The Collie, itself, is not any one specific breed of dog, but rather a type of dog. More specifically, the Collie is a herding dog, used by farmers and ranchers to herd sheep, cows, and other cattle. Originating in Scotland and Northern England, there are now over 20 different breeds of Collie type dogs.
Collie dogs have come to spread throughout the entire world, especially Australia and North America, thanks to the hard work of breeders, farmers, ranchers, and dog competition seekers.
Collies have been the subject of literature and art for years, which is actually one of the reasons that their popularity grew so much. The 1920’s and 1930’s in the United States demonstrated this perfectly; they became the subject of Alan Payson Terhune’s novels during this time, which were extremely popular. Then, in 1938, the Rough Collie got a spark of popularity thanks to Lassie, book, film, and television icon.
Collies are usually medium sized dogs, although this varies by breed. They can have anywhere from light to medium bone structure as well. They typically measure roughly 26 inches and weigh between 48 to 70 pounds, again depending on specific breed and gender. Some breeds, especially the ones used for herding cattle, are much stockier than others.
Collie tails also vary greatly. Some have naturally long tails, while others have naturally bobbed tails. Those with long tails can sometimes have an upward swirl or twist, although this never starts at the base of the tail or touches the back. The fur on the tail can be either smooth, feathered, or bushy.
Their heads are usually small to medium sized, although the shapes do vary from square to pointed to round. Also, Collies can either have droopy or pointed and erect ears. Their muzzles also vary, as some breeds have more square muzzles, while others have long, pointed ones.
Finally, Collies come in many different colors and patterns. Base colors usually include any of the following: black, black and tan, red, ran and tan, or sable. White is also a very common color on the Collie, although it usually appears just on the stomach, chest, over the shoulders, parts of the face, and parts of the legs and feet. Merle is also a common coloration pattern, which gives the dog a patchy or spotted appearance. The three most common patterns and color combinations are sable, black and white, and tricolor (black, white, and tan). Their fur can be either short, flat, or long. Grooming and upkeep are very important for these dogs.
Collie breeds include the Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Kelpie, Bearded Collie, Blue Lacy, Border Collie, Cumberland Sheepdog, English Shepherd, Farm Collie, German Coolie, Huntaway, Lurcher, McNab Shepherd, New Zealand Eye Dog, Scotch Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, Smithfield, Welsh Sheepdog, and more. The average life span of the Collie is roughly 13 years.
The temperament of the Collie depends upon the exact breed, and class of dog. To start, there are two classes of Collies; the working class and the show/pet class. The working class Collie is very energetic, agile, and athletic. They require a massive amount of exercise and can often go all day without needing to rest even once. Besides exercise and work, they also love to play.
Working class Collies are also very intelligent, which makes them easily trainable. They can be taught to perform a wide variety of tasks, and to behave well in numerous environments, although they usually do better in areas with a lot of space, such as a farm or ranch. They are also very loyal. This helps in the training process because it makes them more obedient to their owner and more eager to please them.
One downside to the working class Collie is that no matter what their assigned job is, they have a strong herding instinct which can translate into obsession if it is not satisfied. This also makes them very single-minded.
Show Collies and simple companion Collies are also very easily trainable. They share the same characteristics of intelligence and loyalty as their working class counterparts. Furthermore, these dogs are also very devoted, so once they have a goal in mind they will stop at almost nothing until they reach it.
Like the working class Collies, show and companion Collies are also very active and playful. On the other hand, they can also be quite gentle and are very good about knowing their limits. This makes them especially suited for family with young children, as they tend to do very well with them. These Collies are slightly more companionship and family oriented than the working class Collies.
The term “working class” refers to those Collies who are used for specific tasks. While this does not necessarily mean actual work, like herding or other farm work, they are often used in these environments. More often than not, Collies of this class are used on farms and ranches to herd sheep, which is why some of them have “Sheepdog” in their name. However, they are also used to herd other livestock as well.
Another job of the working class Collie is competing in athletic or skill based competitions. Some of these include sheepdog trials, flyball (relay race involving both hurdle jumping and ball catching), disc dog (Frisbee catching competition), and dog agility. Some Collies also compete in herding trials, where they tend to perform very well because of their natural instincts.
However, some Collies are bred for show purposes and not competition or work. These Collies compete in conformation showing, where they are judged based on appearance and how well they fit the breed standard. This can somewhat be counted as “work”, but in a very low degree. This type of Collie is sometimes used as a watchdog, though.
Lastly, people often choose to adopt Collies as simple family pets. Again, they have personalities that fit well in the home, especially ones with other animals and young children. They are playful, gentle, and easily trainable which makes them the perfect companion for many.