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The Border Collie


From where did the Border Collie originate?


The border collie originated sometime during the 1800’s.  However the Border Collie as we know it today did not originate until 1915 from the borders of Scotland and England.  Before 1915 Border Collies were simply referred to as sheepdogs.


What is the lifespan of the Border Collie?


The average Border Collie will live 10-14 years.


What physical attributes should I take into account when looking at a Border Collie?


Temperament:  The Border Collie is energetic, intelligent, keen, alert, and responsive. An intense worker of great tractability, it is affectionate towards friends but may be sensibly reserved towards strangers. When approached, the Border Collie should stand its ground. It should be alert and interested, never showing fear, dullness, or resentment. Any tendencies toward viciousness, nervousness or shyness are very series faults.

Size:  Males should be 19” – 22” at withers 
          Females should be 18” – 21” at withers

The body, from prosternum to point of buttocks, is slightly longer than the height at the withers with the length to height ratio being approximately 10:9. Bones must be strong, medium being correct but lighter bones is preferred over heavy. Overall balance between height, length, weight and bone is crucial and is more important than any absolute measurement. Dogs must be presented in hard working condition. Excess body weight is not to be mistaken for muscle or substance. Any single feature of size appearing out of proportion should be considered a fault.

General Appearance:  The general appearance should be that of a well proportioned dog, the smooth outline showing quality, gracefulness and perfect balance, combined with sufficient substance to ensure that it is capable of enduring long periods of activity in its intended task as a working sheepdog.

Head:  The skull is broad and flat between the ears, slightly narrowing to the eye with a pronounced stop cheeks deep but not prominent. The muzzle, tapering to the nose, is strong and the same length as the skull. The lips are tight and clean and the nose is large with open nostrils.  The nose colour in all dogs will be a solid colour with no pink or light pigment, and shall compliment the backgrounds colour of the dog.


Eyes:  The eyes are set wide apart, oval shaped of moderate size.  Blue eyes (with one, both or part of one of both eyes being blue) in dogs other than merle, are acceptable but not preferred. Eye rims should be fully pigmented, lack thereof considered a fault according to degree.


Ears:  Ears are of medium size, set well apart, one or both carried erect and/or semi-erect (varying from to of the ear erect). When semi-erect, the tips may fall forward or outward to the side. Ears are sensitive and mobile.


Mouth:  The teeth should be sound, strong and evenly spaced.

Neck:  Is of proportional length to the body, strong and muscular, slightly arched and blending smoothly into the shoulders.

Forequarters:  Forelegs should be parallel when viewed from front. Pasterns slightly sloping when viewed from side. The shoulder blades are long, well laid back and well-angulated to the upper arm. Shoulder blades and upper arms are equal in length.

Body:  The body is moderately long with well-sprung ribs tapering to a fairly deep and moderately broad chest.. The loins are broad, deep and muscular with well turned stifles and strong hocks, well let down, and when viewed from the rear are straight and parallel.

Hindquarters:  Broad and muscular, in profile sloping gracefully to the lowest tail. The thighs are long, broad, deep and muscular. Stifles are well turned with strong hocks that may be either parallel or very slightly, turned in, Dewclaws should be removed. Feet, although slightly smaller, are the same as front.

Feet:  Oval in shape, pads deep, strong and sound, toes moderately arched and close together. Nails short and strong.

Tail:  The tail is set on low and is moderately long with the bone reaching at least to the hock. The ideal tail carriage is low when the dog is concentrating on a given task and may have a slight upwards swirl at the end of the shepherd’s crook. In excitement, it may be raised proudly and waved like a banner, showing a confident personality. A tail curved over the back ifs a fault.

Coat:  Two varieties are permissible, both having close-fitting, dense, weather resistant double coats with the top coat either straight or wavy and coarser in texture than the undercoat which is soft, short, and dense. The rough variety is medium length without being excessive. Forelegs, haunches, chest and underside are feathered and the coat on the face, ears, feet, front of legs, is short and smooth. The smooth variety is short overt the entire body, is usually coarser in texture than the rough variety and may have slight feathering on forelegs, haunches, chest, and ruff. Neither coat type is preferred over the other. Seasonal shedding is normal and should not be panelized. The Border Collie’s purpose as an activity working herding dog shall be clearly evident in its presentation. Excess hair on the feet, hock, and pastern areas may be neatened for the show ring. Whiskers are untrimmed. Dogs that are overly groomed (trimmed and/or sculpted) should be penalized according to the extent.


Color:  The Border Collie appears in all colors or combination of colors and/or markings. Solid color, bi color, tri color, merle and sable dogs are to be judged equally with no one color or pattern preferred over another. White markings may be clear white or ticked to any degree. Random white patches, on the body and head are permissible but should not predominate. Color and markings are always secondary to physical and evaluation gait.


