MEG TELFER AND ROY CARRUTHERS
PARENTS OF THE FIRST BORDER COLLIE
Happy, energetic, and hardworking, the Border Collie is a popular breed of dog. In fact, the American Kennel Club ranked Border Collies at number 38 in its ranking of popular dog breeds, and the breed has enjoyed a rise in popularity in recent years.
These handsome black and white dogs, with bright eyes and expressive ears, are more than just a pretty face. Border Collies are often called the smartest of all the dog breeds.
Their intelligence, agility, and stamina make them ideal working dogs and they have been a favorite choice among farmers and ranchers to help herd sheep, and other livestock animals.
Roman invaders to the British Isles in the first century brought with them dogs that were used to control and move their livestock. Very quickly, the dogs spread across Britain, as well as Wales, Ireland, and Scotland.
Later, when the Roman Empire had fallen, and the Vikings invaded England, another type of dog was introduced, a smaller herding dog that resembled the Spitz.
These dogs bred with the larger Roman dogs and the results were medium-sized dogs with longer fur that were well-adapted to the geography and climate of the British Isles, excelled a herding, and were agile and athletic… the forerunner of today’s Border Collie.
It was one of these dogs that, alone, is the common ancestor of all of today’s Border Collies.
Although dogs similar to today’s border collies were most likely working alongside farmers as far back as the first century B.C., all the border collies alive today can trace their roots back to one common ancestor, a dog named Old Hemp.
Old Hemp, was born in September 1893 in West Woodburn in Northumberland to a black sheepdog named Meg Telfer and a tri-colored herding dog named Roy Carruthers.
Meg Tefler was owned by Adam Tefler and Roy Carruthers was owned by John Carruthers. Since this article is partial to Clan Carruthers CCIS let us tell you more about John. John and his brother William both lived in Northumberland, but were raised in Carlisle. The family lived in Haltwhistle, Victorian Cottage, Stippe , Newcastle Upon Tyne and of course farmed in West Woodbury all in Northumberland.
Both John and William were , what we call today, career military. Kings Own Scottish Regiment, out of Dumfries, Scotland. KOSB not only trained for war but also community rescue, such as the firemen and police men we have today. John and William served in two wars and were killed in WWI.
Old Hemp was the son of Meg Telfar and Roy Carruthers and he didn’t look like the Border Collies of today with his tri-colored coat and minimal amounts of white fur, but he was an extraordinary dog.
Herding dogs in the days prior to dog shows and breed standards were bred more for their abilities than for their appearances as evidenced by Old Hemp.
While still a pup, less than six weeks old, Old Hemp demonstrated his tremendous herding ability.
Everyone was impressed with Old Hemp’s intelligence, natural instincts, and herding ability and the animal quickly became the top working dog on the farm.
One aspect of Old Hemp’s herding style that made him unique among other sheepdogs is that he did not rely on barking to do his job. Instead, he used his body positions. He also seems to know how and where the sheep would be moving and was able to quickly and easily head them off.
Old Hemp’s owner, Adam Telfer, was quite experienced with sheepdogs but had never before seen a dog of Old Hemp’s caliber. Telfer was once quoted as boasting about Old Hemp by saying that he “flashed like a meteor across the sheepdog horizon”. He added, “There never was such an outstanding personality.”
Old Hemp’s reputation as an outstanding herder made him highly sought after as a stud dog. People around the region wanted puppies sired by the legendary herding dog so they brought their dames to Telfer.
By some accounts, Old Hemp may have had as many as 200 pups.
Most of these animals continued the traits that made Old Hemp such a preeminent herding dog, as well as his physical characteristics, including his rough coat and medium build.
Because his lineage is responsible for the propagation of the Border Collie traits, Old Hemp has been called the ‘foundation sire’ of the breed…the animal that originated the dog breed.
Old Hemp is listed in the stud book of the International Sheepdog Society, which was founded in Scotland in 1906.
In fact, he is the ninth entry out of more than 300,000 dogs. His contribution to the Border Collie breed cannot be understated, and Telfer, the dog’s owner, and breeder, is credited with producing a strong line of herding dogs that set the stage for the creation of the Border Collie breed.
There are no existing records to show if Telfer entered Old Hemp in any of the sheepdog trial events. It is known, however, that Old Hemp’s grandson, a dog named Sweep, that was also owned and bred by Telfer, excelled at these types of competitions.
He twice won the International Sheep Dog Society’s sheepdog trials championship. Another of Old Hemp’s descendants, a Telfer-owned dog appropriately named Young Hemp, was the 1924 International Farmers’ Championship Sheepdog winner.
In fact, Old Hemp produced a steady line of champions. Between 1906 and 1951, every one of the twenty-nine dogs that captured this championship was from Old Hemp’s direct lineage.
