Border Collie

Exceedingly Intelligent Dog that Needs to Feel Useful

Border Collie

Better Keep This Smart Dog Busy Or It Will Find Something To Do... Like It or Not!

Originally from the borders of England and Scotland, the Border Collie's descendants were dogs that herded reindeer for the Vikings. The spaniel breed is believed to also have been a part of its development. Over time, the Border Collie became a true "working dog," with the unusual ability to simply "stare down" entire assemblages of beasts. These dogs have a rare gift which enables them to cast a spell over whole droves of animals who become suddenly compliant and agreeable. Extremely smart, the Border Collie is considered the most intelligent of all breeds and is very trainable. Today, Border Collies make excellent pets for individuals and families who are able to appreciate their loving and affectionate characteristics combined with high-energy, demanding, and athletic eccentricities.


The Border Collie probably got its start from "land race Collies," dogs that evolved by "natural selection" rather than by selective breeding. Originally based in the British Isles, the Border Collie was first called the "Scotch Sheepdog," and was found along the borders of England and Scotland in Northumberland. Its descendants were dogs who herded Viking reindeer; these dogs also have some Spaniel in their ancestry.

Border Collies became invaluable to shepherds who used them to control very large flocks of sheep. These dogs have a unique talent, in that they can control herds simply by gaze alone. Known as "the eye," the Border Collie has a mesmerizing stare that can calm and control large groups of animals to follow and obey. In addition, while many dogs both domestic and wild would be inclined to savage flocks of sheep, the unusual Border Collie is very protective of the flocks it guards. More than any other dog in history, the Border Collie not only is trained to work but actually wants to work. It needs to feel unified with its master, in pursuit of a common goal. In such a way, the Border Collie is its master's extension, doing its master's bidding and reveling in its role as part of a team.

Today's breed of Border Collie has been around for more than 100 years, with none other than Queen Victoria expressing her enthusiasm upon acquaintance with the breed in the latter 19th century. It was at this historic juncture that the breeds of modern Collie and Border Collie began to be distinct. The Border Collie of today, however, is not much different from the original, with a true desire to work. It remains the top sheep-herding dog, obedient to its master, highly intelligent and exceedingly trainable, with a striking but completely natural appearance. It was fully recognized by the American Kennel Club as a Herding Group dog in 1995. Most of today's dogs are descended from a single sire, Old Hemp, a tricolored Collie who was born in September of 1893 and died in May of 1902. Quiet, powerful and commanding, Old Hemp was the perfect sheepdog and was highly prized as a stud by other shepherds. Ultimately, his working style became the desired Border Collie standard, and most purebred Border Collies today have Old Hemp in their ancestral line.

Another dog that is included in most modern Border Collies' bloodlines is a stud that was called Wiston Cap, born in 1963. His Border Collie herding pose has become the classic crouch of the Border Collie breed.


Medium-sized and "natural" in appearance, Border Collies have thick coats that shed often. Smooth or "rough," their coats can be long- or short-haired and can come in many colors. Most common is the black and white variety, although tricolored (black, tan and white) or sable and white are also common. Red tricolor, with red, tan and white, is also common, as are brindle, blue merle, lilac, red merle, blue, or "Australian red" (which is gold). Border Collies can have coats of just one color, although this is not particularly common. Eye color can be blue, amber, deep brown, or of differing colors in each eye. Ears are not standard either, with some fully drooped, some semi-erect, and some fully erect. Medium in size, adults are usually 18 to 22 inches at the shoulder, and weigh between 27 and 45 pounds in adulthood.


The Border Collie makes an excellent, loving pet for those up to the task of truly "mastering" this high energy and exceedingly intelligent dog. Not only will your pet need lots of mental and physical stimulation including exercise, but this dog actually needs to work. Those looking to adopt a pet should know this is not a dog for someone who is not particularly athletic, nor is it a dog that will be happy in a house where it is not given something to "do." Your pet needs to have a specific purpose, and needs to feel useful. Owners who cannot provide this kind of environment may unfortunately end up with neurotic, unhappy pets that are simply out of control.

Border Collies still have strong herding instincts, so they're often not suitable for households with small children, other dogs, or cats. If your pet gets bored, he or she can do anything from chewing holes in walls, digging holes in the backyard "just because," or other types of mischief that truly happen simply because the dog is bored. Keep up with your pet both mentally and physically, and give it an important function, and you'll have a loyal and loving family member for life.

Proper Environment

Your pet is exceedingly high energy and must have a job to do, with lots of mental and physical stimulation. Apartment life is not suitable for a Border Collie, nor is even an average house with limited room to run. Border Collies live best on acreage where they can get lots of natural exercise. A farm or ranch is the perfect environment, since the Border Collie can be engaged in work that will satisfy its drive to be productive and valuable to its owner.


Your hardy pet will live a long and healthy life provided it gets adequate veterinary care, a healthy diet, and plenty of exercise. Border Collies usually live between 10 and 17 years, quite a bit longer than other breeds of similar size, which usually only live 12 or 13 years. A disorder called Collie eye anomaly, or CEA, is an inherited disease that does not generally impair vision. However, recent DNA testing has made it possible for breeders to screen for this defect and help them avoid producing puppies with this disorder in the future. The Border Collie may also be prone to two types of hearing loss: one of which is a pigment-related disorder found only in puppies. The other type of hearing loss which occurs in dogs between the ages of one and eight is likely genetic, and tests are in development to identify its cause.


Daily combing and brushing is a must for your pet, since tangles and shedding can both be a problem, especially for long-haired dogs. Border Collies shed their soft, dense undercoats twice a year, during which time you should brush twice a day or even more frequently. Bathing or dry shampooing infrequently will keep your pet clean, and the ears should also be checked for ticks if you and your pet spend a lot of time outdoors.


AKC Meet the Breeds®: Get to know the Border Collie.

Retrieved March 24, 2013.


Retrieved March 24, 2013.

Border Collie.

Retrieved March 24, 2013.

Border Collie.

Retrieved March 24, 2013.


Retrieved March 24, 2013.

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