The Collie, also known as the Scottish Collie or the Scotch Collie, is perhaps most famous due to the television series about "Lassie." There are two varieties of Collie: rough-coated, which is the recognizable long-haired Collie, and smooth-coated, which is becoming increasingly popular. Famous for their loyalty, bravery and kind spirit, the Collie is one of the most glamorous and well-known of all dog breeds. Its name is thought to come from the name of the Scottish black-faced sheep called "Colleys" – the animal that this breed was assigned to watch. The Collie was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885, one year after the AKC was established. The Collie Club of America was formed in 1886 and was the second parent club to join the AKC.
Mature male Collies should stand from 24 to 26 inches at the withers and weigh from 60 to 75 pounds. Females should be between 22 and 24 inches at the withers and weigh between 50 and 65 pounds. The Collie's coat requires regular brushing and grooming, although the Rough Collie has much higher grooming demands than does the Smooth Coat.
The Collie was bred to be a herding and working dog, not for guarding but instead to manage, drive and herd livestock to market. Their exact origin in unknown, but they are believed to have arrived in the British Isles with the Romans about 2,000 years ago. The breed we know today probably originated in Scotland and Northern England, centuries ago. Pride of ownership of these working dogs took priority over written records, so the precise origin of the breed will never be known. Dog fanciers took interest in the breed in the early nineteenth century and began keeping records of pedigrees and promoting the breed.
In 1860, the first classes for "Scotch Sheep Dogs" were offered at only the second dog show ever held in England, that of the Birmingham Dog Society. Both varieties of Collies competed in the same classes. In 1867, Old Cockie was born. He is said to have stamped the characteristic type into the Rough Collie and also to have introduced the genetic factors that led to the development of the sable coat color that is so popular in the breed. The smooth-coated Collie is said to descend from a dog called Trefoil, who was born in 1873. On a visit to Scotland, Queen Victoria was captivated by the Collie and enthusiastically sponsored them in both varieties, creating a surge in the popularity of the breed in the 1860s and 1870s. The breed standard in England was fixed in 1886.
The Collie Club of America was organized in 1886 and remains very active in promoting the interests of the breed. The fame of the Rough Collie reached its greatest heights when it was chosen to star in the sentimental "Lassie" films. There were seven of these films, between 1943 and 1951, followed by a long-running television series that began in 1954 and ran for twenty years. Today's Collie is no longer in demand as a herding dog and has transferred its skills to becoming an intelligent and devoted companion, with a particular affinity for children. Elegant in appearance, loyal and affectionate in all actions, self-appointed guardian of all he can see or hear, the Collie is deemed the ideal family companion by its many admirers.
The average life expectancy of a Collie is between 12 and 15 years. Breed health concerns may include skin disorders or conditions, extreme sensitivity to Ivermectin and Milbemycin, gastrointestinal disorders, immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, aspergillosis, elbow luxation, congenital deafness, hip dysplasia, eye and eyelid disorders including Collie Eye Anomaly, and congenital ectopic ureters.
Just about anyone who has been around since the advent of television knows who Lassie is. She is the loyal, intelligent, fearless star of TV and movies and we've been following her adventures for the last sixty years. Lassie is an excellent ambassador for the entire Collie breed, as they are just as intelligent and loyal as the silver screen portrays. Collies are fantastic family dogs, they love to be with people and are highly patient and loving with children.
Collies only require moderate exercise to remain healthy and happy, but are not ideal apartment dogs. Daily walks and weekly runs are a must, as is the opportunity to engage in interesting activities. Collies are intelligent and need mental stimulation as well as physical stimulation. Without proper activity levels, this breed will become anxious and develop destructive behaviors.
Collies are easy to train, though sometimes they can be stubborn. They should always be treated gently, with positive reinforcement and treats. Collies are sensitive animals, and when treated harshly they can become timid and skittish. After mastering basic obedience, Collies should be allowed to move on to more advanced training or participate in agility activities.
Collies are highly intelligent and have been used as service dogs, guard dogs and search and rescue dogs.
Collies attach themselves to the people they love and do not like to be left alone for long periods of time. Companion animals can help, but the Collie prefers the company of people to other dogs. If lonely or bored, Collies will bark excessively and chew destructively.
