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Most believe the Collie evolved in the highlands of Scotland and Northern England. Some claim that the Collie’s ancestors were brought to the British Isles by Roman conquerors in the middle of the first century, A.D. But it is known that the earliest invaders, the Stone Age nomads also brought dogs with them to what is now Southern England.
From these probable descendants came a hardy, quick-witted dog that was needed to handle sheep, cattle, goats, and pigs, and they were undoubtedly used for hunting along with their herding duties. English dogs were highly prized in Italy in the 11th century.
The growth of the wool industry in the Middle ages was aided along by dogs known as the ban dog and the cur in 15th and 16th century England. Not until about the 18th century did the breeding of domestic animals begin. The rough Collie was virtually unknown in London as late as 1860, while a bob-tailed smooth sheepdog was more common to that area.
The rough Collie came down from Scotland and the border countries to farmer’s markets at Birmingham, following the development of the railroads. The Collie most likely made his show ring debut in December 1860, at Birmingham, the third formal dog show at which conformation of individual animals was judged.
They were most likely shown in the group classified “sheepdogs” with combined different strains of rough and smooth Collies, bob-tails, and beardies.
None of the sheepdogs were very popular at this time. They were generally working dogs, without pedigrees, and they were more of a farmers dog.
They were small, weighing 25 to 45 lbs, relatively short-legged, long-backed, short-necked, and had unsightly feet and legs. Many were cow-hocked, fiddle fronted, overangulated, with a wide variety of tails lengths including no-tails, bob-tails, half-tailed and long-tailed dogs all occurring in the same litter.
They had much heavier heads and had terrier-like eyes. The coats were various lengths from smooth to extremely long and frilled, in one black and white Scottish strain. The color was originally black and white or black and tan, but sometimes grey, dull brown or mixed brindle sable in color.
The Collie’s popularity began with Queen Victoria (1837-1901), who fell in love with the breed on visits to her Scottish retreat. It was then that the lowly farmer’s dog was elevated to a state of canine aristocracy.
It then became more fashionable to own a Collie and show entries rose.
One of the most important Collies, a dog named Old Cockie, became recognized in 1868. All show Collies trace back to Old Cockie through his sable and white grandson Charlemagne, whose pedigree shows the only two sables: Maude, his dam, and her sire, Old Cockie. Old Cockie live fourteen years as a cherished and pampered companion of Mr. James Bissell.
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Characteristics and Temperament
Collies are very family oriented dogs. They love children, they are very intelligent, quick learners, very sensitive, playful, and great outdoors dogs. Collies get along well with other pets. Collies, however, are not for everyone.
They do require a lot of exercises to keep them happy and fit. Collies are very energetic and will become easily bored if left alone for extended periods. They are very good at finding things to do if they are bored, which will often include digging, barking and other general destructive behaviors.
Collies should not be tied up or chained. Because they are a herding dog they are able to run up to 40 miles a day. It is preferable to have a large fenced yard or a large kennel area. Collie are also great athletes and can easily jump a 4 or 5-foot fence when motivated to do so.
A 6-foot fence is suggested for fencing off areas. Collies understand boundaries well and it is advisable to walk a new puppy around the yard twice a day for the first week, and once a day for two following weeks to teach them the yard limits.
Collies can become car chasers and it is advisable to stop this at the FIRST sign of car chasing activity.
Collies make excellent obedience dogs. They require a soft touch when initially learning the exercise and a quick correction once they do understand but just refuse to do the exercise. Collies can become stubborn and unwilling to learn anything if too much correction is used.
They are also bright enough to figure out ways to avoid doing exercises.
In general, they are very intelligent and very sensitive dogs. Collies also retain many of their inherited herding abilities and make excellent working dogs. Smooth collies are occasionally used as assistance dogs for physically handicapped people.
Collies have also been known to be used as therapy dogs, Search and Rescue dogs, Avalanche Dogs, Water Rescue dogs, Drug-detection dogs, and Fire Rescue dogs. Collies have been decorated five times for Ken-L-Ration Hero Dogs.
Grooming is a necessity for rough collies. Rough coats take some care. A good brushing once a week will take care of many mats and tangles and a bath every two months or so is ok. Smooths are much easier to care for.
They have short hair like a shepherd but still have the thick double coat. Smooths seem to shed a lot because the fur is more likely to fall out, whereas in roughs, it is more likely to tangle up into hair balls. Collies shed about as much as any other dog.
Their major hair loss is in the spring as the weather gets warm and in the fall as the new winter fur comes in. If you brush them out then, shedding shouldn’t be a big problem. Large mats should be removed with thinning shears if they persist behind the ears, under the legs or around the neck.
It is also advisable to remove the fur from the inner pads of the feet and the lower areas of the hock and pasterns. Those dogs with dew claws need them trimmed at least once a month.
