Border Collie Colors: Are They Only Black and White?

Last Updated on April 21, 2023

No, Border Collies are not only black and white. On the contrary, seventeen standard colors are recognized by the American Kennel Club, and there are quite a few more that can even occur with these beautiful pups.

Group of Border Collies sitting on the grass

Border Collies come in a variety of different colors to suit all different preferences.

We are all familiar with the standard colors, like black and white and red and white, but you can also find these dogs in lilac, chocolate, cream, and slate and with various coat colors and patterns like merle, sable, and even brindle.

But what color Border Collie is most common? Is getting a rare colored Border Collie advisable? And do the different colors influence health and personality? Discover all this and more in the following article.

How Do Border Collie Color Genetics Work?

The coat color genetics of Border Collies are responsible for their many different colors.

A mother Border Collie and her puppies
A mother Border Collie and her 6 weeks old puppies

Eumelanin and phaeomelanin are the two pigments that determine their coat colors. Eumelanin is the black factor, allowing for brown, blue, or even other shades. 

The gene containing the dilutes to create all these colors can affect the dog’s eyes and nose colors. The other pigment, phaeomelanin, is red in the default color.

“Red” carries the deep red shade and cream, orange, gold, and yellow.

Do their coats change colors as they age?

Yes, Border Collies change a bit as they grow, like many other dog breeds. This is due to pigment progression. So, a dog with a light tan coat can become golden, or a pup born with dark brown fur could become glossy black. They tend to begin changing color as they reach six months of age.

17 Standard Border Collie Colors Recognized by AKC

1. Black Border Collie

A black Border Collie dog
Source: @cirillazireael / IG

Border Collies that are absolutely all black are very rare. When most people refer to a black Border Collie, they are referring to the standard Black and White dog with the black being the base coat and the white a marking.

2. Blue Border Collie

A white and blue Border Collie dog
Source: @bordercollie_vinamz / IG

Blue Border Collies may be mistaken for black-colored ones due to their dark shade when they are still small. This grey and bluish color only emerges as the pup, born with a black coat, starts to grow older.

When you look closer, the progressive ash grey coat can be observed. 

You get this color in a dog with a white base coat with the black ticking gene. Blue Border Collies are of the rarest colors currently. They typically have dark grey noses and green, brown, or grey eyes. 

3. Blue Merle Border Collie

A blue merle Border Collie dog
Source: @nova_bluemerle_collie / IG

The Merle Border Collie wears the most beautiful color of all dog coats. It looks very impressive with a sprinkled flecked pattern to their coats.

It is also known as a dapple pattern with varying spots across the coat. These spots are created with different tones and make them seem multicolored. 

With this variety, every coat is unique and can never be repeated twice. You often see this breed in this pattern, either in red or blue-colored coats.

4. Brindle Border Collie

A brindle Border Collie dog
Source: @brindleborders / IG

Brindle Border Collies have had breeders and pet owners questioning their origin, for they couldn’t agree that the brindle pattern was natural for purebreds.

They thought it could be acquired by crossing with other canines; however, professional breeders and some kennel clubs proved that they are purebred.

These dogs look exceptional and exciting with any acceptable color as a base and a darker tiger-striped pattern.

Be careful not to mistake a Brindle Border Collie as a mix between other breeds, for their patterns are genetically coded into them.

5. Gold Border Collie

Adorable gold Border Collie dog
Source: @benben_bordercollie / IG

To acquire this gold coloration, the coat pheomelanin, which is red in default, is subjected to dilution. “Blonds” are the names these Gold Border Collies are called due to their coat color. 

They are also known as “Australian Red”, a recessive Border Collie color that has a shade of very light cream to a rich dark golden color.

6. Red Border Collie

A red Border Collie dog
Source: @bordercollie_kantosa / IG

The Red Border Collie comes in different tones of red. They vary from very dark to light and even almost cream.

Like the black and white ones, they are the most common colors and are always accepted by kennel clubs.

Meet a beautiful Red Border Collie named Lacy in this blog:

7. Sable Border Collie

The Sable Border Collie’s unique pattern color is achieved by a deep base in chocolate black or tan with the same strands having white or black on the tips.

Sable Border Collie dog
Source: @rockyflashbordercollie / IG

They mostly come with a tan-based coat and with black tipping. The combination of these two colors is responsible for the dark or lightness of their fur.

They tend to appear more on the light side, also having some white markings on various parts of their bodies. 

8. Sable Merle

Sable merle Border Collie dog on trail
Source: @journeybypaws / IG

Having inherited the incomplete or merle gene, the Sable Merle Border Collie portrays a black-tipped coat with some dark color patches on its skin.

These dark patches appear on the ears, body, and tail, while the neck and chest remain white. Possibly a few speckles may be seen on their noses and paw-pads.

9. White and Black

White and black Border Collie dog
White and black Border Collie dog lying on the railways

The Black and White Border Collie is this breed’s most commonly seen color and is very easy to distinguish. While they are almost absolutely black, they always have white patches on their head, chest, neck, feet, and tail. 

