Keen eyes and a sweet disposition, these were the traits Queen Victoria was quite fond of with the Collie. And so wasn’t literature and Hollywood, who gave us the classic, “Lassie Come Home.”
However, there’s more to the breed than a sweet and adventurous lost dog. From the highlands of Scotland to the luminous lights at a dog show, Collies are one of the most familiar canine faces on earth.
So where does their story begin and what makes this breed such a darling to have as a household pet?
Here is what you need to know about the Collie.
You know you’re more than just a Herding Group dog, when you get your own star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. While most of that comes from one of the most important movies and lovable characters in American movie history, there are some historic nuggets of the Collie to celebrate.
First, tracing the Collie is a bit of a murky task. According to the breed’s club, the Collie derives from the highlands of Scotland. For centuries, the breed was a devout and faithful sheepdog.
It was the 1800’s, when others began to take notice, especially the English royal class. In 1860, Queen Victoria took one look at the Collie and fell in love. It was love at first sight that would develop this dependable herding dog into a elegant show dog. From the exhibitions at a Birmingham, England dog show and on, the breed’s development would never look back.
After working as a herding dog, a drover and guard, the roles of this breed began changing quickly. So didn’t their recognition. In fact, exports into America would help the breed gain recognition with the American Kennel Club in 1885. The Collie went from the provincial hills of Scotland, made a stop in England and finally arriving on American soil in under a century.
Shortly after, Americans began romanticizing with the breed thanks to some of the legendary stories going around.
For starters, the story about Bobby, a Collie and pet of a family, who grew apart accidentally on a family vacation. According to the legend, which made national acclaim, the dog made a 3,000 mile journey from Indiana to Oregon just to find his family. This would serve as inspiration and would help generate the imagination about this breed. Obviously, the dog was intelligent and quite capable of surviving alone.
Couple that with the paperback novels, short stories, movies and famous banker, J.P. Morgan’s extravagant purchase of a champion Collie, then it’s quite easy to see the fever Americans had of this breed at one point.
In 1887, the Collie Club of America would become the second club to ever joint the American Kennel Club.
The breed’s popularity has been consistent from the 20th century and on. Today, and around the world, the Collie is one of the most sought after dogs on the market. According to the American Kennel Club, this breed ranks 37th most popular out of 192 dogs in their rankings. A step better than their relative, the Border Collie.
With regards to weight, a male can fluctuate between 60 to 75 pounds, and females should vary between 50 to 65 pounds.
If Columbo was a breed of dog, he would choose the Collie. Why? This is a breed well known for their problem solving, near-detective skills. A highly intelligent breed, that you won’t have to follow around to make sure a job gets done right. Collies made a reputation centuries ago for stalking and finding their game but not going overboard with the kill. This is a breed that will pick up on new trick easily and is totally agreeable to learn. Fanciers of this breed appreciate that they learn quickly what they need and want from a working dog.
As former sentry dogs, current therapy and service canines, the Collie can find a role in just about anything. From the show ring to the thickest of pastures. A willing and capable worker is another way to describe this graceful muzzle.
At times, you may hear them vocalize and bark, but mostly to communicate with their people. This is the ultimate family dog, and is wonderful around and with children. The Collie is also a practical choice for someone who has other dogs. They are generally friendly with strangers, typically showing no signs of aloof behavior.
You can bring this dog with you just about anywhere from dog parks to water parks. This is a breed that wants involvement with the family life. They want to be outside and exercising. However, you can leave the dog alone and not worry about neurotic behavior. They are intelligent enough to know you have a daily purpose and will return.
As far as living with, the Collie, just as long as they get enough mental stimulation and attention, can live in apartments or farmhouses. This is an all purpose dog, that thrives in agility, obedience, herding, therapy and service tasks.
There are few and far between concerns regarding this breed’s health. That doesn’t mean the Collie is completely out of the woods, or that finding a health complication is an anomaly. That said, this is a very healthy and hardy breed capable of living between 12 to 14 years.
You can get the most out of your Collie, when you buy from a reputable breeder, who can provide you with the proper documentation and health clearances. Furthermore, you can help keep your pooch health when you schedule regular veterinarian visits.
Collie Eye Anomaly or CEA, is a congenital bilaterial eye disease, that affect their retina, choroid and sclera due to a recessive gene defect. This near exclusive disease can cause partial to complete blindness. There is no cure, but there are DNA tests to help identify CEA. The trouble with this disease is that it affects a majority of this breed, thus putting breeders and opponents at odds of what to do. Again, there is testing or screening available.