Collies live about 12 to 16 years on average. Males are a bit more rambunctious than females. Females are usually pretty reserved. Both are equally acceptable for children. All of the “Lassie’s” were male collies.
Females tend to have less coat than the males and are slightly smaller. Both are equally intelligent. Collies also “think” they are also great “lap” dogs.
Get your collie puppy from a responsible breeder and you should not have any problems. Collies from pet stores and back yard breeders are notorious for eye and other problems. Get a guarantee of quality with your puppy and don’t be offended by spay/neuter contracts for pet puppies (most pet puppies will have slight eye problems but are not serious for neutered pets).
Pet puppies are about $250 – $400 and show dogs are usually $500 and up. You aren’t getting a bargain at $150 or so if the breeder doesn’t check eyes.
The Standard is the physical “blueprint” of the breed. It describes the physical appearance and other desired qualities of the breed otherwise known as type. Some characteristics, such as size, coat quality, and movement, are based on the original (or current) function for the dog.
Other characteristics are more cosmetic such as eye color, but taken together they set this breed apart from all others. The Standard describes an ideal representative of the breed. No individual dog is perfect, but the Standard provides an ideal for the breeder to strive towards.
Because of copyright concerns over the collection of all the Standards at any single site storing all the faqs, AKC Standards are not typically included in the Breed faqs.
The reader is referred to the publications at the end of this document or to the National Breed Club for a copy of the Standard.
American Kennel Club (Rough and Smooth collie)
United Kennel Club (Scotch Collie)
Kennel Club of Great Britain (Scotch Collie)
Canadian Kennel Club
Japanese Kennel Club
and many other kennel clubs
Breeds developed from the Collie
- English Shepherd
- Australian Shepherd
- Border Collie
- Bearded Collie
- Old English Sheepdog
- Shetland Sheepdog
Special Medical Problems
The Collie Club of America Foundation is dedicated exclusively to the health needs of the Collie and supports ongoing research with grants.
Current grantees are Dr. Aguirre at Cornell, working on a blood test for gene-identification of PRA; and Dr. Johna Veatch of Central States Pathology, for work in gene identification of dermatomyositis (the most destructive of the autoimmune skin diseases in the Collie).
Research into this disease, an autoimmune skin disorder is underway at Michigan State by Dr. Johna Veatch, with help from Dr. John Gerlach (human molecular geneticist) and Leslie Mamer, caretaker of the research animals.
The first stage of gene sequencing has been done. It is estimated that over 70% of the Collie breed (rough and smooth) are affected as carriers or otherwise with this disease. It’s been recently proven that there are several genes involved as well as environmental, nutritional, and chemical influences.
You can address questions about this research to Leslie Mamer at email@example.com.
Depigmented ulcerated lesions of the nose.
Collie Eye Anomaly
Collies do have eye problems. Estimates are that 95% of collies are carriers of or affected with Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA). CEA can, but does not always, cause blindness as the severity of the condition can vary.
Most responsible breeders will know and check their puppies for the problem with a veterinary ophthalmologist.
CERF — Canine Eye Registration Foundation — registers “Normal-eyed” dogs. If you just want a pet, a grade 1 or 2 CEA (and even a grade 3) are just fine. Grade 3 and over should never be bred. Grades 1 and 2 are still bred and shown, but breeders are making an effort to not breed any affected dog.
Right now it is difficult to do with the high rate of affected and carrier dogs.
CEA is the most common form of eye problem found in the Collie, both rough and smooth variety. It is also found in the Border Collie, and the Shetland Sheepdog. CEA is a simple recessive, as shown by research at Ohio State; however, a cluster of genes controls the severity of CEA in an affected dog and that can complicate diagnosis.
There is no correlation between CEA and sex, coat color, type of coat (rough or smooth), or presence of the merling gene. Usually, both eyes are affected, but not necessarily to the same degree. Those dogs with minor anomaly make fine pets and usually do not lose their eyesight.
Those that are more severely affected can lose their eyesight within a few years of diagnosis if the retina is detached by a blow to the head or else they are born blind. These dogs usually do not make acceptable pets.
A recessive trait means there are three types of dogs: unaffected dogs that do not display the trait NOR have genes for the trait; carriers that do not display the trait, but DO have one of the genes for the trait; and affected dogs that have the trait and can only pass along genes for the trait.
If a dog is “mildly affected”, it is an affected dog and will always pass along CEA to it’s puppies. So breeding two “mildly affected” dogs will never result in unaffected, or even carrier puppies. Breeding two apparently normal dogs may result in puppies with CEA if both dogs turn out to be carriers.
If a dog ever produces a puppy with CEA, then that dog must be either a carrier or an affected dog itself.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
PRA will result in blindness. A well known and widely used stud dog in the ’70s was found to be a carrier and did produce blind puppies. While the breeder now test-breeds all their stock available for stud services, PRA is present in a number of lines.
