Breed of the Month: Collie

Rough Collie 

Description: The Collie is a lean, athletic, sleek, and beautiful medium sized dog. The head is wedge shaped with a chiseled face and almond shaped eyes which are brown and, with the blue merle coat, blue. The small ears are mostly erect with the tips folding forward. The body is slightly longer than it is tall. The legs are straight and the neck and tail are both somewhat long.

Collies come in two types of coats; rough coated and smooth coated. Rough coated Collies have a long outer coat with a weather resistant inner coat. The hair is longer around neck and chest, forming a mane. The smooth coated Collie has a short, nearly 1 inch coat all over its body. Both smooth and rough coated Collies come in a variety of colors, such as sable, white, merle blue, tan, and tricolor.

History: The history of the Collie is somewhat of a mystery. Some historians believe that the progenitors of the modern Collie came to the British Isles by way of the Romans around 2,000 years ago. There, the breed was further developed and became an excellent herding dog. The breed received it name from the black faced sheep, the colley, which it frequently herded in Scotland and Northern England.

Queen Victoria was an admirer of the dogs. At Balmoral Castle she kept and bred Collies  which contributed to their rise in the breed’s popularity it the 1860’s. Soon after, the popular financier J.P. Morgan invested in the breed by importing the English dogs and setting up kennels in the United States.

It is believed that, around the 1870’s, the Collie was bred with the Borzoi. This gave the Collie a longer muzzle, longer and straighter legs, and different coat colors. In England, the breed standard was set in 1886. In 1885 the Collie was recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Size: Males: 24–26 inches at the withers, weighing 60-75 pounds. Females: 22–24 inches at the withers, weighing 50-65 pounds.

Temperament: Even if people have never seen or met a Collie, most people know that Collies are very intelligent and loyal dogs. Collies are loving of their family and can be protective while rarely ever resorting to aggression. While some Collies have been known to herd children, the breed does show patience around children and is known to be loving of them. They are also said be friendly towards other dogs, pets and strangers, but can become shy if not socialized. As these dogs are very social and family oriented, they are not the best choice for an outside dog. If a Collie is bored or lonely and lacks the necessary mental and physical stimulation, it can bark excessively and become destructive. Sources are divided as to whether Collies are good apartment dogs. Some Collies appear to be laid back indoors and others more playful and demand more space than a confined apartment can offer.

As mentioned previously, Collies are very intelligent and they are eager to learn new things beyond basic commands. This breed excels at agility, runnings, and having a task to complete. They are known to be easy to housebreak. Collies are sensitive dogs and do not respond well to heavy handed training, instead use positive reinforcement and treats.

Grooming: Since there are two different coat types; the rough being long and the smooth being about an inch short. The Rough Collie needs be brushed two to three times a week while the Smooth Collie needs to be brushed only once a week. Collies should be bathed every six to eight weeks. Owners of Rough Collies often defer to professional groomers to bathe the dogs as the long double coat can be difficult for new owners to care for. Prospective owners should be aware of the moderate to heavy shedding of the Rough Collie as well as the extensive brushing that will need to take place to keep their double coat free from foreign objects and matting. If you enjoy the temperament of the Collie and dislike the brushing and shedding, perhaps the Smooth Collie is a better fit.

Health: The Collie is a generally healthy dog with few major health concerns. CEA (Collie Eye Anomaly) is a congenital disease with no cure which affects some Collies. The disease can be as mild as some loss of vision to complete blindness. Collies can be susceptible to  other eye problems, hip dysplasia, and skin disorders. Collies are also sensitive to Ivermectin and Milbemycin (anti-parasitic) and should never be put on these medications.

Exercise: The Collie requires moderate levels of exercise. Like any dog, a daily pack walk is important for mental and physical health. The Collie is an intelligent dog and requires mental stimulation. While a daily walk and some play is sufficient, allowing a Collie to run around off its leash in a safe environment is also beneficial. If not given enough mental exercise the Collie can exhibit destructive behaviors when bored.

Lifespan: About 14 to 16 years.

Trivia: Probably the most notable Collie is, Lassie, a fictional female dog created by Eric Knight. Knight’s short story was adapted to the silver screen in the 1943 film, Lassie Come Home. Lassie would be the subject of several films, radio shows, and a television show lasting twenty years.

Reveille, a rough coated Collie, is the current mascot of Texas A&M University.