For centuries dogs were used to help the shepherd herd his cattle. In the country of origin of the Border Collie, Great Britain, large flocks of sheep are kept all over the country. About a century ago, in the hilly landscape on the border between Scotland and England, a type of dog was developed that is known today as the Border Collie. It's a fast, manoeuvrable, energetic, fast reacting and handy dog that is capable of working all day long wíth the sheep and fór his shepherd in all weathers and on any terrain.
Typical Welsh landscape with
some sheep in the foreground.
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During the years some similarity in appearance has developed. The real Border Collie -- in my opinion however -- is not determined by his looks, but by what's inside his head. His ability to herd cattle, the way he herds and his will to work actually determine that he is a Border Collie.
The diversity in exterior between Border Collies is rather large. All kinds of coats between smooth-coat and quite long exist. The colours of a Border vary also very much. The black and white Border, with a white blaze, broad white collar, white front legs, white socks behind and a white end of the tail is the most common. You regularly see this colour with tan marks on head and legs. Merle colours (blue as well as the rare red), chocolate white, sable white, red white, blue white and in all colours the mottled effect (a freckled pattern) can also be found. According to the breed standard any colour is allowed, as long as white does not dominate. Luckily there are people that can't resist a white faced Border (white head or half white head).
Apart from this working type, the last few years more and more attention is given to a show type, that has to follow the breed standard closely. The (by me preferred) pricked ears (upright ears) are not appreciated in the show ring. A short hair Border will not get high marks in a show either.
Spot crouches towards the sheep.
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The character of a Border Collie shows some remarkable points. He excels by his will to work; he can work until he (literally) drops dead. This unbridled energy does not always make him an ideal family pet. When coming home after an exhausting walk (for the owner, that is) of a few hours many a Border will jump out of the car and look expectantly as if he would say "Are we gonna do something or what?".
Something that strikes you in a Border Collie is of course their herding instinct, also known as "eye". Most BCs find their mental and physical satisfaction in working with sheep; coming home after an hour of herding a day they do find their rest at home. If herding is not possible, they can divert their herding instinct on to other objects. Rabbits, cats, other dogs, children, shadows, water and even cars will be used to satisfy this drive. Herding cars is often a deadly game. Children will sometimes be bitten by a BC, because they don't obey the dogs 'commands'. The owner will conclude in many cases that the dog is vicious and has to leave.
A totally different side of the Border also appears frequently. Some describe him as a dog with two faces, because he holds two completely different characters inside. Outdoors he's an indefatigable persevering dog, that is afraid of no-one and takes on any ram. Indoors this sturdy dog becomes a cuddly toy, that likes to spend hours on end lying on your lap or at your feet, while demanding (and receiving) your undivided attention.
Of course not every Border Collie has to work with sheep. If a good alternative to satisfy his will to work is available, he won't cause problems in most cases. Good alternatives are: agility, flyball, obedience, etc. Notice that a daily walk of a few hours is not enough for most Border Collies. If they cannot sufficiently use their mental and physical need to work, they will often show neurotic behaviour. This will result in demolition, barking, yelping and reshaping your couch.
Copyright © 1998-2013 Jigal van Hemert & Danielle Boshouwers
This page last modified: Thursday, 31-Dec-2009 13:12:13 CET