Border Collie: Breed Profile, Characteristics, & Care Guide

| Updated: August 18, 2023
border collie laying in a field

Not surprisingly, Border Collies are one of the most popular breeds in the world. They’re not only beautiful and graceful but also intelligent and hard-working. They can learn almost anything, from basic commands to complex tricks, and they love to please their owners. They also tend to be affectionate and devoted to their family members, making them great companions.

Read on to find out about the dog breed characteristics, the history, and origin of the breed, the types of coats and variety of colors they come in, the temperament and personality of Border Collies, the best exercises and activities for them, the obedience training and socialization they need, the health issues and care they require, and the breeders and rescue organizations you can contact if you want to adopt or buy a Border Collie.

Breed Overview

Dog Breed Border Collie
Nicknames Border, Collie, Sheepdog, Eye Dog
Coat Double coat, either rough or smooth
Coat Colors Black and white, blue merle, red merle, sable, tricolor, brindle, lilac, chocolate, red, or solid
Coat Patterns Solid, merle, brindle, ticked, or with white markings or tan points
Weight 30 to 55 pounds (14 to 25 kilograms)
Height 18 to 22 inches (46 to 58 centimeters) at the shoulder
Lifespan 12 to 15 years
Origin British Isles (Scotland and England)
Breed Ranking 30th most popular dog breed by the American Kennel Club

History of the Border Collie Breed

Border Collies originated in the British Isles in the late 19th century as a result of crossbreeding various types of sheepdogs from England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The name “Border Collie” comes from the fact that they were developed along the border between England and Scotland. The main purpose of these dogs was to herd sheep and other livestock, using their intelligence, speed, and eye contact to control the animals. They were also valued for their loyalty, courage, and stamina.

One of the most influential dogs in the history of the breed was Hindhope Jed, a black and white female Border Collie born in 1895 in Northumberland, England. She was owned by Adam Telfer, a shepherd who bred her with a dog called Roy, a descendant of another famous Border Collie named Old Hemp. Old Hemp was considered the father of the modern Border Collie, as he was the first dog to use the “eye” or the intense stare to herd sheep.

Hindhope Jed and Roy produced a litter of puppies, one of which was named Wiston Cap, who became one of the most famous and influential Border Collies of all time. Wiston Cap was born in 1906 in Scotland and was owned by James Reid, a shepherd and sheepdog trainer. Wiston Cap won many sheepdog trials and championships and sired over 200 offspring. He is considered the progenitor of the breed, as most modern Border Collies can trace their ancestry back to him.

Another important figure in the history of the breed was Robert Burns, a Scottish poet, and farmer who owned several Border Collies in the late 18th century. He wrote many poems and songs about his dogs, such as “The Twa Dogs,” “The Humble Petition of Bruar Water,” and “Auld Lang Syne.” He also coined the term “Collie” to describe his dogs, which comes from the Scots’ word for “useful” or “clever”.

Border Collies were not officially recognized as a breed until 1976 by the American Kennel Club (AKC), although they were already popular among farmers and shepherds for decades. The AKC classified them as part of the Herding Group and set a standard for their appearance and temperament. However, some Border Collie enthusiasts prefer to register their dogs with other organizations, such as the American Border Collie Association (ABCA) or the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS), which focus more on their working abilities than their looks.

Today, Border Collies are still widely used as working dogs in farms and ranches around the world, especially in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the UK. They are also very popular as pets and companions for active and experienced owners who can provide them with enough exercise and stimulation. They are also very successful in various dog sports and activities, such as agility, flyball, disc dog, obedience, tracking, herding, freestyle obedience, or search and rescue. They are also featured in many movies, TV shows, books, and games, such as BabeSnow DogsNintendogs, and Borderlands.

black and white border collie sprinting, all legs in the air

Dog Breed Characteristics

Border Collies are medium-sized dogs that weigh between 30 and 55 pounds and stand between 18 and 22 inches at the shoulder. They have a double coat that can be either rough or smooth and comes in a variety of colors, such as black and white, blue merle, red merle, sable, tricolor, brindle, lilac, chocolate, red, or solid. They have a long tail that is usually carried low, except when they are excited or working. They have a wedge-shaped head with erect or semi-erect ears and expressive almond eyes that can be brown, blue, or heterochromatic (one eye of each color).

Types Of Coat And Variety Of Colors

The rough coat is medium to long in length, with feathering on the legs, chest, belly, and tail. The smooth coat is short to medium in length, with minimal feathering.

Both types of coats require regular brushing to remove dead hair and prevent mats and tangles.

Border Collies come in a wide variety of colors and patterns that can be solid or mixed. The most common color is black and white, and probably the most iconic look to most people.

Still, they can also be seen sporting colors like blue merle (a mottled blue-gray color), red merle (a mottled red-brown color), sable (a brown color with black tips), tricolor (black, tan, and white), brindle (a striped pattern of black and brown), lilac (a light gray-brown color), chocolate (a dark brown color), red (a reddish-brown color), or solid (one color without any markings). Some Border Collies also have white markings on their face, chest, legs, tail tip, or collar.

