THE SHETLAND SHEEPDOG
HISTORY OF THE BREED
The History of the Shetland Sheepdog in UK The remote Shetland Islands lay between the northern most tip of Scotland and Norway and were settled by the Norse (Vikings) in 920 AD. These settlers brought with them cattle, sheep and dogs; archaeological remains of the dogs indicate they were of typical Spitz decent resembling what we now know as Buhund and related breeds. These dogs were an all purpose dog, useful around the Crofts or farms, but with no specific role, in what was a hard windswept environment where only low and sparse vegetation could grow and few sheep, cows and ponies could exist; a hard and poor environment for man and animals alike to survive. It is thought, that with the importation of some sheep to increase the vigour of the flocks, in 1760, a dog(s) was also introduced being, of what then was called The Scottish Shepherd Dog, which is the ancestor in part of both the Rough Collie and the modern day Border Collie.
It is known that following the Highland clearances, after Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated, to make way for large-scale sheep farming, that an unproductive attempt was made to deal similarly with the Shetland Isles in 1820 and shepherds and their dogs were imported from mainland Scotland. By now, the appearance of a ‘Spitz’ dog had been modified somewhat, by these newer dogs, and it is thought probable that a dog not dissimilar from very early working sheepdogs, later to be called Border Collies, which were mostly black and white and black and tan, occupied the islands, still carrying out the non specific role of a crofters dog and thought by many to spend rather more time driving pack ponies than herding the sheep which were grazed communally on the Moorlands of Shetland, being only gathered on two occasions per year.
At the start of the 1900’s Officers of the Royal Navy, whose ships were stationed near Shetland, had started bringing back to England, as pets for their families, small fluffy puppies, which were purchased from one source in the port of Lerwick. It is believed that these dogs were the product of breeding the resident dog with Papillon and Pomeranians, known to be also in the ownership of the trader. Soon the friends of Royal Navy personnel were also owning these dogs.
The first Breed Club had been formed at Lerwick in Shetland in 1906 but called the Shetland Collie Club and it was not to prosper for very long. The first ‘shelties’ appeared at a show in Glasgow in 1908 and were described, by a respected authority of the time, as “little more than mongrels, about 8″ high”; hardly an auspicious start! The Ladies Kennel Association became the first English show to schedule the breed separately in 1909, which generated huge interest, particularly from the Rough Collie breeders of that time, as the preferred name of these early pioneers of the breed was Shetland Collie, but strenuous campaigning by the Rough Collie breeders resulted in the name Shetland Sheepdog being allocated as perhaps an acceptable compromise.
In 1909 the Scottish Shetland Sheepdog Club was formed and exists strongly to this day, but it was not until 1914 that the English Shetland Sheepdog Club was formed and today boasts the largest membership. By 1914, astoundingly, the breed was recognised by the UK Kennel Club and the first breed standard was approved. Much development to standardise the wildly varying type took place over the next 20 years, with one faction wanting to preserve the more ‘traditional’ Shetland dog and a rival faction, whose aim was to produce a Rough Collie in miniature. Inevitably the Rough Collie influence, through repeated outcrosses to the breed and intense inbreeding, won the often acrimonious battle over the rather fewer in number ‘traditional’ dogs.
Ch Woodvold – the first Champion in the breed – born 1913
In 1914 a dog named Woodvold was shown and achieved his title in 1915. His dam was a Rough Collie named Greta and together with a dog called Wallace, whose unregistered sire Butcher Boy become a founder of the breed, as we know it, and few dogs do not trace back to this line. In 1915 the first ever Challenge Certificate was won in UK by a black and white bitch Frea and in the same year the tricolour male Clifford Pat became the breed’s first Champion winning the first CC at the breed’s first appearance at Crufts in 1916. In 1951 Ch. Helensdale Ace became the breed’s first Best Exhibit In Group winner, winning Best Male in Show at Birmingham Championship Show. Three years later Ch Riverhill Rare Gold became Best Bitch in Show at the Ladies Kennel Association and her grand daughter Ch Deloraine Dylis of Monkswood became the highest placed Shetland Sheepdog to date, at Crufts, when in 1967 was awarded Best Bitch in Show.
The History of the Shetland Sheepdog in Australia
The first Shetland Sheepdogs were imported into Australia from the United Kingdom in May 1936 by Mrs Esler (Victoria) a sable male Claudas of Cameliard DOB 26/7/ 1935 (Eng Ch Gawaine of Cameliard x Eng Ch Mary of Camevock) and a tri bitch Riverhill Regal DOB 4/10/1933 (Eng Ch Tilford Tweed x Kilda of Clerwood). Both these dogs were believed to have become Victorian Champions. Although they had several litters the line died out due to the lack of other bloodlines.
