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Shetland Sheepdog "Sheltie" a Small Collie?

Updated on October 12, 2014

Lily M.

Black Tricolor Shelties
Black Tricolor Shelties | Source

They appear to be just a very small Collie. The same tulip ears, same colors, and the same long coat as the Rough Collie. Also the same undercoat. They must be a close relative, at least. Are they a Rough Collie, except for size? They must be a close relative. In any case, for someone who wants the characteristics of the Collie without the size a Sheltie might be the answer.

The Shetland Sheepdog originated in the Shetland Islands. which are about 130 miles north of Scotland. These Islands were a harsh place to live and make a living. Poor soil coupled with high winds and storms made it hard to farm but somewhat better for livestock. For livestock, dogs came in handy to control the stock Toward the end of the 19th Century the economy there was made up of small scale herding. The herders, tenant farmers, were known as “crofters.”

Dogs then were valuable as workers. Nobody cared what they looked like as long as they could do the job, which was to move sheep from pastures keeping them out of the gardens. The dogs sometimes herded other animals, such as ponies.

Dogs, horses, and even cattle are known to be smaller in the Shetland Islands. They are probably smaller because of scarceness of food for animals and the nature of the landscape. According to the web site, “Everything Sheltie,” the same breeds when bred in other places tend to be bigger.

For Shelties as well as smaller Scottish working dogs there may have been Scandinavian Spitz type dogs, large white Pomeranian dogs, and King Charles Spaniels in their backgrounds. There have been stories of a male Collie that traveled with its master between Iceland and the Shetland Islands on the masters fishing boat. This might have added some rough Collie genes to the pool.

In the early 20th Century British tourists started to tour the island and were attracted to these small dogs that are smart and active..A man named James Loggie took an interest in developing a breed to meet the needs of the people wanting these dogs. In 1908 a club was started in Lerwick and the breed was named Shetland Collies. A Scottish and English club followed in 1909 and 1910. However, Collie breeders objected to the name, so the name was changed to “The Shetland Sheepdog.” They also affectionately became known as “Shelties.”

Shetland Sheepdog -weavepoles


Sheltie and Collies together


he modern Sheltie is small to medium size- 13 to16 inches at the shoulder by American Kennel Club Standards. Colors include sable/white, tri-color, and blue Merle. There is a white Sheltie but they are considered undesirable. The breed is vocal, excitable, and energetic, according to Wikipedia.. I have heard a lot of mention of Shelties barking a lot. Oddly I have hardly ever seen one barking. Granted I have not been around a lot of them but we were at a gathering of a Sheltie rescue organization where owners of rescued Shelties met with their dogs. With all those dogs there I didn't hear any barking except once when two dogs got into an argument.

Generally Shelties have dark eyes but sometimes the Blue Merle and White Sheltie have blue eyes.They are good around children and are a good dog for people with limited space. I have read that they will find ways to exercise themselves even by following their masters around.

In 1909 the English Kennel Club recognized the breed. In 1901 the American Kennel Club recognized them. The American Shetland Sheepdog association was formed in 1929.

In the past attempts were made to cross the Sheltie with small Collies to improve the breed but the results were not good. Often the offspring would revert to the larger size and they failed to get uniform results. The Collie and Sheltie do seem to be related in having a common ancestor which is the Scottish Border Collie.

Sheltie looks much like the rough Collie which most people find very handsome and are an attractive dog, good with children, protective of property and active. They can be housed almost anywhere, are intelligent and want to please their owners. They do need combing and brushing to keep their hair from getting entangled, the male more than the female. It is somewhat less grooming tha needed by short haired dogs.


Shetland Sheepdogs edited by Beverly Pisano T.F.H. Publications, Inc.

Everything Sheltie website

Wikipedia article on Shetland Sheepdogs.

Copyright 2012 Don Hoglund

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Shetland Islands, UK
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    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      PDXKaraokeGuy, I have never owned one but they are a breed that attract me now that I want a smaller dog. Thanks for commenting.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 5 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      I grew up with a sable sheltie and we spent 13 wonderful years together. Best dog I've ever had. I miss her every day, even though I have two dogs now.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Nature by Dawn. Thanks for the comment. Cassie sounds like a lovable dog. We once had a Border Collie mix that barked at almost anything, like a leaf falling.

    • Nature by Dawn profile image

      Dawn Ross 5 years ago

      Very informative!

      I loved my Sheltie, Cassie. She did bark a lot. And she sometimes jumped straight up and down while she did it. She barked at almost everything - strange people, strange dogs, the telephone, noises on tv, and at herself in the mirror. She was super-intelligent and exceedingly loyal to me. I got her when I was 10 years old and she passed away when I was 23. The BEST dog ever.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Peggy, I used to think that Shelties were part of the Collie breed and called Miniature Collies.My daughter set me straight on that.I am thinking that this could be my niche subject. I hesitated on that because so many others are writing about dogs.There are several hubs about the Shelties.Thanks for voting and sharing.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Don,

      I am really enjoying your series on the different breeds of dogs. I always thought that Shelties were just miniature collies, but learned from reading this that they are not. Keep it up! There are many different breeds that could keep you busy researching and writing for quite some time! Up votes and sharing this! Thanks!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi sgbrown,

      Thanks for commenting. Yes, I think they are, although my interest stems from my Collie attraction.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Becky,

      Thanks for commenting.I was hoping to get a Sheltie when we got our present dog but around here not too many show up at the shelters. My wife was anxious to replace our last dog which we had to put down because of age problems.

      A Border Collie mix we had used to play tricks on me.She also would like to steal food from my wife.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Very nice hub. Good information. The Shelties sound like a very good breed. Thank you for such good information. Have a great day! :)

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 5 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      This is a good hub. I believe they may have started out by being the same breed but they separated. These are totally different breeds now. They do not even have the same characteristics except for looks. They act totally different.

      My dad had several of these and they are extremely intelligent dogs. One of them used to follow my dad down the hall and jump up and nip him on the bottom. She was playing with him. One time when she was doing that, her teeth caught in the material of his pajamas and when she came down, she pulled his pajama pants down. We kidded him about that.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I'm glad you found it informative. I used to thin that they were miniature Collies but found I was wrong and they are a separate breed. Thanks for reading it and commenting.

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 5 years ago from Central Texas

      Although I've never owned a Sheltie I've had friends with two or three and they were all very bright dogs, seemed to want to please their owners and caught on to anything very quickly. Thanks for a great and informative Hub as I've been interested in these dogs for years! Best/Sis

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I think all herding dogs tend to herd the family around.Our last dog was a German Shepherd/Husky mix. She got very worried if I sat in the wrong chair and was not where she thought I should be.Thanks for commenting.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      We always had Shelties when I was growing up. They are definitely little herders. They'll even herd the kids around. Loyal and devoted, easy to train, because as you said they only want to please. They are barkers though. Never could break any of them of barking their head off any time someone approached the house, even family members.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I have never had a Sheltie but I would like to.I did have a Collie many years ago which was a great dog.Thanks for commenting.

    • sarahk736 profile image

      sarahk736 5 years ago from Canada

      My aunt has had several Shelties over the years. They are the most beautiful, soft dogs there are. Could it be that a Collie is just a big Sheltie? haha.

      This was a very informative hub. Being that I already love these dogs I found it very interesting to be able to delve deeper into their history.

      Thank you!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thank you for commenting pandula.

    • pandula77 profile image

      Dr Pandula 5 years ago from Norway

      A very informative hub and thank you for the information!