Shyness is common in Collies and if not properly socialized, can lead to timidity and fearfulness of strangers. Early and frequent socialization is a must so that the dog understands new people and new situations are not to be feared. Positive reinforcement when a Collie is exhibiting confidence can also build their self esteem and keep timidity at bay.
Collies have been a popular breed, thanks to Hollywood's (accurate) depiction of them as intelligent, loyal companions. Because of this, they are a popular breed with puppy mills and other indiscriminate breeders. Those who are considering adopting a Collie should research the breeder before committing, as poorly bred Collies can be very high strung, nervous and prone to health problems.
The Collie is a lithe, strong, responsive, active dog, carrying no useless timber, standing naturally straight and firm. The deep, moderately wide chest shows strength, the sloping shoulders and well-bent hocks indicate speed and grace, and the face shows high intelligence. The Collie presents an impressive, proud picture of true balance, each part being in harmonious proportion to every other part and to the whole. Except for the technical description that is essential to this Standard and without which no Standard for the guidance of breeders and judges is adequate, it could be stated simply that no part of the Collie ever seems to be out of proportion to any other part. Timidity, frailness, sullenness, viciousness, lack of animation, cumbersome appearance and lack of over-all balance impair the general character.
The head properties are of great importance. When considered in proportion to the size of the dog the head is inclined to lightness and never appears massive. A heavy-headed dog lacks the necessary bright, alert, full-of-sense look that contributes so greatly to expression. Both in front and profile view the head bears a general resemblance to a well-blunted lean wedge, being smooth and clean in outline and nicely balanced in proportion. On the sides it tapers gradually and smoothly from the ears to the end of the black nose, without being flared out in backskull (cheeky) or pinched in muzzle (snipy). In profile view the top of the backskull and the top of the muzzle lie in two approximately parallel, straight planes of equal length, divided by a very slight but perceptible stop or break. A mid-point between the inside corners of the eyes (which is the center of a correctly placed stop) is the center of balance in length of head.
The end of the smooth, well-rounded muzzle is blunt but not square. The underjaw is strong, clean-cut and the depth of skull from the brow to the under part of the jaw is not excessive. The teeth are of good size, meeting in a scissors bite. Overshot or undershot jaws are undesirable, the latter being more severely penalized. There is a very slight prominence of the eyebrows. The backskull is flat, without receding either laterally or backward and the occipital bone is not highly peaked. The proper width of backskull necessarily depends upon the combined length of skull and muzzle and the width of the backskull is less than its length. Thus the correct width varies with the individual and is dependent upon the extent to which it is supported by length of muzzle. Because of the importance of the head characteristics, prominent head faults are very severely penalized.
Because of the combination of the flat skull, the arched eyebrows, the slight stop and the rounded muzzle, the foreface must be chiseled to form a receptacle for the eyes and they are necessarily placed obliquely to give them the required forward outlook. Except for the blue merles, they are required to be matched in color. They are almond-shaped, of medium size and never properly appear to be large or prominent. The color is dark and the eye does not show a yellow ring or a sufficiently prominent haw to affect the dog's expression. The eyes have a clear, bright appearance, expressing intelligent inquisitiveness, particularly when the ears are drawn up and the dog is on the alert. In blue merles, dark brown eyes are preferable, but either or both eyes may be merle or china in color without specific penalty. A large, round, full eye seriously detracts from the desired sweet expression. Eye faults are heavily penalized.
The ears are in proportion to the size of the head and, if they are carried properly and unquestionably break naturally, are seldom too small. Large ears usually cannot be lifted correctly off the head, and even if lifted, they will be out of proportion to the size of the head. When in repose the ears are folded lengthwise and thrown back into the frill. On the alert they are drawn well up on the backskull and are carried about three-quarters erect, with about one-fourth of the ear tipping or breaking forward. A dog with prick ears or low ears cannot show true expression and is penalized accordingly.
The neck is firm, clean, muscular, sinewy and heavily frilled. It is fairly long, carried upright with a slight arch at the nape and imparts a proud, upstanding appearance showing off the frill.
