A Clever Collie: 1891

A Border Collie, Thomas Sidney Cooper, 1838, Canterbury City Council Museums and Galleries

A Border Collie, Thomas Sidney Cooper, 1838, Canterbury City Council Museums and Galleries

A Clever Collie.

Sidney Cooper, the English animal painter, say that he often made valuable studies in Cumberland, at places where Scotch drovers halted with their cattle for the night. On such occasions he often had a chance to see illustrations of an animal’s intelligence, as well as of its physical perfection.

“One day, when there was a pouring rain, a man consented to sit for me at the inn where I was staying. He brought his collie with him, and both of them were dripping wet, so he put off his plaid and laid it on the floor by the dog.

“I made a very successful sketch of the man, but before I had finished it the dog grew fidgety with the wet plaid, and his master said, “Tak’ it awa’, mon, tak’ it awa’!”

“The dog took the end of it between his teeth and dragged it out of the room.

“After I had finished the drover’s portrait I asked him if he thought his dog would lie quiet for a time, as I wished to sketch him.

“’Oh, yes, mon,’ he answered, ‘he’ll do anything I say to him. Watch! Watch!’ he called, and then ‘whustled’ for him as the Scotch say.

“As the dog did not appear, we went together to look for him, and found him sitting before the kitchen fire with the end of the plaid in his mouth, holding it up to dry. I expressed my admiration of his intelligence, and the master replied.

“’Ah, he’s a canny creature, sir! He knows a mony things, does that dog, sir. But come awa’, mon, the gentleman wants to mak’ your picture.’

“So we returned to my room, and the handsome collie sat for his portrait.”

The News-Herald [Hillsboro, OH] 26 March 1891: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Collies, whose name comes from the old Celtic word for “useful,” are, indeed, one of the cleverest dog breeds.  American readers will perhaps remember one collie in particular, called “Lassie,” who was able to successfully communicate the dire tidings every time (and there were many) that his little master, Timmy, fell down a well or a mine-shaft.

Mr Andrew Lang, the folklorist, felt that some collies were too clever by half: “The self-consciousness and vanity of dogs.” he says, “might disgust even a minor poet. I have known a collie — certainly a very handsome collie — to pass his days in contemplating his own image in the glass. I know a dog dandy which actually makes eyes, being conscious that he possesses organs very large, brown, and decorative.”

Let us have one more instance of the sagacious behaviour of these intelligent animals:

A collie dog is in the habit of fetching from his master’s room slippers, cap, keys, or anything he is sent for. One day, sent on the usual errand, he did not reappear. His master followed, and found that the door of the bedroom had blown to, and that the dog was a prisoner. Some days later he was again told to fetch something; and, as the wind was high, his master, after a few minutes’ delay, followed him. He found him in the act of fixing the door firmly back with a door-mat, which he had pulled across the landing for the purpose, and, having taken this precaution, the prudent animal proceeded to look for the slippers. Hawera & Normanby Star, 1 February 1906: p. 2 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


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