The Border Collie: A Closer Look at this Intelligent Dog Breed

Last Updated on April 24, 2023

Considered as the world’s best herding dog, the Border Collie is a hardworking, energetic dog breed famous for many things.

But did you know that the beloved Border Collie was initially classified as the Scotch Sheep Dog? 

Border Collie dog lie on hay

Let’s take a closer look at this clever canine and find out if they are the best friend you’re looking for.

Where Did the Border Collie Originate?

Border Collie sitting on the grass full of fallen leaves
Source: @jazzthecollie / IG

Collie is Scottish for sheepdog, and the border of England and Scotland developed the breed in the 1800s. Therefore, this breed received the name Border Collie.

How did Border Collies come to be, though? They’re close to wolves in the sense that they have similar stalking skills and prey drive.

However, Border Collies and Collies are related, coming from a cross between a Roman dog breed and a Viking breed.

In the 1800s, the Borders were imported to New Zealand and Australia, but the breed was not specified.

Border Collies were bred as champion herders and are known for their “eye” to control a flock. This is an intense stare to intimidate the other animals, allowing them to be herded around.

Believe it or not, Border Collies have accomplished a lot over their lifetime. They frequent the number one spot on lists of the world’s smartest dogs, and they’re fast, running up to 30 mph.

Many celebrities loved this breed and had a Border Collie of their own, such as Queen Victoria, Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Jon Bon Jovi, Ethan Hawke, and Tiger Woods.

Border Collies also made it into the arts. For example, they were great actors as one Border Collie played a character in the movie Babe. They were also featured in Scottish Poetry.

Some famous Border Collies from our history include Old Hemp, a tricolor dog born in the Northumberland in 1893 and passed away in 1901.

A lot of shepherds used him to herd sheep. All Border Collies who are alive today have ancestral ties to Old Hemp.

Winston Cap is another famous Border Collie. He is portrayed in the characteristic herding dog pose on the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS) badge. He was a stud dog, and his bloodline continues today.

Others of this dog breed include super-smart pups such as Rico, who recognized up to 200 objects by name, Betsy, who had over 300 words; and Chaser, who had a vocab of 1,022 words, could recognize objects by groups they belonged to.

We can’t forget about those Border Collies who broke records. Striker is the current Guinness World Record holder for the “fastest car window opened by a dog” in 11.34 seconds.

Then there are Border Collies who were given awards, such as Peggy, who received the PDSA Certificate for Animal Bravery or Devotion.

Border Collies are recognized all over the world. The UK has two registries for this dog breed. The ISDS recognizes the herding ability while the Kennel Club (UK) recognizes their standard appearance.

Additionally, the UK also has the International Stock Dog Federation (ISDF) in Piccadilly, London.

The Australian National Kennel Club (ANKC) recognized the breed in 1986. South Africa recognizes them through the South African Sheepdog Association (SADA).

Canada recognizes the breed through the Canadian Border Collie Association for any Border Collie purebred.

The Border Collie is also recognized as Border Collie Dernegi, the Turkish Border Collie Association, established in 2007.

Finally, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the dog breed in 1995 as part of the herding group.

When it comes to breeding standards, the original test for the ISDS sheepdog trial is still used today, where a dog and handler collect a group of livestock quietly around a course without distressing the sheep.

The appearance of the dog, shown in ring or bench shows around the world, needs to have a long double coat and a soft dark eye.

The body should be slightly longer than tall, well-defined stop, semi-pricked ears, and a gentle, friendly temperament.

There has been criticism of show dogs because people don’t want the Border Collies to continuously be bred for looks and lose their working traits over time.

How Do You Tell if Your Dog is a Border Collie?

Two Border Collies sitting together
Source: @celibordercollie / IG

According to the AKC’s breed standard, a general appearance makes your Border Collie a Border Collie.

The dog should be well-balanced and medium in size. They’ll have a muscular body with fluid movements.

Their face should have an intelligent, alert, and eager expression with oval eyes that are typically brown. Ears are medium in size, with one or both being erect or semi-erect.

