This section is from the book "A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland. (Non-Sporting Division)", by Rawdon Briggs Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland, Non-Sporting Division.
This variety of the collie has mostly been produced in the north of England. Being less cumbersome in formation than the dog previously written about, it is better adapted for work on many of the hills, especially those where rocks and rough stones are more plentiful than heather and bent grass. The smooth sheep dog is a most active animal. I have seen one that could catch a hare single handed, and in intelligence and sagacity he is quite equal to his rough-coated cousin.
Some of them make excellent drovers' dogs, and at the time of writing, one of the very best cattle dogs in the London markets is a smooth sheep dog with half of its tail cut off.
One of the first dog shows to provide a class for this variety was the gathering that annually takes place at Darlington. This was in 1870, and from that time until 1892 the best classes of smooth dogs were to be found there. The farmers round about prefer him to any other, and in the Weardale district many homesteads have their own strain, which, as well as being good-looking, are second to none in the performance of their duties with sheep. In Northumberland and in the districts both sides the Border, smooth collies are to be found in abundance, and when a specially good specimen appears at any of our southern shows, it may be taken for granted that it originally came from the north.
Perhaps the smooth collie would be more popular were he less difficult to breed to perfection. In some strains the trouble comes in getting the coats sufficiently smooth, especially in many of the black and white Northumbrian dogs, that appear to me to be quite distinct from any of the other varieties. The black on such specimens has a tendency to appear blue when seen in a certain shade, the coat is rather longer and more open than is actually desirable, and there should not be even the slightest tinge of tan or brown - a blue-black dog with more or less white on his breast, neck and feet. From time to time Mr. A. Hastie, of Newcastle, has shown excellent specimens of this strain, which he usually purchased in the northern cattle markets he is in the habit of attending.
Perhaps one of the best smooth collies I ever saw appeared at some of the local shows in Westmoreland about twenty years ago. This was a peculiarly coloured brown bitch with a natural bob-tail. She belonged to a butcher, and was quite as good in work with either cattle or sheep as her appearance would imply. No sheep dog I know now, had nearly the character or expression she possessed. Mr. W. W. Thomson about the same time had an excellent black, white, and tan called Yarrow; Mr. T. Swinburne's Lassie was another good one of similar type. More recently Mr. W. Arkwright had a bitch called Melody, which many good judges considered the best of her race, and Mr. E. Hutton, of Pudsey, near Leeds, has from time to time had animals of this variety above the average in quality. More recently Mr. A. H. Megson has had some good specimens. The best of these is undoubtedly Heatherfield Tip, who is by many persons considered the best of his variety yet shown. Anyhow, he has not met defeat up to the time this was written. He was pupped in August, 1892, is a dull sable and white in colour, possesses a coat neither too short nor too long, his ears and expression are very good, and all round he is most symmetrical and characteristic.
To my mind, the handsomest smooths are those "mirled" or "marbled" in colour, with "china" or wall eyes. This colour is sometimes intermixed with brown, giving an almost tortoiseshell - like appearance which, if rather odd, is extremely pleasing to the eye. An impression prevails in some localities that the vision of these "wall" or "china" eyes is stronger and more powerful than in the eyes of ordinary colour, and that they never contract cataract or opthalmia or other diseases of the optics. Maybe this is an "old wife's tale," and its truth or otherwise will be difficult to determine at any rate I can say that I have not hitherto come across any china-eyed dog that had any particular disease of the eyes. The best "mirled" specimens have been owned by Mr. H. Mapplebeck, whose Fan was for a long time quite invincible on the show bench; Dr. James, Mr. John Powers, Mr. Megson; and Mr. F. Hurst, Heatherfield, Knuts-ford, have, perhaps, had the best collections of smooth-coated collies ever brought together.
Quite as intelligent as his rough-coated cousin, he is less popular because he is more difficult to produce in perfection, and when produced is not worth so much money. A County Court judge not long ago awarded only £10 as damages for the loss of a dog which, by his intelligence, had probably saved his owner's life, and had young Gough when he was lost on Helvellyn had such a sensible animal with him, instead of a common little terrier, whose stupidity has been immortalized in verse, perhaps neither Wordsworth nor Scott's pathetic poems would ever have been written.
Mr. Ridley, a young farmer of Wolsingham, in Durham, was out on the fells looking after the sheep. Unfortunately he slipped and broke his leg. In great agony and unable to move, he lay at the foot of a crag for a considerable time in the expectation of someone approaching who could hear his cries and so render assistance. No one came. His faithful bitch Lassie lay by his side. Night was coming on; the young farmer thought it would be unpleasant and dangerous to lay out on the fells all night, so he attached a note to his dog's neck and bid her "Away home, Lassie." Although several miles from the farm, Lassie required no second order, and quickly was making a great to-do in the kitchen. Then the paper on her neck was noticed, and in due course assistance was sent to the injured farmer, who was rescued from an exposure that might have caused his death. And when Lassie, who was a show dog as well as a sensible creature, was stolen from some small exhibition, whose secretary was sued for her loss, the County Court judge gave Mr. Ridley £10 as the full value of his dog. The original claim of £50 was, I take it, under the circumstances, an extremely moderate one.
The smooth-coated collie differs only from the rough variety in coat, which in the former should be hard, dense, and quite smooth, so no special scale of points is required for him, but in judging care must be taken that the prizes are awarded to really "smooth or short-coated" animals that have no long hairs or feathers on their hind quarters and stern. I fancy it is there and on the neck that the cross with the rough-coated dog would become most apparent; and instances have been known where attempts have been made to win prizes in classes devoted to the smooth variety with rough-coated specimens in the process of "moulting," assisted by the trimming operations of their owners. A smooth-coated tri-colour is a handsome companion, though unfortunately not a fashionable one.