The Border Collie is descended from droving and gathering breeds originating on the Scottish, Welsh and English borders, including the Cumberland Sheepdog. Mention of the "Collie" or "Colley" type first appeared toward the end of the nineteenth century, with every current Border Collie tracing back to a dog known as Old Hemp. Old Hemp, a tri-color dog, was born September 1893 and died May 1901. He was bred by Adam Telfer from Roy, a black and tan dog, and Meg, a black-coated, strong-eyed bitch. Hemp was a quiet, powerful dog that sheep responded to easily. Many shepherds used him for stud and Hemp's working style became the Border Collie style.
Wiston Cap is the dog that the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS) badge portrays in the characteristic Border Collie herding pose. He was the most popular stud dog in the history of the breed, and appears in a huge percentage of pedigrees today. Bred by W. S. Hetherington and trained and handled by John Richardson, Cap was a biddable and good-natured dog. His bloodlines all trace back to the early registered dogs of the stud book, and to J. M. Wilson's Cap, who occurs sixteen times within seven generations in his pedigree. Wiston Cap sired three Supreme Champions and is grand-sire of three others, one of whom was E. W. Edwards' Bill, who won the championship twice.
These dogs were traditionally known simply as "collies," but terms like working collie, old-fashioned collie, and farm collie have also been applied to them. It was in 1915 that James Reid, Secretary of the International Sheep Dog Society in the United Kingdom, first used the term "Border Collie" to distinguish those dogs registered by the ISDS from the Kennel Club's "Collie," which originally came from the same working stock but had developed a different, standardized appearance following its introduction to the show ring in 1860.
The first recorded sheepdog trials were held in Bala, North Wales, in 1873. These competitions enable farmers and shepherds to evaluate possible mates for their working dogs, but they have developed a sport aspect as well, with competitors from outside the farming community also taking part.
Border Collies aren’t for everyone. In fact, many Border Collie experts will tell you that the Border Collie is not a typical family pet. This is not a dog to ‘hang around’ with you. This is a dog that needs a job. Border Collies are not just a working breed … they are work-aholics. A bored Border Collie can become neurotic, obsessive, and destructive. While each dog is inherently unique, there are general, consistent themes to Border Collie behavior.
Border Collies herd everything that moves - that includes people.The downside to this hard-wired behavior is that it is not uncommon for young children to be nipped in the arms or legs because of their active movement. Also, many Border Collies have died trying to herd moving cars. Their herding instinct makes them a natural at the game of fetch (whether it be a Frisbee, ball, etc).
Border Collies are highly trainable, have good reasoning abilities, and are extremely quick. Border Collies have strong endurance, and are exceptionally athletic.
In general, Border Collies are medium-sized dogs without extreme physical characteristics and a moderate amount of coat. Their double coats can be anywhere from slick to lush, and can come in many colors, although black and white is by far the most common. Black tricolor (black/tan/white or sable and white), red (chocolate) and white, and red tricolour (red/tan/white) also occur regularly, with other colors such as blue, lilac, red merle, blue merle, and brindle. Border Collies of any color with no white markings are also seen.
Eye color varies from deep brown to amber or blue with occasionally one eye of each color, usually seen with merles.
The ears of the Border Collie are also highly variable — some have fully erect ears, some fully dropped ears, and others semi-erect ears (similar to that of the Rough Collie).
Height at withers for males ranges from 19" to 22" (48 cm to 56 cm), and for females from 18" to 21" (46 cm to 53 cm).
Those dogs bred for the conformation ring are more homogeneous in appearance than working Border Collies, since to win in conformation showing they must conform closely to breed club standards that are specific on many points of the structure, coat and color. Kennel clubs specify, for example, that the Border Collie must have a "keen and intelligent" expression, and that the preferred eye color is dark brown. In deference to the dog's working origin, scars and broken teeth received in the line of duty are not to be counted against a Border Collie in the show ring.
in general, a dog's appearance is considered to be irrelevant. It is considered much more useful to identify a working Border Collie by its attitude and ability than by its looks.
Border Collies are an intelligent breed with an instinctive desire to work closely and intensely with a human handler. Although the primary role of the Border Collie is that of the working stock dog, dogs of this breed are becoming increasingly popular as pets. True to their working heritage, Border Collies make very demanding, energetic pets that are better off in households that can provide them with plenty of exercise and ample play with humans or other dogs. Border collies are happiest when they have a job to do. However, a job to a border collie isn't necessarily working live stock. An activity such as Frisbee, chasing and retrieving a ball ... to name just a few ... will suffice. As long as the Border collie is in the herding/working position, (crouched down, tail tucked between legs, eyes firmly fixed on the matter in hand), it considers it work. Border Collies are now also being used in a variety of dog sports, especially agility, where their speed and agility comes to good use. In an appropriate home, with a dedicated, active owner, a Border Collie can be an excellent companion.