The ears are sensitive and will sometimes be taped to encourage the dog to use those muscles. At about six months, the cartilage in your puppy’s ears will harden and set the ear style.

If your pup’s ears stand when they’re excited around two or three months, then there’s a good chance the ears will stand tall as an adult.

The neck should be strong and muscular, blending into the shoulders. The topline is level from behind the withers, falling to a gently sloping roup. The overall body is an athletic build with a deep, broad chest.

The dog’s tail is tucked when concentrating, in herding, and working position. It may curl at the end when the dog is happy.

The forelegs are parallel with shoulder blades that are long and equal in length to upper arms. The front feet are compact and oval.

The hindquarters are broad and muscular, with the feet the same as the front but slightly smaller.

How big do Border Collies get?

Border Collie sitting on the walkway
Source: @igna_momo / IG

A male Border Collie will grow to be about 19 to 22 inches (48 to 56 cm) tall, while females will grow slightly smaller at 18 to 21 inches (46 to 53 cm).

No matter the gender, they will typically weigh between 30 to 55 pounds (14 to 25 kg).

At about four months old, your pooch should be between 13 to 22 pounds (6 to 10 kg). They will be fully grown by one year of age, sometimes as early as ten months old.

Miniature Border Collies are not an official breed though you can have a smaller Border Collie, depending on what it’s crossbred with.

Given their size and energy levels, Border Collies will not be suited for apartment living.

Also read: Border Collie Growth and Weight Chart

What kind of coat does a Border Collie have?

Red Merle Border Collie looking up
Source: @archies_tale / IG

The Border Collie has two types of coats: one is a rough coat that’s medium in length with feathering on the legs, chest, and belly. The second is a smooth coat that’s shorter and coarser with minimal feathering.

Both coats are dense and weather-resistant. They have a straight double coat with a coarser outer coat and a softer undercoat.

These coats come in a variety of colors such as:

  • black, blue, blue merle, gold, lilac (chocolate and white)
  • red, red merle, saddleback merle, sable merle
  • white and black, white and blue, white and blue merle, white and red, white ticked, white and red merle, seal, sale, white and gold, white and sable, or white and seal

Blonde Border Collies are often considered gold, while brown dogs are considered red, which is a brown and liver color.

In addition, Border Collies have many coat markings and patterns. They can be bicolor, tricolor, merle, or a solid color except for white.

Tricolor is the most common and typically black, white, and tan, but it can come in other colors.

Other markings may include:

  • Brindle
  • Sable
  • Tan points
  • White markings
  • White markings, brindle points
  • White markings, tan points
  • White markings, ticked
  • White markings, brindle points, ticked
  • White markings, tan points, ticked
  • Merle markings
  • A white blaze on face, neck, feet, legs, and tail tip with or without tank
  • Saddle or Blanket
  • Flecked or Ticked or Speckled
  • Tuxedo

The rarest Border Collie color is pure white, blue, lilac, and red merle. Tricolor dogs are the most common.

Learn more about the different colors of a Border Collie here!

Are Border Collies Good Family Dogs?

Two Border Collies enjoying the sunny day
Source: @bcpepperpanda / IG

Border Collies will make an excellent family dog, whether you bring home a male or a female. However, females do tend to be calmer than males.

This dog breed is not aggressive, and they’ll be great with children, as long as the kids are taught how to treat a dog.

The Border Collie is friendly overall and will enjoy being with you at all times. They are hesitant by strangers, but with proper socialization, they’ll get along just fine. This goes for other pets, dogs, and cats as well. 

Borders need early socialization and puppy classes to know how to act around everyone and help curb their energy a little bit.

If your pooch is left alone for too long, then they may get bored, so they can’t be home alone for too long. Otherwise, they’ll tend to bark a lot, dig, or even chase cars when finally let outside.

Border Collies are an intelligent dog breed, so they need plenty of mental stimulation throughout the day, along with physical exercise to curb their high energy levels.

Training a Border Collie is easy because they want to spend time with you, and they’re eager to please. Training should start as soon as possible, and it should be a positive experience for both of you.

