Collie: Breed Profile, Characteristics, & Care Guide

| Updated: August 18, 2023
rough collie at sunset in a field

Have you ever watched Lassie, the famous TV show about a brave and loyal dog who always saves the day? If you have, then you already know what a collie is. Collies are beautiful dogs with long, fluffy coats and sweet, expressive faces. They are smart, loving, and faithful companions who will always be by your side.

But collies are more than just Lassie’s dog breed. They have a rich and fascinating history that goes back hundreds of years. They also have many amazing qualities and abilities that make them stand out from other dogs. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about collies, from their origin and types to their characteristics and care.

The History of Collies

The word “collie” comes from an old Scottish word that means “black” or “coal.” This might be because some of the first collies had black coats. Or it might be because they were very useful and handy dogs, just like coal.

Collies are very old dogs that have been around since Roman times or even earlier. It’s possible they came from a mix of Roman herding dogs and local dogs in Britain. These dogs were used to herd sheep and cattle in the rough lands of Scotland and northern England. They had to be smart, fast, strong, and independent to do their job well.

Collies became more popular in the 1800s when dog shows started in Britain. People began to breed different types of collies for different purposes and places. One of the most famous collie breeders was James Hogg, a Scottish shepherd and poet with his own line of collies called Hogg’s Lassies. These dogs were mostly sable and white in color and had a refined look.

One of Hogg’s Lassies was given to Queen Victoria as a gift when she visited Scotland in 1860. The queen loved the dog so much that she became a big fan of collies and helped make them more popular among the British nobility.

The first collie club was formed in England in 1881 and the first standard was written in 1886. The American Kennel Club (AKC) registered the first collie in 1885. The AKC recognizes two varieties of collies: rough and smooth.

The rough collie was developed from the long-haired Scottish collies that were used for herding and guarding livestock. The smooth collie was developed from the short-haired English collies that were used for driving and droving livestock. The two varieties have the same standard except for the coat length and texture.

The collie became famous worldwide after the publication of Lassie Come-Home, a novel by Eric Knight, in 1940. The story was about a loyal rough collie who traveled across Britain to reunite with her young owner. The novel was adapted into a movie in 1943, starring a male collie named Pal as Lassie. Pal and his descendants played Lassie in many subsequent movies and TV shows, making the collie one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved dog breeds.

Breed Overview

Dog Breed Collie
Nicknames Lassie Dog, Scottish Collie, Long-Haired Collie, English Collie
Coat Smooth or Rough
Coat Colors Black, white, and tan; blue merle; sable; white; white merle; and more combinations
Coat Patterns Solid, bicolor, tricolor, merle, or white.
Weight 50 to 75 pounds (female), 60 to 75 pounds (male)
Height 22 to 24 inches (female), 24 to 26 inches (male) at the shoulder
Lifespan 12 – 14 Years
Origin United Kingdom
Breed Ranking 39th most popular dog breed by the American Kennel Club out of 200 breeds.

Collie Characteristics

Physical Appearance

Collies are medium to large dogs weighing 50 to 75 pounds and standing between 22 to 26 inches at the shoulder. Males are slightly larger than females. Collies have a graceful and elegant appearance, with a wedge-shaped head, almond-shaped eyes, and erect or semi-erect ears. They have a long tail that is carried low when relaxed and high when excited.

Collies have a double coat that consists of a soft and dense undercoat and a harsh and straight outer coat. The rough collie has a long, thick coat that covers the entire body, including the legs and tail. The smooth collie has a short, sleek coat that lies close to the body. Both types come in various coat colors, such as sable and white, tricolor, blue merle, or white. Sable and white is the most common color, ranging from light gold to dark mahogany. Tricolors are black, tan, and white. Blue merle is gray with black patches and tan markings. White is predominantly white with markings of any other color.

Collies have distinctive facial, chest, leg, and tail markings. They have a white blaze on their forehead and muzzle, white around their neck and chest, white on their legs and feet, and white on the tip of their tail. Some collies may also have merle markings, which are patches of lighter or darker color on their coat. Merle is caused by a gene that dilutes the pigment in some areas of the coat.


Collies are very affectionate and devoted to their family members. They are gentle and friendly with children and other animals, including cats. They are also very alert and protective of their home and territory. Collies need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation as they are active and intelligent dogs. They enjoy playing, running, hiking, and participating in dog sports like agility and herding.

Collies are easy to train; they are eager to please, and learn quickly. They respond well to positive reinforcement and gentle guidance. They can be sensitive and do not like harsh or loud corrections. Collies are also very vocal and will bark to communicate or alert their owners of anything unusual.

Beautiful rough collie side profile standing on a dirt path

Caring for Collies

Collies are generally healthy dogs, but they can be prone to some genetic health issues, such as collie eye anomaly (CEA), hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and dermatomyositis (DMS). CEA is a congenital eye disorder that affects the retina and choroid of the eye. It can cause vision loss or blindness in some cases. Hip dysplasia is a condition where the hip joint is malformed or unstable, causing pain and arthritis. PRA is a degenerative eye disease that causes gradual loss of vision. DMS is a skin and muscle disorder that causes inflammation, hair loss, and scarring.

Collies have a lifespan of about 12 to 14 years. They require a high-quality diet that meets their nutritional needs and energy level. They also need regular grooming to keep their coat clean and healthy. Rough collies need more frequent brushing than smooth collies to prevent mats and tangles. Collies also need regular dental care, nail trimming, ear cleaning, and eye care.


Collies have a beautiful coat that requires regular grooming to keep it clean, healthy, and tangle-free. Depending on the type of collie, the grooming routine may vary slightly. Rough collies have a long, thick coat that needs more frequent brushing and bathing than smooth collies, which have a short, sleek coat that is easier to maintain. However, both collies need basic grooming steps to keep them looking and feeling their best.