With breeders producing dogs with similar looks and abilities, it was time to name the breed and declare it – or at least try to – its own specific breed of dog.
First of their Name
The first reference to this breed of dog is called a Border Collie can be traced back to 1915 when it was coined by the secretary of the International Sheep Dog Society, James Reid.
The first word in the dog breed’s name, ‘Border’, most likely is a place name referring to the border area between England and Scotland. The term ‘collie’ or ‘colley’, however, has a bit more complex etymology.
‘Collie’ is thought to originate in the Celtic language as a term meaning ‘useful’.
Others point out that colley sheep in the Scottish Highlands is a type of sheep that are noted for their black markings, adding that ‘colley’ is an old Anglo-Saxon word for the color black.
It is, therefore, quite conceivable that the Border Collie took its name from the black markings on its coat.
As early as the 1880s and 1890s, exceptional Border Collies were being exported to other countries where sheep ranching was a leading agricultural practice.
James Lilico, a resident of Christchurch, New Zealand, was responsible for bringing several dogs from Scotland’s top sheepdog breeders to New Zealand. Among these dogs was Hindhope Jed, a descendant of Old Hemp’s that was born in 1895 in the area of Hindhope, Scotland, and bred by John Elliot.
Elliot’s superb dogs were sought after by serious aficionados of the breed. In fact, Elliot even gifted one of his Border Collie pups to Queen Victoria.
Before relocating to New Zealand, Hindhope Jed won three of Scotland’s top sheepdog trials. In his new home in New Zealand, Hindhope Jed proved himself to be an impressive representation of his breed.
Hindhope Jed became the Sheep Dog Champion of both New Zealand and neighboring Australia.
Hindhope Jed wasn’t the only Border Collie that Lilico imported to New Zealand.
He brought in other superb herding dogs as well, including Old Bob, Ness, Maudie, and Moss of Ancrum.
Border Collies as Sheepdogs
These dogs dominated the sheepdog trial circuit and helped to energize the breeding stock for Border Collies in both New Zealand and Australia.
In Canada and the United States in the years following the end of the Civil War, prominent sheep farmers started to import sheep from Scotland and other areas.
Coming over on the cargo ships with the sheep were the sheepdogs, including dogs that would later be called Border Collies.
The dogs’ handlers demonstrated the animals’ abilities to the amazed American ranchers and many of them sent word back to Scotland and England asking for more herding dogs to be sent across the Atlantic to the Americas.
Settlers pushed westward into the Great Plains of the United States and Canada, and the vast prairies proved to be ideal for raising livestock.
Prior to the widespread use of barbed wire fencing, which was invented in 1874, the prairie was a wide-open region. It was necessary to move large herds of sheep and cattle across great distances, either to take them to fresh pasture areas, to move them to winter grazing grounds, or to take them to market.
The task of containing and moving the livestock was to the responsibility of ranch hands on horseback, with the invaluable assistance of herding dogs, particularly Border Collies.
According to written accounts of the day, a herd of a thousand sheep could be managed by one rancher and one good sheep herding dog.
Just like the breed’s ‘foundation sire’, Old Hemp, a top quality Border Collie of the 1880s to 1930s only barked to warn of danger.
The working dog never left the sheep unattended and was not distracted by a flushed rabbit or pheasant. If a predator threatened the flock, the Border Collie was ready to protect his charges.
The dog that helped to change all that was Wiston Cap. Born in 1963, Wiston Cap has been singled out as the dog that had the most influence on the Border Collies we see today.
The dog was the product of W.S. Hetherington’s breeding efforts and was shown and handled by John Richardson.
An exquisite animal, Wiston Cap is the dog that set the standards for the breed, as designated by the International Sheep Dog Society.
All Border Collies since then have been measured and evaluated against the standards set by Wiston Cap. A champion and a stud, Wiston Cap’s descendants include three Supreme Champions.
More and more people who are unrelated to the farming and ranching industry are discovering the Border Collie breed.
The traits that make this breed an exceptional herding dog also make it a great family dog when given the proper training and attention. The Border Collie is intelligent, attentive, hard-working, active, agile, affectionate, and athletic.
To this day, more and more border collies are finding their ways off of farms and into the homes of loving families.
While many are still working border collies to this day, the ones that aren’t, still hold their heritage deep in their hearts. Now you know the border collie history.
CLAN OF OUR ANCESTORS SINCE 1983
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The Ancient and Honorable Carruthers Clan International Society LLC
INTERNATIONAL SHEEP DOG SOCIETY
REVIEWED BY DR GAIL CARRUTHERS BOHANNON GREY
CLAN CARRUTHERS INT SOCIETY CCIS HISTORIAN AND GENEALOGIST
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