standard, however, I now felt that without outside intervention (outside the UK), I could no longer acheive this! 

 2013 saw the rise of a number of exhibitors that have been voicing their opinions against my kennel plans and decisions. I have no idea at all why my own plans should worry other breeders to such an extent they begin making unsolicited snide remarks to friends and others that have chosen to  walk this path with me, Remarks that are rude, uneducated and even downright insulting. A petition was set up by one breeder asking people to sign in favour of a split in the Breed, they hoped for a large amount of  signatures that could be sent to the Kennel Club. Claiming that the Rough Collie we see in America is not a Rough Collie, despite the fact it has been developed entirely from pre-war English imports with a few more recent British imports thrown in to boot!  No other breed has ever been involved in the creation of the 'American collie' and it is genetically proven to be one and the  same breed! What is more, this group of adversaries claim  that Collies such as mine do not fit the UK breed standard and should NOT be rewarded in the show ring. Some freely admit they are judging such Collies by Nationality rather than against the breed standard, and they are using some very bullying tactics in their attempts to gain ground. Please...go to the Kennel Club home page and read the Rough Collie breed standard. (for weights you will need to check the Smooth Collie breed standard, this is basically the same breed seperated only by coat type) 

My own view is that I brought 'LASSIE' home to Yorkshire,  but when she arrived it seems that many of my fellow breeders didn't want her here! 

So i would like to ask you, the 'MAN IN THE STREET' and anyone else who cares about the breed and its future. Do we want a  return to the Rough Collie (with the size and substance required by the breed standard and commonplace up to 25 years ago). Males measuring 22-24" at the shoulder, but with a long arched neck that gives the appearance of something much bigger. A dog weighing up to 29.5 kg of hard muscle (not fat) Do we want Bitches that measure between 20" and 22" at the shoulder and again with that lovely long arched neck., and weighing up to 25kg. of hard muscle? Do we want that long lean head selected for and loved for 80 years before breeders began selecting for a shorter head with a deeper more well defined stop creating a definite two tier profile? 

Do we want an athlletic agile Collie free from 'phobias' ? or do we prefer a couch potato ? does the modern life style no longer require a dog whose attitude to life is full  of fun and laughter, who is so strong of limb he is difficult to injure, whose level  of fitness elevates him to that of a true Shepherd? 

Do we believe that breeders are justified in saying that the collies portrayed on the pages of my website...are not fitting a breed standard that was originally written in the late 1980''s to  produce dogs  that looked like those below, born circa 1950-60!  

Food for thought!  

Categories: I ask you!

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Reply Barb Starr
7:47 PM on June 9, 2022 
Angela, Is the pic at the top of thie article Damsel? Sure looks like her!
Reply Barb Starr
7:46 PM on June 9, 2022 
Angela, Is the pic at the top of thie article Damsel? Sure looks like her!
Reply Caryl
1:41 PM on February 20, 2014 
I am just a collie lover, not a breeder or handler. I love that majestic collie look, the regal stance, that beautiful expression. Please continue with your "vision", the dogs on this website are a testament to the beauty of the collie. Slightly partial to Beret. ;)
I think the American Rough Collie has also been growing away from that traditional look and some breeders here are also trying to go back. I sincerely hope so. My concern has been the eyes - i swear they have gotten a lot smaller.
I have a beautiful little collie who is 13 months old. She is a dainty little princess. But is she ever built solid under all that coat!!! It amazes me when I brush her!! She exhibits so much of that "typical" collie. Agile, quick, strong, powerful and yet so dainty and gentle. I wish I could get a picture of her standing.
She is a cross between the English (Wicani) and the American (Van M).
Reply Helen
5:54 AM on January 12, 2014 
Hi From a none breeder point of view and someone who is looking for a 'Traditional' Sable and White Rough Collie. My eyes have been opened! We had collies as kids, both male and female who were majestic in their size and appearance, turning heads wherever we went. I have noticed since looking for a puppy that most seem to have got smaller, the eyes and heads seem to have changed shape and some of the majesty has been lost :( I must admit I was beginning to give up any hope of finding my 'Lassie' until I happened across this site, I read each page, heart pumping that there was still the possibility of getting the dream.. Thank you x
Reply Angela harvey
4:54 PM on January 9, 2014 
Thank you Rowan, it is not always easy but 'the work't is essential. We are custodians of this breed and we owe to those that worked so hard to create this wonderful breed in the first place, and we owe it to the dogs themselves.
Thank you Cominut, I hope my vision does not become cloudy and I hope my courage does not fail me, thanks to people such as yourself I can take strength from you all and continue to forge ahead.
Reply Cominut
3:02 PM on January 9, 2014 
I enjoyed reading this post. As a breeder, you have to breed according to your vision and your aspirations, whether others understand them or not is another question. The breed clearly needs people with vision and courage.
Reply Rowan
7:26 AM on January 9, 2014 
Very well put Angela, I know many are now striving to recreate the traditional Collie and I am sure common sense will prevail over fashion eventually. We must all keep ploughing forward regardless of the brick bats and rubbish that are thrown at us, I thank you from me and my collies that you have not given up in the face of the pressure that has been put on you.
Reply Angela harvey
4:56 PM on January 8, 2014 
I know I am not alone, we have some good breeders working together here in the UK. However, I do not think that those breeders who claim we are not breeding to the UK breed standard are correct. The Collie has looked very similar in style since type was 'set' in the very early 1900's, only in recent years has it changed and mainly on British soil. Through my eyes...i am working to pull back 'Lassie' into our modern era, what others do is up to them. Thank you Cathy for your comment.
Reply cathy jessop
2:43 PM on January 8, 2014 
yes angela I agree with you all the way ,ive seen small collies over the year and some with sloping backs like a gsd ,where on earth did that come from,very glad some one like you has got the guts to improve the rough collie breeds,