In 1954 Mr & Mrs Wilson from Wollongong NSW imported from the United Kingdom, a sable male Hallinwood Golden Dawn DOB 11/2/1953 (Eng Ch Hallinwood Flash x Catherine of Hildlane) and a sable bitch Hallinwood Gay DOB 19/6/1953 (Hallinwood Skylon x Hallinwood Merriment). Records show that they were only shown once and bred one litter which contained the sable bitch Ch Kiltarra Karen CD – DOB 18/1/ 1957 and she was the first Shetland Sheepdog in Australia to gain the Companion Dog title.
Mr & Mrs Frank Taylor imported from the United Kingdom a sable male Ch Hallinwood Eagle Feather DOB 20/11/1954 (Eng Ch Hallinwood Flash x Hallinwood Duchess) who was the first Royal Challenge winner at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in 1955 and was exhibited in the AOV class, he sired five Australian and two New Zealand Champions. They also imported a sable bitch Hallinwood Golden Fern DOB 7/3/ 1954 (Hallinwood Golden Ray x Hallinwood Merriment) and she was the dam of 2 champions one of which was Aust Ch Sheltie Gold Surprise who was the dam of five Champions.
Mr & Mrs Taylor also imported a tri colour bitch Lorna of Exford DOB 14/11/1954 (Eng Ch Lothario of Exford x Lady Ellen of Exford) who was born in the United Kingdom and taken by the Taylors to Canada. Prior to leaving England she was mated to Riverhill Red Coat. This mating produced one tri colour pup in Canada, Captain Morgan of Sheltie Croft DOB 10/7/1956 and he was later imported to Australia with his dam. Frank also imported from the United Kingdom a black and white bitch Sheltiecroft Medley of Exford DOB 8/3/1958 (Houghton Hill Buffoon x Gala of Exford) and Drumcauchlie Tontine sable – DOB 24/3/1959 (Eng Ch Laird of Whytelaw x Drumcauchlie Kerstin) who was the dam of two Australian Champions & one New Zealand Champion.
Ron Scott of Almaroy Kennels imported from New Zealand Ch Riverbank Shane Sable – DOB 22/10/1955 (NZ Ch Riverbank Sean x NZ Ch Riverbank Shadrach) & Riverbank Seraph Sable (NZ Ch Cuillin of Callart (Imp UK) x Riverbank Startler (IID). A litter from these two produced the first Australian Bred Champion, Ch Almaroy Apple Blossom who was the dam of four Champions, and won Best Opp Sex SSC of NSW Nov 1960 & Easter 1961, Challenge Bitch Sydney Royal 1958 & 1960 & Challenge Bitch Melbourne Royal 1959.
The first Shetland Sheepdog Championship show held in Australia was conducted by the Shetland Sheepdog Club of NSW in November 1960 in conjunction with the Great Dane Club and was judged by Mr Wes Stacey. Dog Challenge & Best in Show was Ch Supiter of Shelert (Imp UK); Bitch Challenge & Best Opposite Sex in Show was Ch Almaroy Apple Blossom.
Over the years many imports have arrived in Australia, to list them all would be impossible however some early influential sires and dams include – Ch, Eng Ch Riverhill Rampion (Imp UK) Sable – DOB 2/11/1966 (Stalisfield Samphire x Eng Ch Riverhill Rather Nice) who was the sire of 36 Champions. His sons include Ch Anmoray Gay Shannon sire of 18 Champions, Ch Jentam Yendys Yeldeh sire of 11 Champions and NZ Ch Rollingstone of Twoseas sire of 11 Champions. “Rampions” Grandson Ch Daestar Dannaher sired 48 Champions and “Dannaher’s” son Ch Daestar Dandara sired 20 Champions. “Tam’s” influence in Australia is immeasurable and continues to this day.
Ch Blazon of Callart (Imp UK) Sable – DOB 15/9/1961 (Eng Ch Trumpeter of Tooneytown x Tanera of Callart) sired 29 Champions. His progeny include Ch Nigma Altair sire of 11 Champions, Ch Kerondi Falling Star dam of 8 Champions, Ch Lisronagh Can Can dam of 8 Champions, & Oakland Scintilla dam of 6 Champions.
This male line is coming to an end with only a few male descendants remaining in 2008….
Descendants from all the above imports are still breeding on to this day.
The recent United States and Canadian imports are now making their mark on the Australian sheltie scene, these include Ch, Am Ch Kensil’s Dreams ‘N Schemes (Imp USA) Tri Colour – DOB 9/11/1995 (Am Ch Kensil’s Ice Skater x Am Ch Kensil’s Will O’The Wisp) sire of 10 Australian bred Champions; “Dreamer” was the first American Champion to gain the Australian Champions title.
Breed Standard Extension
My thanks go to the ANKC for allowing the use of this extension on the website
The History of the Shetland Sheepdog in UK
The History of the Shetland Sheepdog in Australia
Special thanks must go to Deirdre Crofts and Leslie Tanks