The color and pattern of a Border Collie’s coat do not affect its personality or performance. However, some colors are associated with certain health issues or genetic defects. For example,

  • Blue merle and red merle Border Collies are more prone to deafness or blindness due to a gene that affects their pigmentation.
  • Chocolate Border Collies are more likely to suffer from skin allergies or infections due to a gene that affects their immune system.
  • Solid white Border Collies are more likely to have congenital deafness or eye problems due to a lack of pigmentation.

Therefore, it is important to check the health history of the parents and the puppies before buying or adopting a Border Collie.

black and white border collie with two different colored eyes

Temperament And Personality

Border Collies are known for their intelligence and trainability. Many experts rank them as the smartest dog breed, and they can learn new commands in as little as five repetitions. They are also very responsive to their owner’s voice and gestures, making them easy to communicate with. They have a strong work ethic and a natural instinct to herd livestock, especially sheep. They can also excel in other tasks that require agility, speed, and endurance, such as search and rescue, therapy work, or dog sports.

Border Collies are very loyal dogs that form strong bonds with their owners. They are very affectionate and love to cuddle with their family members. This leads to them being very protective of their home and territory and will alert their owners of any strangers or intruders.

Border Collies are generally good with children, especially if they are raised with them or introduced to them at a young age. However, they can also be very energetic and playful, which can overwhelm or injure small children if they are not supervised. They can also have a tendency to herd or nip at children or other pets if they are not trained to control their impulses.

The temperament and personality of a Border Collie can vary depending on several factors, such as:

  • Genetics: The genes inherited from the parents can influence the traits and characteristics of the offspring. Some Border Collies may inherit more of the herding instinct, while others may inherit more of the agility or obedience skills. Some Border Collies may inherit a more outgoing or friendly temperament, while others may inherit a more aloof or wary temperament.
  • Environment: The environment in which the Border Collie is raised can affect its behavior and attitude. A Border Collie exposed to different people, animals, places, and situations from an early age will be more confident and adaptable than a Border Collie isolated or restricted. A Border Collie treated with kindness and respect will be more trusting and loving than a Border Collie who is abused or neglected.
  • Training: The Border Collie’s training can shape its personality and manners. A Border Collie trained with positive reinforcement and consistency will be more obedient and cooperative than a Border Collie trained with harshness or inconsistency. A Border Collie trained with variety and challenge will be more stimulated and happy than a Border Collie trained with boredom or repetition.

Collie Chatter

One of the most distinctive and charming features of Border Collies is their Collie chatter. This is a term used to describe Border Collies’ vocalizations, which are different from the typical barking or howling of other dogs. Collie chatter can sound like a mix of whining, grumbling, growling, moaning, or humming, and it can vary in pitch, volume, and duration. Collie chatter can express a range of emotions and intentions, such as excitement, boredom, frustration, anxiety, curiosity, or affection.

Collie chatter is not unique to Border Collies, as other breeds of Collies and related dogs can also make similar sounds. However, Border Collies are known for being more vocal than most dogs and for using their voice to communicate with their owners, other dogs, or other animals. Border Collies can also use their voice to control or influence the behavior of their herding targets, such as sheep or cattle.

Collie chatter can have different meanings depending on the context and sound tone. For example:

  • High-pitched or loud: Can indicate excitement, eagerness, or happiness. This can happen when the Border Collie sees their owner, a friend, a toy, or a treat. It can also happen when the Border Collie plays, works, or performs a task.
  • Low-pitched or soft: Can indicate boredom, frustration, or sadness. This can happen when the Border Collie is left alone, ignored, or denied something they want. It can also happen when the Border Collie is tired, sick, or in pain.
  • Medium-pitched or moderate: Can indicate curiosity, interest, or alertness. This can happen when the Border Collie sees something new, unusual, or intriguing. It can also happen when the Border Collie hears a noise, smells a scent, or senses a presence.
  • Mixed-pitched or varied: Can indicate anxiety, nervousness, or fear. This can happen when the Border Collie faces a threat, a challenge, or a conflict. It can also happen when the Border Collie is unsure, confused, or stressed.

Collie chatter is not a problem or a nuisance; it is a natural and normal behavior of Border Collies that shows their intelligence and personality. However, some people may find it annoying or excessive at times. To reduce unwanted or excessive Collie chatter in your Border Collie, you should:

  • Provide them with enough physical and mental stimulation to keep them happy and occupied.
  • Provide them with positive reinforcement and consistency to teach them when making noise is appropriate and inappropriate. Praise them for being quiet and calm when you want them to be quiet and calm.
  • Provide them with socialization and exposure to different people, animals, places, and situations, and teach them how to behave appropriately in each scenario.

Collie chatter is one of the ways that your Border Collie expresses their feelings and thoughts to you. By understanding and appreciating their Collie chatter, you can strengthen your bond with your Border Collie and enjoy their unique and charming personality.

red border collie full body shot

Best Exercises And Activities

Active dogs need a lot of exercise to keep them physically and mentally healthy. They are often unsuitable for people with sedentary lifestyles or who do not have enough time or space to provide adequate exercise. A bored or under-exercised Border Collie can become destructive, hyperactive, or depressed.

