The perfect sheepdog
The Border Collie as we know it today has its origins in the mid-20th century. It is at this time that we see its name appear for the first time in books and literature.
The debate continues with regards to the origin of the name “Collie.” While some attribute it to a Gaelic term meaning “useful,” others see it as a reference to the German word “Kuli” which means worker. In any case, we know that this breed comes from the border region between England and Scotland, which explains at least the first part of its name, “Border.”
As its name implies, the Border Collie is a working dog which is born and bred for herding cattle in many farms of its native land. Of course, at the beginning of its existence as a breed, the Border Collie was not the only sheepdog in the United Kingdom. There were many varieties of breeds, all descendants of a common ancestral gene pool.
At that time, in all corners of the country, an ideological war raged between farmers to try and prove which breed of Border Collie was the best. And yet, no real way had been found to differentiate between these different types of Border Collie… The situation changed on October 9th, 1873, during the first Sheepdog Championships in Bala, Wales. Dogs from the far corners of Great Britain were invited to compete against one another for the first time.
At the inaugural competition, launched on the initiative of Richard John Lloyd Price, the first prize was given to James Thompson and his dog, a black and tan Border Collie. This was the start of the reign of the Border Collie as the best sheepdog in Britain!
Small anecdote: one of Richard Lloyd-Price’s good friends, Mr S.E Shirley founded the UK’s Kennel Club in the same year of 1873: a great year for British dog lovers! From then on, the Border Collie remained not only the best sheepdog breed, but also became one of the most popular pet breeds. It is easy to understand why: it is beautiful, obedient, intelligent, playful, brave, agile and loyal. What more could you want?
The Border Collie is a very smart and hardworking dog.
Personality and Temperament
Determined, alert, intelligent and responsive, the Border Collie is neither aggressive nor nervous. It stands out with its boundless energy! Even after long walks in the countryside, in the woods or on the beach, it will look at you as if to say: “What shall we do next?”
The Border Collie is a “working dog” that will work hard until exhaustion. This means that it is not an ideal dog for all families. It is indeed much better suited for physically active families.
To describe the temperament of the Border Collie, we might say that it has a dual personality, like Jekyll and Hyde… On the outside, it is stubborn and fearless, nothing scares it. Its unbridled enthusiasm for work, both physical and mental, is unparalleled. However, once at home, it turns into a big teddy bear just waiting to be cuddled and receive attention, be it against your feet or on your lap. In other words, the two faces of the Border Collie complement each other perfectly!
The needs of the Border Collie are simple: lots of exercise, and daily play and affection. If you can’t offer it the lifestyle it needs, it may develop undesirable personality traits and become brusque, noisy, destructive, depressed and unpredictable. But if you give the Border Collie what it needs, you will be rewarded by its smart, loyal and loving temperament.
Until the mid-1990s, the Border Collie was not recognized by the Kennel Club. This is probably because, then as now, there are many different varieties of Collies. Some diehards will tell you that the breed’s standards are determined by its ability to work and lead the herd, and that its character traits are more important than its appearance. However, an aesthetic standard for the breed has emerged over the years.
General Aspects of the Border Collie
The Border Collie must have a skillful and robust appearance. Medium in size, it has a strong, athletic build, with a balanced and graceful posture. Its eyes are bright, alert and intelligent.
- Skull: moderately broad. The occiput is not pronounced.
- Muzzle: tapering towards the end, moderately short and strong. The skull and muzzle are approximately the same length.
- Stop: well pronounced.
- Nose: black, except in individuals with (chocolate) brown coats, in which it may be brown. When the coat is blue, the nose should be slate colored. The nostrils are well-developed.
- Jaws: the teeth and jaws are strong with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite.
- Cheeks: neither full nor rounded.
- Eyes: well set apart, oval shaped, medium sized, brown in color except in merle dogs, where one eye being wholly or partially blue or brown is allowed.
- Ears: medium size and texture, well set apart, carried erect or semi-erect and sensitive to noise.
The neckline is of good length, strong and muscular, and slightly rounded. It widens towards the shoulders.
- Back: straight and strong, level and ferm from the withers to the hips.
- Chest: deep and fairly broad with well-sprung ribs.
- Belly: not tucked up in the sides.
- Tail: moderately long, with the last vertebra reaching at least the hock; attached low, well-furnished with hair, it ends with an upward curve. The tail can perk up when the dog is in action, but it is never carried over its back.
- Shoulders: well slanted.
- Elbows: against the body.
- Thighs: long, wide and muscular.
- Hocks: strong, deep.
- Feet: oval. The pads are thick, strong and healthy.
- Over or underbite of more than 3 mm. Loss of contact caused by short center incisors in an otherwise correct toothline will not be considered as an underbite. Broken teeth or teeth missing by accident will not be penalized.
- White should never predominate.
- Males should have two testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
At the very beginning, I thought that my Border Collie had a hair-loss problem. After having done some more research, I discovered that moulting is normal in all dog breeds. Now I can prevent hair-loss by brushing my dog every day during the summer and every other day in the off-season.
Coat of the Border Collie
There are two types of coats: moderately long and moderately short. These types of coats are double coats. In other words, there is a textured surface coat added to the base coat to provide warmth to the dog, even in the coldest climates.
Colors of the Collie
The Border Collie is black and white with a white stripe going from the top of the skull to the sides of the muzzle, with a white collar around the neck, two white front paws, white socks on the hind legs, and a white tip on the tail. This is the most common color.
This type of coat is often observed with tan spots on the heads and legs. There is also the merle colors (blue or red), chocolate and white, sable and white, red and white, blue and white… sometimes with a mottled effect.
According to the breed standard, all colors are allowed, as long as white is not dominant. Thankfully, some people cannot resist a beautiful Border Collie with a white face (white or half white head).
Maintenance of the Border Collie
The Border Collie, as all breeds of dogs, shed their hair (moult) twice a year: in winter and in spring, if it follows a natural lifestyle. If it spends a lot of time indoors, it will probably shed hair all throughout the year.
Brushing your Border Collie at least once a week is recommended. However, you can brush it more often if you have the time.
Tip: Brush your dog outdoors if possible, because its hair will cling to carpets, furniture and even clothes! If you have no choice but to brush it inside, you can use a towel or mat on which it can sit while you brush it. Some Collies become hyperactive when being groomed, so it is necessary to choose a place where the dog will be comfortable. If it does not always let itself be brushed, use its favourite treat to calm it. In general, this is a good method that will make things easier for you.
Border Collies enjoy the company of other dogs as well as other animals.
From 10 to 20 years
The Border Collie is one of the most intelligent dog breeds and is one of the dog breeds best able to respond to orders. Its willingness to learn and please make it a very easy dog to train.