Use training as a time to bond with your Border Collie and to give them plenty of mental and physical stimulation, all the while teaching them some manners.

Check out Tess the Border Collie while she performs some of the most incredible dog tricks:

Other activities you can do with your doggo may be Sheepdog trials, advanced or freestyle obedience, flyball, agility, tracking, flying disc competition (frisbee), showmanship, herding events, conformation, and other various dog spots.

They make great search and rescue dogs, so playing a little hide and seek with their favorite toy will be a ton of fun. They can also do livestock work.

They’re official goose masters, where they keep geese away from properties or high-traffic areas.

How to Take Care of Your Border Collie

Border Collie stalking for something
Source: @pp.bc_family / IG

Border Collies are more on the high-maintenance side when it comes to their well-being.

They need an active family who will be able to give them plenty of exercise, playtime, and “work” throughout the day, especially when their herding instincts kick in.

They can tolerate cold and warm weather, thanks to their weather-resistant coat. They’ll enjoy a fenced-in yard where they can run around and burn some energy.

Exercising Your Border Collie

Border Collies are extremely energetic and will require daily exercise such as long walks, romps around a fenced-in yard, work exercises, dog sports, and more.

They are an athletic breed and would love to go on a hike or jog with you on a nice day.

Do Border Collies Shed?

Unfortunately, Border Collies are not a hypoallergenic dog breed. They shed heavily at least twice a year.

Overall, grooming maintenance is pretty easy, though. Your Border Collie will need to be brushed at least once a week just to keep its coat clean and to prevent it from matting.

During shedding season, you’ll need to brush the coat more frequently using a de-shedding tool.

Luckily, Border Collies do not have an odor unless they get into something they weren’t supposed to. So, you’ll only need to bathe them once in a while or as needed.

How much should your Border Collie eat in a day?

Due to the high energy levels your Border Collie has, they’ll need to eat high in calories to burn it all off later while running around in the yard.

Adults should have about 1.5 to 2 cups of dog food per day. Border Collie puppies should have half of a cup to 1 cup per day. Puppies will also need high-quality kibble that’s high in protein. 

Be sure never to give your dog table scraps and talk to your vet about the best nutritional diet that’s right for your doggo.

Read more: 9 Best Dog Food for Border Collies

What health problems do Border Collies have?

An ill Border Collie wearing cone collar

Border Collies have specific health problems that you need to keep an eye out for, like all dogs.

Some health concerns may include hip dysplasia, epilepsy or seizures, allergies, Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD), or Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA). 

This dog breed is also prone to various eye conditions such as Progressive Renal Atrophy (PRA), Lens Luxation, and Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA), which is a condition that the parents inherit.

It causes changes or abnormalities in the eyes, which can lead to blindness.

Deafness is another health problem. There are two types of hearing loss that can occur for a Border Collie. One is a pigment associated and found in puppies.

Puppies can also have congenital sensorineural deafness from birth. The second type is adult-onset hearing loss.

Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (NCL) can occur, affecting the neuronal cells through recessively inherited lysosomal storage diseases.

Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome compromises the immune system, which may lead to chronic infection.

Other health issues may be hypothyroidism, elbow dysplasia, and sight and/or hearing loss in double merle Border Collies.

Luckily, there are various health screenings you can get for your doggo, such as a DNA test for Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA), Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (NCL), and Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome (TNS). You can also test for deafness, epilepsy, and thyroid.

A hip evaluation can test for hip dysplasia through Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and PennHip. This can also evaluate elbow dysplasia, Hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand’s disease.

You can get an Ophthalmologist Evaluation at the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) for Progressive Renal Atrophy (PRA) and Collie Eye Anomaly. You can also go to Auburn University for Thrombopathia.

Border Collies can live long, healthy lives. Their lifespan is about 12 to 15 years, with some pups being as old as 18 years.

Old age, cancer, and cerebral vascular afflictions are the most common causes of death in Border Collies.

What is the Average Cost of a Border Collie Puppy?

Border Collie puppy wearing bandana
Source: @dakoda.the.collie / IG

The Border Collie puppy can cost anywhere between $300 and $1,000 with an average cost being about $700.

