The Scottish Highlands, though beautiful, can also be both bleak and lonely. The main threat for shepherds and their flocks was the weather, at a time when no weather forecasts were available by either radio or television. Many remote places in both northern England and Scotland still have no electricity, or reception for radio, television, or cell phone. During spring, and even very occasionally during the summer, the weather in the Highlands can shift extremely fast from a bright sunny day to snowstorms, blizzards, and freezing temperatures due to exposure to the North Sea and cold, strong Arctic winds.
Flocks grazing in the Highlands are vulnerable to these rapid weather changes, especially during the lambing season. During a storm, a panicked flock can run themselves into real danger in rugged terrain where dangers abound. Collies were there to prevent this happening. Many adaptations were bred into the Collie over the long history of its existence to make it the very best possible dog for this daunting work of herding in the Highlands.
The Collies’ ears, which are semi-erect and shell shaped, could catch sounds in the most efficient manner. These wonderful tipped ears allowed them to hear; the sound of wind coming from high hills and mountain slopes long before it actually swept the ground, the bleat of a lost sheep or lamb, even in a storm or blizzard, the shouting or whistles of the shepherd giving directions in the storm. Collies are extremely sensitive to sounds, and their hearing is better than most dogs. They don’t like loud noises, loud singing, or fireworks, or thunder. Collies still often feel very uncomfortable with the noise of strong wind blowing, and not without reason. Wind is a danger, and their senses are warned. This sensitivity was bred into Collies for a purpose. Good hearing made it possible to act in time gathering the flock, keeping them together and then bringing them home to safety and shelter.