THE NORTHUMBRIAN TYPE. Old Hemp (1893-1901)

Old Hemp, often regarded as THE main founding dog of the modern breed. was a rough coated tricolor owned and bred by Adam Telfer, who lived in the Northumbrian region of England. His talent for working sheep was spotted at an incredibly young age, but it was the grace and calmness with which he went about this work that won him so many admirers. He went on to sire over 200 puppies, and in a few generations his style of working had been adopted by most sheepdogs, and particularly those who went on to win the most prestigious trialing awards.

I have to admit a more personal fondness for Old Hemp and his type; his charisma, elegance, and sensitive and intelligent face, and he features in all my own dogs’ pedigrees, going right back. Given how many pedigree dogs have had their original physical construction so greatly changed or over-exaggerated within the last 100 years or so, it is also remarkable how many Border collies still look like Old Hemp today. A masterpiece of canine genetic design that has stood the test of time.


THE HERDMAN TOMMY TYPE.(c. early 1900s).

Herdman’s Tommy was a grandson of Old Hemp, and his type was known for their heavier bone, good nature and power – but also greater strong-headedness. Tommy was said to have been a very intelligent worker, but “did not submit well to discipline” , and as a result, as a trial competitor, often proved too difficult to control. And haven’t we all known modern dogs like him! However, when mated to milder and more biddable bitches, he produced some quite outstanding working dogs as well as many subsequent Championship winners. He is also thought to have added some extra element of power and strength to the breed.


THE NAP TYPE (Whitehope Nap, born 1951)

The Nap type is the only smooth coated one – although they also have an effective undercoat as protection against greater heat or cold. Nap type dogs are strong, fast and agile. Many have longer legs and shorter bodies making their outline seem more square. They are often more favoured to work in hotter countries, and to take part in pursuits like Agility that make the most of their physical assets.


THE WISTON CAP TYPE (Wiston Cap, 1963-1979)

Wiston Cap was a great-grandson of Whitehope Nap , and one of the most famous working Border collies of all time. So much so that his picture has become the symbol for the International Sheep Dog Society in the UK.

In l965, at less than two years old, he was the youngest collie ever to win the International Supreme Championship in trialing. He also had a great temperament and near telepathic bond with his owner, John Richardson; responsive to his every sound and move. He went on to sire around 187 litters, and around 90% of all working collies, worldwide, are now thought to be related to him in some way. As well as a large number of KC registered Border collies.

The Wiston Cap type is known for being larger, with a bigger, blocky head and more white on collar, chest and forelegs. The combination of speed, athleticism, good temperament, and superb responsiveness to training is what has made this type and bloodline so prized, worldwide, for any number of different working pursuits.

So there we have it. Our illustration may just show four rather faded and grainy pictures of past dogs, but in reality they were so much more. They were real dogs, who led real lives, and passed on to us all, over time, everything that is so special about our own dogs today.

Meanwhile anyone wanting to know far more about the whole history and evolution of the Border collie, including all aspects of working nature and instinct, and how and why (in my view) these dogs went on to develop distinctly more autistic patterns of thinking and behaviour will find this all extensively covered in BOOK ONE (blue cover) of my BORDER COLLIES: A BREED APART trilogy – SECRETS OF THE WORKING MIND.


All text © Carol Price 2020

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