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.
Whilst alluding to the prices of collies, I may say that the dogs have usually brought most money, still, sundry bitches have been sold for £200 apiece and more. Some of the best of this sex of late have been Ormskirk Dolly, Bleachfield Wonder, Bertha, Portington Beauty, Lady Christopher, Sefton Grace, Barwell Pearl, Matrimony, Parbold Phyllis, Ormskirk Memoir, Barwell Princess, but with so many high-class animals of both sexes now being shown it would be almost impossible to compile a perfectly complete list.
Messrs. Rae and Parsons have for a few years owned a particularly strong kennel of collies at Newmarket, and at the time of writing this in 1893, their Great Gun is by some judges considered the best dog at present before the public. He is a sable and white, a large, strong animal, whose expression might be improved, coat hard and profuse, which is not quite straight, but he excels several other notable dogs in carriage. In the spring of this year he beat Stracathro Ralph, a very excellent dog that had been successfully shown by his owner and breeder, Mr. Morton Campbell, of Dun House, near Montrose. The Scottish-bred dog had worked into the challenge class and was always an improving sort, and his opponent had also been the latter, for on previous occasions he had never found so great an honour in the prize lists. Stracathro Ralph is a son of Christopher, already mentioned.
But so many collies are bred for show purposes, that it is no wonder new faces of extraordinary merit appear to be cropping up every few months. Now, in 1893, there are, no doubt, more good collies on the bench - many of them young ones - than had previously been the case. At the Manchester show in March, this was particularly apparent, and Mr. J. S. Diggle, of Chorlton, had a couple of bitch puppies there of very great merit. One of them, Parbold Phyllis, bred by Mr. Hugo Ainscough, of near Southport, who just at this time appeared particularly successful with his strain, is all-round perhaps the best collie bitch yet seen, a big one without being coarse, and a little soft and fluffy in coat, still in other respects she is almost perfect. However, she was but ten months old when she made her debut - and early maturity I do not like to see. Still, she won the challenge trophy as the best collie in the show, beating Great Gun and all the other cracks, and was ultimately given reserve to a Newfoundland, who won the special awarded to the best non-sporting dog in the hall. Thus Phyllis was pronounced second best - a very high honour for a puppy to attain. Before this she had won several prizes at a collie show held at Birmingham.
Other of the more successful breeders are Messrs. Birch, Sefton, near Liverpool, their Sefton Hero being, perhaps, their crack, a winner of over one hundred prizes, a dog for which a large sum of money was refused, still I should place him a little lower in the scale than those previously alluded to.
In addition to the names given, the following have at one time and another obtained celebrity as owners of collies of special excellence, viz., Mr. C. H. Wheeler, Birmingham; Mr. R. Chapman, Glenboig; Mr. W. H. Charles, near Stratford-on-Avon; Mr. H. Ralph, London; Messrs. Holmes and Halliday, Gainford, near Darlington; Mr. W. W. Thomson, Mitcham; Messrs. Birch, Sea-forth; Mr. H. Ainscough, Parbold, Southport; Mr. H. Panmure Gordon; Miss L. Harvey, near Perth; Mr. H. Nimmo, Wishaw; Mr. B. R. Haigh, Portobello; Mr. M. H. Ashwen, Mr. T. Gilholm, and others. Nor must Mr. W. Arkwright, of Sutton Scarsdale, be forgotten, who for a rime gave attention to producing the extremely handsome "mirled" collies, many of which had the china or wall eyes. These dogs abounded in character, and it was to be regretted that when the contents of Mr. Ark-wright's kennels were disposed of at Aldridge's, the best dogs realised but small sums of money.
How admirably the collie is adapted as a companion we all know, and his sagacity in that department of life for which nature intended him, is equally well known. He is a different dog now when well attended and cared for, than he was when he had less value. That churlishness and snappishness which were prevailing features, appear to have almost entirely disappeared, and he does not rush out of the farmyard and seize the passing wayfarer by the calf of his leg, by the coat-tails, or elsewhere, as was his habit. Constant association with his superiors has improved his disposition immensely; he has quite risen to the occasion and to his aristocratic surroundings. His bark may now be taken to be quite as much a call of welcome as a cry of alarm or ill-temper.
I am not here going to write several pages as to the change in the appearance of many of the prize collies which has been produced through a craze for certain "points" or supposed excellences that are produced at the expense of others. This change is nothing new in other varieties of the dog. In the collie, unduly long heads, lean, narrow, and unin-tellectual, in many cases partaking of the greyhound type, or rather of that of the Borzoi or Russian wolf hound, have been sadly too prevalent. Indeed, these long-headed dogs were becoming so numerous that the cry raised against them had due weight, and I believe that in the future few or no such dogs will be seen coming on the show bench. A collie of all dogs should be sensible and sagacious. If he is so, he cannot in appearance be a fool - his character is stamped on his countenance - and many recent winners on the bench could be mentioned whose narrow foreheads, big eyes, and general appearance were indicative of idiocy rather than wisdom. Let us all hope, in our admiration for a noble dog, that what is said here and has been said elsewhere will prevent in the future a danger arising that might destroy the popularity of the collie.
Still more fault-finding. I do not know how it has been brought about, but somehow or other our collie in many cases arrives at maturity before he is out of his puppyhood - if such an expression may be used. At eight or nine months old he is well grown, his coat is profuse, if soft and fluffy, and he looks so well in the ring that the judge places him over older and better dogs. Still, he cannot gallop, he even walks badly, and when some eighteen months old or so, he has degenerated into a sorry object, and his show days are over. Few of the most successful dogs of modern times improve with age, as the old working collie and some of the earlier winners did. See Charlemagne, already alluded to, who beat all comers when eleven years old. Cockie, his grandsire, was a better dog at four years old than when he was less than half that age. Which dogs of the modern type will last so well as Mr. H. Ralph's Johnnie Norman, who, if a little grown in skull substance, was as full of collie character when we last saw him as he ever was. Someone stole this dog. Perhaps the three best dogs of the day that are likely to last are Metchley Wonder, Stracathro Ralph, and Great Gun. They may be seen winning perhaps two, three, or four years hence, and they are not puppies now. But of the hundreds of prize-winning collies now produced, with few exceptions their successes are but ephemeral, and it is quite as mischievous to breed for early maturity in a dog as it is to try to produce a head so abnormal in its length as to quite change the appearance of the unfortunate canine which carries it.