The American Working Farmcollie, also known as the Old Farm Shepherd, (Old Shep) was once the most popular dog in the country. As descendants of the old working collies from the British Isles, the farmcollies were versatile dogs, indispensable to farmers in the 19th and early twentieth centuries. During that period, it was this dog that most Americans thought of as a “collie,” although they were quite different from the AKC collies of today. The Farmcollie in this country quite likely also carried the blood of other types of herding and shepherd dogs that were brought here from Europe, but he remained a dog that clearly showed his heritage.
Like their ancestors, the American Farmcollies excelled at herding, guarding (both livestock and the family), hunting and predator control. Their duties varied from protecting the baby from snakes to moving the bull. Over the years, however, the focus of American life moved from the homestead to the urban areas, and as small farms became swallowed up in larger corporate farms or urban sprawl, the need for this type of all purpose farmdog had all but disappeared. In its place came myriads of specialized breeds – companion dogs, hunting dogs, guardian dogs and herding dogs.
Many descendants of the old collie landrace were split by look or purpose and registered as new breeds: English Shepherds, Border Collies, or Australian Shepherds. In Great Britain, the Border Collie, Collie, and Shetland Sheepdog continued to develop as other branches of this family. The Welsh Sheepdog or Welsh Collie, similar in some respects to the American farmcollie, still exists in Great Britain. Many individuals of these different breeds today still retain the varied instincts and intelligence of their forebears.
In the 1980s, a few people that remembered the versatile old dogs began a search to see if any of them still existed. This type of dog was on the verge of extinction, but a few individuals still remained. An effort was then launched to locate other descendants of the collie landrace that retained the varied instincts of the old dogs. The primary purpose of the American Working Farmcollie Association is to assist in this effort.
Historical Articles from Country Life in America Thanks to Linda Rorem and Gina Bisco!
Historical photos from the Library of Congress Thanks to Pril Zahorsky for the research, and to Laura Lee for the additional information.