The Border Collie is an intelligent, agile and energetic breed that loves nothing more than running outdoors. Best known for its job herding sheep, Border Collies use their fitness, speed and innate herding instinct to great advantage. Border Collies also make great family pets, as they are loyal, obedient, and full of life. Always eager to please, Border Collies respond well to training, but need plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy. For the committed person or family ready to meet the Border Collies needs, these dogs are sure to give a lot of love in return.
Height: 19-22in (50-55cm)
Weight: 28-44lb (13-20kg)
Average Litter Size: 6
Life Expectancy: 10-14 years
Good with Children: Yes, but may be reserved with strangers
Kennel Club Classification: Pastoral
Border Collies can be found in many diverse colour combinations, iincluding white, grey, black, chocolate, red, blue, lilac or sable. The classic Border Collie is black and white, while a tricolour Border Collie, which is often black and white with brown patches, is also popular. The much rarer sable Border Collies have hairs of more than one colour, often black at the root and light brown at the tip, giving them a unique appearance.
Border Collies have a thick double layered coat, which protects them from the harsh weather conditions that they were bred to withstand whilst working on farms. The coat is made up of a soft undercoat, which sheds throughout the year but particularly in spring and autumn, and a coarser outer coat. The smooth-coated Border Collie has a short and sleek outer coat, whilst the rough-coated Border Collie has a longer, more wavy outer coat with feathering on the legs, tail, and underside. Both types require brushing weekly to keep the coat gleaming, with more grooming during shedding seasons.
Border Collies are generally healthy dogs, but can be prone to epilepsy, a brain disorder causing repeated seizures or fits. However, epilepsy is relatively rare and can be controlled with medication.
Abnormal structure of the hip joints and surrounding tissues, known as hip dysplasia, can also be a problem for Border Collies. This can affect a dog’s gait, cause pain and stiffness, and sometimes limit mobility and enjoyment of exercise. The risk of developing hip dysplasia can be minimised by maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding over-exercising when young.
Border Collies can also be affected by Collie Eye Anomaly, a genetic disease that causes part of the eye to develop abnormally. This can cause anything from mild sight problems to partial or total loss of vision. Luckily, it can be found very early on, as early as just five weeks old, so it’s key to have puppies examined by a vet.
Border Collies live for praise, and simply want to spend time with their human families. The Border Collie’s strong herding instincts and endless energy can be directed into farm work, games or dog sports with great success. Left to their own devices without a focus, Border Collies will find their own ‘work’, which may lead to them becoming destructive.
Border Collies are highly intelligent dogs that relish a challenge, making training enjoyable for dogs and masters. As a result of their herding instincts, Border Collies are hardworking and have an intense focus on the task at hand, so learn very quickly. Border Collies require clear and consistent leadership, particularly during adolescence, and must not be allowed to become dominant. It is also important to watch for nipping, a behaviour that originates in the breed’s herding nature, which can be eliminated with training. Border Collies make lovely family pets, but should be socialised when they are young to avoid becoming shy and wary of strangers and other dogs.
Border Collies have unlimited energy, with a combination of speed, stamina and agility to trump any other breed. For this reason, these dogs must have plenty of outdoor exercise in big open spaces every day, so are best suited to owners who are as active as they are. Border Collies also require mental stimulation, so activities such as canine games or agility training are fantastic ways to achieve this and build a strong bond between dog and owner. For anyone interested in agility trials or advanced obedience, or looking for an energetic companion to exercise with, the Border Collie is the perfect choice.
Originating in Northumberland as far back as the 1700s, the Border Collie was first known as the ‘Scotch Sheep Dog’, with roots along the border between England and Scotland. At this time, a capable working dog was the most valuable asset for shepherds and farmers, and the best dogs were bred with each other.
Although working dogs were bred for their ability to perform their primary task of herding sheep, desirable characteristics were dependent on the landscapes and terrains the dogs were working on, so various types of Collies developed.
These dogs, including Welsh Sheepdogs, Northern Sheepdogs, Highland Collies, and Scotch Collies, are the ancestors of the modern Border Collie, which is perfectly suited to life on the Anglo-Scottish border. Although these dogs worked with farmers for hundreds of years prior, the Border Collie’s name, inspired by its place of origin, wasn’t used until 1915 when the Border Collie was registered as a distinct breed.
It is thought that every Border Collie in existence today can trace bloodlines back to one very talented dog known as ‘Old Hemp’, who lived in Northumberland in the 1890s.
Throughout its history, the Border Collie’s dense, weatherproof coat, combined with its agility, endurance and intelligence have allowed the breed to excel working on farms.
Sheepdog trials are the perfect way to showcase a Border Collie’s skills, impressing spectators with a dog’s ability to control sheep with only whistles and hand gestures from their masters. These events are thought to have been taking place, undocumented, for hundreds of years, but the first documented sheepdog trial took place in Bala, Wales, in 1873.
More recently, Border Collies continue to work on farms and take part in sheepdog trials, as well as working very successfully as drugs and explosives detection dogs, as well as guide dogs for the blind.
Queen Victoria was a great lover of Border Collies, and the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, had a beloved Border Collie named Luath. Luath is depicted by Burns’ side in multiple statues of the poet, and Luath’s death inspired Burns’ poem ‘The Twa Dogs’, describing the special bond between man and dog.