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Ah, the Border Collie. There’s no mistaking those upright ears, fluffy yet muscular body, and signature herding eyes.
Did you know that the Border Collie is named the most intelligent dog breed known to man?
They are smart, very much adorable, and great actors, too!
If you have chosen a Border Collie to be your family dog, you’ve made the right decision!
Let’s learn everything there is to learn about this breed—their short history, traits and characteristics, personality and temperament, care needs, and some fast facts about the beloved Border Collie.
Border Collie Breed: An Overview
The Border Collie is a herding dog of British descent that is mainly bred for working. Their main task is to lead a herd of different animals—mostly sheep, hogs, cattle, and goats.
The American Kennel Club described the standard Border Collie as a well-balanced, medium-type, and athletic dog breed that equally displays grace, power, and agility.
Their keen, alert expression is also an important characteristic of this breed.
Male Border Collies stand at about 19 to 22 inches in height from the withers and weigh about 35 to 40 lbs, while female Border Collies are around 18 to 21 inches in height and weigh about 30 to 42 lbs.
When cared for properly, this breed can live up from 12 to 15 years long.
In terms of adaptability and trainability, no doubt that Border Collies are still at the top spot.
Because they are highly intelligent, they can easily pick up new tricks or tasks given to them.
Owners even say that Border Collies have an uncanny knack for knowing what you’re gonna ask before you ask it. They are intuitive, obedient, and always wanna make their mamas and papas proud.
Border Collie: Short History
Border Collies come from the literal border counties between England and Scotland, hence “border”, while “collie”, a Scottish dialect, refers to all types of herding sheepdogs.
They are said to be around since 1700 and became so popular that even Queen Victoria of England herself became an enthusiast of the breed.
However, Pennsylvania State University documented that Border Collies have a far older history than that.
They said this breed is actually descended from the herding dogs of the Roman Empire and the herding dogs of the Vikings when both invaded Britain in 43 AD and in 793, respectively.
Wherever they came from or however they came about, there is no questioning why Border Collies remains to be the world’s premier sheep herding dog up to this date.
Border Collie: Traits and Characteristics
As we often see in pictures or in movies, Border Collies look like they only come in black and white.
But the truth is, there are 17 color variations that the American Kennel Club recognizes as standard for this dog breed.
Apart from black and white, the other colors are:
- Blue Merle
- Sable Merle
- White and Red
- Red Merle
- White and Blue
- White and Blue Merle
- Saddleback Sable
- White and Red Merle
- White Ticked
While the non-standard colors are:
- White and Gold
- White and Seal
There are also distinct markings that can be seen on their coats. They could be:
- White markings
- Merle markings
- Tan points
- White markings with Tan points
- Ticked White markings
- Ticked White markings with Tan Points
- White markings with Brindle points
- Ticked White markings with Brindle points
Any eye color is also acceptable for Border Collies, except for blue which should only be seen with a Merle coating.
Speaking of coating, Border Collies also come in two types of coat: the smooth coat and the rough coat.
The smooth coat is usually shorter in length and a bit coarse to the touch, while the rough coat is medium-length and feathered. Either could help them tolerate weather changes well, whether it be hot or cold.
Both types shed a moderate amount (except during the dreaded shedding season twice a year!)
RELATED: 10 Best De-shedding Tools for Dogs
Border Collie: Personality and Temperament
Because they are a highly-active breed, Border Collies need a lot of active time. And not just walking around the park because they’ll easily get too bored with that. They need actual tasks!
Border Collies also need mental stimulation every now and then. They are purpose-bred dogs so they need activities that will practice their decision-making, problem-solving, and concentration skills.
This breed needs at least 90 minutes a day of physical and mental activity to keep them happy and healthy.
Enrolling them in dog agility training classes is best if they don’t have actual work to do at home. With their natural physical and mental agility, they’ll easily be the superstars in the class!
Although Border Collies can be lovey-dovey to their family and the people they know so well, they still tend to pick only one as their favorite human.
This is an inherited instinct because they are used to only working with one person as a team in herding other animals.
And speaking of herding, trust me when I say they love to show off who’s the boss!
Border Collies will try to herd almost anything it sees—other pets, children, even cars!
They can be quite vocal too when they feel like the ‘herd’ isn’t following orders.
Also, this breed is highly sensitive and intuitive.
They can easily sense what their owners want or need. No wonder they’re considered the most intelligent dog breed there is!
In fact, if you see them staring at you (or stalking could be the correct word!) with those intense eyes, that means give them already a new task, human!
Or else, you sure won’t be happy about the other activities they’ll do by themselves!
Early socialization is also important for Border Collies so they’d be exposed to a variety of people and situations early on.
Border Collie: Care needs
Apart from the high physical activity Border Collies need to keep them fit and happy, it’s equally important to know what their grooming and feeding needs are.
Although Border Collies have two types of coat (the rough and the smooth one), brushing once or twice a week is enough to maintain both, except when it’s shedding season when they’ll be needing that daily brushing.
They also don’t need full baths that much as compared to other dogs, but since they are used to working (or just playing) under different weather conditions, those coats still need washing and cleaning every once in a while.
Just like any other breeds, their nails need constant trimming and their teeth constant brushing.
Ears should also be maintained to that pale pink color. Make sure to clean them too and that no unwanted pests are lurking inside (especially if you just got home from outdoor activities!)
Because Border Collies are a highly-active breed, they will also be needing highly nutritious food to supply their energy.
1.5 to 2 cups of commercially manufactured or homemade dog food should be enough to feed them twice a day, as long as the quality and quantity are appropriate for their age, weight, build, and activity levels.