10. Red Merle

Red merle Border Collie dog standing

The Red Merle Border Collie is unique and appears to be stepping out of a fantasy movie. Its red base coat and markings of white on the chest, neck, face, and tail with dark patches added make it look very impressive.

This coat color is the outcome of a gene mutation that occurred in Scotland for the first time.

12. White and Blue

Two white & blue border collie dogs
Source: @superhikingdogs / IG

Very much the same as white and black variety, the White and Blue Border Collie also has tinges of darker grey in different shades in their predominantly black base color.

This can make their coat shine blue in certain lights and results from a dilution gene.

13. White and Blue Merle

White and blue merle Border Collie dog
Source: @animalmedicalcentrejville / IG

Being one of the rarest colors, the White and Blue Merle Border Collie presents clear or blue eyes. Their white base coat primarily covers 80% of their color pattern, with the blue merle ticking and patches visible on the remainder.

14. Lilac Border Collie

A lilac Border Collie dog showcasing awards
Source: @norleabordercollies / IG

Lilac Border Collies can be very sought-after, all because of their unique and not-so-common color. These dogs have an extraordinary and beautiful appearance. Lilac is a combination of blue and chocolate being diluted two times. 

The first dilution gene changes black to brown, and the second dilutes the black color to blue or grey. To produce Lilac offspring, both parents must have chocolate and dilute genes.

15. Saddleback Sable

A saddleback sable Border Collie dog
Source: @savannahbordercollie / IG

Saddleback Sable Border Collies are easily distinguished by their unique markings and colorings. While they seem similar to tri-color Border Collies, they have three different colors.

With this variety, the sable color is spread further. They also have some tan on their face or body.

16. White and Red Merle

White red merle Border Collie dog sitting in the frontyard
Source: @theborderbordercollies / IG

A dog with Red Merle in its coat has beautiful dappled red colors. The unusual White and Red Merle Border Collie is mainly white with patches of this red merle on its coat. This color is scarce.

17. White Ticked Border Collie

A white ticked Border Collie dog drinking water
Source: @ash_obwankenobi / IG

True to its name, the White Ticked Border Collie has tiny black ticking on the white markings on their faces and legs. It is recognized by the different kennel organizations and is not regarded as a flaw or an unaccepted phenomenon.

Recognized But Non-Accepted Border Collie Colors by AKC

18. White and Gold

A white and gold Border Collie dog
Source: @limeydc / IG

A White and Gold Border Collie’s coat will have spots of gold but will be predominantly white or cream. They seem to be extremely light in color. Experts, however, will quickly describe them as white with tones of blond or gold fur.

19. Seal

A seal Border Collie dog
Source: @xirgram / IG

Seal Border Collies are often confused with dark red or black dogs. Being an unusual color, these dogs carry an incomplete expression of the sable gene.

They look brown with tan or faded areas that one is almost unaware of. They can be as light as a chocolate brown or nearly black

The seal shade is rarely found in Border Collies. The tips of their hairs in different colors are usually only noticeable on the dogs’ shoulders, sides, or hind ends.

20. Slate

Slate Border Collie celebrates birthday
Source: @mumudaily0723 / IG

The slate coat of the Border Collie appears a few shades lighter than the blue color. It is primarily a silver-grey mixture which can vary between more or less grey, depending on the amount of white they have.

Heavy markings on the head or face show up a silvery look.

21. White and Seal

White and seal Border Collie dog
Source: @bodi.ary / IG

Border Collies that are called White and Seal have a base color of white with a seal coat in black that appears reddish in the sunlight. The black color often can’t be recognized when the sun doesn’t shine. 

Can Border Collies Be Tri-Colored?

Black tri and red tri Border Collies waiting for dog treats
Source: @zayn_the_bordercollie / IG

Yes, you can find a few variations of Tri-colored Border Collies. They are not very common, but neither are they all that rare.

These dogs typically have a predominate base color, with points, meaning their paws, legs, muzzle, and ears, in a different color, with white patches.

  • Black Tri-Colored: These are primarily black with tan points on the face, legs, and tails. To complete the coloring, they also have the usual white markings.
  • Red Tri-Colored: It has a predominantly dark coat. On its face, ears, feet, and tail might be some tan points and white markings to finish the three appointed colors.
  • Chocolate Tri-Colored: This dog is primarily brown with a few white features and additional red or copper coloration on the paws, ears, and face.
  • Blue Tri-Colored: This is quite an exciting coat color in that the dog has a blue base coat with tan or copper and white markings on the chest, tail, legs, face, and ears.
  • Blue Merle Tri-Colored: Being a dilution of the merle version, a black dog will be a soft grey or, as they often get called, “blue.” Most dogs that have a Merle coat are considered Tri-Color.
  • Red Merle Tri-Colored: A red dog’s merle will be pale red. The merle never occurs on the white markings but only on the colored parts of the body. 
  • Slate Merle with Tri: The slate merle dog has random matches of blue coloring that are a lighter grey. It can be very challenging to distinguish a slate merle dog from a blue merle one, but usually, the slate merle’s nose is grey, whereas the blue merle dog has a black nose.
  • Lilac Merle with Tri: Merle can also occur with lilac-colored dogs. These dogs are scarce as you need two dilute genes to show these colors. Tri-colored lilac merle dogs will typically have darker tan or red points.

