Border Collies: a profile of an exceptional canine
Border Collies are the most intelligent of all dog breeds. Their name derives from the border territories of England and Scotland, where they were developed specifically to herd sheep in open territory. The breed’s herding instincts are sharp.
WHAT IS THE ASCENDANCE OF THE BORDER COLLIE?
Herding breeds are members of the Nordic group of dogs and are descended from Canis lupis, the northern wolf. Nordic dogs retain the wolf’s weather resistant coat, made of a dense undercoat and a longer top coat to remove rain and snow. The fur is thicker on the chest and throat, for greater protection of the vital organs. The invading Romans brought the wolf from the north to the British Isles, where domesticated wolves were used to herd livestock. The next wave of invaders, from Scandinavia, introduced another branch of the Nordic dog family tree, but these dogs were smaller and more agile.
More recent ancestors include several herding and gathering breeds, known generically as sheepdogs, such as the now-extinct Cumberland Sheepdog, which was a black dog with a white blaze, chest, legs, and tip of the line. The classic Border Collie clearly derives its physical characteristics from this bloodline.
Many of the most prominent sheepdogs are the descendants of a tremendous athlete named Old Hemp (b. 1893, d. 1901.) Old Kep was born the year Old Hemp died. Naturally gentle and friendly, Old Kep was the first dog known to use “the eye,” the technique of staring at the pack animal.
WHAT CONSTITUTES A TRUE BORDER COLLIE?
Although dog lovers breed them for purely physical characteristics, the International Sheep Dog Society recognizes that a true Border Collie is bred for their herding abilities and no other criteria. The American Kennel Club (AKC) dismayed working dog hobbyists by recognizing the breed in 1994. The danger of AKC recognition is that as a standardized appearance is sought, the herding instinct could fade from the breed.
HOW ARE UPPER BORDER COLLIES RECOGNIZED?
Sheepdog trials are the standard for judging a superior animal. The first recorded competition was in 1873, but shepherds conducted informal local trials long before that, to select the most talented dogs for breeding.
Dogs are judged on their ability to move sheep in an open field or lead them to an enclosure, in the specific direction of their handler. Border Collies have a keen sense of hearing and can detect variations in the handler’s whistle, which means different commands.
Ideal dogs are those that are fast, obedient, and do not terrify sheep, but elicit respect through intense eye contact.
WHAT ARE THE PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE BORDER COLLIE?
o Body: medium in size, longer than tall.
o Skull and muzzle: approximately the same length, with a moderate stop.
o Teeth: strong, meet in a scissor bite.
o Eyes: Oval, well separated.
o Eye color: brown. In “merle” colorations, the eyes can be blue.
o Ears: medium in size, well separated, carried erect or semi-erect.
o Tail: medium length, bushy.
o Coat: short and elegant (1 inch long); or rough and harsh (3 inches long), but always short and graceful in the face, forelegs, and ears.
o Color: black and white is the classic coloration, sometimes you can see all black and all white. Merle (solid base color with patches or spots). Other variations are: red and white, yellow and white, tricolor and saber.
o Useful life: average 12 years.
WHAT ARE THE PERSONALITY TRAITS OF THE BORDER COLLIE?
o hard work
ARE BORDER COLLIES GOOD PETS?
Border Collies are not for the negligent owner. With your higher intelligence comes the need to exercise the mind as well as the body. A bored sheepdog may become hyperactive and destructive, or he may find his own job to do, such as herding family pets and young children.
In the right environment, Border Collies make great companion animals. Their high degree of trainability and superior agility make them daunting competitors in dog sports competitions. They are loyal dogs that enjoy a close relationship with their owners and do not like to be left alone. Once familiar with the breed’s unique characteristics, many dog lovers feel that they could never have another dog other than a Border Collie.