Although they are not prone to getting obese unlike other breeds, it’s still best to seek your veterinarian’s guidance on the perfect food options for your Border Collie.
Border Collie: Potential Health Problems
Although Border Collies are considered generally a healthy breed, there are still several diseases that you may want to watch out for in your own Collie.
The Border Collie Society of America suggests a couple of screening tests be done regularly for Border Collies. These are for hip dysplasia, possible eye problems, deafness, epilepsy, and others.
Although Hip Dysplasia is common for larger breeds, some small to mid-size breeds can still be prone to this bone disease because this is hereditary in nature.
Hip Dysplasia happens when the ball and joint on the hips of the dog don’t fit properly, resulting in deterioration or dysfunction.
It’s best to observe if your Border Collie has lameness on the hind legs, has difficulty in standing or jumping, or is limping.
If not addressed properly, hip dysplasia may lead to osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease.
Progressive Renal Atrophy (PRA)
Progressive Renal Atrophy involves the gradual deterioration of the dog’s retina. It usually starts with the loss of their night vision, then a progressive loss of their day vision.
Mostly, PRA is diagnosed in Border Collies of 3 or 4 years of age. But with early screening tests, it should be detected right away for immediate treatment.
Deafness is also proven to occur in Border Collies but its prevalence and inheritance are unknown.
However, merle-coated Collies have more cases of deafness (and even blindness) associated with their lack of skin pigmentation and iris color.
This can affect Border Collies unilaterally (deaf in one ear), or bilaterally (deaf in both ears.)
There are several studies that also suggest Border Collies are prone to getting Epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder characterized by frequent seizures. However, other symptoms may also include tail and shadow chasing, and fly-catching.
Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA)
The Collie Eye Anomaly is common for all Collie breeds such as Shetland Sheepdogs, Australian Shepherd, and Lancashire Heelers (apart from the Border Collie, of course!)
This is another congenital and inheritable disease that affects the retina, choroid, and sclera of the dog.
The severe form of this disease can cause total blindness of both eyes, and since this is hereditary, there is no treatment or cure for CEA.
Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis
Another inherited disease common to Border Collies is Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis which causes premature death to affected dogs.
This affects their central nervous system and can manifest through different behavior issues such as anxiety, aggression, constant circling, and loss of learned skills among others.
Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis usually starts showing for Border Collies at 1 to 2 years old.
Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome (TNS)
So far, TNS has only been found among Border Collies. This is another inherited disease where the bone marrow releases white cells called neutrophils that are ‘trapped’ or can’t be released into the bloodstream.
TNS affects puppies as early as 4 months old and may cause early death because of their weakened immune system.
Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD)
Another bone disease found in Border Collies is OCD. This is an inflammatory condition that occurs when the diseased cartilage separates from the underlying bone.
Some indications could be swelling in the affected joints, as well as limp or lameness in the affected leg or legs. Surgery can help treat this painful disease.
Like other dogs (and humans, too!), Border Collies are also prone to getting different allergies to food or environment.
Ask your vet regarding allergy testing to determine what are the possible allergens that could trigger your Border Collie.
Although not all Collies can get these diseases, it still won’t hurt to be sure, you know?
During your weekly brushing, it’s important to check for any indicators that your Border Collie may be suffering from something.
Aside from the coat check for parasites, check their eyes if there are redness or discharges, their skins for any inflammations, or their ears for any possible infections.
Different Types of Border Collie
Apart from their coat type, color, and markings, Border Collies are also classified based on their physical appearance.
Because of different breeding practices throughout the years, there are also noticeable changes in their physical aspects, temperaments, and working styles.
The Northumbrian Type
Some Border Collies inherited most features of their earliest ancestors, Old Hemp owned by Adam Telfer of Northumbrian, England.
This type is mostly reserved and quiet when working, always powerful and delicate.
Physically, their build is medium with a rough coat and little white coat trimmings.
The Wiston Cap Type
The tri-colored Border Collie named Cap, owned by J.M Wilson in the 60s, sired the Wiston Cap types.
They are usually rough coated with numerous white coat trimmings over the chest, collars, and forelegs.
Their bodies seem larger while their head is also bigger. The Wiston Cap type is an overworking dog and highly obedient.
Most champion Border Collies in the 70s and 80s were bred from Cap, who was hailed as an international champion himself in 1965.
The Nap Type
Nap-type Border Collies are the only smooth yet short-coated among the bunch. The name came from their ancestor Whitehope Nap born in the 50s.
This type is strong, fast, and powerful. Their legs are longer but their bodies are shorter, making this the popular choice for work dogs on Southwest farms in America.
The Herdman’s Tommy Type
This last type came from Herdman’s Tommy, the grandson of Old Hemp. Their rough coats are black and white with some tan patterns and a medium size body structure.
The Herdman’s Tommy type are usually good-tempered yet strong-headed.
Border Collie: Fun Facts
- Border Collies are great actors. Some of the movies and TV series featuring this breed are Snow Dogs, Babe, Mad About You, Little House on the Prairie, and many more.
- Some notable personalities who loved and owned Border Collies are Queen Victoria I of England, Scottish poet Robert Burns, James Dean, Ethan Hawke, Jams Franco, Tiger Woods, and many more.
- One of the latest badges under their belt is bagging the Guinness World Record for most tricks done by Border Collie siblings Wish and Halo in one minute. Check out the video below:
Border Collie Breed — Summary
The Border Collie breed is undoubtedly one of the favorite picks among active owners because of their ability and personality.
Knowing not just the Border Collie’s care needs, traits and characteristics, personality and temperament but also the history of how they came to be will help you appreciate and care for this intelligent breed as part of your family.
READ NEXT: The 25 Smartest Dog Breeds That are Easy to Train
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