King of the Collie Breeds: Everything You Need to Know About Border Collies

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border collie puppy playing on logThe Border Collie dog is known for its striking looks, intelligence, and hard-working attitude. But what kind of pets do they make?

Where does the dog breed originate?

And what’s the best way to look after these dogs?

Read on, Border Collie lovers, to learn everything you need to know about this beautiful breed!

A Brief History of Border Collie Dogs

The history of the Border Collie breed is intrinsically linked with the history of the British Isles.

These herding dogs are descended from a “landrace” variety of dogs, meaning that the breed developed naturally over many years through adaptation to its environment and local customs, rather than just through selective breeding.

It’s likely that the various invasions that Britain saw, including the Romans, the Vikings, and the Saxons, further influenced the Border Collie’s ancestors, as each new wave of settlers brought their native dogs with them.

The modern Border Collie originates in the rocky highlands on the border between England and Scotland, hence the name.

A stud dog named Old Hemp, who was born in 1893 in Northumberland, England, is generally held as the breed’s progenitor.

He was the first dog to display the breed’s distinctive herding style. Indeed, the majority of pure Border Collies in the world today can trace their roots back to Old Hemp.

The Appearance of the Ultimate Herding Dog

The Border Collie is a medium-sized dog with a well-balanced, athletic appearance. Although most people associate this breed with black-and-white coloring, these dogs actually come in lots of different colors—more on this below.

Their double coats are typically long and dense, which helps to keep them warm in cold weather. The coats can be smooth or rough, but both will have feathering on the legs and tail.

Most of these dogs have an eager, intelligent expression and move in a very distinctive way.

As these dogs are traditionally working dogs, there is a split in opinion on the breed standard. For show dogs, the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard is used, which focuses on looks. For working Border Collies, the American Border Collie Association (ABCA) certification is used, which disregards appearance in favor of ability.

border collie puppies contest

Average Size and Weight!

The average weight for Border Collies is 31 to 44 lb (14 to 20kg) for males and 26 to 42 lb (12 to 19 kg) for females. The breed’s average height is 19 to 22 in (48 to 56 cm) for males and 18 to 21 in (46 to 53 cm) for females.

The Incredibly Cute Miniature Border Collie Puppy

As the Border Collie is still largely a working dog, there is not currently a separate miniature variety. Some people have tried crossing Border Collies with smaller dogs, such as Border Terriers or Corgies, in order to create smaller dogs that still have the Border Collie’s distinctive looks.

Bear in mind, however, that these are crossbreeds, and may not have the same temperament as their parents!

Blue, Black, and Brown: The Many Border Collie Colors!

Border Collies come in lots of beautiful colors! These are all accepted under the AKC breed standard.

Black and White Border Collie 

These are the archetypal Border Collies, and they often have a black mask or white blaze on their noses.

Blue Merle Border Collie 

Blue merle is a mottled marking with patches of grey and white. A dog with this coloring may be mistaken for an Australian Shepherd!

Red Border Collie 

Red is the rarest color for these dogs. They can also have red merle coloring.

Brown Border Collie

Brown or chocolate Border Collies have similar markings to their black-and-white cousins.

White Border Collie 

If two merle dogs breed, they can pass on the double-merle gene, which results in a white coat, but also in vision and hearing problems. Many of these puppies are put down at birth.

Whether They’re Long or Short Haired Border Collies: Shedding is a Factor

With a thick coat adapted to cold Scottish winters, you can bet that a Border Collie will shed—a lot! These dogs may be highly intelligent, but they can’t quite vacuum up after themselves yet, unfortunately.

Border Collie Mixes Make Beautiful Dogs!

Border Collie mixes are growing increasingly popular as pets and working dogs alike. Let’s learn more about these unique mixes.

Border Collie German Shepherd Mix

Also known as a “Shollie”, a German Shepherd Border Collie is a very popular mix that produces a larger dog that is very active and intelligent. Shollies are used as working dogs and guard dogs.

Border Collie Blue Heeler Mix

Blue Heelers are cattle herding dogs from Australia. They have a different herding style from Border Collies, so some farmers will breed the two together to fit specific needs. These crosses also make great pets.

Border Collie Shepherd Mix

Again, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are both closely-related herding breeds, and crossing them together will result in an energetic, loyal, and intelligent working dog.

Temperament and Personality

Border Collies are a gentle, loyal, playful, and above all intelligent breed. They are capable of reasoning and problem-solving far beyond the abilities of most other dogs. However, if they do not get sufficient exercise and mental stimulation, they can be prone to destructive behavior and anxiety.

Training and Exercise is a Must!

These dogs need a lot of physical exercise every day, as well as mental stimulation. Long walks with plenty of off-lead running around, agility training, and puzzles are all great ways to keep your pup entertained.

As they learn so quickly, it is important to train from a young age, before bad habits have time to develop. The urge to herd is incredibly strong for this breed, and if left untapped they may try to herd and boss other animals or children around.

Some owners even rent or borrow sheep to allow their pets to let their instincts take over. Puppy obedience classes can be very helpful, especially with trainers who have no previous experience with the breed.

border collie mix herding sheep

How Long do They Live? Border Collie Lifespan!

The average lifespan for these dogs is 10 to 14 years, with 12 the most common. This range is standard for dogs of this size. Common health issues for this breed include hip dysplasia, Collie eye anomaly, neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis, osteochondritis dissecans and lens luxation.

5 Facts You Didn’t Know About This Breed

  1. These dogs are known for their herding technique that is quieter and less aggressive than other breeds.
  2. Border Collies are widely considered to be the smartest dogs in the world.
  3. This breed is known for its distinctive crouching run. These dogs even have developed a space between their shoulder blades that lets them get even lower to the ground.
  4. These dogs have an intense stare that they will use to intimidate unruly sheep. They have also been known to try it on their owners, especially if said owner is holding something tasty!
  5. The name “Collie” is thought to come from the Scots language. It may even date back to the Celtic word for “helpful”.

Border Collie Puppies for Sale!

Border Collie puppies are insanely cute, but also very intelligent. Most breeders will rehome puppies from eight weeks of age, and you can start training them to obey basic commands immediately. Early and consistent training is key.

Border Collie Breeders!

Both the AKC and The Border Collie Society of America (BCSA) keep directories of registered, approved breeders. These can be a good place to start your search for a Border Collie puppy.

Border Collie Price!

Border Collie puppies can be expensive, especially for champion bloodlines—think upwards of $1000. Don’t be tempted to buy from cheaper, unregistered breeders! Puppy farms are cruel and unethical.

Adopt, Don’t Shop! Ask an Animal Shelter About Border Collie Rescues!

As some people can find them a bit of a handful, there are lots of beautiful adult Border Collies waiting for their forever homes in animal shelters. The BCSA helps to rehome these dogs. Mid-Atlantic Border Collie Rescue also works to rehome this breed.

Common Questions About the Border Collie

  • How much does a Border Collie cost?

  • Does a Border Collie need a lot of exercise?

  • Are there any Border Collie rescue organizations?

  • Are Border Collies always black and white?

  • How long do Border Collies typically live?

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