Queen Victoria’s deep and abiding love for Scotland made a lasting impact on the Collie’s history.
- Temperament: Devoted, Graceful, Proud
- Height: 24-26 inches (male), 22-24 inches (female)
- Weight: 60-75 pounds (male), 50-65 pounds (female)
- Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
It was the dog-loving Victoria, during her many extended stays at Balmoral Castle on the Scottish Highlands, who popularized the local herding breed among her courtiers and subjects during the second half of the 19th century. Her enthusiasm for Collies began the breed’s ascent from humble shepherd dog to worldwide canine superstar.
It is supposed that the Collie’s ancestors reached Scotland nearly 2,000 years before Victoria did, brought by the Romans during their conquest of Britain in the first century of the Common Era. Over several centuries, the Roman herding stock was interbred with local dogs. Sometime during this long unwritten history, we can surmise that a stouthearted sheepherding dog recognizable as the Collie came into focus. (A prevalent theory holds that the name Collie derives from the name of a particular strain of black-faced sheep called colleys.)
The Collie enters the written record around 1800, and by the time Victoria “discovered” the Collie later in the century, the breed’s now familiar characteristics were set. In 20th-century America, author and dog breeder Albert Payson Terhune popularized the breed for generations of eager young readers, who thrilled at adventures of the Sunnybank Collies. In 1940, British author Eric Knight launched one of the great pop-culture franchises of all time with his novel Lassie Come-Home. Thanks to Knight’s books, spin-off movies, and a long-running TV show, Lassie made Collies the ideal canine companion of every child’s fantasy.
The well-bred Collie is sweet, friendly, and gentle. She is a family dog and enjoys being part of all household activities. Especially fond of kids, she enjoys playing with them and protectively watching over them. If those qualities weren't positive enough, the Collie tops them with her intelligence and loyalty. This dog is smart and learns quickly. Like every dog, the Collie needs early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Collie puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
While there are variations among individuals and families, Collies generally are quite active and require regular exercise. They need aerobic exercise and the chance to be able to run and play. Teaching them to fetch can provide good exercise, and having a fenced yard where they can run and going on daily walks help too. They should not be relegated to the backyard for long periods of time, as with boredom comes barking. Collies are people dogs and want to be with their owners first and foremost. Ideally a Collie will be ready to go when it’s time to go, and able to chill when it’s time to chill.
Smooth Collies, while they won’t mat, they do require regular grooming as they have a double coat and the undercoat needs brushing out during shedding periods. Rough Collies need attention to avoid matting - especially in certain areas such as behind the ears and elbows, and to remove loose undercoats. A weekly brushing down to the skin eliminates that problem and keeps the coat and skin healthy. If females are spayed, they do a big shed once a year; if intact, females shed about three months after their heat cycle, and males around their birthday, so those times require a little extra grooming.
Good nutrition is the very first thing the owner can do for their Collie to ensure healthy skin and coat and general well being. Collies do well on a good-quality dog food that is primarily meat-based, with fewer grains as ingredients. Many breed experts feel that Collies should not be fed foods with corn or soy in the ingredients. Collies have a risk of bloat, so two feedings/multiple feedings per day as opposed to once a day is recommended, and some meat added to the food has been shown to reduce risk.
Collies are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Collies will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Collies, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal.
- Dermatomyositis: An inherited autoimmune skin disorder, this malady causes lesions and muscle problems. Studies indicate that perhaps 70 percent of Collies (both Rough and Smooth) could be carriers. Research currently is being conducted to identify the genes that carry this disease.
- Collie Nose: Also known as nasal solar dermatitis, this is a condition in which the skin of nose peels, oozes, and may lose color. If left untreated, it can be painful or develop into cancer. Collie nose is managed by limiting exposure to sunlight, using sunscreen, or tattooing with black ink to protect against harmful rays.