The Border Collie is a medium-sized dog breed, well known for its high level of intelligence. It is one of the most popular breeds here at Yorkshire Vets. In fact, Border Collies are the eighth most common breed we see across our surgeries. To find out more about the breed, and its suitability for your family, read on below.
Primarily a working breed, the Border Collie appearance can be slightly more varied than that of other breeds. While there is a set breed standard for show dogs, many of the Border Collies you will see day to day may fall outside of this standard. Females typically weigh 12–19 kg, with males slightly larger at 14–20 kg. The breed has an athletic, deep-chested build, with well-muscled hind legs. The most startling feature of the Border Collie is its piercing stare. Eye colour is normally blue to brown, but it is not uncommon to see the breed with eyes of differing colours. Border Collies have a medium length double-layered coat, that can be smooth or rough. They can be heavy shedders, particularly those with thicker coats. Though the most common colouring is black and white, a huge number of colour variations exist in the breed.
The Border Collie is largely recognised as the most intelligent breed of dog. The combination of this intelligence and a working background means that they can be a demanding pet. In order to keep a Border Collie mentally and physically stimulated, it is important that they receive a large amount of regular exercise. This makes them excellent dogs for people who spend a lot of time walking or enjoy other outdoor activities. They are also well suited to dog sports, such as flyball and agility and can thrive when given high levels of training. Understimulated Border Collies can become very destructive, often chewing furniture or digging holes. An unsocialised Border Collie can display herding instincts towards other pets and children, but early socialisation can limit these tendencies.
Border Collies usually have a lifespan of around 10-14 years. As with any breed, they can be prone to a number of health problems. The most common conditions to affect Border Collies are hip dysplasia, epilepsy and Collie eye anomaly (CEA). CEA is an inherited condition that can affect dogs to different degrees, from mild vision problems to complete blindness. The breed can also suffer from progressive retinal atrophy. Border Collies can also suffer from hearing problems. Vision and Hearing problems are more likely to occur in dogs with two copies of the merle gene. These dogs are sometimes referred to as ‘double merle’.
The Border Collie earned its name from its origins around the Anglo-Scottish border. The breed was first developed from a number of native British working breeds in the late 19th century. These dogs were selectively bred to produce an ideal herding dog, primarily used for sheep herding. The name Border Collie was first coined in 1915 to differentiate the breed from other Collie dogs, such as the Rough Collie. In the years following its establishment, Border Collies became known as the leading breed for sheep herding. Breeders of working Border Collies have been resistant to the establishment of a breed standard, believing that breeding for appearance would compromise the working ability of the breed.
Two of the most well known Blue Peter dogs were Border Collies. In the 70’s, Shep was a regular presence on screen with John Noakes, while in the 2000’s, Meg appeared alongside Matt Baker. Both of these dogs eventually retired alongside the presenting companions. A number of Border Collies have become well-known thanks to their ability to understand large numbers of words. Chief among these is Chaser, who can understand a staggering 1022 words! Border Collies have also appeared in a number of films and TV shows, including Babe and Little House on the Prairie.