The Border Collie is a well-balanced, medium-sized dog that displays grace and agility in equal measure with substance and stamina. He is energetic, alert, athletic, eager to please and keenly intelligent. This breed is famous for its herding skills, and today they are still extremely active in livestock fields and on farms world-wide. They have a wonderful disposition but are one of the most high-energy dogs in the canine community. People with limited time and space should not own Border Collies. This breed entered the American Kennel Club's Miscellaneous class in 1955. The breed standard was developed by the British Kennel Club in 1976. Border Collies were admitted to the American Kennel Club's Herding Group and became eligible for full AKC registration in October of 1995.
The Border Collie's history probably goes back to the first century B.C., when the Romans invaded Britain and brought with them dogs to herd their livestock. When the empire crumbled, Viking raiders are thought to have brought smaller spitz-type herding dogs with them, which they cross-bred with the larger Roman dogs to produce smaller, more agile sheep-herding dogs particularly well-suited to the climate and topography of the highlands bordering Scotland, England and Wales. These animals were bred for performance rather than appearance - and especially for their stock sense and innate ability to work long hours on rugged terrain with little human guidance.
All modern Border Collies trace back to a single dog named Old Hemp, who was born in the early 1890s in Northumberland, England. He competed in sheepdog trials from the age of one year and was undefeated in his lifetime, a record that apparently has never been matched. Other influential breed sires include Tommy and Sweep – both grandsons of Old Hemp – along with Craig, Wartime Cap and Wiston Cap, who was the 1965 International Champion and who possibly had the greatest influence on today's Border Collies. Many excellent dogs were exported to America beginning in the 1890s. The International Sheepdog Society (ISDS) was founded in Scotland in 1906. The name "Border Collie" was coined in or around 1915 by the then-secretary of the ISDS. "Collie" is thought to refer to the Scottish Highland colley sheep, with "colley" being an old Anglo-Saxon word for "black", pertaining to the black markings on those sheep. Another theory attributes the origin of the name to the fact that "collie" is Gaelic for "useful," which these dogs certainly are. Now headquartered in Bedford, England, the ISDS is still active in maintaining a registry and governing body for working Border Collies world-wide. Border Collies remain invaluable to ranchers and farmers and continue to excel in herding and agility competitions. Their intensity, agility, extraordinary instincts and trainability are prized equally with their physical size and attractive appearance. This breed is considered by most to be the world's premier sheep herding dog. They are affectionate with family and standoffish with strangers. They require vigorous exercise and mental stimulation to remain content.
The average lifespan of the Border Collie is 12 to 15 years. They may be prone to congenital deafness, familial cerebellar degeneration, epilepsy, hip dysplasia and certain ocular conditions such as nodular episclerokeratits, chronic superficial keratitis (pannus), primary lens luxation, cataracts, collie eye anomaly, generalized progressive retinal atrophy and other eye disorders. Their short-to-medium length coat requires regular grooming to prevent matting and dirt accumulation.
Border Collies are famous frisbee and agility champions. With an intense, watchful eye they tackle every task put before them with the focus of an Olympic Athlete. Watching a Border Collie at work, whether in a field or on an agility course is truly breathtaking. They love to take on new tasks, and make the ideal dog for farmers and ranchers.
Border Collies are some of the most intelligent dogs in the world, and they need a lot of physical and mental activity. They can be a challenge for even the most seasoned dog owner. They must have at least two hours of activity a day in order to stave off behavioral problems, and the behavioral problems that develop in Border Collies can be severe. Apartment living won't do for this breed, a home with lots of room and time to run, play catch, chase balls and practice agility are a much better fit. Farms would be the most ideal setting for a Border Collie. Originally bred to tend flocks of sheep, they would spend hours a day running and herding and are their happiest when they are at work. Farmers are guaranteed a loyal, energetic "employee" when they adopt a Border Collie.
If this breed does not have their physical and mental activity requirement met, they will develop anxiety and destructive behaviors. Many families are attracted to the breed because of their medium build and energy, but this energy can quickly become a problem if it is not channeled in the proper ways.
