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Border Collie: The Start of Collie Working Breeds

Updated on December 20, 2014


Border collie 1907
Border collie 1907 | Source

The American Kennel Club refers to the Border Collie as “The workaholic of the dog world.” This dog has had the reputation of being exceptionally intelligent and exceptional herding dogs. It can compete in dog sports as well as working dog trials. They control livestock differently than other herding dogs with a stalking movement and what is called the “eye.”--an intense gaze which the sheep find threatening. These may be characteristics inherited from the Wolf.

The AKC says that the Border Collie was originally classified as the “Scotch Sheep Dog”. This dog comes from the border country between Scotland and England. According to Wikipedia, they are descended from landrace collies. A landrace in animals is one developed by the natural influence of environment including cultural. I would say that in the case of the Border Collie the dogs were used for the same purpose (herding sheep), in a certain physical environment (border country) and the culture of the sheep raiser. As such a type developed without any conscious effort to create a breed. Later the types would be developed by breeders using selective breeding to get the characteristics they want. There are some Border Collie admirers who prefer they don't do that. However it has been done and a number of Collie breeds and other herding breeds are the result.

The Border Collie rescue site describes the Border Collie as a“fanatical black and white dogs that have been bred to herd sheep.” They further describe the “herding instinct” as “a modified version of the killing instinct of wolves.” According to the article they retain the circling and gathering instinct...vital in hunting wolf packs...” The Border Collie has a different style of herding than most herd dogs. As most dogs will drive the herd away from the handler, the Border Collie will circle around the stock and then bring them to the handler. This is called “gathering” or “ fetching.” The dog gets more aggressive if the sheep do not respond.

When Border Collies end up in rescue, it is often because of the herding instinct. Often they have bitten a child because to the dog the child is a sheep to herd. To them a young child is often a stubborn sheep. Another reason the dogs end up in rescue is because of being overactive. Their natural activity is herding sheep and it is hard for the average person to give them the enough exercise.

It seems great to have a really smart dog. It might not always be so great though to have a dog that is too smart. In the year 2011 a Border Collie is reported to have learned 1,022 words. I am not sure what that means exactly, but it must be a record. The problem with highly intelligent dogs is that they can learn fast but might learn things differently.. They may engage in a dog version of over intellectualizing. For them, there may be more then one interpretation of a command. They may also get bored and try different ways of doing things. Or play pranks. We had a dog that was half Border Collie who looked for ways to do that. Omce she devised a way to steal food from my wife by pretending she had to go outside. When my wife got up to let her out, she ran back to the table and ate my wife's cereal.

Height is 19” to 22” for the male and 18” to 21” for females. Eyes are usually brown. If the dog is not black they may have lighter color eyes. blue eyes are acceptable but not preferred. All colors are found in the breed. American Kennel club describes the Border Collie as “energetic, intelligent,keen, alert, and responsive....affectionate towards friends...reserved toward strangers.”

The original stud dog that started the Border Collie Breed was named Old Hemp who lived from 1893 to 1901. He was a working sheepdog somewhat different than other dogs of his time. He was quieter, didn't bark as much as his counterparts and was also mild mannered even when physically exhausted. This is the Border Collie style.He worked more quietly and that style was used by other breeders and trainers. It became common for border Collies within a few generations. Hemp was tri colored with only small white trim.

People of the time testify that the dog seemed born with knowledge of how to do his job. Never needed training. The International Sheepdog Society started a stud book in 1915. Old Hemp was the ninth entry out of 300,000.

From the standpoint of ownership one should reserch the breeds for the one that fits your own circumstance. Border Collies are wonderful dogs but not recommended for first time dog owners. Also not always suitable with really young children.

© 2012 Don A. Hoglund


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    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Denise. Thanks for commenting about the border collie. They are great dogs but they can be a challenge.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Peggy. Thanks for voting, commenting and sharing. Oddly we had a border collie mix before I had ever heard of the breed. The intelligence does lead to boredom so they dreaam up things to amuse themselves.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      What a beautiful hub. I love the border collie and I'm glad that I caught this one on the feed, shared by Peggy.

      Several days ago I woke up from this dream: I was at my daughter, Cara's home (cardelean), and this gorgeous black and white fluff ball came running up to me licking and yapping. I picked up this cuddly b.c. and said to my daughter, "I didn't know you got a new pet-why didn't you tell me?"

      So, I'm wondering if maybe this was a premonition dream, LOL (or maybe I should go shopping for one and surprise HER and my grandkids? Hahaha)

      Thanks for the great info on such a terrific dog.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      My mother-in-law had a border collie and Wendy (her name) was such a sweetie. I do remember her herding our dogs when we would go to visit her in San Antonio. It was cute. Another good dog breed hub from you. Voted up, useful, interesting and will share.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for commenting and the added information. It is sort of like all the movies where a military man or cop doesn't want to end up on a desk job because they like to be active. Dogs like Border Collies thrive on being active.

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 

      6 years ago from Central Texas

      We always had Border Collies on the ranch as we ran 1400 head of angora goats. All the dogs responded to commands in either English or Mexican/Spanish -- they were extremely clever and bright. Angora goats work differently than Mexican goats. Mexican goats will scatter if the dog gets too close. After one try to being unsuccessful our dog "Buck" fell way back and drove them in from a distance -- and didn't lose one. Border Collies reason! Great Hub about great dogs. Best/Sis

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      At my stage in life I could not keep up with a Border Collie. The problem is that they get bored and will make up games of their own. They "over intellectualize" such as thinking there might be more to a problem that is rally there.Thanks for commenting.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      You mentioned smartness in the BC. Most people say they want a smart dog, but while that is rewarding, it takes more work and more brains on our part. Most of us either don't want to step up to the plate or simply aren't up to task.

      Intelligence is a two-sided coin. Which side of the coin would you like your dog to display?

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks you for commenting. You are right about border collies needing a job to do. True of some other breeds as well.

    • Diana Lee profile image

      Diana L Pierce 

      6 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      When I was a kid on the farm, we had a female Border Collie named Tinker, to herd dairy cows. She was very smart. I always wanted one as an adult but never had the proper room for one to roam or anything for it to herd, so I ended up with smaller breeds. Border Collies are not happy without a job to do. I enjoyed your hub very much. Voted up.


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