Gait:  The Border Collie is an agile dog, able to suddenly change speed and direction while maintaining balance and grace. Endurance is its trademark. The Border Collie’s most used working gaits are the gallop and moving crouch (stealth) which convert to a balanced and free trot, with minimum lift of the feet. The head is carried level with or slightly below the withers. When shown, Border Collies should move on a loose lead and at moderate speed, never raced around the ring with the head held high. When viewed from the side the trot is not long striding, yet covers the ground with minimum effort, exhibiting facility of movement rather than a hard driving action. Exaggerated reach ad drive at the trot are not useful to the Border Collie. The top line is firm. Viewed from the front, action is forward and true without wasted motion. Viewed from the rear, hindquarters drive with thrust and flexibility with hocks turning neither in nor out, moving close together but never touching. The legs, both front and rear, tend to converge toward the center line as speed increases. Any defiance that detracts from efficient movement is a fault.

Grooming: Few dogs are as work-oriented as the Border Collie. This is a dog that needs a job. It needs a lot of physical and mental activity every day to satisfy its quest for work. It can live outdoors in temperate to cool climates, but it enjoys being with its family inside as well. This is a dog that cannot live in an apartment and that should preferably have ready access to a yard. Its coat needs brushing or combing twice weekly.

Faults:  Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness of the fault should be in exact proportion to its degree.


Are there any genetic defects I need to know about when looking at a Border Collie?


The Border Collie like many other breeds are not free from genetic defects.  Listed below you will find genetic defects that you may encounter with your Border Collie.


Hip Dysplasia

Collie Eye Anomaly


Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Malignant Hyperthermia

Elbow dysphasia

Osteochondritis Dissesans

Focal/Multifocal Acquired Retinopathy

Malignant Hyperthermia


What is Hip Dysplasia?


Hip Dysplasia is by far the most common genetic disease that affects the Border Collie. Factors that contribute to the development of hip dysplasia  causes the hip joint to be damaged. This damage is referred to as osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease.  Degenerative joint disease is manifested by cartilage and bone breakdown and irregular bony remodeling in response to stresses and inflammatory processes in the joint.


What is Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA)?


Collie Eye Anomaly is an abnormal development of the eye. Mild cases are characterized by lack of development of the choroid, which is the vascular layer of the back of the eye (choroidal hypoplasia), and vascular tortuosity.  In more severe cases, the dog may have patchy areas where the choroid is missing and bare sclera is visible. Colobomas are outpouches of the sclera, and may be found in the most serious presentation of CEA. The colobomas may be small or large and may affect the optic disc or be adjacent to the optic disc. Dogs with colobomas have a higher incidence of development of a retinal detachment, or retinal hemorrhage, or both which can result in blindness. 


What is Epilepsy?


Epilepsy is a neurological seizure disorder, which can be extremely serious.  Although eptileptic seizures can usually be controlled by medication, that's not always the case.  Dogs have been known to die of uncontrollable seizures. Unfortunately, there is no test at this time.


What is Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)?


Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a progressive disease where tissue in the retina of the eye is destroyed. It may initially be noticed as decreased ability of the dog to see at night, and may eventually progress to total blindness. Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Border Collies in the United States is extremely rare and should not be a major concern to current and/or future Border Collie owners.


What is Malignant Hyperthermia?


Malignant Hyperthermia is a very serious but extremely rare condition that affects some Border Collies.  Typical symptoms include staggering after a brief period (5 to 10 minutes) of exercise.  If left to run they will collapse.  Body temperatures shoot up extremely high and take a long time to return to normal even in cold weather.  Any exercise or stress can trigger an attack.  If the dog's temperature goes to high it can trigger seizures, strokes or even death.  A Border Collie with this condition must have their exercise carefully monitored and controlled.


What is Elbow Dysplasia?


Elbow dysplasia is the term for an elbow joint that is malformed.  The mechanism of the malformation is unclear but it may be due to differences in the growth rates of the three bones that make up the elbow joint, particularly the humerus and ulna. In mildly affected dogs the only consequence may be arthritis. In more severely affected dogs, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), fragmented medial coronoid processes and united anconeal processes can result from the stress in the joint.


What is Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)?


Osteochondritis Dissecans is a disease that can cause lameness in the joints of young dogs (usually from 6 to 12 months of age).  This is a degenerative disease of the joints and is possibly associated with over nutrition and too-fast growth in puppies.  Treatment includes rest and/or surgery.  


What is Focal/Multifocal Acquired Retinopathy (FMAR)?


Focal/Multifocal Acquired Retinopathy (FMAR) is a inflammatory eye disease.  This is common in many working breeds and is probably the most frequently seen retinal lesion in Border Collies. This can lead to impaired vision and sometimes leading to blindness. Males are more prone to this defect than females.  


Are Border Collies Good With Children? Click on this link to find out.

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