Here are some tips and advice on how to groom your collie:

  • Brush your collie at least once a week with a pin brush or a long-tooth comb. This will help remove any loose, dead, or matted hair from their undercoat and prevent shedding and tangling. Start from the head and work your way down to the tail, following the direction of the hair growth. Be gentle and careful around sensitive areas like the ears, legs, tail, and belly. If you encounter any knots or mats, use a comb or a matt splitter to gently untangle them. Do not pull or cut them; this can hurt your collie or their coat.
  • Bathe your collie every 6 to 8 weeks or when they are dirty or smelly. Use a mild dog shampoo that is suitable for their coat type and skin condition. Avoid human shampoo or soap, which can dry or irritate their skin. Wet your collie’s coat thoroughly with warm water and apply the shampoo evenly. Massage it into their coat and skin, avoiding their eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Rinse well with clean water until the water runs clear. Dry your collie with a towel or a blow dryer on a low setting. Do not let them air dry, as this can cause chills or skin problems.
  • Trim your collie’s nails every 4 to 6 weeks or when they are too long or sharp. Use a dog nail clipper or a grinder that is designed for their nail size and shape. Cut or grind the nails gradually, avoiding the quick, which is the pink part of the nail that contains blood vessels and nerves. If you accidentally cut the quick, use styptic powder or cornstarch to stop the bleeding. You can also file the nails with a nail file to smooth out any rough edges.
  • Clean your collie’s ears once a week or when they are dirty or smelly. Use a cotton ball or a soft cloth moistened with warm water or an ear cleaner that your vet recommends. Gently wipe the inside of the ear flap and the outer ear canal, removing any dirt, wax, or debris. Do not insert anything into the ear canal, which can damage their eardrums or cause infection. Check for any signs of ear problems, such as redness, swelling, discharge, odor, or scratching. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your vet for treatment.
  • Brush your collie’s teeth at least twice a week or daily if possible. Use a dog toothbrush and toothpaste that are specially made for dogs. Do not use human toothpaste, as it can be harmful to them if swallowed. Gently lift your collie’s lips and brush their teeth in circular motions, focusing on the outer surfaces of the teeth and gums. Reward your collie with praise and treats for letting you brush their teeth. You can also give them dental chews or toys that can help clean their teeth and freshen their breath.

Fun Facts About Collies

Here are some fun and interesting facts about collies that you may not know:

  • The name “Lassie” comes from a Scottish word for “girl” or “lass.” The original Lassie was a female rough collie, but most of the dogs that played her on-screen were males, as they had thicker and showier coats.
  • The collie is one of the oldest breeds of dog, dating back to the 18th century or earlier. Some of the collie’s ancestors may have been brought to Britain by the Romans or the Vikings.
  • The collie is related to other herding breeds, such as the Shetland sheepdog, the Australian shepherd, the English shepherd, and the border collie. The border collie is considered the most closely related to the original working collies of Scotland and northern England.
  • The collie has a strong herding instinct and can be trained to herd almost any kind of animal, from sheep and cattle to ducks and geese. Some collies even herd their owners or other pets around the house.
  • The collie is very intelligent and can learn many tricks and commands. Some collies can even understand human words and gestures. One famous collie named Chaser learned over 1,000 words and could identify different objects by name.
  • The collie is very musical and can sing along with songs or imitate sounds. Some collies can even play instruments like the piano or the harmonica. One famous collie was a rock star who performed with Pink Floyd; he played the keyboard and sang with his owner’s band.
  • The collie is very loyal and will do anything to protect their family and friends. Some collies have performed heroic acts, such as saving people from fires, drowning, or attacks. One famous collie named Shep waited for six years at a train station for his owner, who had died, until he himself passed away.

The collie is a majestic dog breed with many amazing qualities and abilities. They are loyal, loving, intelligent, alert, protective, gentle, friendly, active, and easy-to-train dogs that make great family pets. They are also famous for their role as Lassie, one of the most iconic dogs in history. Collies are truly remarkable dogs that deserve admiration and respect.

Final Thoughts

The collie is a majestic breed of dog that originated in Scotland and northern England as a herding dog. There are two main types of collies: the rough collie and the smooth collie. Both types have a graceful appearance, a double coat in various colors, distinctive markings, and an affectionate temperament.

Collies are loyal, loving, intelligent, alert, protective, gentle, friendly, active, and easy-to-train dogs that make great family pets. They need regular exercise, mental stimulation, grooming, and health care to stay happy and healthy. Collies are famous for their role as Lassie, one of the most iconic dogs in history. Collies are truly remarkable dogs that deserve admiration and respect.

More Dog Breeds

If you’re interested in learning about similar dog breeds, check out:

Or browse our dog breed articles!


Are Collies hypoallergenic?

No, Collies are not hypoallergenic. They shed a lot and have a lot of dander, which can trigger allergies in some people.

Are Collies aggressive?

No, Collies are not aggressive. They are gentle, friendly, and loyal dogs that get along well with other animals and people. They may bark or nip at strangers or intruders but are not prone to biting or attacking.

Are Collies good with kids?

Yes, Collies are good with kids. They are affectionate, playful, and patient dogs that enjoy spending time with children. They are also protective and attentive and will alert their owners if something is wrong.

Do Collies bark a lot?

Yes, Collies bark a lot. They are vocal dogs that use barking to communicate, express their emotions, or warn their owners of potential threats. They may also bark out of boredom or excitement. They need proper training and socialization to learn when to be quiet.

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Kayla Stewart
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