Choosing a Border Collie

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With their intelligence and eagerness, border collies have dominated the world of competitive dog sports for many years, especially in the obedience ring. Originally from England and Scotland, the border collie gained immense popularity in Australia as a working sheepdog.

History and Origin

Long before Great Britain became industrialized, the British Isles depended on wool from sheep to sustain its economy. This was especially true in Scotland. The flocks of sheep required constant herding, and it was the border collie that performed this job admirably.

Border collies were first mentioned in 1570 in a book about English dogs. Since then, various breeds of sheep herding dogs have been developed, but none has compared to the border collie. The breed originally evolved in the 1890s in the border counties between England and Scotland, after which it was named.

In the 1900s, the border collie was exported to Australia as a working sheepdog. The breed’s natural sheep sense and enthusiasm resulted in a great demand in Australia as well as New Zealand. To this day, some people believe the border collie originated in Australia.

Despite strenuous objection of several working Border Collie breed organizations (ABCA, BCSA, USBCC, and others) to being AKC registered, the border collie was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1995 as a member of the herding group.

Appearance and Size

The border collie is a medium-sized dog with a medium-sized muzzle. The head is wedge shaped and the ears are either semi-erect or fully erect. The double hair coat is weather resistant. There are two coat varieties, the smooth coat, which is a short coated variety and the long coat . The area around the neck has a lot more hair, giving the appearance of a mane. The border collie comes in a variety of colors and combinations of colors but white is typically not the prominent color. The most common color is black with or without the traditional white blaze, collar, stockings and tail tip and with or without tan points. Other colors include merle and sable.

The adult border collie stands about 19 to 21 inches at the shoulder and weighs around 40 pounds.


The great love of the border collie’s life is to herd sheep, although they can also herd cattle. The breed is able to creep and crouch and spring into action as soon as a sheep gets out of line. The dog is agile and quick and considered one of the most intelligent of all breeds. Therefore, they require a lot of entertainment and challenges.

Home and Family Relations

As a loyal and faithful breed, Border Collies are very much “one person dogs”. They will develop an intense relationship with one individual, often to the exclusion of others. This characteristic makes them a poor choice for some families. Border collies can be affectionate toward friends but reserved toward strangers and make excellent watchdogs. They are both even-tempered and protective and thrive on human companionship.


The border collie loves to learn and play games. The Border Collies’ intelligence requires any owner to be dedicated, consistent and willing to spend a great deal of time (more than with most other breeds) where training is concerned. Otherwise, a frustrated, confused and difficult dog will result. Many Border Collies can be trained to respond to hand signals and whistles. Watching a border collie in action caring for a flock of sheep is an amazing experience.

Special Concerns

The border collie needs lots of activity and mental stimulation to prevent behavioral problems.


Common Diseases and Disorders

In general, the border collie is a healthy dog with few medical concerns. However, the following diseases or disorders have been reported:

  • Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that results in pain, lameness and arthritis.
  • Cryptorchidism is a condition in which one or both testicles do not descend into the scrotum.
  • Collie eye anomaly (CEA) is a disorder characterized by abnormal development of the eye. CEA is an inherited disease and most of the eye lesions associated with CEA are present at birth, affecting about 2% of the breed with about 18% carriers. CEA affects the retina, the choroid, and in severe cases, the sclera and optic nerve.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a disease that causes nerve cells at the back of the eye to degenerate. The condition usually begins in older pets and can lead to blindness.
  • Pannus is a disease of the eye resulting in inflammation.
  • Lens luxation is a dislocation or displacement of the lens within the eye.
  • Cataracts are opacities within the lens of the eye that affect vision.
  • Osteocondrosis of the shoulder is congenital problem that causes degenerative joint disease of the shoulder joint.
  • Congenital deafness present at birth.
  • Life Span

    The border collie can live approximately 11 to 14 years.

    We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.

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