Collie (Rough and Smooth)

AKC Herding Group


Rough Collie. Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Rough Collie. Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The Collie has served humans as a sheepdog for centuries, guarding and herding the flocks. The breed’s name probably comes from its charge, the Scottish black-faced sheep called the Colley. The Collie comes in two distinct varieties, the Rough and the Smooth. The Rough Collie is the beautiful longhaired dog, made famous by the movie star Lassie.

Smooth Collie. Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Smooth Collie. Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The Smooth variety is identical except that it has a 1-inch coat that needs very little grooming. The AKC considers the Rough and Smooth Collies to be varieties of the same breed. They are judged by the same standard with the exception of the coat.

Collies are so intelligent that they have been trained for many purposes, as search and rescue dogs, guides for the blind, movie stars, and guard dogs. Queen Victoria kept Collies at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, and her interest launched the breed’s subsequent popularity. J.P. Morgan and other members of the upper class have owned Collies. The breed’s great beauty has made the Collie a favorite show dog and family companion. The Smooth Collie is more popular as a companion dog in Great Britain than in the United States, but the breed has been gaining ground in the U.S.


The Collie is a well-proportioned, large, agile sheepdog. The dog’s lean, blunted, wedge-shaped head gives an impression of lightness and should never seem heavy. The top of the head is flat, and the face is chiseled. The long, smooth, well-rounded blunt muzzle tapers to a black nose.

The ears are three-fourths erect with the tips folding forward. The eyes are almond-shaped, dark, and matched in color except in the case of blue merles, where blue or merle eyes are permitted. The trim, but muscular, body is slightly longer than it is tall. The chest is strong and fairly wide. The tailbone hangs down to the hocks. The coat is the main difference between the Rough and Smooth varieties. On the Rough Collie, the abundant double coat forms a mane around the neck and chest. The Rough’s long coat needs regular weekly grooming to look its best. The Smooth’s coat needs much less attention. On both varieties the hair on the head and legs is short and smooth. Both varieties come in sable and white, tricolor (black, white, and tan), blue merle, or predominantly white with sable, tricolor, or blue merle markings. See the breed standard for details.

Key Facts

  • Height:  24 to 26 in. (male); 22 to 24 in. (female)
  • Size:  Large
  • Weight:  60 to 75 lbs. (male); 50 to 65 lbs. (female).
  • Availability:  May take some effort to find
  • Talents:  Tracking, herding, watchdog, guarding, service dog, guide for the blind, search and rescue, agility, competitive obedience, and performing tricks


Some lines are prone to PRA. Buy only from stock with current CERF or OFA eye clearance. Puppies should be checked by a Canine Ophthalmologist for Collie eye syndrome. The tip of a Collie’s nose can be sensitive to the sun. The Rough Collie is a heavy shedder during shedding periods (about three weeks a year) and is sensitive to the heat. Provide plenty of shade and fresh water in warm weather. The Smooth Collie is a more average shedder. Buy only from a reputable breeder-the Collie is a very popular breed resulting in the sale of many inferior animals with poor health and/or temperaments. Grooming the Rough Collie takes about one hour per week.


A noble, highly intelligent dog. Sensitive, sweet, kind, and loyal. Very devoted to and protective of his loved ones, one Collie traveled 2,000 miles to find his family after he became lost. Collies are frequent winners of “hero” competitions. An excellent child’s companion, playful, and gentle, with some exceptions. Can be willful; must be trained gently or he will refuse to cooperate. Some exhibit herding behavior as puppies, nipping at people’s heels, though adult dogs generally outgrow this behavior. Collie puppies housetrain quickly, generally in about one week (after about 10 to 12 weeks old).


  • Children:  Excellent with children
  • Friendliness:  Fairly friendly with strangers
  • Trainability:  Easy to train
  • Independence:  Moderately dependent on people
  • Dominance:  Low
  • Other Pets:  Generally good with other pets
  • Combativeness:  Friendly with other dogs
  • Noise:  Likes to bark
  • Indoors:  Relatively inactive indoors
  • Owner:  Good for novice owners


  • Grooming:  Extensive grooming needed (Rough); Regular grooming needed (Smooth)
  • Trimming and Stripping:  Some trimming or stripping (little skill required) (Rough); no trimming or stripping needed (Smooth)
  • Coat:  Long coat (Rough); short coat (Smooth)
  • Shedding:  Seasonally heavy shedder (Rough); average shedder (Smooth)
  • Exercise:  Moderate exercise needed
  • Jogging:  An excellent jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space:  Best with at least an average-size yard
  • Climate:  Best in cool climates
  • Longevity:  Moderately long lived (12 to 15 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Collie Breed Standard

Collie Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Collie

Collie Gifts