The Border Collie — Mastermind of the Dog World

The Border Collie is the Swiss Army Knife, the Everything Bagel of the dog world. Whatever you need him to do, he can do with ease, then ask what is the next job on your to-do list. Although considered by many authorities to be the world’s most intelligent breed, nobody calls the Border Collie low maintenance.

This is a lot of dog to deal with in a medium-sized package. Not every Ford driver can handle a tanked-up Maserati, and not every casual pet owner can keep a Border Collie content and engaged. Here are seven fun facts about this super dog.

Border Collie history

The Border Collie originated in the Border country between Scotland and England, where the shepherds’ breeding selection was based on cooperative stock sense and the ability to work long days on rugged terrain. This selective breeding developed the unique working style of the Border Collie gathering and fetching the stock in a wide, sweeping manner, then controlling it with an intense gaze known as “eye,” and a stalking style of movement. As the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard states, “Breeding based on this working ability has made this breed the world’s premier sheep-herding dog, a job the Border Collie is still used for worldwide.”

Versatility, thy name is Border Collie

Border Collie experts and the AKC standard agree that this breed “is, and should remain, a natural and unspoiled true working sheep dog.” Not only is the Border Collie a superior herder of livestock, but he has proven himself a formidable competitor in such performance events as obedience, agility, rally, dock diving and tracking. About the only activity the Border Collie has not perfected, or even pretends to be good at, is that of a lazy couch potato.

Exercise requirements

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Due to the breed’s working heritage, Border Collies are demanding and energetic. They do best in households that can give them plenty of exercise and play, with humans or with other canine companions.

Because of their great need for mental stimulation, many Border Collies will develop problematic behaviors in homes that are unable to meet these requirements. To cure their boredom, Border Collies are notorious for chewing holes in walls and furniture, digging and other destructive activity. Border Collie clubs and rescue groups advise that anyone considering the breed first make sure they can provide the exercise needed as a suitable outlet for the Border’s high energy and great stamina.

A working Border typically runs many hours a day, using his personality and intelligence to control challenging livestock. The breed becomes distressed and frustrated if left in isolation, ignored or inactive. They can be motion sensitive and may chase moving vehicles and bicycles, behavior that can be corrected with appropriate training. Border Collies will also express their strong desire to herd by herding small children, cats and dogs.

Show vs. working vs. performance

Border Collies that come from dog show bloodlines will look the most alike, as their breeders are producing dogs that meet a written standard that describes the ideal Border Collie in size, silhouette, head and body shape, and overall appearance. Those from working bloodlines will display the least uniformity, as it is the dogs’ stamina and herding ability that are most highly prized, and physical looks are of little importance. Border Collies from performance bloodlines, bred to excel in agility, rally and other dog sports, will lie somewhere in between.

More than black and white

While the vast majority of Border Collies seen are black-and-white, the breed comes in all colors, combinations and markings. The AKC standard states that “All colors are to be judged equally with no one color or pattern preferred over another.” You’ll find Border Collies in tricolor, chocolate, blue and blue merle, and red in all shades from copper to blond.

Border Collies also come in two coat lengths. Close-fitting, dense, weather- resistant double-coats are required in both, but the more common rough coat variety has feathering on the forelegs, chest and haunches, while the smooth variety has a short coat over the entire body, usually coarser in texture than the rough.

Border Collies in the media

Few breeds have been seen more often on TV and in movies than the Border Collie, and that visibility has certainly played a big role in their popularity. Besides Borders in many dozens of TV commercials, we remember Bandit from the TV series Little House on the Prairie and Shep, the star of the British children’s show Blue Peter. Border Collies to star on the big screen included Nana in Snow Dogs, Fly
in Babe, Jessie in Animal Farm, Raffles in the animated Rover Dangerfield, and Mike in Down and Out in Beverly Hills.

Celebrities cross over to the Border

Not surprisingly, plenty of actors, singers, musicians and sports figures are passionate about their Border Collies. The star-studded list includes James Dean, Anna Paquin, Tiger Woods, Dierks Bentley, Jerry Seinfeld, Ethan Hawke and Jon Bon Jovi.


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