Of course, different colors and patterns may cost more. For example, blue merle Border Collies can cost up to $4,500, while red merles can cost up to $1,200.

Tallying up everything else you need to care for your furry friend, you can expect to spend at least $2,500 on the first year owning your Border Collie.

This cost includes food and treats, medical expenses, training classes, grooming appointments or supplies, and general accessories such as food bowls, a crate, bed, harness and leash, toys, and everything in between. 

You most likely won’t find a purebred Border Collie in a pet store, but you can give a pup a new home from a reputable breeder or a rescue or shelter.

Border Collie Breeders

Before buying a Border Collie from a breeder, be sure that you have found a reputable breeder.

A good breeder will want to meet with you in person and get to know you before selling a puppy to you. They’ll socialize the puppies and allow you to meet them and the puppy’s parents.

Plus, they won’t let the puppies leave their mother until at least eight weeks of age.

Your breeder should have a vast knowledge of the breed and know the history behind the puppies and their parents.

If you don’t know where to look for a good breeder, then you can’t go wrong with the AKC Marketplace or, better yet, look at the Border Collie Breed Club.

The Border Collie Society of America (BCSA) has a directory of reputable breeders by state.

Check out the American Border Collie Association (ABCA) if you want an excellent herding dog with a working registry.

Border Collies for Adoption

Of course, plenty of pups are in a shelter or rescues that do not have a forever home. These are great places to look for your new furry friend.

The Border Collie Society of America also has a directory of Border Collies rescues by state, so this is a great place to start.

Alternatively, you can take a look at the New England Border Collie Rescue or the Border Collie Save & Rescue located in Texas.

Border Collie vs. Other Breeds

Border Collies are similar to other dog breeds. Here are a few similarities and differences of breeds that are close to Border Collies.

Australian Shepherd vs. Border Collie

Tri-color Australian Shepherd dog
Source: @zaraaussieshepherd / IG

These two breeds have a similar coat pattern, but Border Collies come in more variety. Australian Shepherds are a little heavier than Border Collies, but they are both medium in size.

These two dog breeds are highly intelligent dogs, but Border Collies are number one on most lists.

English Shepherd vs. Border Collie

English Shepherd running on the wooden bridge
Source: @tails_that_follow / IG

Both of these breeds are working dogs with sheep-herding abilities. However, Border Collie leads their sheep from the front while English Shepherds drive from the back.

The Border Collie has a penetrating stare while English Shepherds have a “loose eye,” which’s the opposite of how the Border Collie’s working ability works.

What is the Best Mix with a Border Collie?

A polite Golden Retriever Border Collie mix doing high five
Source: @peggysue_the_gollie / IG

Border Collies can be crossed with many other dog breeds. Below are just a few Border Collie mixes.

Who Should Get a Border Collie?

Three Border Collies sitting on the rock near the sea
Source: @zoe_the_stunner / IG

Border Collies will make an excellent watchdog. They are vigilant, curious, and agile. They get along great with families with older and well-behaved kids.

Borders need an active and experienced owner who will have plenty of time to play with them and take them out for adventures.

.And because of their intelligence, they need a paw parent that can give them plenty of mental stimulation as well. 

Will you be bringing home a Border Collie today? Let us know in the comments below!

Further Reading: Similar Breeds to the Border Collie



2 thoughts on “The Border Collie: A Closer Look at this Intelligent Dog Breed”

  1. Having had about 9 border collies from the same breeder over the last 20 years, we are truly border lovers. We really enjoyed your comments and explanations of border
    habits and personalities, We have found them to be a lovely part of our family life. We had a one stage 4 at at time and they were a handful, but so enjoyable to train and trial
    to a high standard. We didn’t do any herding but plenty of obedience and agility work
    (which they loved doing) So thanks again for your article most informative.

  2. Betsi, our border collie of soon 16 years, is the kindest animal imaginative. Her interests on our daily walks are other dogs, preferably puppies, a cat in the neighbourhood, and some children. She is getting pretty deaf but otherwise in good shape. To keep her like that I carry her uo and down the stairs in the house.


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