Coat Markings and Patterns

In addition to the standard coat colors, you can find various patterns and markings on the coat of a Border Collie. These include tick markings, tan points, brindle points, and many more. 

1. With White Markings

A Border Collie dog with white markings
Source: @eco_nicho / IG

Border Collies can come with white ticked markings, white markings with tan points, and also with tan points ticked. There are also just white markings. In fact, almost all Border Collie dogs have white markings. 

2. With Merle Markings

White and black Border Collie dog in autumn forest
White and black Border Collie dog laying on the autumn forest

The Merle is perhaps the least common color pattern for this breed. It is exceptional and is presented in mottled patches of color accompanied by dogs with blue or odd-colored eyes.

Merle markings are also called a dapple pattern. Merle dogs tend to have blue eyes. 

As this pattern can appear on a solid background or on a piebald pattern, it’s usually found in red or blue-colored coats.

3. With Tan Points

A Border Collie with tan points

Tan points are a common Border Collie’s marking. These are mostly found on the ears, face, chest, legs, and tail and are darker than their base color, and are usually found in the tri-color variety.

They may also occur on the backside, or on top of a white or grayish base, as in the Blue Tri-color Border Collie. 

4. With White Markings and Tan Points

We are used to seeing black Border Collies with white markings on their bodies. Most of the time, it’s just a touch of white on their coat, like the back and tail.

These white markings can be combined with tan-colored points, which refer to a dog’s nose, lips, eyelids, toenails, or paw pads.

5. With White Ticked Markings

Border Collie with white ticked markings
Source: @marvel.loves.capcom / IG

The standard white markings of the Border Collie breed can also have some tickings. Tickings are darker spots on a lighter base-colored coat, making it look like someone has ticked the dog’s coat with a pen.

6. With Tan Points and White Ticked Markings 

Occasionally, a Border Collie can present with all different types of markings. For instance, he might have a white chest that is ticked with little black spots and tan points on his ears, tail, and paws.

These dogs are also known as tri-colored Border Collies.

7. With White Markings and Brindle Points

Brindle comes more as a striped pattern than a color. In Border Collies, this marking does not typically cover the dog’s entire coat.

It appears more as a point pattern that sometimes also has ticking on top of it. Points usually appear on the ears, but the face, legs, and tail can also be outlined by a color shade that is darker than the base color.

8. With Brindle Points and White Ticked Markings

Much like the previous color markings mentioned, on rare occasions, a dog with standard white markings will have small tickings of darker color on these patches.

This may also be combined with brindle points that make your dog look like he has tiger stripes.

What is the Rarest Border Collie Color?

Rare lilac Border Collie dog
Source: @sontin.bordercollies / IG

It is agreed among most people and breeders as well that Lilac Border Collies are the rarest of all. Added to this, the Lilacs are also the most stunningly beautiful of all Border Collie colors.

Sometimes they are also described as fawn or even silver

Combining a rare color with a rare pattern is also pretty unique in this breed, like Slate merle with tri, Red brindle, Slate sable, and Lilac Merle with tri.

Is it okay to get a rare color of this breed?

Of course, it’s okay to get a rare colored Border Collie. Suppose one can be lucky enough to come across a breeder that can present you with a rare color.

That said, you will still have to be open-minded and check on the pup’s history, parents, and overall health condition. 

In this way, you will be sure not to lose money and avoid disappointment as breeders that specifically market litters of rare-colored pups often interbreed or even crossbreed their dogs to create these unusual, sought-after color variations.

Links Between Color and Health

Red Border Collie dog sitting in the red leaves plant
Stunning red Border Collie dog sitting in the red leaves plant

Do Border Collie colors affect behavior? No, there have never been behavioral problems or even special features that have been affected by dog colors.

They are highly intelligent, active, and playful dogs that excel at agility challenges and love to have a job to do.

Extensive amounts of white in Border Collies may cause a health problem or two. Lack of pigment around the eyes can be responsible for eye infections and even blindness. Even hearing problems could be a concern.

Conclusion: What is the Best Border Collie Color?

Border Collies are very rich and beautiful in a variety of coat colors with interesting markings, patterns, and color points.

There are so many colors for this breed, and they all are beautiful. Depending on everyone’s preferences, different colors will appeal to different people. 

Although many colors are stunningly gorgeous, not all of them are always available to pick from.

So, it will be wise not to get stuck on a color preference but rather to find out more about the temperament and character of the pups available to you, especially about their overall health.

Do you have a Border Collie at home? What coat color did you choose? We’d love to hear about your special pup in the comments below.

Further reading: 

Do you love Border Collies? You can learn more about this beautiful breed by reading these articles.

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