Border Collie

AKC Herding Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The Border Collie originated in Northumberland on the Scottish-English border. The breed is descended from old British droving breeds with some spaniel added in. An outstanding herder of cattle and sheep, the Border Collie controls the stock by crouching down and mesmerizing the animals with his intense stare. One of the most intelligent breeds, the Border Collie can work successfully out of sight of his master without commands. This versatile breed also serves well as a narcotics and bomb detection dog, and is a frequent high performer in obedience, agility and Frisbee® trials.


The Border Collie is a medium-sized bundle of energy, looking rather like a lightly built Australian Shepherd without a bob-tail. The athletic body is slightly longer than the height at the withers in a ratio of approximately 10:9. The skull is fairly flat and moderately wide with a distinct stop. The muzzle is about the same length as the skull, with the top plane parallel to that of the skull when seen from the side. The nose color should match the main color of the body. The ears can be erect or semi-erect or one of each. In semi-erect ears, approximately 1/4 to 3/4 of the ear folds over to the front or side. The ears are mobile and expressive. The predominant ear color should match the primary body color. The oval eyes are generally a shade of brown. Blue eyes (one, both or partial) are acceptable in merle dogs, and acceptable, but not preferred, in dogs other than merle. The eye rims should be completely pigmented. The teeth should meet in a scissors bite. The low-set tail reaches at least to the hock and is sometimes raised when the dog is excited, but is never carried over the back. There are two coat varieties, the rough and smooth.

The rough variety has a medium length coat on the body, with feathering on the chest, backs of the forelegs and haunches, and undersides, and short, smooth hair on the ears, face, feet, and fronts of the legs. The smooth variety has short hair on the entire body, with a small amount of feathering on the chest, ruff, and backs of the forelegs and haunches. The texture of the smooth variety’s coat can be coarser than that of the rough variety. The Border Collie comes in any color or mix of colors: black and white; tricolor; red and white; black and gray; and all black, merle, and sable. White markings and/or ticking are permissible, but white should never be the main color. Because many Border Collies are bred for working ability and intelligence rather than for physical beauty, conformation can vary widely.

Key Facts

  • Height: 19 to 22 in. (male); 18 to 21 in. (female)
  • Size: Medium
  • Weight: 40 to 60 lbs. (male); 30 to 45 lbs. (female)
  • Availability: May take some effort to find
  • Talents: Herding, tracking, police scent work, narcotics detection, search and rescue, agility, competitive obedience, and performing tricks


To be truly happy, a Border Collie needs a lot of ongoing attention, extensive daily exercise, and a job to do. Can become destructive if bored or ignored. The Border Collie can become neurotic if left alone for long periods, leading to many behavior problems. Known as an escape artist. Because of his strong herding instincts, the Border Collie may be snappish with children and strangers. Best with an experienced owner with lots of time to spend with the dog. Prospective owners who are looking for a pet should consider other similar, but calmer breeds such as show line Australian Shepherds and Shetland Sheepdogs. Prone to hip dysplasia, PRA, and an eye disease common to collies called Collie Eye Anomaly. Buy only from stock with OFA, PennHIP, or another national hip-dysplasia clearance and current CERF or OFA eye clearance. Also might be prone to epilepsy and deafness. Many Border Collies are allergic to fleas.


Very smart, alert, and responsive, with concentrated intensity when working. Excels at obedience, agility, and Frisbee®. Sensitive and trainable. Loves praise. Highly energetic, with great stamina. Might be reserved with strangers. The adolescent Border Collie often goes through a phase where he challenges his master’s authority. Many are highly reactive and sound sensitive, making them a poor choice for families with young children. The Border Collie should be very well socialized as a puppy to prevent shyness. Dominance level is highly variable in Border Collies.


  • Children: Best with older, considerate children
  • Friendliness: Moderately protective
  • Trainability: Very easy to train
  • Independence: Moderately dependent on people
  • Dominance: High
  • Other Pets: Might be aggressive with dogs of the same sex; do not trust with non-canine pets.
  • Combativeness: Tends to be moderately dog-aggressive
  • Noise: Likes to bark
  • Indoors: Very active indoors
  • Owner: Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming: Regular grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping: No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat: Medium coat
  • Shedding: Average shedder
  • Exercise: Vigorous daily exercise needed
  • Jogging: An excellent jogging companion
  • Apartments: Not recommended for apartments
  • Outdoor Space: Best with acreage
  • Climate: Does well in most climates
  • Longevity: Moderately long lived (12 to 15 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Border Collie Breed Standard

Border Collie Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Border Collie

Border Collie Gifts