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This article is about the collie group of dog breeds and landraces. For other uses of the word "collie", see Collie (disambiguation).
For the Rough Collie, Smooth Collie and Border Collie see their separate articles.

The Collie is a distinctive type of herding dog, including many related landraces and formal breeds. It originates in Scotland and Northern England. It is a medium-sized, fairly lightly built dog with a pointed snout, and there are many types have a distinctive white pattern over the shoulders. Collies are very active and agile, and most types of Collies have a very strong herding instinct. The Collie breed has spread through many parts of the world (especially Australia and North America) and has diversified into many varieties, sometimes with mixture from other dog types. Some of the Collie breeds have remained as working dogs, used for herding cattle, sheep and other livestock, while others are kept as pets, show dogs or for List of dog sportsdog sports, in which they display great agility, stamina and trainability. While the AKC does have a breed they call "Collie", the truth in fact is that collie dogs are a distinctive type of herding dog including many related landraces and formal breeds. There are usually major distinctions between show dogs and those bred for herding trials or dog sports. They typically display great agility, stamina and trainability and more importantly sagacity.

Common use of the name "collie" in some areas is limited largely to certain breeds – such as to the Rough Collie in parts of the United States, or to the Border Collie in many rural parts of Great Britain. Many collie types do not actually include "collie" in their name.


The exact origin of the name "collie" is uncertain, it may derive from the Scots word for "coal."[1] Alternatively it may come from the related word coolley, referring to the black-faced mountain sheep of Scotland.[2] The collie name usually refers to dogs of Scottish origin which have spread into many other parts of the world, often being called sheepdog or shepherd dog elsewhere.[3]



Collies are generally medium-sized dogs of about 22 to 32 kg (48 to 70 lb) and light to medium-boned. Cattle-herding types are more stocky. The fur may be short, flat, or long, and the tail may be smooth, feathered, or bushy. Collies can have both naturally long or naturally bobbed tails. Some breed clubs historically dock the tail. The tail can be carried low with an upward swirl or twist or high over the back. The tail never curls at the base or touches the back. Each breed can vary in colouration, with the usual base colours being black, black-and-tan, red, red-and-tan, or sable. They often have white along with the main colour, usually under the belly and chest, over the shoulders, and on parts of the face and legs, but sometimes leaving only the head coloured – or white may be absent or limited to the chest and toes (as in the Australian Kelpie). Merle coloration may also be present over any of the other colour combinations, even in landrace types. The most widespread patterns include sable, black-and-white, and tricolour (black-and-tan and white) also known as black sable.


Collies range in trainability from the "average" to very biddable. The Border Collie is also the breed most in need of a job, while other collie breeds fit well into an active family lifestyle.[4]

Working types[edit]

A working member of the collie breed, such as the Border Collie, is an extremely energetic and agile dog with great stamina. When in fit working condition they are able to run all day without tiring, even over very rough or steep ground.[5] Working collies display a keen intelligence for the job at hand and are instinctively highly motivated. They are often intensely loyal. Dogs of collie type or derivation occupy four of the first sixteen ranks in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, with the Border Collie being first. These characteristics generally make working strains suitable for agility; in addition to herding work they are well suited to active sports such as sheepdog trials, flyball, disc dog and dog agility. Working strains have strong herding instincts, and some individuals can be single-minded to the point of obsessiveness. Collies can compete in herding events.[6]

Show and pet types[edit]

Certain types of collie (for example Rough Collies, Smooth Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs and some strains of Border Collie and other breeds) have been bred for many generations as pets and for the sport of conformation showing, not as herding dogs. All collie dog breeds have proved to be highly trainable, gentle, loyal, intelligent, and well suited as pets.[7][8][9] Their gentleness and devotion also make them quite compatible with children. They are often more suitable as watchdogs than as guard dogs, though the individual personalities of these dogs vary.

The temperament of these breeds has been featured in literature, film, and popular television programs. The novels of Albert Payson Terhune, which were very popular in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s, celebrated the temperament and companionship of his early AKC collies. More famously, the temperament and intelligence of the Rough Collie were exaggerated to mythic proportions in the character Lassie, which has been the subject of many films, books, and television shows from 1938 to the present.

The Lassie character was featured in a book titled Lassie Come Home by Eric P. Knight. Knight's collie "Tootsie" was the inspiration for the book, which was a collection of stories based on her and other collie legends he collected from talking to friends and neighbors. One such story was most likely the documented tale of "Silverton Bobbie", the Oregon collie who crossed the US to get to his owners. While the dogs who played Lassie on-screen were from AKC lines, the actual Tootsie looked nothing like them, although she did come from a collie breeder.


Some collie breeds (especially the Rough Collie and the Smooth Collie) are affected by a genetic defect, a mutation within the MDR1 gene.[10] Affected dogs are very sensitive to some drugs, such as Ivermectin, as well as to some antibiotics, opioids and steroids – over 100 drugs in total. Affected dogs also show a lower cortisol concentration than normal. The Verband für das Deutsche Hundewesen (The German Kennel Club) encourages breed clubs to test all breeding stock and avoid breeding from affected dogs.

Collies may have a genetic disease, canine cyclic neutropenia, or Grey Collie Syndrome. This is a stem cell disorder. Puppies with this disorder are quite often mistaken for healthy Blue Merles, even though their colour is a silver grey. Affected puppies rarely live more than 6 months. For a puppy to be affected, both the sire and the dam have to be carriers of the disorder.

Collie types and breeds[edit]

Herding dogs of collie type have long been widespread in Britain, and these can be regarded as a landrace from which a number of other landraces, types, and formal breeds have been derived, both in Britain and elsewhere. Many of them are working herding dogs, but some have been bred for conformation showing and as pets, sometimes losing their working instincts in the course of selection for appearance or for a more subdued temperament.[11]

Herding types tend to vary in appearance more than conformation and pet types, as they are bred primarily for their working ability, and appearance is thus of lower importance.

Dogs of collie type or ancestry include:

Famous collies[edit]

Collies in fiction[edit]


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1933: Collie, Colly
  2. ^ Hubbard, C L B, Dogs in Britain, A Description of All Native Breeds And Most Foreign Breeds in Britain. Macmillan & Co Ltd, 1948.
  3. ^ Iris Combe (1987). Herding Dogs: Their Origins and Development in Britain. 
  4. ^ Francais, Johnson, Isabell, Carol Ann (2005). Bearded Collie. Kennel Club Books. p. 158. ISBN 1-59378-236-5. 
  5. ^ "Border Collie". Retrieved 16 March 2012. Remember, he was bred to run and work all day herding sheep 
  6. ^ a b Hartnagle-Taylor, Jeanne Joy; Taylor, Ty (2010). Stockdog Savvy. Alpine Publications. ISBN 978-1-57779-106-5. 
  7. ^ Westminster Kennel Club description of the Rough Collie
  8. ^ Westminster Kennel Club description of the Smooth Collie
  9. ^ Westminster Kennel Club description of the Shetland Sheepdog
  10. ^ Multidrug Sensitivity
  11. ^ a b Iris Combe & Pat Hutchinson, The ancestral relationships of contemporary British herding breeds, 2004. Chart of relationships between various British herding dog breeds, and outline of their history.
  12. ^
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ [2]
  15. ^ [3]
  16. ^ John Chandler, The "Smithfield" Dog

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