View Full Version : Are Border Collies and Regular Collies closely related?

07-12-2001, 01:40 PM
I know of at least two dog breeds that have the word collie in their name: Border Collies (medium sized black and white dogs that are expert sheep herders) and just plain Collies (like Lassie). From what I can tell, they are no more closely related to each other than other dog breeds so why do they have such a similar name?

07-12-2001, 02:29 PM
Besides the two breeds you noted, there are also the smooth collie and the bearded collie. My book Dogs by David Alderton (published 1993 by Dorling Kindersley Limited, London) notes that the bearded collie and smooth and rough varieties all originated in Great Britain in the 1500s. (The border collie originated in Great Britain in the 1700s.)

Merriam Webster Online (http://www.m-w.com) says the word 'collie' comes "probably from English dialect colly black."

This website (http://www.chelsea-collies.com/history1.html#anchor17766) says:
The word "Collie" is as obscure as the breed itself. Over a period of time the name has been spelled many different ways: Coll, Colley, Coally and Coaly. Generally, the most accepted origin of the word is "Coll"-the Anglo-Saxon word for black. The black-faced sheep of Scotland came to be called colleys and the dogs that guarded them soon became "colleys". Regrettably, unless new information turns up, this part of our breed's heritage will never be known.

Another opinion (http://beardie.net/hobo/description/bearded_collie_history/):
The name "Collie" itself has always been pondered over as to it's origin. Most who are not familiar with the breed wonder if this implies that the bearded Collie is somehow related to the Collie dog known as the "Rough Collie" as in the famous Lassie series. It is generally recognized that the term "Collie" as part of the breed name does not imply this relationship, rather it is some word that describes the function of the dog (as does "sheep dog"). Some feel that the term "Collie" is derived from the pronunciation of the word "coaley" - referring to the black faced sheep found in Scotland. Others feel that "Collie" refers to the Gaelic word meaning "useful."

Hope this helps.

07-12-2001, 02:38 PM
Thank you FireUnderpantsBoobs! That was pretty fast for such a thorough response.

07-12-2001, 02:57 PM
Actually, Border collies and rough collies (which is the proper terminology for the "Lassie" variety of collie; there are also Smooth Collies with shorter hair) are pretty closely related. The origin of the Border collie is generally considered to be the border area of England and Scotland, hence the name. The rough collie is considered to have been a Scottish dog originally, which Queen Victoria took a shine to when she saw them in working trials and was impressed by them. She decided to keep some of her own, thus increasing their popularity even among people who found their herding abilities unnecessary. It was probably from that point forward that the Border Collie and the rough collie became more widely divergent breeds. Most likely the main difference between them is that the rough collie started to be bred for its looks, whereas the Border Collie has been bred for its working capabilities.

Here is a site with a picture of a rough collie from the late 1800's, which looks a lot more like a Border Collie than it does the modern rough collie:


This site also discusses the origin of the word "collie."

Also, here's a tree diagram showing the historic genetic relationships between collies and sheepdogs:


Besides the fact that the breeds are still similar in looks, they also share an inherited eye disease called Collie Eye Anamoly, which is a pretty strong indicator that they happen to share a genetic heritage.

And here's a site that will tell you anything you want to know about collies:


07-12-2001, 03:49 PM
What about the Shetland Sheepdog ( http://www.assa.org/ )? I'm surprised I haven't seen in mentioned since it seems like a miniature Collie to me.

07-12-2001, 06:28 PM
Keep in mind that you can't identify the breed by coloration alone. Border collies come in many colors, and Shetland Sheepdogs in almost as many. I'm not sure how much variation is allowed among rough collies. Black (black-and-white) is the most common color and often preferred by shepherds, along with tri-colored (black, white and tan). Red (red-and-white, and red-tri--red, white and tan) is not uncommon. Red in a Border Collie (which is called chocolate in Australia), is actually liver or brown (as in the Springer Spaniel). Saddle-patterned (a variant of tricolor), and Blue (or grey) is less common, as is blue merle, red merle, sable, tan, black-and-tan, and brindle. All of these colors usually come with varying amounts of white, the traditional "collie markings", usually a white blaze on the face, a white collar, feet, chest and tail tip. Some dogs are speckled or ticked.
http://www.gis.net/~shepdog/BC_Museum/Permanent/BC_Looks_Health.html You can see examples of these colorations by clicking the link.

Sam Stone
07-13-2001, 12:00 AM
Complicating matters is the fact that Border Collies were never bred to look a certain way - the breed standard only specified working ability. So a Border Collie can have a smooth coat, a rough coat, any combination of colors, any ear-set or tail configuration, etc.

The breed came to some kind of uniformity mainly through the procreative efforts of two dogs, named Old Hemp and Wiston Cap. From The Border Collie FAQ:

Old Hemp, a tri-color dog, was born September 1893 and died May 1901. He was bred by Adam Telfer from Roy, a black and tan dog, and Meg, a black-coated, strong-eyed dog. Hemp was a quiet, powerful dog that sheep responded to easily. Many shepherds used him for stud on their bitches, and Hemp's working style became the Border Collie style. It is believed that Old Hemp's blood runs in the veins of almost all Border Collies today.

Wiston Cap is the dog that the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS) badge portrays in the characteristic Border Collie herding pose. He was the most popular and used stud dog in the history of the breed, and appears in a huge percentage of pedigrees today. Bred by W. S. Hetherington and trained and handled by John Richardson, Cap was a biddable and good-natured dog. His blood lines all trace back to the early registered dogs of the stud book, and to J. M. Wilson's Cap, who occurs sixteen times within seven generations in his pedigree. Wiston Cap sired three Supreme Champions and is grand-sire of three others, one of which is E. W. Edwards' Bill, who won the championship twice.

I'm a Border Collie person. Our current dog, Lucy, is from championship lines that trace back to Wiston Cap. Border Collies have one great need: Exercise, both physical and mental. They have immense energy, and are incredibly smart. That combination makes them either a wonderful working animal or pet, or a nightmare. If you take the time to train them and exercise them daily, you'll be rewarded with one of the best companions you'll ever find. But Border Collies HAVE to work. If you don't work them, they'll find their own. And that may be digging up the carpet, chewing through your walls, or tearing up the lawn.

But keep them occupied and happy, and they are wonderful. Our dog has never damaged a thing in our home, even as a puppy. She's so gentle our toddler could pull her ears hard to enough to make yelp and she wouldn't dream of even snapping at her. Yet she's a great watchdog, and is always alert and ready to protect the family. At 7 years of age, she's still as playful as a puppy, and has her own collection fo squeaky toys that occupy her for hours. I just love her to death.

Here's Lucy (http://members-http-3.rwc1.sfba.home.net/danhanson/House/LUCY3.JPG)