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White Collie History

The White Collie: History of the White Collie
by Grace Clark Seaman - Escalon, California
The White Collie has seemed to be a subject of much controversy in dog dom all through the history of the breed. Apparently the show-going and the dog-loving public has a weakness for this color. One always finds the space around a white Collie's bench crowded.

In the early history of the breed there was a very definite prejudice against the color; indeed, Charles H. Wheeler, the eminent English Collie authority of the last century, (1800's) stated that in the early days of the Collie's development 'the fanciful taste was for dogs in color back and tan, with little or no white, the absence of white being a much prized feature, which, accordingly fixed a higher estimate of monetary value. The erroneous belief went forth that, as regard color, the lack of white denoted purity of breed, and even at a period hardly so remote, the same misconception was prevalent in the United States.

In spite of this 'erroneous belief' mentioned by Mr. Wheeler, some good whites were allowed to survive, although the majority of well-known winners of their time were nearly solidly blank and tan, or sable.

The Lily made her place in Collie history both for her individual merit and the illustrious line of descendants she has left. She was born in 1881 and described as "in color white, with sable marking on face. She was a nicely built, racy-looking bitch, with a passable head and a close coat, but not enough of it." She was the litter sister of the sable and white, Ch Flurry I (dam of Ch. Flurry II), Flurry I being descried as having a "head brimful of character and tiny ears; but her coat, although of a good class, was a bit short." Ch. Flurry II, along with her daughter and her own full brother, Ch. The Squire, were imported by Mr. Mitchell Harrison, who owned, showed, and bred a great number of the country's best of the Collie breed. So he must have felt this line worthy of perpetuation.

Scottish Fancier was another of the early whites worthy of mention. He is described as "a large handsome tricolor, with very small, beautifully carried ears...In color he is all white with the exception of his head, which is black and tan with a blaze up the face and a black spot on his off hip." This white dog was pictured in The Scottish Fancier and Rural Gazette under date of December 1887, and at Glamis that same year he was exhibited, winning first and a cup in a class of thirty-six! This, you will observe, was more than sixty years ago. (This was actually 120 years ago!)

Katherine Lee Bates, in one of her books, describes a white collie, Sigurd, whose pedigree she gives as being by Barwell Ralph, a full brother to the immortal Ch. Ormskirk Emerald, being by Heather Ralph and Aughton Bessie, who was daughter of Ch. Edgbaston Marvel, a son of Ch. Christopher, by Metchley Wonder. Aughton Bessie's dam was Wellsbourne Ada, by Great Alne Douglas, a son of Metchley Wonder. The litter containing Ch. Ormskirk Emerald, Barwell Ralph, etc., having been born in 1894, would place the age of Sigurd as somewhat younger.

It is through the Metchley Wonder line that The Lily's blood has been perpetuated, and it is Metchely Wonder we can credit as the source of the white Collie today, as he is recognized by the fancy. We have had in America many representatives of the Metchely Wonder line imported from abroad, not all of which would carry the white genes, this having to be proven through experimentation, but all to be considered potential material for the production of the legitimate, color-marked white.

Metchely Wonder was himself a broadly marked, bright sable, whelped in 1886. His sire was the tricolor Sefton, and his dam the sable and white Minnie. Sefton was a son the broadly marked, bright sable, Ch. Charlemagne, who was credited with siring whites. Charlemagne himself, like his own sire, being the product of a tri sire (Trefoil) out of a sable and white dam (Maude), daughter of Old Cockie, sable, and Meg, tri. Sefton's dam, Ch. Madge, was a tri from the two sparsely marked tricolors,
Ch. Marcus and Ruby III. Ruby III also being a daughter of a pair described as merely "black and tan".

Metchley Wonder's dam Minnie was a sable and white daughter of Loafer (sable son of Chang and The Lily), Minnie's dam, like herself, being also a sable and white, Catrine.

The Lily was a daughter of Trevor, sable and white litter brother to Ch. Charlemagne. The Lily's dam was the tri, Hasty, by the black and tan, Ch. Carlyle, out of Glen, a daughter of Trefoil, sire of Ch. Charlemagne.

Catrine was a daughter of Bonnie Laddie, (by Duncan ex Old Bess); Duncan a son of the tricolor, Scott, ex Lufra, also tri. Catrine's dam was was Bonnie Greta, by the sable and white dog, Druce (full brother to Bonnie Laddie) out of the blue, Hunt's Lassie. Thus it will be seen that the blood which produced The Lily was predominantly sable, although some of the tricolors appearing on her pedigree were partly of merle ancestry. Undoubtedly, it is to the paternal line through
Ch. Charlemagne, and the maternal line through The Lily, that Metchley Wonder's white producing ability must be attributed.

We must conclude, however, that many of the early whites were not allowed to survive, due to the prejudice against the color which existed during this certain period of the development of the breed. and as a consequence probably only a small percentage lived to popularize the color during this period of Collie history and to bring down to later generations of the fancy the full value of the lines capable of producing the white color.

The prejudice which still exists against the white color is collies is undoubtedly partly a carry-over of this ancient prejudice, and partly due to the all-white, alien type of Collie which was all the fancy knew in the early 1900's. It must always be remembered, however, that the color-bred, color-marked white is not a new color in the breed, but merely a revival of one of the oldest of the Collie colors. As yet there are only a few authentically bred, show-type white in America; by far the majority are of questionable origin, many derived from the all-white stock which savors strongly of the infusion of alien blood, judging from the persistence with which a cerain type manifests itself in this variety. The healthy sign regarding the white variety is that no longer is a white Collie's value measured by the freedom from any color. The all-white as apparently gone, not only into the limbo of "forgotten" things, but also "verboten".