Bearded Collie

The Bearded Collie or Beardie is a herding breed of dog, once used primarily by Scottish shepherds, but now mostly a popular family companion. An average Bearded Collie weighs 40-60lbs and is 20-22 inches tall. Average litter size: 7.

Bearded Collie Bearded Collies as Pets

The Bearded Collie ranks 104 out of 155 breeds in popularity in the United States, according to the American Kennel Club's yearly publishing of dog breed rankings. The Bearded Collie is best obtained from a reputable dog breeder or a dog rescue. Bearded Collies make excellent pets for those who are willing to accommodate their high energy level and grooming requirements. Weekly brushing is mandatory for keeping their long hair mat-free. Some Bearded Collie owners opt to keep their pets in a "puppy cut" haircut, which does reduce the need for brushing, but does not eliminate it. The Bearded Collie are a very high energy breed, originally bred to work in the Scottish Highlands herding sheep. The Bearded Collie also excel at dog agility trials. A loyal and family friendly canine, the beardie can add years of pet ownership enjoyment to the home. They have keen problem solving abilities, and are a source of amusement to watch.Their hair is also very difficult to wash because it is very long. Because of its length the hair can also become matted, to prevent this regular brushing is needed. Females are often more outgoing and headstrong then male beardies. When being trained males are more likely to follow your instructions, whereas females don't like to be told what to do as much. Females often become the dominant dog if there is a boy and a girl beardie in the household. Regardless of the dog's sex, beardies are high energy.

Bearded Collie Working life

The Bearded Collie was used to herd both sheep and cattle. As such it is essentially a working dog, at one time bred to be hardy and reliable, able to stand up to the harshest conditions, and the toughest sheep. The "working bearded collie" became less common in the last few decades and might have died out, but thanks to the efforts of relatively few shepherds such as Tom Muirhead and Peter Wood and breeders like Brian Plummer the "working beardie" has survived and is becoming more popular. It has been exported to Australia and the United States, and finds favour among those looking for an independent and intelligent sheep dog. The purpose of the Working Bearded Collie Society is to preserve the working abilities of the non-registered working dogs from 'bearded' ancestors. The web site Shepherds with beardies contains a lot a valuable information on the few remaining working beardies.

The KC registered bearded collie has fallen into disrepute with the shepherds of Wales and Scotland (and elsewhere), because of the show breeding community's lack of attention to 'hardy and reliable', and because of the tendency of show bred lines to develop excessive coats. However, in some countries, notably Sweden and the United States, herding programmes have been developed for the breed. The breed clubs in those countries are these days actively encouraging breeders to pay close attention to non-exterior qualities.

It's possible the beardie gained its epithet of the 'bouncing beardie' because dogs would work in thick undergrowth on the hill, and would bounce to catch sight of the sheep, or because of the characteristic way the beardie faces a stubborn ewe, barking and bouncing on the forelegs. However that may be, the typical bearded collie is an enthusiastic herding dog that needs structure and fostering, and that moves stock using both body, bark and bounce, should that be required. Very few beardies show "eye" when working, most are quite upright.

Bearded Collie Mortality

Median longevity of Bearded Collie from recent UK and USA/Canada surveys (weighted average of all surveys) was 12.8 years, but Bearded Collies in the UK surveys lived longer (median ~13.4 years) than their USA/Canada counterparts (median 12.0 years). Most purebred dog breeds have median longevities between 10 and 13 years and most breeds similar in size to Bearded Collie have median longevities between 11 and 13 years, so the lifespan of Bearded Collies appears to be on the high end compared to other breeds, at least in the UK.

The median lifespan is the age at which half of the population has died and half is still alive. Individual dogs may die much sooner or much later than the median. In the 1996 USA/Canada survey, 32% of dogs (including accidental deaths) died before 9 years, but 12% lived longer than 14 years. The oldest of the 278 deceased dogs in the 2004 UK Kennel Club survey died at 19.5 years. The age of the oldest dog in the USA/Canada survey was not reported.

Leading causes of death among Beardies in the UK were old age (26%), cancer (19%), cerebral vascular (9%), and chronic kidney failure (8%). Leading causes of death among Beardies in the USA/Canada were old age (18%), cancer (17%), kidney disease (8%), cerebral vascular (4%) and Addison's disease (4%).

Bearded Collie Morbidity

Bearded Collie owners in the UK reported that the most common health issues among living dogs were musculoskeletal (mostly arthritis and CLR), gastrointestinal (mostly colitis and diarrhea) and urologic. Beardie owners in the USA/Canada reported that the most common health problems were hypothyroidism, cancer, Addison's disease, arthritis and skin problems. Morbidity in the two studies is not easily compared, however, because the UK report grouped conditions while the USA/Canada report ranked more specific conditions.

Bearded Collie Addison's Disease

Beardie owners should take special note of the frequency of Addison's disease in this breed. Addison's disease is characterized by insufficient production of gluticocorticoid and/or mineralocortoid in the adrenal cortex. It occurs in at least 2%-3.4% of Beardies in the USA/Canada survey and is the cause of death in at least 1% of Beardies in the UK survey. Although these numbers seem low compared to other health conditions, the percentages are much higher than for the general dog population (0.1%), and Addison's is responsible for a disproportionate number of deaths among young dogs. Addison's is often undiagnosed because early symptoms are vague and easily mistaken for other conditions. Bearded Collies with unexplained lethargy, frequent gastric disturbances, or an inability to tolerate stress should be tested for Addison's. Addison's can cause fatal sodium/potassium imbalances, but, if caught early and treated with lifelong medication, most dogs can live a relatively normal life.

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