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This article is about the collie group of dog breeds and landraces. For other uses of the word "collie", see Collie (disambiguation)
The Rough Collie
is one of the most recognizable collie breeds, largely due to the Lassie
The Welsh Sheepdog
is a landrace working type, similar to the ancestors of many other collies
This Bearded Collie
shows how different collie breeds can be from each other
Although Border Collie has its own distinctive look, it is clear that it derives from the same ancestors as other collie breeds.
A collie is a distinctive type of herding dog, ultimately originating in Britain, especially in the upland areas of the north and west. It is a medium-sized, fairly lightly-built dog with a pointed snout, and many types have a distinctive white pattern over the shoulders. Collies are very active and agile, and most types have a very strong herding instinct. The collie type has spread through many parts of the world (especially Australia and North America) and has diversified into many landraces and breeds, sometimes with mixture from other dog types. Some of the collie types have remained as working dogs, used for herding cattle, sheep and other livestock, while others are kept as pets, show dogs or for dog sports, in which they display great agility, stamina and trainability.
Common use of the name "collie" in some areas is limited largely to certain breeds – such as to the Rough Collie in parts of the United States, or to the Border Collie in many rural parts of Great Britain. Many collie types do not actually include "collie" in their name.
The exact origin of the name "collie" is uncertain, although it may derive from "coal" – many collie types are black or black-and-white. Alternatively it may come from the related word colley, referring to the black-faced mountain sheep of Scotland. The collie name refers especially to dogs of Scottish origin, but the collie type is far more widespread in Britain and in many other parts of the world, often being called sheepdog or shepherd dog elsewhere.
Collies are generally medium-sized dogs of about 10 to 25 kg (22 to 55 lb), fairly lightly built with a pointed snout and erect or partly erect ears, giving a foxy impression. Cattle-herding types tend to be rather more stocky. Collies are always alert and are active and agile. The fur may be short, flat, or long, and the tail may be smooth, feathered, or bushy. Most types have a full tail, but some were traditionally docked, and some are naturally bobtailed or even tail-less. Types vary in colouration, with the usual base colours being black, black-and-tan, red, red-and-tan, or sable. Many types have white along with the main color, usually under the belly and chest, over the shoulders, and on parts of the face and legs, but sometimes leaving only the head coloured – or white may be absent or limited to the chest and toes (as in the Australian Kelpie). Merle colouration may also be present over any of the other colour combinations, even in landrace types. The most widespread patterns in many types are black-and-white or tricolour (black-and-tan and white).
Working collies are extremely energetic and agile dogs with great stamina, well able to run all day without tiring, even over very rough or steep ground. Working collies are of excellent working/obedience intelligence, and are instinctively highly motivated to work. Dogs of collie type or derivation occupy four of the first sixteen ranks in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, with the Border Collie being first. These characteristics generally make working strains unsuitable as pets, as few owners are able to give them the mental and physical challenges they need and, if not well fulfilled, they may become unhappy and badly behaved. However, in addition to herding work they are well suited to active sports such as sheepdog trials, flyball, disc dog and dog agility. Working strains have strong herding instincts, and some individuals can be single-minded to the point of obsessiveness. They are often intensely loyal.
Show and pet types
Certain types of collie (for example Rough Collies, Smooth Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs and some strains of Border Collie and other breeds) have been bred for many generations as pets and for the sport of conformation showing, not as herding dogs. These types have proved to be highly trainable, gentle, loyal, intelligent, and well suited as pets. Their gentleness and devotion also make them quite compatible with children. They are often more suitable as companions than as watch dogs, though the individual personalities of these dogs vary. The temperament of these breeds has featured in literature, film and popular television programmes. The novels of Albert Payson Terhune celebrated the temperament and companionship of collies and were very popular in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. More famously, the temperament and intelligence of the Rough Collie was exaggerated to mythic proportions in the character Lassie which has been the subject of many films, books and television shows from 1938 to the present.
Some collie breeds (especially the Rough Collie and the Smooth Collie) are affected by a genetic defect, a mutation within the MDR1 gene. Affected dogs are very sensitive to some drugs, such as Ivermectin, as well as to some antibiotics, opioids and steroids – over 100 drugs in total. Affected dogs also show a lower cortisol concentration than normal. The Verband für das Deutsche Hundewesen (The German Kennel Club) encourages breed clubs to test all breeding stock and avoid breeding from affected dogs.
A genetic disorder in collies is canine cyclic neutropenia, or Grey Collie Syndrome. This is a stem cell disorder. Puppies with this disorder are quite often mistaken as healthy Blue Merles, even though their color is a silver grey. Affected puppies rarely live more than 6 months of age. For a puppy to be affected, both the sire and the dam have to be carriers of the disorder.
Collie types and breeds
Herding dogs of collie type have long been widespread in Britain, and these can be regarded as a landrace from which a number of other landraces, types, and formal breeds have been derived, both in Britain and elsewhere. Many of them are working herding dogs, but some have been bred for conformation showing and as pets, sometimes losing their working instincts in the course of selection for appearance or for a more subdued temperament.
Herding types tend to be more variable in appearance than conformation and pet types, as they are bred primarily for their working ability, and appearance is thus of lower importance.
Dogs of collie type or ancestry include:
- Australian Cattle Dog. Dog used in Australia for herding cattle. Dogs of this type are also known as Queensland Heeler, Blue Heeler and Red Heeler. Erect ears, short-haired, mottled grey or red with solid colour patches on head, and no white.
