Choosing a Collie

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The collie is beautiful, elegant and is well known as a loving, faithful family dog. Popularized by the movie and television canine Lassie, the collie is an easily recognized breed. The dog comes in two separate varieties: The rough collie, the one most people are familiar with; and the smooth collie, that does not have the flowing coat of the rough collie, but is just as loyal and affectionate and is gaining popularity.

History and Origin

The exact origin of the collie is not known but it is widely accepted that the collie has a long history as a sheep herding dog in Scotland and northern England. Of the two varieties of collies, the smooth collie, also known as the "ban" dog, was used to guide the cows and sheep to market. This collie was not used to guard the sheep and cattle in the pastures. This job was the responsibility of the rough collie, also known as the "shepherd's" dog.

The name collie is thought to come from the term "coalie" or "coaly," a term used to describe the black faced sheep that the dog herded. It also describes the predominately black color of the dog at that time.

In the early 19th century, dog fanciers took an interest in the breed and began a strict breeding program. During an 1860s dog show, Queen Victoria fell in love with the the collie, and fueled by this link to royalty, the popularity of the collie skyrocketed. It was no longer just a herding dog.

In 1867, a dog name "old Cockie" was born. This dog is credited with the original sable coloration of the rough collie. Most sable rough collies have "old Cockie" somewhere in their lineage. The sable rough collie is not the only one with a famous ancestor. In 1873, a dog named "Trefoil" was born and the tricolor collie line was begun.

The collie was accepted into the English Kennel Club in 1886. Also in this year, the Collie Club of America was founded and the breed was accepted into the American Kennel Club as part of the herding dog group.

Appearance and Size

The collie is a tall, lean, elegant dog with a long and tapered nose. The difference between the rough and smooth collie is primarily the hair coat. The rough collie has a long flowing hair coat that can be sable and white, tricolor, blue merle or white. The outer coat is long and abundant and the inner coat is soft. The smooth collie has similar colored hair coats but the hair coat is short, dense and flat with a rich undercoat.

The collie, both smooth and rough, stand 22 to 26 inches in height at the shoulder. Collies typically weigh 50 to 75 pounds.


Collies are loyal and affectionate dogs with natural protective and herding instincts. They are intelligent and quite active and some may be high strung and sensitive.

Home and Family Relations

A devoted and faithful family dog, the collie is ideal for homes with children. Due to their tolerant nature, they are also excellent in homes with other dogs. Though not known for having guard dog tendencies, collies will alert the family when strangers approach.


The collie takes well to training. The breed thrives on mental and physical stimulation. Collies have a natural herding instinct, which must be overcome through proper training to prevent the breed from inappropriately herding small children and other pets.

Special Concerns

Due to their strong natural homing instinct, when initially brought to a new home, the collie should be kept securely confined until completely adjusted to their new environment. Without this adjustment period, the collie may escape and try to find his way "home."

The collie requires daily exercise and does not do well when confined for prolonged periods of time. The long hair coat of the rough collie requires frequent brushing to prevent mats and tangles. Make sure the brushing includes the deeper undercoat.

Some collies tend to be high strung and require lots of human companionship and extra care and understanding.

Common Diseases and Disorders

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

  • Collie eye anomaly is a birth defect of the eye that may lead to vision problems.
  • Ivermectin toxicity is a breed related sensitivity to ivermectin, a commonly used parasitic drug, can result from a genetic abnormality. This drug should be used with caution in this breed.

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