Border Collies are problem-solvers and can be easily trained to do just about any task. Intelligent and observant, they can also pick up new behaviors without being taught – but usually behaviors that are unwanted such as opening cabinets, closets and doors, where they can get into mischief.
Early training is essential with Border Collies. The earlier they learn to obey commands, the better. They like to be in charge and will take the opportunity to rule the roost, if given a little leeway. Positive reinforcement and a gentle but confident tone are needed when working with Border Collies. Their sensitive nature can cause them to shut down if they are treated with a heavy hand.
This breed excels in agility and physical competition. Border Collies are often the champions of frisbee and long jump competitions, and thrive on this type of activity.
Border Collies are the Houdinis of the dog world. Mere fences can not keep them from escaping into the world. It is important to keep an eye on your Border Collie at all times. They have been known to jump, dig, even open the locks of fences to get out and explore.
Early socialization and exposure to new experiences is very important, as Border Collies can be shy. If left unchecked, their reserved nature around strangers can change to aggression. They are often aggressive toward other animals, and cats or small pets should not be introduced into a Border Collie's home.
Herding is in their blood and Border Collies have been known to try and herd groups of people at parties, children, other animals, bicycles and even cars. Never leave a Border Collie off a leash when in an open area, or they will take chase and nip at people. They can also be injured when running after bikes and cars.
Separation anxiety is common in this breed, and can be severe. Because they need so much activity to stay happy, when they are bored and alone, anxiety sets I quickly. Border Collies will chew, bark, howl and dig when left alone for too long, unless they are properly exercised. Because they need so much exercise, it can be difficult to prevent severe anxiety.
The Border Collie is a well balanced, medium-sized dog of athletic appearance, displaying style and agility in equal measure with soundness and strength. Its hard, muscular body conveys the impression of effortless movement and endless endurance. The Border Collie is extremely intelligent, with its keen, alert expression being a very important characteristic of the breed. Any aspect of structure or temperament that would impede the dog's ability to function as a herding dog should be severely faulted. The Border Collie is, and should remain, a natural and unspoiled true working sheep dog whose conformation is described herein. Honorable scars and broken teeth incurred in the line of duty are acceptable.
Size, Proportion, Substance
The height at the withers varies from 19" to 22" for males, 18" to 21" for females. The body, from prosternum to point of buttocks, is slightly longer than the height at the withers with the length to height ratio being approximately 10:9. Bone must be strong, medium being correct but lighter bone is preferred over heavy. Overall balance between height, length, weight and bone is crucial and is more important than any absolute measurement. Dogs must be presented in hard working condition. Excess body weight is not to be mistaken for muscle or substance. Any single feature of size appearing out of proportion should be considered a fault.
Expression is intelligent, alert, eager, and full of interest. Eyes are set well apart, of moderate size, oval in shape. The color encompasses the full range of brown eyes, dogs having body colors other than black may have noticeably lighter eye color. Blue eyes (with one, both or part of one or both eyes being blue) in dogs other than merle, are acceptable but not preferred. Eye rims should be fully pigmented, lack thereof considered a fault according to degree. Ears are of medium size, set well apart, one or both carried erect and/or semi-erect (varying from 1/4 to 3/4 of the ear erect). When semi-erect, the tips may fall forward or outward to the side. Ears are sensitive and mobile. Skull is relatively flat and moderate in width. The skull and muzzle are approximately equal in length. In profile the top of the skull is parallel with the top of the muzzle. Stop moderate, but distinct. The muzzle is strong, tapering slightly to the nose. The underjaw is strong and well developed. A domed, blocky or very narrow skull is faulty according to degree, as is cheekiness and a snipey muzzle. Nose color matches the primary body color. Nostrils are well developed. Lack of nose pigmentation is a fault according to degree. Bite: Teeth and jaws are strong, meeting in a scissors bite. Complete dentition is required. Missing molars or pre-molars are serious faults as is an undershot or overshot bite.