An average Border Collies live 12 to 14 years. Border Collies have a typical life span for a breed their size.
Common health problems
Hip dysplasia, Collie eye anomaly (CEA), and epilepsy are considered the primary genetic diseases of concern in the breed at this time. CEA is a congenital, inherited eye disease involving the retina, choroid, and sclera—which resembles conjunctivitis—that sometimes affects Border Collies. In Border Collies, it is generally a mild disease and rarely significantly impairs vision. There is now a DNA test available for CEA and, through its use, breeders can ensure that they will not produce affected pups. There are different types of hip testing available including OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) and PennHip. X-rays are taken and sent to these organizations to determine a dog's hip and elbow quality.
Elbow dysplasia or osteochondritis, deafness, and hypothyroidism may also occur in the breed. Dogs homozygous for the merle gene are likely to have eye and/or hearing problems.
Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL) is a rare but serious disease that is limited to show Border Collies. NCL results in severe neurological impairment and early death; afflicted dogs rarely survive beyond two years of age. There is no treatment or cure, but a DNA test is now available to detect carriers as well as affected dogs.
Trapped neutrophil syndrome (TNS) is an inherited autosomal recessive disease which results in mature neutrophils being unable to migrate from the bone marrow into the blood stream. Puppies affected with this disease usually succumb to infection. Because TNS is an immune deficiency, the puppies can present a variety of symptoms depending upon the type of opportunistic infections they contract; as a result, TNS has largely gone undiagnosed in the past. Once thought to be rare, TNS is now believed to be responsible for many cases of "fading puppies". The mutation responsible for TNS is also only found in show dogs. There is no cure, but a DNA test is now available to detect carriers as well as affected dogs.
In the UK, there are two separate registries for Border Collies. The International Sheep Dog Society encourages breeding for herding ability, whereas the Kennel Club (UK) encourages breeding for a standardized appearance. The ISDS registry is by far the older of the two, and ISDS dogs are eligible for registration as pedigree Border Collies with the Kennel Club (KC) — but not vice versa. The only way for a Border Collie without an ISDS pedigree to be added to the ISDS registry is by proving its worth as a herding dog so that it can be Registered on Merit (ROM).
In the United States, the majority of Border Collies are registered with the American Border Collie Association, which is dedicated to the preservation of the working dog. Historically, there were two other working-centric registries, The North American Sheep Dog Society (NASDS), and the American International Border Collie Association (AIBC).
The breed was also recognised in 1982 by the American Kennel Club (AKC) after occupying the AKC's Miscellaneous Class for over fifty years. The recognition was under protest from the majority of Border Collie affiliated groups, such as the United States Border Collie Club, which felt that emphasis on the breed's working skills would be lost under AKC recognition. AKC registrations have gradually increased since recognition and by the year 2004 there were 1,984 new AKC registrations of Border Collies, with a further 2,378 for the year 2005. By contrast, the American Border Collie Association registers approximately 20,000 Border Collies annually. Because of the inherent tension between the goals of breeding to a working standard and an appearance standard, the American Border Collie Association voted in 2003 that dogs who attained a conformation championship would be delisted from the ABCA registry, regardless of ability. Cross-registration is allowed between the working registries, and AKC accepts dogs registered with ABCA, AIBC and NASDS; but none of the working registries in the U.S. honor AKC pedigrees.
Working Border Collies can take direction by voice and whistle at long distances when herding. Their great energy and herding instinct are still used to herd all kinds of animals, from the traditional sheep and cattle, to free range poultry, pigs, and ostriches. They are also used to remove unwanted wild birds from airport runways, golf courses, and other public and private areas.
The use of dogs for herding sheep makes good economic sense. In a typical pasture environment, each trained sheepdog will do the work that it would take about three human individuals to do if there were no dogs available. In vast arid areas like the Australian Outback or the Karoo Escarpment, the number increases to five or more. Attempts to replace them with mechanical approaches to herding have only achieved a limited amount of success. In general, stock handlers find dogs more reliable and more economical.
Border Collies excel at several dog sports in addition to their success in herding trials. They dominate the higher jump heights at dog agility competitions, so much so that in England competitions often include classes for ABC dogs, "Anything But Collies".
The Border Collie's speed, agility, stamina have allowed them to dominate in up-and-coming dog activities like flyball and disc dog competitions. Their trainability has also given them a berth in dog dancing competitions.
Border Collies have a highly developed sense of smell and with their high drive make excellent and easily motivated tracking dogs for Tracking trials. These trials simulate the finding of a lost person in a controlled situation where the performance of the dog can be evaluated. Because of this skill, Border Collies make excellent Search and Rescue dogs.