Most reputable breeders who know or suspect that PRA is in their lines do test-breed. Since PRA in Collies is a simple recessive, it has been easier to control than CEA.
Nodular Granulomatous Episclerokeratitis (NGE)
Sometimes called Nodular Fascitis, Fibrous Histiocytoma or Collie Granuloma, NGE is thought to be an immune-mediated disorder in which a cellular proliferation occurs at the corneal-scleral junction. This eventually causes damage to the cornea.
Many collies with “Collie Nose” also have NGE. Treatment is with anti-inflammatories or immunosuppressives.
Collies have VERY low rates of hip dysplasia. Most breeders do not check or OFA their dogs. Collies and Boston Terriers are about equal in the number of hip dysplasia cases. It is still preferable to have the dogs checked before breeding.
There have been numerous discussions about the safety, or lack of safety, of using ivermectin-based heartworm prevention in collies and other herding breeds of dogs. You should ask the breeder of your collie what they recommend for heartworm preventive.
Much of the concern over the safety of ivermectin began when this medication was first tested in dogs for toxicity studies. In the initial testing of ivermectin, the drug was tested in Beagles to see at what dose clinical signs of toxicity would develop.
Later, these same studies were performed on Collies and it was found that Collies had clinical signs of toxicosis at much lower doses of ivermectin than the Beagles did. Therefore, at the time, a warning was issued that collies and collie mixes should not be given the newly approved heartworm preventative containing ivermectin as the active ingredient.
After these initial toxicity studies were done, further studies were done to determine if the dose of ivermectin present in the monthly medication would cause a problem in collies.
As a reference, the dose of ivermectin in Heartgard is 6 – 12 micrograms per kg of body weight. In studies that have been done, doses of more than 50 micrograms per kg have been tested in collies to determine toxicity at many times the dose in Heartgard.
The signs of toxicosis seen in clinical trials varied in their severity. Early signs of toxicosis included salivation, dilated pupils, vomiting, tremors, and difficulty walking (ataxia). Severe signs of toxicosis included weakness, inability to stand (recumbency), nonresponsiveness, stupor, and coma.(1) “Similar reactions have not been seen in the studies evaluating ivermectin efficacy as a preventative.” (7)
In one study, collies were dosed with increasing amounts of ivermectin, from 100 micrograms per kg up to 2,500 micrograms per kg. In this study, the dogs that developed the most serious clinical signs were given supportive care (fluids), and even the most severely affected dog was normal within 9 days of drug administration. (1)
In several of these type of studies, there were collies that seemed to react to ivermectin and other collies that did not react to the ivermectin. It has been suggested that there are collies that are “ivermectin sensitive” and those that are considered to be “ivermectin non-sensitive” based on the results of these studies.
Unfortunately, to date, no research has provided us with the ability to differentiate between the ivermectin-sensitive and non-sensitive collies.
Two clinical studies showed that 200 micrograms per kg of ivermectin dosages resulted in 50% of the collies displaying severe toxic signs, and NO signs of toxicity when the dosage was below 100 micrograms per kg. “Because the 100 micrograms per kg dose is nearly 16 times higher than the manufacturers recommended minimum effective dose for the prevention of heartworm (ie. 6 micrograms/kg), it appears that treatment with ivermectin for the prevention of heartworm disease would be safe in even the most ivermectin-sensitive dogs.” (3)
Despite the studies, Ivermectin is not considered safe for collies by most breeders. Although Merck has recently removed its warning, there are now several cases of toxicity reactions reported from collies given Ivermectin.
There have also been numerous reports of subclinical toxic reactions from dogs given Heartgard preventative. It is thought that there may be a wider range of sensitivity than indicated by the trials. To be completely safe, Collies should be given either carbamazepine heartworm preventative (daily dose), or the monthly Interceptor heartworm preventative.
References of interest:
(1)Paul AJ et al. ” Clinical observations in Collies given ivermectin orally.” Am J Vet Res Vol 48, No. 4. April 1987. pp 684-685.
(2)Pulliam JD et al. “Investigating ivermectin toxicity in Collies.” Veterinary Medicine. June 1985. pp 33-40.
(3)Paul AJ et al. “Evaluating the safety of administering high doses of a chewable ivermectin tablet to Collies.” Veterinary Medicine. June 1991. p 623.
(4)Clark JN et al. (title page lost). Am J Vet Res, Vol 53. No 4, April 1992. page 611.
(5) Miller, JM. “Management of small animal toxicoses.” In: The ISVMA 111th Annual convention proceedings. page 45.
(7)Rawlings and Calvert. “Heartworm disease.” In: Ettinger’s Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine- diseases of the dog and cat. Third edition, Volume 1. Copyright 1989. page 1182.
Some collies tend to have skin problems. Hot spots are sometimes found in muggy summer months. They have also been known to have epilepsy.