The Border Collies

Although one of the most useful of all working dogs and possessing a history of splendid achievement for more than 300 years, Border Collies are not recognized as purebred dogs by show-promoting authorities in any part of the world except Australia.

Border Collie

Border Collies are kept and worked wherever, sheep are bred, and are easily the world’s most popular sheepdog.

The breed has a phenomenal record of success in sheepdog trials in all countries, and registrations in our working sheepdog register outnumber Kelpies by four to one in this State.

As the name implies, the breed originated in the border districts of England and Scotland.

The name “Collie” naturally suggests Scottish origin, but many northern Englishmen claim that the breed belongs “south of the border.”

The dogs are known mainly as “English Shepherds” in the United States.

Border Collies must not be confused with Scottish Collies and the other types of sheepdog found in Scotland. They are a very different type of dog, with the overall intelligence of the sheepdogs of all countries.

Many readers may wonder why these dogs are not accepted as purebreds, by show controlling bodies in other parts of the world.

The breed is a handsome one and many are kept as backyard pets and companions.

Failure to recognize them is due to strong objections which most working-dog owners have to show people introducing other blood to “improve” its looks.

This has been done with quite a number of breeds, and some varieties are radically different in type to what they were 100 years ago.

Another reason why the breed has not been recognized is that many differences are noted in Border Collies of undoubted purity of lineage.

Some are very heavily coated, while others are almost smooth; some have pricked ears, some dropped and others semi-erect ears.

Size is another factor which causes confusion — many good ones would not weigh more than 30 pounds, while others of equal merit would scale around the 45-pound mark.

The type varies considerably. Slightly built dogs are found in one part of Great Britain, while those in other parts are very heavily built.

There is very little unanimity among breeders about what is desirable; the main thing is that the dog shall be capable of performing his work with maximum efficiency in his own particular district.

While official show standards in Australia leave something to be desired, those responsible for framing them have done quite a good job, and the description presents a well-balanced dog, capable of doing his job under most conditions.

Heavily coated Border Collies are not favored in Australia, as they are affected by our hot summers and the big, heavily built dog is in much the same position for this reason.

The Australian owner seems to seek a medium-sized dog, a little larger than our native Kelpie, but somewhat more rugged in build right through. This is the type most generally found in all States.

Some very high-class specimens have been imported from England and Scotland.

The breed has been crossed with our Kelpies to develop greater utility value, and the progeny of these matings are accepted for registration.

Many competitors at our major show trials are crossbreds and have quite a good reputation in trials as well as on the farm.

Mating of crossbreds with one another is not advised. Many good judges consider this “mongrelizing” and claim that much of the poor quality work seen at important trials is due to this bad practice.

It is generally accepted that the Kelpie is outstanding in working Merino sheep, while the Border Collie has the edge on him in handling English and crossbred sheep.

They are great yard dogs and are used quite a lot on dairy cattle in the southern parts of New South Wales.

The breed has made tremendous strides in public favor as show dogs and pets in recent years, and country breeders find little difficulty in disposing of their surplus stock for this purpose.

The show dog owner naturally looks for a flashily marked dog with the requisite show points, but as all Border Collies were brought here for working purposes, it can be accepted that practically every show dog is either a worker himself or comes directly from working parents.

Most show people are beginning to realize that the dog’s utility value must be kept up if the breed is to prosper, and breeders are taking much more interest in the working side of the dog than they did some years ago.

This applies generally to all sporting and working breeds and is a good sign.

Show entries have more than doubled in the past couple of years and the future of the Border Collie is very bright.

Body-color is black with white or tan and white markings.

The head of the Border Collie is typical of the sheepdog family, fairly broad between the ears, well-defined stop and a strong muzzle.

The exaggerated length of the muzzle is undesirable and teeth should be strong and level. Ears may be semi-erect, rose (carried like those on a Greyhound or Whippet) or pricked. Semi-erect ears are preferred in the judging ring.

Eyes are set well apart and should be dark brown in color. They should be bright and intelligent in expression, particularly when the dog is on the alert.

Absolute soundness in legs and feet is essential as in any working dog. Feet are well arched in toe, somewhat oval in shape, with great depth of pad and strong toenails.

The body is shorter and more robust than that of the Kelpie and finishes with a moderately long, low-set tail, which is well covered with fairly long hair. The characteristic upward swirl at the tip of the tail is seen in this breed as in all other varieties of Collies.

The average height is about 21-22 inches at the shoulder and weight about 35-37 pounds.


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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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