10 things you didn’t know about the Border Collie

Four brown and white Border Collies sitting together in a park

The Border Collie is a medium-sized dog breed loved widely for its personality, intelligence, and working capacity. Its silky, plush coat and family-friendly character make it an ideal companion for many households.

Today, we introduce you to 10 interesting facts you didn’t know about the Border Collie. Let’s go!

#1. Border Collies and families are a match made in heaven

Border Collies have many wonderful qualities, one of which is their suitability to family life. Their energy and ‘joy for life’ demeanor make them especially great companions for children. They are a loyal dog breed and will play with and look after their family well. However, it’s important that they also receive the right training to ensure their boundless energy doesn’t become too overbearing. After all, their intelligence can mean they’re good at getting away with things! 

Training is especially important for families with babies or very young children. Although harm will never be intended, their energy and natural boisterousness can cause injury for young ones.

#2. The smartest dog in the world

According to psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher professor Stanley Coren, there are three types of dog intelligence: instinctive, adaptive, and working and obedience intelligence. 

Professor Cohen’s book, The Intelligence of Dogs, was first published in 1994 and ranks over 100 different dog breeds according to their intelligence. And you guessed it – the Border Collie comes out on top! In fact, Border Collies topped the list for being the brightest, the most successful at understanding new commands (with less than five repetitions), and able to obey the first command 95% of the time or better! 

Border Collie climbing down ramp in field
A Border Collie practicing agility training

#3. Border Collies can have different colored eyes

It is called heterochromia iridis and some Border Collies sport this characteristic. 

You may have seen Border Collies, other dog breeds, cats and even humans with two different eye colors. This characteristic is typically a genetic condition, one in which there is an excess or lack of melanin in one eye, thus resulting in two different colored eyes (typically blue, green and brown). You might even notice the iris of one or both eyes as an almost solid white. Heterochromatic puppies are often sought after for adoption, while some people believe that heterochromia dogs can see both heaven and Earth at the same time!

#4. Work, work, work

Like the human population, working dogs are so-called thanks to their ability to perform manual working tasks. Such dogs are categorized by their speciality, including those for service (for those with a disability), herding, first responders, therapy, detection, and search and rescue. All of these specially-trained dogs demonstrate an aptitude in their field and provide valuable assistance in achieving specific objectives for the human population.

Enter the Border Collie, known to be the strongest and most able herding dog. Not only exceptionally gifted at herding, Border Collies were also trained as watchdogs and play their role in protecting their owner’s flock. The breed was developed from a long line of similarly intelligent working dog breeds, which have been used for centuries by farmers around the world.

#5. A robust breed

The Border Collie hails from a long line of herding dog breeds accustomed to hard work. As a robust and hardy breed, Border Collies are well adapted to being outdoors and primarily spending most of their time at the mercy of the weather. After all, the breed hails from the cool, wet climates of Scotland and northern England. Its coat is even perfectly adapted, sporting an undercoat to protect it from the harsher winter conditions.

Routine check-ups with a vet are necessary to ensure your Border Collie remains in top health. After all, the popularity of the breed means many Border Collies today are not used for herding but have adapted to more modern ways of life. Additionally, they can develop hip dysplasia, retinal atrophy or even stomach twist due to various sensitivities. Ensuring your Border Collie has adequate exercise and is kept in good physical health will ensure their wellbeing and happiness for the long-term.

Close-up of Border Collie head with mouth open and tongue out
A black and white Border Collie with its tongue out

#6. Each coat is unique

The classic black and white Border Collie we all know is just one of many variations of the breed. The plush medium-length coat is classified as rough or smooth and varies in shorter or longer lengths. Colors are wide-ranging and no two markings are ever the same. 

Black, brown, red and white, red and blue merle, ticked (flecks or spots of colour on white) and tricolors are just some of the color variations available. Blue merle and tricolor in particular are highly sought after. However, it is the classic black and white, or even brown and white, that are the most widespread and appreciated.

#7. Activity needs = high

Simply put, Border Collies are not suited to apartment living. This is a naturally energetic breed with a high energy output, therefore a large garden is ideal coupled with daily exercise. Better still, a farm or large plot of land will make your Border Collie happiest. This is, of course, unless you have an intense daily physical activity routine, such as agility training, that can meet the activity needs of your dog. In many respects, Border Collies can be considered hyperactive, which is a good way to think about how you can meet their activity needs. Border Collies who don’t get enough exercise and stimulation can become destructive and bark excessively. They may also develop a behavioral or anxiety disorder and cause distress to themselves.

To ensure you maintain a healthy and happy relationship with your Border Collie, it is strongly advised to take them out at least three times a day, and for at least 30 minutes with each outing. Fetch, frisbee or running are great ways to help expend their energy. Training sessions are also a good way to help your Border Collie remain mentally stimulated. Suitable toys to keep them entertained are also recommended.

Border Collie playing with boy on sunny mountainside
Border Collies make great playmates for families and children

#8. Loyalty is second to none

While Border Collies are known for being friendly, affectionate dogs, the bond between a Border Collie and its owner/family is unbreakable. As a naturally instinctive protector, this too plays out for a Border Collie for those it considers a part of its pack. Communication is strong and straight to the point. This includes for mealtimes, going outside, doing its business, and so on. The more attentive and responsive the owner is to the dog, the closer the relationship with the animal.

#9. Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are in fact different

It’s no surprise that these two herding dog breeds often get confused. After all, they are related to one another! In fact, both breeds are said to be distantly related to other kinds of collies from the Basque region in Europe. 

However, despite the similarities, there remain a few key distinctions. Border Collies are said to be slightly more skilled than the Australian Shepherd in terms of physical and intellectual capabilities. This too means that the Border Collie may need slightly more exercise than an Aussie. However, don’t be misled by this statement – the Aussie is a demanding breed when it comes to exercise! 

A Border Collie’s ears are also known for their erect or semi-erect carriage while an Aussie’s typically break forward or to the side. The color variations are also more varied for a Border Collie. And finally, Border Collies often outlive their Australian Shepherd relative.

#10. An aptly named breed

The Border Collie is said to have received its name from both its ancestry – other collie breeds – as well as from the lands (or border) from whence it came. This border was the separation of the lands belonging to Scotland and those of northern England. The word ‘collie’ is said to derive from the Celtic word for ‘useful’. A fitting name for a very useful (and exceptional) breed!