Collie Dog Breeds: Working Dogs Devoted to Their Families

Noted for their herding abilities and loving dispositions as family pets, collie dog breeds are persistent workers and loyal companions. There are four collie-type breeds:

Best known in America because of the “Lassie” TV series and movies, this breed existed for centuries as a herding dog in Scotland and England. In fact, it was previously called the “Scotch Collie” and recognized as such by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1914. The breed’s name was changed to simply “Collie” in 1991. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 1885; it is part of both organizations’ Herding Dog Group.

A large, lean, active dog, the Collie was also used to drive cattle to market. It is naturally responsive to people, very affectionate and devoted toward its owner, and is especially good with children. Most collies get along well with other pets and are friendly toward other dogs.

Two varieties exist: the rough-coated and the smooth-coated. The rough-coated collie possesses a long, elegant coat that appears to float over the ground as it runs and forms a mane around its neck and shoulders. The outer coat is straight and harsh, and the undercoat is soft and downy. It also possesses a fairly long, furry tail that carries high when running. The smooth-coated collie has a short, dense, flat coat but also still has an undercoat. Coat colors include sable and white, tri-color, blue merle, and white. Brushing once a week is sufficient, even for the luxurious coat of the rough-coated variety. This is a very clean breed and is known for not having a “doggie odor”. Their heads are wedge-shaped, with rounded, tapering muzzles, and their chests are deep and strong.

Before the famous Lassie, the Collie’s popularity sparked during the 1860s when Queen Victoria visited the Scottish Highlands and fell in love with the breed. She helped make collies very fashionable to own.

Collie Dog BreedsThough active and playful outdoors, collies can also be couch potatoes. To keep them healthy, like all dog breeds, collies should receive some form of exercise. Because of their intelligence, endurance, and pleasant, mild-mannered disposition, Collies have served not only as herders and drovers, but also as search and rescue dogs and guide dogs for the blind. They perform well in agility and obedience trials due to their active, eager-to-please, trainable nature.

Collies range in size from 22 to 26 inches (56 to 66 cm) tall and weigh 50 to 75 pounds (23 to 34 kg). Overall, this is a healthy breed that can live 14 to 16 years.

Border Collie
Another herding dog of Scotland, the Border Collie is considered the “workaholic” of dog breeds. This enthusiastic, extremely intelligent dog is most noted for its “eye”, or almost hypnotic stare when it herds livestock. Add to that the “stalking” this collie breed conducts, one understands why the Border Collie is known as the world’s premier sheep herding dog. It possesses an extraordinary instinct for this task. Border Collies help shepherds maintain large flocks of sheep by gathering in sweeping circles and closely herding with stalking stances. They are able to suddenly change speed and direction while maintaining balance and grace.

Some believe this breed descended from dogs used by the Vikings to herd reindeer, crossed with old British droving breeds and spaniels. First called the Scotch Sheep Dog, this breed worked with farmers and shepherds on the border lands between Scotland and England. The UKC recognized the breed in 1961, and the AKC recognized it in 1995. It is part of the Herding Dog Group of both organizations.

Like its Collie cousin, the Border Collie’s coat can be rough or smooth. Both varieties are dense and weather-resistant. The coat color includes any in bi-color, tri-color, merle, sable, or solid patterns. The medium-sized tail is set low but rises slightly when excited. Regular brushing of the coat is needed.

This is an extremely high-energy, athletic dog that requires more than a walk around the neighborhood for exercise. Border Collies need a large yard and consistent activity to not become bored and destructive. They compete well in agility, flyball, sheep herding trials and other canine events. They have a tendency to herd people, especially children, as well as other animals.

A hard-working dog that flourishes with receiving praise, the Border Collie thrives on servicing its owner; it is very eager-to-please. This dog breed requires plenty of physical and mental stimulation for it has endless energy, thriving on work, play and attention. Therefore, it is not recommended for apartment living as this active dog needs room to play. A very trainable breed with great stamina, the Border Collie also serves well as a narcotics and bomb detection dog, as a police dog, and as a search and rescue dog.

Border Collies range in size from 18 to 22 inches (46 to 56 cm) tall and weigh 27 to 45 pounds (12 to 20 kg). They generally live 12 to 15 years.

Bearded Collie
One of Britain’s’ oldest breeds, this collie dog breed is believed to have originated with the Komondor in Central Europe. It was used to herd animals in Scotland for many years and became known as the Highland Collie. Later, the name changed to Bearded Collie because, unlike other collie breeds, these dogs have long facial hair. “Collie” is a generic Scottish word for dogs that herd sheep.

Affectionately called Beardies, these active dogs still herd livestock, but they are also popular in conformation, obedience, tracking, herding and agility events. Like their herding cousins, they require regular exercise. Their expression is one of cheerfulness and a “happy-go-lucky” attitude.

The medium-length coat of a Beardie is flat, harsh and shaggy, falling naturally to each side; the breed resembles an Old English Sheep Dog. The undercoat is soft and furry. Like most double-coated, longhaired dog breeds, Bearded Collies require regular grooming with a few minutes of brushing or combing every day.

Beardies are born black, blue, brown or fawn, with or without white markings. With maturity, however, the coat color may lighten to a shade of gray. The head is large, broad and flat, and the tail is usually carried low unless the dog is excited.

The Bearded Collie almost became extinct during World War II. In 1944, a woman from England bred a pair of Bearded Collies and resurrected the breed. It wasn’t until the mid-1960s that the first litter of Beardies was born in America. The ACK recognized the breed in 1976, and UKC recognized the Bearded Collie in 1979. Like its other collie cousins, it is part of both organizations’ Herding Dog category

Cheerful, playful and affectionate, the Beardie makes a wonderful family pet. It stands 20 to 22 inches (51 to 56 cm) tall at the shoulders and weighs 40 to 60 pounds (18 to 27 kg). A Beardie lives an average of 15 years.

This hardy, active breed is known for its agility and strength. It is self-confident, intelligent and devoted. This is a dog that loves to be with its special person or family.

The breed’s natural instinct to work requires a Beardie be exercised regularly. It is not recommended for apartment life.

Shetland Sheepdog
This small dog resembles the rough-coated collie in miniature form. Its ancestors originated on the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland; these hardy dogs herded flocks imported from the mainland. The Scottish Collie was crossed with native Shetland dogs, giving the island breed a more collie-like appearance.

Affectionately called the Sheltie, this intensely loyal, eager-to-please breed makes a wonderful pet. In fact, it is one of today’s most popular companion dogs. These extremely smart and highly trainable dogs excel at obedience competition, tracking and herding events, and agility trials. They also can be trained to perform tricks.

The breed’s double coat is long and flowing over the body but shorter on the head and legs; the coat often forms a mane around the neck and chest. The outer coat is straight and harsh, and the undercoat is soft. Coat colors include blue merle, sable and black with various amounts of white and/or tan. Regular brushing and the occasional bath are required.

The herding instinct is still very strong in many Shelties, and they love to chase things. They are also sensitive to voice tones and wary of strangers, oftentimes aggravating neighbors with noisy, persistent barking.

These small dogs stand 13 to 16 inches (33 to 40 ½ cm) tall and weigh only 14 to 27 pounds (6 ½ to 12 kg). Because of their size, Shelties do fine living in apartments if they are sufficiently exercised with daily walks and playtime. A Sheltie generally lives 12 to 15 years.

Collie dog breeds trace their lineage to herding dogs of Scotland and England, a heritage that continues to serve them and their owners well today. They are great companion and family dogs that excel at various canine events, such as agility and obedience. These loyal, loving dog breeds possess great intelligence and endurance, and make wonderful canine friends.

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