I realise I am coming in very, very late - but having read through some of the heated exchanges online re working Beardies not being proper Beardies. Can I put forward the argument that the typical show dogs of today look very different to the breed Mrs Willison saved. Don't you agree that the various working Beardies being labelled by some as 'non-Beardies' look very much like the original Bothkennars? (I've borrowed these imaged from Lynne Sharpe's amazing Brambledale site - and these Bothkennar dogs are in pretty much every KC registered Beardie's pedigrees if you go far enough back.)
Have we not done the same as happened to the Cocker Spaniel which turned into the American Cocker and inadvertently created a totally new breed? Some may prefer the new, but I think we may have confused 'improve' for 'alter'.
Most Beardies job these days is to be a pet, and if the 'improvements' made them better for that valuable occupation then fantastic, but the massive coat is a huge problem for pet owners many of whom clip to cope. I applaud the working folk for reminding us of how far we've changed the Beardie. Genetic diversity is something we will need to consider in future, even though it seems to make everyone hot under the collar, we do have very, very closely related dogs all over the world. The autoimmune problems that we can't ignore look to be likely to be genetic according to the latest Finnish research.
By accident we have all inadvertently selected for it when we've been concentrating on other things. Bottlenecks and the overuse of popular sires in a time when we knew no better probably the greatest culprits - although some other breeds who have been just as culpable have been much more lucky, so fate has played its part, too. How much better that we might be able at some point introduce some long forgotten strains of Beardie or even Beardie-ish which still retain a full set of immune genes rather than have to go outcrossing to a totally different breed - like the Dalmatian folk have done with Pointers to put right their problems. And the fear of eye problems is another odd topic for working Beardie rage. In the UK we rarely screen for eyes so we think everything is still wonderful - go to Beacon and you'll find the show Beardie appears to have lots of 'hereditary' eye problems - worldwide - and we're all very closely related. The working folk may cop a lot of flack now, but 20 years down the track I'm guessing you'll be giving them awards and thanking them for saving our breed
I'm putting my tin hat on now and waiting for the flack to fly... Just saying the essence of Beardie-ness is something hard to define, and these shaggy bright dogs tick my boxes as they must have appealed to Mrs W all those years ago. But I love my very hairy Beardie, too. But it's the bit between the ears that is totally unlike any other breed I've met and why I will love this breed for the rest of my life.