collie, breed of large, agile working dog developed in Scotland during the 17th and 18th cent. It stands from 22 to 26 in. (55.9-66 cm) high at the shoulder and weighs from 50 to 75 lb (22.7-34 kg). There are two varieties of collie; it is thought that originally the rough-coated or long-haired type herded sheep in the torturous climate of the northern Scottish hills while the less weatherproof smooth-coated collie drove cattle to market. Both varieties may be sable and white, blue merle, tricolored (black, tan, and white), or white. Although no thoroughly documented explanation of the origin of the collie's name is ever likely to be set forth, the following is probably the most reasonable. A type of sheep once found in the Scottish Highlands had black markings, either on the face or legs, and was called the "Colley" sheep. The dog that was bred and trained to herd these sheep was known as the "Colley dog," and, later, as the "collie." Today it is one of the most popular farm dogs and pets in the United States. See dog.

For the Rough Collie and Smooth Collie see their separate articles, or for information on both, see Scotch Collie.

Collie refers to various landraces and breeds of herding dog originating in Britain, especially the upland areas of the north and west. The exact origin of the name is uncertain, although it may derive from Early Scots coll ("coal" or "black"), or alternatively from the related word colley, referring to the black-faced mountain sheep of Scotland. The collie name refers especially to dogs of Scottish origin, but the collie type is far more widespread in Britain and in many other parts of the world, often being called sheepdog or shepherd dog elsewhere. In the United States, "collie" is most often used to refer solely to Rough Collies rather than the collective grouping of all collie breeds.



Collies are generally medium-sized dogs of between 10 kg and 25 kg (22-55 lb), fairly lightly built with a pointed snout and erect or partly erect ears, giving a foxy impression. Cattle-herding types tend to be rather more stocky. Collies are always alert and are active and agile. The fur may be short, flat, or long, and the tail may be smooth, feathered, or bushy. Some types were traditionally docked, and some types are naturally bobtailed or tail-less. Types vary in colouration, with the usual base colours being black, black-and-tan, red, red-and-tan, or sable. Many types have white along with the main color, 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 colouration may also be present over any of the other colour combinations, even in landrace types. The most widespread patterns in many types are black and white or tricolour (black-and-tan and white).


Working types

Working collies are extremely energetic and agile dogs with great stamina, well able to run all day without tiring, even over very rough or steep ground. They are intelligent, and are instinctively highly motivated to work. These characteristics generally make working strains unsuitable as pets, as few owners are able to give them the mental and physical challenges they need and, if not well fulfilled, they may become unhappy and badly behaved . However, 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. They are often intensely loyal.

Show and pet types

Certain types of collie (for example Rough Collies, Smooth Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs and some strains of Border Collie and other breeds) have been bred as pets and for the sport of conformation showing, not as herding dogs, for many generations. These types have proved to be highly trainable, gentle, loyal, and well suited as pets. Their gentleness and devotion also make them quite compatible with children. They are often more suitable as companions than as watch dogs, though the individual personalities of these dogs vary. The temperament of these breeds has featured in literature, film and popular television programmes. The novels of Albert Payson Terhune celebrated the temperament and companionship of collies and were very popular in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. More famously, the temperament and intelligence of the Rough Collie was 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.

Collie types and breeds

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 these are working herding dogs, but some have been bred for conformation showing and as pets, sometimes losing their working instincts in the selection for appearance or for a more subdued temperament.

Herding types tend to be more variable in appearance 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:

  • Australian Cattle Dog. Dog used in Australia for herding cattle. Dogs of this type are also known as Queensland Heeler, Blue Heeler and Red Heeler.
  • Australian Collie. Not actually a breed, but a popular cross between two other collie types, Australian Shepherd and Border Collie.
  • Australian Kelpie. Developed in Australia from collies originally brought from Scotland and northern England.
  • Australian Shepherd. Developed in the US, probably from dogs of British origin (of Farm Collie type), but now found in other parts of the world (including Australia).
  • Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog. Dog with stumpy tail used in Australia for herding cattle.
  • Bearded Collie. Now largely a pet and show breed, but still of collie type, and some are used as working dogs.
  • Border Collie. The most well-known breed for herding sheep throughout the world. Originally developed in Scotland and Northern England. Not always suitable for herding cattle.
  • Cumberland Sheepdog. An extinct breed similar to the Border Collie and possibly absorbed into that breed. An ancestor of the Australian Shepherd.
  • English Shepherd. Developed in the US from stock of Farm Collie type originally from Britain. Not to be confused with the very different Old English Sheepdog.
  • Farm Collie. Landrace herding dog found on many livestock farms in Britain, in the US (derived from British dogs), and perhaps elsewhere. In Britain, often simply called "farm dog".
  • German Coolie, Koolie, or Collie. Developed in Australia, probably from British collies.
  • Huntaway. Developed in New Zealand from a mixture of breeds, probably including some collie – but it is not of collie type.
  • Lurcher. Not a breed, but a cross of collie (or other herding dog or terrier) with Greyhound or other sight hound. Traditionally bred for poaching, with the speed of a sight hound but more obedient and less conspicuous.
  • McNab (Shepherd). Developed in the US partly from dogs of collie type.
  • Old English Sheepdog. Derived from "Shags", hairy herding dogs. Not to be confused with the English Shepherd.
  • Rough Collie and Smooth Collie (sometimes considered varieties of one breed, originally called Scotch Collie). Now show and pet dogs, these were created by crossing working collies with other dogs (especially Borzois) and are of rather different type to other collies.
  • Shetland Sheepdog. A small show and pet breed developed in England partly from herding dogs originating in Shetland. The Shetland dogs were originally working herding dogs, not collies but of Spitz type (similar to the Icelandic Sheepdog). However in the development of the modern breed these Spitz-type dogs were heavily mixed with collies and toy breeds, and are now similar in appearance to a miniature Rough Collie.
  • Welsh Sheepdog. Landrace herding dog from Wales.

The heeler types of dog are probably related to collies, being usually shorter-legged dogs used primarily for herding cattle.

Famous Collies


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