Sticking with the eyes, the Collie has been found to suffer from Progressive Retinal Atrophy. PRA affects many breeds like most Hounds, Siberian Huskies, Mastiffs and Terriers. Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a disease of the retina, where the rod cells “systematically” die or falter. This can lead to night blindness or complete blindness.
Although the breed is at a low risk, there are cases of Hip Dysplasia found with this breed. When the joint becomes loose due to a malformation in hip socket, it causes rubbing and results in cartilage damage due to wear and tear. This can be incredibly painful and leads to lameness.
Collies seem to fare rather poorly with Bloat. When a series of air or fluids collects inside the dog’s stomach, it causes the stomach to twist, which is also painful. With nowhere to go, this puts pressure on the blood vessels. This condition can lead to death and the fatality rate for Gastric Torsion is 29 percent. This affects large breeds, rapid growing breeds, Great Danes, Weimaraners and many others.
3 out 4 Collies have been found to have the MDR1 gene mutation, which essentially means they are vulnerable and sensitive to certain steroids, antibiotics and a drug by the name of, Ivermectin.
Whether you have decades of experience or are dilettantish with dogs, the Collie is for just about everyone. Having said that, you do need to show them attention and shower them with affection to get a good return. This is by no means a breed that should be left as a backyard dog, and should get plenty of interaction with the family.
Daily exercise is necessary for this active breed. You should fit them a purpose. It doesn’t have to be herding, but canine sports to give them plenty of mental stimulation. They love to learn and help with the family. You will need to keep an eye out around smaller children, only in the sense of their natural herding instincts. This harmless nipping or herding can lead to injury if the dog is unaware of what they’re doing.
Early socialization and training is a good idea. Strangers and other pets are fine with this breed. You can make that easier by breaking them in as puppies.
You will want to keep an eye out for certain coat types, mainly the rough Collie. They do have a tendency to be more work than the Smooth variety. An occasional bath will suffice. Trimming their nails once a month or whenever there seems to be splitting, overgrowth, etc. Check their ears for bacterial backup regularly.
In summary, this is a great family dog, that when you socialize them and train early on, will prove to be a wonderful fit for whatever practical purpose you need or want.
How much your Collie eats will depend on if you have a herding dog, guard dog, companion or therapy dog. How old your dog is, their activity rate and metabolism all play into consideration.
That said, you should always feed your Collie with a high quality dry food. Snacks and table scraps should be left to a minimum. Meat should be the first ingredient to their diet. Lean chicken, beef, and salmon should suffice their dietary needs. Veggies, fruits, and nutritional supplements will help promote better growth and health with their heart and joints.
Most owners recommend 2 to 3 cups per day. This usually undermines the amount on the label of the dry kibble package. Again, if you want to know how much your Collie should be eating, then consult your veterinarian for an accurate assessment. Additionally, you should break up whatever amount you decide on to two or three meals per day. Breaking up meals reduces the chances of Bloat.
As always, you should provide your Collie with fresh drinking water.
Smooth Collies have short, dense and flat coats. Rough Collies are the opposite, where they have long and coarse coats. They do blow coat once a year, but for the most part their coats are generally easy to care for. That is, if you do yourself a favor by brushing two or three times per week.
The colors, according to the American Kennel Club come in: Black white and tan, blue merle, blue merle and white, blue merle white and tan, sable, sable and white, sable merle, sable merle and white, white, white merle.
The following four markings are acceptable according to standard: black and tan markings, blue merle markings, sable, sable merle markings.
Fun Collie Facts
- The ancestry of this breed is said to be a Scottish dog that was bred with dogs that came with Roman invaders. Later on, these dogs were bred with Borzois, which is where the long face comes from.
- Thomas Beswick’s woodcut illustrations appear to have the earliest sightings of this breed around 1800.
- The Collie once made the cover of TV Guide, appearing as Lassie.
- Tortoise Shell is a peculiar name for a blue merle Collie.
- They get their name from sheep with black faces that they once herd.
- A Rough Collie by the name of “Reveille” is the official mascot of Texas A&M.
What else can be said for once of the most recognizable muzzles of all dog history? You can only hope to do justice to this breed’s legacy.
Once upon a time, a breed that’s existence was kept to the highlands of Scotland, has now become the epitome of all dogs small and large.
Sweet, loving, and hard working, the Collie is a great dog for anyone who wants the best of all worlds. That is, a hard working drover, a patient family dog great with children, and an entertaining and multi-talent inside the dog show ring. What more could a dog lover ask for?