The Shetland Sheepdog

THE SHETLAND SHEEPDOG, as its name implies, is a working Collie in miniature. There is little doubt that the small working Collie, from which came the modern show Collie evolving on larger lines, was likewise the progenitor of the Shetland Sheepdog evolving on smaller ones. It was assisted in the process by the environment of the Islands, which produced diminutiveness in all its stock, and by crosses with other small breeds residing in, if not indigenous to, the Islands.

The Shetland Islands themselves are not conducive to abundance of fodder or flocks, made up as they are of rugged rocks on which only meager vegetation can survive and surrounded by the sea, which brewsfrequent and severe storms. Small wonder that only the hardiest of both man and beast, and the smallest, could find subsistence. The actual origin of the breed cannot be traced by reference to records, as none were ever written. Tradition makes the dogs as old as the working Collies of Scotland, which frequently came to Shetland as the breed's forebears, and as old as the Islands themselves.

As the Islands were isolated from the trend of travel, the little dogs were a long time coming to the ken of dog-loving folk. Thus the breed did not take its place on the show bench until well along in the present century. The year 1909 marked the initial recognition of the Sheltie by the English Kennel Club. Not until 1914 did the breed obtain separate classification as Shetland Sheepdogs, and not Shetland Collies, because of pressure brought to bear by the Collie breeders. The first Challenge Certificate was awarded to the breed in 1915, after which World War I put a stop to all progress for the next few years.

The history of the several clubs catering to the breed has been one of ups and downs centering around the variations in size and type which still linger in a refined form today. The Shetland Sheepdog Club in the Islands, founded in 1908, was, of course, the oldest. They asked for a rough Collie in miniature, height not exceeding 15 inches. The Scottish Shetland Sheepdog Club, a year later, asked for first an "ordinary Collie in miniature" and finally a "modern show Collie in miniature," ideal height 12 inches, and eventually 131/2. The English Shetland Sheepdog Club, founded in 1914, was an offshoot of the Scottish requiring "approximately a show Collie in miniature," height (ideal) first 12 inches and finally from 12 to 15, the ideal being 131/2. The British Breeders' Association came into being for a time as the offspring of the English Club and asked for a "show Collie in miniature," maintaining the same heights. In 1930 the Scottish and English Clubs revised their standards jointly to read "should resemble a Collie (Rough) in miniature." The American Shetland Sheepdog Association, youngest in years, tried to profit by the experience of its predecessors by combining the best of each in its standard. The current standard specifies height from 13 to 16 inches.
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