The best exercises and activities for Border Collies are those that involve their natural instincts and abilities, such as:

  • Herding: This is the most natural and satisfying activity for Border Collies, as it allows them to use their herding instinct, intelligence, speed, and eye contact to control livestock. Herding can be done in a farm or ranch setting or in a controlled environment such as a herding club or facility. Herding can also be done as a sport, where Border Collies compete in sheepdog trials or other herding events.
  • Agility: This is another activity that suits Border Collies very well, as it involves running through an obstacle course with speed and accuracy, following the handler’s cues. Agility requires a lot of coordination, balance, and confidence from the dog and a strong bond with the handler. Agility can be done as a hobby or as a sport, where Border Collies compete in agility trials or other agility events.
  • Flyball: This is a fun activity that involves teams of four dogs racing against each other over a series of hurdles, triggering a box that releases a ball, which they catch and return to their handler. Flyball tests the dog’s speed, stamina, and teamwork. Flyball can be done as a hobby or as a sport, where Border Collies compete in flyball tournaments or other flyball events.
  • Disc dog: Think “Dog Frisbee” this exciting activity involves dogs catching flying discs thrown by their handlers and performing various tricks and maneuvers in the air. Disc dog showcases the dog’s athleticism, coordination, timing, and the handler’s throwing skills. Disc dog can be done as a hobby or as a sport, where Border Collies compete in disc dog competitions or other disc dog events.

These are just some of the exercises and activities that Border Collies can enjoy. There are many other activities that can challenge and stimulate these amazing dogs, such as obedience training, tracking, herding, freestyle obedience, search and rescue, hiking, swimming, playing fetch or tug-of-war, or simply running around in a large fenced area.

Common Health Issues

Like any dog breed, health issues can affect their quality of life. Some of the common health issues that Border Collies can suffer from are:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Collie eye anomaly
  • Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis
  • Border Collie collapse

These are some of the health issues that Border Collies can face, but they are not the only ones. Other health issues that Border Collies can suffer from include allergies, epilepsy, deafness, cataracts, glaucoma, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), patellar luxation, hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, cancer, etc.

Where to Buy a Border Collie Puppy

The average price of a Border Collie is $1000. However, this can vary depending on the puppy’s quality, pedigree, location, and demand. Some Border Collies can cost as low as $100 or as high as $5500.

Border Collies aren’t tremendously rare, but certain patterns or colors might be. Some colors and patterns are more common than others, such as black and white or tricolor. Some colors and patterns are more rare and sought-after, such as blue merle or red merle. The rarity of a Border Collie can affect their price and availability.

If you’re looking for a breeder, I suggest starting with the breed registries and you can even ask your vet or local clubs for recommendations.


Border Collies are not just dogs; they are family members! They will love you unconditionally and will be loyal to you for life. They will also challenge you and inspire you to be a better person. They will make you laugh and make you cry. They will make you proud and make you humble. They will be your best friend and your partner in crime.

Border Collies are the ultimate dogs for the ultimate owners. Are you one of them?


  • Highly intelligent and trainable dogs that can learn almost anything and do almost anything.
  • Very energetic and athletic dogs that can excel in various dog sports and activities.
  • Loyal and affectionate dogs that form strong bonds with their owners and family members.
  • Beautiful and graceful dogs that come in a variety of colors and patterns.


  • They are not suitable for people who live in small spaces or who have busy schedules.
  • Can develop behavioral problems if they are not trained or socialized properly.
  • Not the best choice for novice owners or people who are unprepared to provide them with the care they need.

More Dog Breeds

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Are Border Collies hypoallergenic?

No, Border Collies are not hypoallergenic. Their double coat sheds moderately to heavily, especially during the shedding seasons. They can also produce a lot of dander, which can trigger allergic reactions in some people. Border Collies may not be the best choice for you if you are allergic to dogs.

How long do Border Collies live?

Border Collies have a lifespan of about 12 to 15 years, depending on their health and care. Some Border Collies can live longer than that, while others may die sooner due to accidents or illnesses.

Do Border Collies bark a lot?

Yes, Border Collies tend to bark a lot. They are very vocal dogs that use barking to communicate with their owners, other dogs, or other animals. They also bark to express their emotions, such as excitement, boredom, frustration, or anxiety. They also bark to alert their owners of any potential threats or intruders.

Are Border Collies good with cats?

It depends on the individual dog and cat. Some Border Collies can get along well with cats, especially if they are raised with them or introduced to them at a young age. However, some Border Collies may chase or harass cats due to their strong prey drive and herding instinct.

Shane Elliot Author Image
Shane Elliot

Shane Elliot is a pet lover and a coral enthusiast. He has been keeping saltwater aquariums for over ten years and enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with other hobbyists. He writes about coral care, fish compatibility, aquarium equipment, and more. He also covers topics related to other animals, such as dogs, cats, horses, and reptiles. Shane works as a freelance writer and editor when his menagerie of pets allows it.

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