The body is firm, hard and muscular, a trifle long in proportion to the height. The ribs are well-rounded behind the well-sloped shoulders and the chest is deep, extending to the elbows. The back is strong and level, supported by powerful hips and thighs and the croup is sloped to give a well-rounded finish. The loin is powerful and slightly arched. Noticeably fat dogs, or dogs in poor flesh, or with skin disease, or with no undercoat are out of condition and are moderately penalized accordingly.
The forelegs are straight and muscular, with a fair amount of bone considering the size of the dog. A cumbersome appearance is undesirable. Both narrow and wide placement are penalized. The forearm is moderately fleshy and the pasterns are flexible but without weakness. The hind legs are less fleshy, muscular at the thighs, very sinewy and the hocks and stifles are well bent. A cowhocked dog or a dog with straight stifles is penalized. The comparatively small feet are approximately oval in shape. The soles are well padded and tough, and the toes are well arched and close together. When the Collie is not in motion the legs and feet are judged by allowing the dog to come to a natural stop in a standing position so that both the forelegs and the hind legs are placed well apart, with the feet extending straight forward. Excessive "posing"is undesirable.
Gait is sound. When the dog is moved at a slow trot toward an observer its straight front legs track comparatively close together at the ground. The front legs are not out at the elbows, do not "crossover," nor does the dog move with a choppy, pacing or rolling gait. When viewed from the rear the hind legs are straight, tracking comparatively close together at the ground. At a moderate trot the hind legs are powerful and propelling. Viewed from the side the reasonably long, "reaching" stride is smooth and even, keeping the back line firm and level.
As the speed of the gait is increased the Collie single tracks, bringing the front legs inward in a straight line from the shoulder toward the center line of the body and the hind legs inward in a straight line from the hip toward the center line of the body. The gait suggests effortless speed combined with the dog's herding heritage, requiring it to be capable of changing its direction of travel almost instantaneously.
The tail is moderately long, the bone reaching to the hock joint or below. It is carried low when the dog is quiet, the end having an upward twist or swirl. When gaited or when the dog is excited it is carried gaily but not over the back.
The well-fitting, proper-textured coat is the crowning glory of the rough variety of Collie. It is abundant except on the head and legs. The outer coat is straight and harsh to the touch. A soft, open outer coat or a curly outer coat, regardless of quantity is penalized. The undercoat, however, is soft, furry and so close together that it is difficult to see the skin when the hair is parted. The coat is very abundant on the mane and frill. The face or mask is smooth. The forelegs are smooth and well feathered to the back of the pasterns. The hind legs are smooth below the hock joints. Any feathering below the hocks is removed for the show ring. The hair on the tail is very profuse and on the hips it is long and bushy. The texture, quantity and the extent to which the coat "fits the dog" are important points.
The four recognized colors are "Sable and White," "Tri-color," "Blue Merle" and "White." There is no preference among them. The "Sable and White" is predominantly sable (a fawn sable color of varying shades from light gold to dark mahogany) with white markings usually on the chest, neck, legs, feet and the tip of the tail. A blaze may appear on the foreface or backskull or both. The "Tri-color" is predominantly black, carrying white markings as in a "Sable and White" and has tan shadings on and about the head and legs. The "Blue Merle" is a mottled or "marbled" color predominantly blue-grey and black with white markings as in the "Sable and White" and usually has tan shadings as in the "Tri-color." The "White" is predominantly white, preferably with sable, tri-color or blue merle markings.
Dogs are from 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weigh from 60 to 75 pounds. Bitches are from 22 to 24 inches at the shoulder, weighing from 50 to 65 pounds. An undersize or an oversize Collie is penalized according to the extent to which the dog appears to be undersize or oversize.
Expression is one of the most important points in considering the relative value of Collies. Expression, like the term character is difficult to define in words. It is not a fixed point as in color, weight or height and it is something the uninitiated can properly understand only by optical illustration. In general, however, it may be said to be the combined product of the shape and balance of the skull and muzzle, the placement, size, shape and color of the eye and the position, size and carriage of the ears. An expression that shows sullenness or which is suggestive of any other breed is entirely foreign. The Collie cannot be judged properly until its expression has been carefully evaluated.
The Smooth Variety of Collie is judged by the same Standard as the Rough Variety, except that the references to the quantity and distribution of the coat are not applicable to the Smooth Variety, which has a short, hard, dense, flat coat of good texture, with an abundance of undercoat.