Border Collie

Breed At A Glance


Energetic, intelligent and loyal

Life Expectancy
12-14 years

Average Height

Average Weight
30-49 lbs

Coat Color
Varies (often black and white)

Coat Length/Texture
Can be either short or moderately long, with dense undercoat

Shedding Propensity

Also known as Working Collie, Old-Fashioned Collie, Farm Collie, English Collie

General Temperament

The Border Collie is a highly intelligent, energetic and trainable breed that has an instinctive desire to work closely with a human handler. It excels at obedience and agility and thrives on praise. Although the primary role of the Border Collie is that of the working stock dog, dogs of this breed are becoming increasingly popular as pets. Unfortunately, many owners are not prepared for the demands of the active Border Collie, who can become destructive or neurotic when those needs are not meant; as a result, many of these dogs end up in shelters or rescues. Border Collies are unsuitable pets for people who cannot or will not provide a considerable amount of daily exercise for their dogs, both physical and mental. However, in an appropriate home, with a dedicated, active owner, a Border Collie can be an excellent companion.

The Border Collie, like many other herding breeds, functions best when they have a job to do. They are one of the most trainable breeds, although they are sensitive to rough treatment and corrections. You must be firm and consistent but fair when training a Border Collie. The Border Collie also serves well as a narcotics and bomb detection dog and is a frequent high performer in obedience, agility, Frisbee(TM) trials, police work, search & rescue, Flyball, performing tricks and competitive obedience. Some Border Collies have been trained very successfully as blind guide dogs.

Border Collies can be motion-sensitive and may attempt to control the movements of family members, cats, squirrels, bicycles, cars, or anything else that moves if not given enough mental and physical stimulation. These dogs are also not suitable for households with small children, because they frequently try to “herd” the children or react rather quickly to unexpected movements.

Breed History

The Border Collie is a herding dog that originated in the border country of England and Scotland. The breed is descended from old British droving breeds, with some spaniel added. The commonly accepted original sire for the modern breed was a dog named Old Hemp, born in 1893 in Britain. His big influence on the breed was caused by his sensational appearance at trials. From the time he started trials at the age of one, he never lost one. Old Hemp had a formidable ability to read sheep, and finished every course without any apparent difficulty. Many shepherds used him for stud, and Hemp’s working style became the Border Collie style.

The breed’s introduction to the U.S. is difficult to determine because, for breeding purposes, more emphasis is given to it’s working ability rather than it’s physical appearance. So, for many years, any good working sheepdog could be integrated into the breed. The Border Collie wasn’t officially recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1995.

Body Structure and Composition

The Border Collie is medium-sized, exceptionally athletic, and possesses great endurance. They come in two coat varieties: rough or smooth. Both varieties are double coat and weather resistant and are close fitting and thick. Eye color varies from deep brown to amber or blue with occasionally one eye of each color, usually seen with merles (dogs with a solid base color – usually red/brown or black – with lighter blue/gray or reddish patches, which gives a mottled or uneven speckled effect). The ears of the Border Collie are also highly variable — some have fully erect ears, some fully dropped and others are semi-erect. Although some dogs are bred to a specific standard for the show ring, it is generally considered much more useful to identify a working Border Collie by its attitude and ability than by its looks.

Medical Information

Hip and/or Elbow Dysplasia, when the head of the bone no longer fits firmly in the “cup” provided by the socket causing loss of mobility and arthritis-like symptoms, is common in the Border Collie. Epilepsy, a common chronic neurological disorder that is characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures, sometimes occurs in this breed, but can be controlled with medication.

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA), is a congenital, inherited eye disease affecting Border Collies that is sometimes mistaken for conjunctivitis (in Border Collies, it is generally a mild disease and rarely significantly impairs vision). They can also experience Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), which leads to degeneration of the retina and eventual loss of sight. These eye problems, as well as congenital deafness, are fairly common in the Border Collie, especially with merles – for this reason, responsible breeders will not mate merles to each other.

Because of their low body fat, Border Collies can be unusually senstive to anesthesia. This should be discussed with your vet before any surgical procedure.

The Border Collie needs regular combing and brushing to keep the coat gleaming. Extra care is needed when the soft, dense undercoat is shedding, generally in the late Fall or early Spring.

Anecdotal Information

There is a significant amount of controversy surrounding the breed’s recognition by the American Kennel Club in 1995. Many people, particularly Border Collie owners from the herding community, feel that acceptance in such clubs will irreparably harm the Border Collie. In essence, they believe breeding the dogs to a specific physical standard will split the breed by creating a set of Border Collies that are pretty, but can’t work. Other people, especially those involved in showing their dogs in AKC obedience trials and other performance events, hope that, with enough people committed to keeping the dog a working dog, and with an AKC parent club committed to the same thing, they will be able to keep a major split from happening by placing the emphasis on herding and performance, especially when it comes to breeding dogs.

As of 2007, the Frisbee Dog World Championships have been five times by five different Border Collies since it’s inception in 1975. This is second only to the Australian Shepherd’s six wins.

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