- Australian Collie. Not actually a breed, but a popular cross between two other collie types, Australian Shepherd and Border Collie. Appearance intermediate between parents.
- Australian Kelpie. Developed in Australia from collies originally brought from Scotland and northern England. Erect ears, short-haired, usually black, black-and-tan or red-and-tan, with white limited to chest and toes.
- Australian Shepherd. Developed in the US, probably from dogs of British origin (of Farm Collie type), but now found in other parts of the world (including Australia). Floppy ears, medium-length fur, usually red, black or merle, with white over shoulders.
- Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog. Dog with stumpy tail used in Australia for herding cattle. Erect ears, lightly built, short fur, mottled grey or red with no white, and either no tail or a very short tail.
- Bearded Collie. Now largely a pet and show breed, but still of collie type, and some are used as working dogs. Floppy ears, long silky fur (including on face and legs), black, grey or fawn, and white over shoulders.
- Blue Lacy. Grey or red all over, short hair, floppy ears. Derived partly from the English Shepherd, with other non-collie breeds.
- Border Collie. The most well-known breed for herding sheep throughout the world. Originally developed in Scotland and Northern England. Not always suitable for herding cattle. Ears semi-erect or floppy, fur silky or fairly long, but short on face; red, black, black-and-tan or merle, all usually with white over shoulders, alternatively mostly white with coloured patches on head.
- Cumberland Sheepdog. An extinct breed similar to the Border Collie and possibly absorbed into that breed. An ancestor of the Australian Shepherd. Erect or semi-erect ears, dense fur, black with white only on face and chest.
- English Shepherd. Developed in the US from stock of Farm Collie type originally from Britain. Floppy ears, thick fur, red, black or black-and-tan, with white over shoulders. Not to be confused with the very different Old English Sheepdog.
- Farm Collie. Landrace herding dog found on many livestock farms in Britain, in the US (derived from British dogs), and perhaps elsewhere. In Britain, often simply called "farm dog", or, loosely, "Border Collie". Very variable in size and appearance.
- German Coolie, Koolie or Collie. Developed in Australia, probably from British collies. Erect ears, short fur, black, red, black-and-tan or merle, often with some white on neck or over shoulders.
- Huntaway. Developed in New Zealand from a mixture of breeds, probably including some collie – but it is not of collie type. Larger and more heavily built than most collies, floppy ears, most commonly black-and-tan with little white.
- Lurcher. Not a breed, but a cross of collie (or other herding dog or terrier) with Greyhound or other sight hound. Traditionally bred for poaching, with the speed of a sight hound but more obedient and less conspicuous. Variable in appearance, but with greyhound build: floppy ears, tall, slender, with small head, deep chest and "herring gut"; smooth, silky or rough coat, often brindled.
- McNab Shepherd. Developed in the US from British collies. Variable in size, erect or semi-erect ears, short fur, black or red usually with some white on face and chest.
- Old English Sheepdog. Derived from "Shags", hairy herding dogs, themselves derived from "Beards", the ancestors of the Bearded Collie. Modern dogs larger than most collies, no tail, floppy ears, long silky hair (including on face), usually grey and white. Not to be confused with the English Shepherd.
- Scotch Collie, separated into two types or breeds: Rough Collie and Smooth Collie. Now show and pet dogs, these were created by crossing working collies with other breeds (especially Borzois) and are of rather different type to other collies. Tall, long narrow face, semi-erect ears, most commonly sable or merle, with white over shoulders. Rough Collie with long silky fur on body, Smooth Collie with short fur.
- Shetland Sheepdog. A small show and pet breed developed in England partly from herding dogs originating in Shetland. The Shetland dogs were originally working herding dogs, not collies but of Spitz type (similar to the Icelandic Sheepdog). However in the development of the modern breed these Spitz-type dogs were heavily mixed with the Rough Collie and toy breeds, and are now similar in appearance to a miniature Rough Collie. Very small, nearly erect ears, long silky fur on body, most commonly sable or merle, with white over shoulders.
- Smithfield (dog). Originally a British type, now extinct: a large, strong collie, white or black-and-white, floppy-eared, used for droving cattle in the south-east of England, especially the Smithfield Market in London. The name is also used for modern dogs of somewhat similar type in Australia; it is also sometimes applied to the Australian Stumpy-tailed Cattle Dog and may have contributed to the Koolie.
- Welsh Sheepdog. Landrace herding dog from Wales. Erect or semi-erect ears, short or silky fur, red, black, black-and-tan or merle, all usually with white over shoulders.
- ^ Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1933: Collie, Colly
- ^ Hubbard, C L B, Dogs in Britain, A Description of All Native Breeds And Most Foreign Breeds in Britain. Macmillan & Co Ltd, 1948.
- ^ Iris Combe (1987). Herding Dogs: Their Origins and Development in Britain.
- ^ Border Collies unsuitable as pets (see warning near foot of page)
- ^ Advice about unsuitability of working dogs as pets
- ^ Typical working sheepdog sales page with warning about suitability as pets
- ^ Westminster Kennel Club description of the Rough Collie
- ^ Westminster Kennel Club description of the Smooth Collie
- ^ Westminster Kennel Club description of the Shetland Sheepdog
- ^ Multidrug Sensitivity
- ^ a b Iris Combe & Pat Hutchinson, The ancestral relationships of contemporary British herding breeds, 2004. Chart of relationships between various British herding dog breeds, and outline of their history.
- ^ John Chandler, The "Smithfield" Dog