Border Collie – September 2010



Born to work

Known for their intelligence and herding ability, Border Collies instinctively want to work; they are active dogs who do not like to sit around. They are also loyal and loving dogs.

Doug Collier, treasurer of the Border Collie Club of Great Britain, explains the history of the Border Collie: “There are several theories of how the name collie originated – from the word coley, meaning black; from the Welsh coelius, meaning faithful; and some say from colley, a type of Scottish sheep. “Border refers to its area of origin, being the border country between England and Scotland. The earliest known reference to the name Border Collie was about 100 years ago; prior to that it was referred to as a working sheepdog or a working collie.
“This sheepdog from the border country was unlike other herding dogs. Those dogs, such as the Old English Sheepdog, Rough Collie, Smooth Collie and Bearded Collie, had their own individual style. The Border Collie is a silent worker, who ‘eyes’ the sheep, ‘transfixing’ them to his will.
“The Kennel Club accepted the Border Collie as a show dog in 1976 and drew up a standard for the breed.
“The demand for working Border Collies spread around the world and from the beginning of the 20th century they were exported to Australia, New Zealand, America, Canada and then later to Europe and many other countries.”


Being a working breed, Border Collies thrive in an active environment. Says Doug: “The breed is not suitable for those living in flats; he is happiest living in the country with lots of space – but he is fine living in towns if his home has a garden and his owners are prepared to give time to exercising him and keeping his mind active with some sort of activity. A bored Border Collie is an unhappy dog.
“Farm-bred Border Collies can’t always settle into a normal family home; they are best as working dogs. It is recommended that new owners of the breed look for dogs from show or activity breeders where they have been acclimatised to family life for generations.
“They are generally good with children but, as with all breeds of dog, young children should not be left with them unsupervised. “Generally they get on well with other dogs but socialisation with other animals is particularly important as they are primarily a herding dog and will readily give chase.”

The Border Collie is full of energy and character, which perhaps explains why they are so popular. Doug continues: “The breed standard states that a Border Collie should be ‘keen, alert, responsive and intelligent. Neither nervous nor aggressive’ and breeders of show Border Collies strive to keep these attributes.
“The Border Collie is a natural dog; he is versatile, healthy, adaptable and faithful to his owners. I have had Border Collies for almost 50 years – I have bred, trained, shown and judged them – and I have never thought of having any other breed; it is a special dog to me.
“The Border Collie is, in my opinion, the best herding dog in the world and when I see one herding difficult sheep I am really proud that I own dogs of this breed.”

Breed file:
Size: medium.
Height & weight: dog: 53cm (21in); weight 22kg (50lbs); bitches should be slightly smaller and weigh a little less.
Lifespan: around 12-14 years.
Exercise: they need plenty of off-lead exercise. Many also excel at agility, flyball, obedience and heelwork to music.
Training: trainable at all disciplines. Border Collies need to be kept active or they tend to go ‘self-employed’ and show undesirable behaviours. Socialisation is important, as well as training and exercise, to help the dog to develop into a well-adjusted companion.
Grooming: there are two varieties of coat – the smooth and the medium length. Both require regular grooming, using brush and comb, and only require trimming of feet for showing. Bath infrequently.
Colour: variety of colours permissible; white should never predominate.
Diet: they should be fed a good-quality dog food. Clean fresh drinking water should always be available.
Health: the breed is generally healthy. A puppy should be eye tested and perhaps also hearing tested. All Border Collies used for breeding should be hip scored – the average score is 14 (7 right hip; 7 left hip). They should also be tested for progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), collie eye anomaly (CEA), glaucoma, ceroid liposuscinosis (CL; also known as storage disease) and trapped neutrophil syndrome (TNS; a bone disorder). DNA testing is available to check if your dog – or his parents – carry or are affected by CEA, glaucoma, CL and TNS.

Useful contacts:

  • Border Collie Club of Great Britain Mr J Collins (secretary), tel. 0161 485 4544. 
  • Border Collie Club of Wales Mr G Clarke (secretary), tel. 01606 738078.
  • Midlands Border Collie Club Mrs V Earp (secretary), tel. 01162 869273.
  • North West Border Collie Club Mrs C Richardson (secretary), tel. 0161 703 8395.
  • Scottish Border Collie Club Miss F Sutherland (secretary), tel. 0141 954 6816.
  • Southern Border Collie Club Mrs K Angier (secretary), tel. 01795 880410.
  • Wessex Border Collie Club Mrs A Bridgeman (secretary), tel. 02380 293258.
  • West Of England Border Collie Club Mrs M Garland (secretary), tel. 01453 824903.

Expect to pay around £400-£700 for a well-bred puppy for the show ring. If you require a dog to herd sheep then availability, price and training information should be sought from the International Sheep Dog Society (; tel. 01234 352672).

For the Border Collie breed standard and other information visit

 Many thanks to Doug Collier and the Border Collie Club of Great Britain for their help in producing this feature. All details were correct at the time of going to press on 23 July 2010 as far as we could ascertain.