The Shepherd's Dog

From pages 284 through 285 in A General History of Quadrupeds , by Thomas Bewick. Printed at Newcastle upon Tyne, 1790.

This useful animal, ever faithful to his charge, reigns at the head of the flock; where it is better heard, and more attended to, than even the voice of the shepherd. Safety, order, discipline, are the fruits of his vigilance and activity.

In those large tracts of land which, in many parts of our island, are solely appropriated to the feeding of Sheep and other cattle, this sagacious animal is of the utmost importance. Immense flocks may be seen continually ranging over those extensive wilds, as far as the eye can reach, seemingly without control: Their only guide is the shepherd, attended by his faithful Dog, the constant companion of his toils: It receives his commands, and is always prompt to execute them; it is the watchful guardian of his flock, prevents them from straggling, keeps them together, and conducts them from one part of their pasture to another; it will not suffer any strangers to mix with them, but carefully keeps off every intruder. In driving a number of Sheep to any distant part, a well-trained Dog never fails to confine them to the road, watches every avenue that leads from it; where he takes his stand, threatening every delinquent: He pursues stragglers, if any should escape; and forces them into order, without doing them the least injury. If the herdsman is obliged to leave them, he depends upon his Dog to keep the flock together; and as soon as he hears the well-known signal, this faithful creature conducts them to his master, though at a considerable distance.

There is a very remarkable singularity in the feet of the Shepherd's Dog; All of them have one, and some two toes more than other Dogs, though they seem not to be of much use. They appear to be destitute of muscles, and hang dangling at the hind part of the leg more like an unnatural excrescence than a necessary part of the animal. But the adage, that 'nature has made nothin in vain,' ought to correct our decision on their utility, which probably may exist unknown to us.

This breed of Dogs, at present, appears to be preserved, in the greatest purity, in the northern parts of Scotland; where its aid is highly necessary in managing the numerous herds of Sheep bred in those extensive wilds..