Until recently, few people knew this breed, except perhaps true dog breeders. Usually, this breed was mistaken for a small Сollie.
This little dog really looks like a miniature Collie. The birthplace of the breed is the Shetland Islands, located five miles north of Scotland. Most of the islands have been used exclusively for pastures for ponies, cattle, and sheep for centuries. The climate is harsh, humid, and dull, with frequent storms sweeping away everything in its path. In the summer, the herds were transported from one island to another and remained under the supervision of small shepherd dogs. It is known that the first shepherd dogs – the progenitors of the Sheltie had a short thick wavy coat, round eyes, drooping ears, and a tail curling over the back.
Since time immemorial, fishermen have landed on the islands, which must also be taken into account when studying the origin of modern Shelties. Obviously, the fishermen of Scandinavia, Scotland, and other lands of server Europe, fishing in the Shetland Islands, had dogs: some of them remained on the islands, and they left descendants. A special influence on the formation of the breed was exerted by the Greenland Huskies, which also interbred with island dogs, and their features are manifested in modern exhibition animals: for example, a shortened muzzle, a curved tail, erect ears, which are found even in the most “aristocratic” pedigrees – all this also indicates on the influence of Spitz.
Traditionally, it is believed that the breed is as old as the islands themselves, but today it is not possible to reconstruct the history of its origin in detail. You can rely solely on hypotheses and guesses. Shepherds bred small dogs primarily because they were not required to have protective functions. The dogs were the working partners of the shepherds, brightening up their solitary lives and caring for the sheep. Perhaps such an unusual (isolated) form of communication between a dog and a person led to the intellectualization of the best representatives of the breed. The main selection criteria have always been performance, endurance, and intelligence. However, high intellectual abilities are inherent not only to the Sheltie but also to other representatives of the classic shepherd breeds.
At the end of the 19th century, the enlargement of sheep farms took place, the herds increased accordingly, and the small shepherd dogs could no longer cope with the volume of work. Shepherds began to use larger shepherd dogs, which did not hesitate to affect the Sheltie – the breed was on the verge of extinction. Amateurs helped out, who always perceived the Shelties exclusively as pets. In 1909 “Scotland” was organized in Scotland and the breed gradually began to gain international recognition. Beginning in 1912, Shelties began to attract more and more attention in show rings, however, they varied significantly in type and size. It should be noted that many breeders have found it prudent to use Collies in Sheltie breeding, as the exhibition type of the latter had already been formed by that time. True, after crossing with a Collie, the growth of the sheltie increased. The English Sheltie Club was established in 1914 and the first standard specified that the Sheltie should have the appearance of a miniature Collie. The official name for the breed is Shetland Sheepdog.
Despite their use in Collie breeding, the early Shelties bore little resemblance to them. It’s no secret that most people (even those far from dog breeding) considered the Collie as a kind of beauty standard. Probably, the first breeders of Sheltie were of this opinion and, in fact, sought to create a miniature Collie shape.
Thus, the process of shaping the exterior went in two ways: as mentioned above, pedigree Collies were mixed in, and on the other hand, among the Sheltie proper, preference was given primarily to “Collie-like” dogs. Both directions turned out to be very productive and the show type of Sheltie took root pretty quickly.
In 1917, the first dog with a champion title appeared – Woodwold, whose mother was supposedly a little Collie. A few years later, Mountforts owner Ms. Humphries decided to reintroduce Collies, and luckily she did it quite openly. The Collie’s new rush of blood, as it became evident later, contributed to the stabilization of the type.
In 1948, the Kennel Club made the last significant amendments to the standard, which was then adopted by all English breeders.