The Border Collie is a herding dog breed developed in the Anglo-Scottish border region for herding livestock, especially sheep. It is the most widespread of the collie breeds. Typically extremely energetic, acrobatic, and athletic, they frequently compete with great success in dog sports, in addition to their success in sheepdog trials, and are often cited as the most intelligent of all dogs. Border Collies are noted for their intelligence. In January 2011, a Border Collie was reported to have learned 1,022 words, and acts consequently to human citation of those words.
In general, Border Collies are medium-sized dogs without extreme physical characteristics and with a moderate amount of coat, which means not much hair will be shed. Their double coats vary from slick to lush, and come in many colours, although black and white is the most common. Black tricolour (black/tan/white or sable and white), red (chocolate) and white, and red tricolour (red/tan/white) also occur regularly, with other colours such as blue, lilac, red merle, blue merle, brindle and "Australian red"/gold seen less frequently. Border Collies may also have single-colour coats.
Eye colour varies from deep brown to amber or blue, and occasionally eyes of differing colour occur. (This is usually seen with "merles"). The ears of the Border Collie are also variable some have fully erect ears, some fully dropped ears, and others semi-erect ears (similar to those of the rough Collie or sighthounds). Although working Border Collie handlers sometimes have superstitions about the appearance of their dogs (handlers may avoid mostly white dogs due to the unfounded idea that sheep will not respect a white or almost all white dog), in general a dog's appearance is considered by the American Border Collie Association to be irrelevant. It is considered much more useful to identify a working Border Collie by its attitude and ability than by its looks.
Dogs bred for showing are more homogeneous in appearance than working Border Collies, since to win in conformation showing they must conform closely to breed club standards that are specific on many points of the structure, coat and colour. Kennel clubs specify, for example, that the Border Collie must have a "keen and intelligent" expression, and that the preferred eye colour is dark brown. In deference to the dog's working origin, scars and broken teeth received in the line of duty are not to be counted against a Border Collie in the show ring. Height at withers: Males from 19 to 22 in (48 to 56 cm), females from 18 to 21 in (46 to 53 cm).
Border Collies require considerable daily physical exercise and mental stimulation. Border Collies are an intelligent breed. It is widely considered to be one of the most intelligent dog breeds. Although the primary role of the Border Collie is that of the working stock dog, dogs of this breed are becoming increasingly popular as pets.
True to their working heritage, Border Collies make very demanding, energetic pets that are better off in households that can provide them with plenty of play and exercise with humans or other dogs. Due to their demanding personalities and need for mental stimulation and exercise, many border collies develop neurotic behaviors in households that are not able to provide for their needs. They are famous for chewing holes in walls and digging holes out of boredom. As a result, an alarming number of border collies end up in shelters and rescues every year. One of the prime reasons for getting rid of a border collie is their unsuitability for families with small children, cats, and other dogs, due to their intense desire to herd; this was bred into them for hundreds of years and still one of their chief uses outside the household.
Border Collies are now also being used in showing, especially agility, where their speed and agility comes to good use. Though they are common choice for household pets, Border Collies have attributes that make them less suited for those who cannot give them the exercise they need. As with many working breeds, Border Collies can be motion-sensitive and they may chase moving vehicles.
The Border Collie is descended from landrace collies, of a type found widely in the British Isles. The name for the breed came from its probable place of origin along the Scottish English borders. Mention of the "Collie" or "Colley" type first appeared toward the end of the 19th century, although the word "collie" is older than this and has its origin in Lowland Scots dialects. Many of the best Border Collies today can be traced back to a dog known as Old Hemp. In 1915, James Reid, Secretary of the International Sheep Dog Society in the United Kingdom first used the term "Border Collie" to distinguish those dogs registered by the ISDS from the Kennel Club's Collie (or Scotch Collie, including the Rough Collie and Smooth Collie) which originally came from the same working stock but had developed a different, standardised appearance following introduction to the show ring in 1860 and mixture with other breeds.
Hip dysplasia, Collie eye anomaly (CEA), and epilepsy are considered the primary genetic diseases of concern in the breed at this time. CEA is a congenital, inherited eye disease involving the retina, choroid, and sclera that sometimes affects Border Collies. In Border Collies, it is generally a mild disease and rarely significantly impairs vision. There is now a DNA test available for CEA and, through its use, breeders can ensure that they will not produce affected pups. There are different types of hip testing available including OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) and PennHip. Radiographs are taken and sent to these organisations to determine a dog's hip and elbow quality.
Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL) is a rare but serious disease that is limited to show Border Collies. NCL results in severe neurological impairment and early death; afflicted dogs rarely survive beyond two years of age. The mutation causing the form of the disease found in Border Collies was identified by Scott Melville in the laboratory of Dr. Alan Wilton of the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, University of New South Wales. There is no treatment or cure, but a DNA test is now available to detect carriers as well as affected dogs.
Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome (TNS) is a hereditary disease in which the bone marrow produces neutrophils (white cells) but is unable to effectively release them into the bloodstream. Affected puppies have an impaired immune system and will eventually die from infections they cannot fight. The mutation responsible for TNS has been found in Border Collies in English working dogs, in show dogs that had originated in Australia and New Zealand, and in unrelated Australian working dogs. This indicates that the gene is widespread and probably as old as the breed itself. TNS was identified by Jeremy Shearman in the laboratory of Dr. Alan Wilton of the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, University of New South Wales. There is no cure, but a DNA test is now available to detect carriers as well as affected dogs.