Neck, Topline, Body
Neck is of proportional length to the body, strong and muscular, slightly arched and blending smoothly into the shoulders. Topline: Back is level from behind the withers to the slightly arched, muscular loins, falling to a gently sloping croup. Body is athletic in appearance with a deep, moderately broad chest reaching no further than the point of the elbow. The rib cage is moderately long with well sprung ribs. Loins moderately deep and short, muscular, slightly arched and with a slight but distinct tuck up. The tail is set on low and is moderately long with the bone reaching at least to the hock. The ideal tail carriage is low when the dog is concentrating on a given task and may have a slight upward swirl at the end like a shepherd's crook. In excitement, it may be raised proudly and waved like a banner, showing a confident personality. A tail curled over the back is a fault.
Forelegs should be parallel when viewed from front, pasterns slightly sloping when viewed from side. Because sufficient length of leg is crucial for the type of work the breed is required to do, the distance from the wither to the elbow is slightly less than from the elbow to the ground and legs that are too short in proportion to the rest of the body are a serious fault. The shoulder blades are long, well laid back and well-angulated to the upper arm. Shoulder blades and upper arms are equal in length. There is sufficient width between the tops of the shoulder blades to allow for the characteristic crouch when approaching and moving stock. The elbows are neither in nor out. Feet are compact, oval in shape; pads deep and strong, toes moderately arched and close together with strong nails of moderate length. Dewclaws may be removed.
Broad and muscular, in profile sloping gracefully to the low set tail. The thighs are long, broad, deep and muscular. Stifles are well turned with strong hocks that may be either parallel or very slightly turned in. Dewclaws should be removed. Feet, although slightly smaller, are the same as front.
Two varieties are permissible, both having close-fitting, dense, weather resistant double coats with the top coat either straight or wavy and coarser in texture than the undercoat which is soft, short and dense. The rough variety is medium in length without being excessive. Forelegs, haunches, chest and underside are feathered and the coat on face, ears, feet, fronts of legs is short and smooth. The smooth variety is short over entire body, is usually coarser in texture than the rough variety and may have slight feathering on forelegs, haunches, chest and ruff. Neither coat type is preferred over the other. Seasonal shedding is normal and should not be penalized. The Border Collie's purpose as an actively working herding dog shall be clearly evident in its presentation. Excess hair on the feet, hock and pastern areas may be neatened for the show ring. Whiskers are untrimmed. Dogs that are overly groomed (trimmed and/or sculpted) should be penalized according to the extent.
The Border Collie appears in all colors or combination of colors and/or markings. Solid color, bi-color, tri-color, merle and sable dogs are to be judged equally with no one color or pattern preferred over another. White markings may be clear white or ticked to any degree. Random white patches on the body and head are permissible but should not predominate. Color and markings are always secondary to physical evaluation and gait.
The Border Collie is an agile dog, able to suddenly change speed and direction while maintaining balance and grace. Endurance is its trademark. The Border Collie's most used working gaits are the gallop and a moving crouch (stealth) which convert to a balanced and free trot, with minimum lift of the feet. The head is carried level with or slightly below the withers. When shown, Border Collies should move on a loose lead and at moderate speed, never raced around the ring with the head held high. When viewed from the side the trot is not long striding, yet covers the ground with minimum effort, exhibiting facility of movement rather than a hard driving action. Exaggerated reach and drive at the trot are not useful to the Border Collie. The topline is firm. Viewed from the front, action is forward and true without wasted motion. Viewed from the rear, hindquarters drive with thrust and flexibility with hocks turning neither in nor out, moving close together but never touching. The legs, both front and rear, tend to converge toward the center line as speed increases. Any deficiency that detracts from efficient movement is a fault.
The Border Collie is energetic, intelligent, keen, alert, and responsive. An intense worker of great tractability, it is affectionate towards friends but may be sensibly reserved towards strangers. When approached, the Border Collie should stand its ground. It should be alert and interested, never showing fear, dullness or resentment. Any tendencies toward viciousness, nervousness or shyness are very serious faults.
Any deviation from the foregoing should be considered a fault, the seriousness of the fault depending upon the extent of the deviation.
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Sources: American Kennel Club