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.
"With regard to the sagacity of this breed I consider it has few equals, and certainly no superior. In a large dairy farm I know of, there is a dog which will fetch up individual cows as they are required to be milked, distinguishing those which he has already fetched up, and after being milked are allowed to mix with the rest of the herd. When quite a lad I remember seeing an old grizzle and white sheep dog lying outside a farmhouse here in Suffolk, which three weeks or a month before was purchased in Dumfries; he worked a herd of bullocks all the way from his Scottish home to the eastern corner of Suffolk by road. After remaining comfortably for a fortnight in his new quarters, one day he was missing, and no tidings could be gleaned of him in the neighbourhood; and no wonder, for within the week his Suffolk purchaser received a letter informing him the old dog was safe back in Dumfries. This incident occurred to Mr. Edmund Tye, of The Moat Farm, Dallinghoo, Suffolk, who was my informant.
"As to the size of the original breed, I cannot help thinking he was a much larger dog than is seen nowadays. They have a dwarfed appearance; they are all 'little big 'uns,' and to obtain that characteristic there must have been the size sometime or other. And I confess I prefer the big ones, they have a grander appearance, a big blue and white dog of twenty-five inches catches the eye, and he can carry a heavy coat without looking like a smothered Yorkshire terrier or a door-mat-like Isle of Skye. Shepherds prefer the little ones, why? because they do not eat so much, and can dodge in and out of the furze bushes after rabbits. These men do not want sheep-dogs nowadays, they prefer whippets. The well-known dog, Sir Guy, who in his day was almost invincible on the show-bench, was once sold for two shillings because he fell head over heels over a rabbit: and to my idea that old dog, when in full coat, was the grandest sheep-dog in existence.
"An old English sheep-dog's coat should be shaggy, and all I can liken it to, is to that peculiar style of growth of hair frequently seen on a clod-hopping countryman's head - in a word, shock-headed: one lock growing this way, and another that way; no curl, but a sort of head you could wipe your boots on!
"Suffolk has produced most of the best show specimens of late years - to wit, Sir Guy, Sir Lucifer, Sir Lancelot, Mayor of Newport, Blue Ruin, Welsh Sensation, Welsh Marvel, Dame Dorothy, the American Dame Judith. Dame Margery, bought in Norwich Market sixteen years ago for half-a-crown, was the dam of the last Olympia Cup Winner, Sir Caradoc, and grand-dam of Sir Cavendish. Nellie II. is another sterling good bitch, great in size and style, a trifle soft in coat, but there is no poodle resemblance; her sire and dam were sheep-dogs of the type beloved by drovers, long and strong, and rough in body and mind. No doubt the best bitch of the variety we have at present is Dr. Locke's Gwen, a grey or blue and white, with a correct coat, which is, however, somewhat spoiled by being over-groomed for show-bench purposes. She has won a great number of prizes at most of our leading shows. For colour I prefer the pigeon-blue, not washed out, but well defined, standing out clearly against nice white markings, and, if possible, a wall-eye or two; but any shade of grizzle is equally correct. Sables and brindles and blacks are an abomination! Dogs twenty-four or twenty-five inches, or larger if possible. Bitches as big as one can get them, both sexes being strong and masculine in appearance, with length and strength, well knit, but not cloddy like guinea pigs; at the same time size should not weigh against type and quality. The more hair on the jaws the better; I mean hair, too, not wool.
"I remember, as quite a boy, that the generality of old English sheep-dogs were grey or blue in colour, with white feet, and white head and neck. Nearly every drover had one, and every shepherd, for we had no collies then. An old drover who died here (near Woodbridge) in 1889, at a very great age, named Chuffy Plant, told me that my dogs were the right stamp, but they were 'little rat-dawg things'; too much quality; were not big enough or strong enough. I could not argue with the old man, as I felt he was an authority, but 1 explained to him that I had to breed for the show-bench. Whereupon he anathematised the show-bench with this remark: ' Drat it all, ye can alius breed minnifers; dround them and rear the big 'uns!' Minnifer or miniver signifies the weasel, but is a term applied in Suffolk to any small or weedy specimen of animals".
Sir Cavendish, now the property of Dr. Locke, of Tenby, but bred by Dr. Edwardes-Ker, I consider the handsomest and best of his breed hitherto seen; moreover, he possesses to a remarkable degree all the attributes required to approach perfection. He may well be considered the typical specimen of his variety, and, as such, particular trouble has been taken to obtain his full description, which, in combination with the general one already given, will enable those interested to know exactly the sort of animal required.
Sir Cavendish is a pigeon-blue and white dog, with a white collar and white blaze, 23½ inches in height at the shoulder, 521b. in weight, with very small flat ears, almost entirely buried in coat, which is long, thick, and shaggy, free from either straightness or curl. It is 11 inches long upon his loins and hind-quarter, whilst his face and legs are evenly and equally clothed with hair, the front of the legs carrying as much coat as the back part of the same. His tail is very short, natural stump, and when he "wags" it, he does so vertically, not horizontally, which his breeder says is a peculiarity he has looked for in vain in any other strain. His sire, Sir Caradoc, is well known as a pigeon-blue and white dog of large size, rather soft in coat, but showing remarkable character; both he and his son inheriting their beautiful colour and sheep-dog characteristics from old Dame Margery, who was also a "natural bob." Her strain is remarkable as most of the dogs and bitches bred therefrom possess double dewclaws upon one or both hind legs.