Border Collie dog breed is one of the popular collie breeds used for herding sheep. They are especially known for using the ‘eye’ to control the sheep rather than nipping at heels and barking. Being intelligent and highly trainable, now they are as popular in competitive dog sports circles as they are in the ranches.
The Border Collie dog breed originated in Scotland, and was developed for the purpose of herding the sheep towards the shepherd. They would first round them up and then guide them in the right direction. In the 1800s plenty of these “fetching” dogs were found in Great Britain. Bred for more than a hundred years, different types of this dog breed have evolved.
The Border Collies were simply called Sheepdogs, or the Scotch Sheep Dog, and they became increasingly popular. The first official Sheepdog trial was conducted in 1873 in order to assess the potential of this breed of dog. A dog of this breed called “Hemp” aced the tests and became the first famous Border Collie. Consequently, he had a large brood, and began to be regarded as the father of the Border Collie breed of today. Hemp used to control the stock by ‘giving the eye’ which is a unique way of intimidating the sheep with eye contact rather than by physical assault that is still a trademark of this breed.
Even though this breed was excellent in functional abilities and became one of the most popular Sheepdogs of the time, it became officially recognized as the “Border Collie” dog breed only in the year 1915. The introduction of this breed into the United States immediately received attention from the American Shepherds who appreciated their excellent herding capability. Even though they became very popular as a working dog in the country, it was only by 1995 that Border Collie was accepted as a show dog by the AKC.
Border Collie dog breed is medium-sized with the males measuring 20-22 inches at the withers, and the females only slightly smaller. They ideally have a “keen and intelligent” look. The ears are either held erect or at half-drop. The tail is usually furry and brush-like. Since these dogs were mainly bred for functionality rather than physical conformity, several variations are found.
Though bi-colored collies in a black and white combination are the most common, the color may vary considerably, involving tan and sable too in bi-colored, tri-colored or merle coat patterns. Some have solid color coats too, but white Border Collies are not popular as working dogs as it is believed that they wouldn’t be able to earn the respect of sheep.
Border Collies are easy to train, and can become very obedient. But it has a tendency to show dominance if the owner is not assertive. These dogs are loyal and attached to their families, but the same cannot be said about other dogs and pets. Their protective instincts come into play when strangers, both of the human and canine kind, are present.
Early socialization is necessary to help the dog achieve its full potential. They have a high degree of herding instinct and, if given a chance, it may herd children too. Because of this, this breed is not to be left alone and unsupervised with young children.
Grooming and exercise
The medium-long double coat of Border Collie dog breed takes some grooming to be kept in good condition. Thorough brushing twice a week is essential; and more often during shedding. The coat and ears should be checked for ticks.
These active, intelligent, and workaholic dogs need not only physical activities to fill their days, but mentally challenging tasks too. It’s not a breed meant to stay idle for even short periods of time. Unless it has “a job to do” the dog may get easily bored, which when combined with its high energy level may result in destructive or neurotic behavior.
Being used to the outdoors, Border Collies can live outside in cool climates, but they are better off living with their human family at least at night. However, they are not suitable for apartment living or for people who have little time to spare for their pets.
Common health issues of Border Collie dog breed
Border Collies as a breed is comparatively free from serious canine health issues except hip dysplasia. Some minor eye problems such as lens luxation and PRA may occur. Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) is also occasionally seen, but it is not as common in Border Collies as it is in other collie breeds. Other rarely occurring problems include the congenital heart defect Patent Ductus Arteriosus, seizures, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Life expectancy is 12-15 years.