Collie Dog Breed

Blue Merle, White, & Tan Rough Collie
  • Other names:
  • Rough Collie
  • Smooth Collie
  • Long-Haired Collie
  • English Collie
  • Lassie Dog
  • View all 5...

The Collie, sometimes called the Scotch (or Scottish) Collie to distinguish it from similar breeds like the Border Collie and Bearded Collie, is one of the world’s most beloved dog breeds, and is often considered the standard by which other purebred dogs are measured. This breed has two varieties, identical in physical makeup except for length of fur: The more common Rough Collies are longer-haired, and have long, dense, straight outer coats and soft, furry undercoats, while Smooth Collies, rarer than their Rough counterparts, have no outer coat.

This breed is highly intelligent, dedicated and loyal, and a fantastic watchdog. Collies are known for their sensitivity, and many seem to develop almost human-like personalities. The breed is especially good with children, as characterized by the popularity of the long-running TV series Lassie, which featured a Rough Collie as its main character. Collies are extremely social animals, and prefer the company of others; many are prone to excessive barking if left alone.

On the large side of medium-size, this breed needs a good deal of physical care. It should be brushed often; both the Rough and Smooth varieties shed quite a lot. Collies are known to have some genetic health issues, including eye problems and sensitivity to some medicines.

Collie Breed Details

Breed Specs
Purebred14-16 yrs.22-26 in.50-80 lbs
  • Friendliness
  • Overall
  • Family Friendly
  • Kid Friendly
  • Pet Friendly
  • Stranger Friendly
  • Maintenance
  • Easy to Groom
  • Energy Level
  • Exercise Needs
  • General Health
  • Shedding Amount
  • Behavior
  • Barks / Howls
  • Easy to Train
  • Guard Dog
  • Playfulness
  • Watch Dog
  • Ownership
  • Apartment Friendly
  • Can Be Alone
  • Good for Busy Owners
  • Good for Novice Owners
  • Intelligence
* The more green the stronger the trait.

Below are the spec and details of the Collie dog breed.

Collie Breed Description

Collies can be considered either medium- or large-sized dogs, depending the particular animal. (The Rough variety can appear larger than its actual size because of its abundance of fur.) Females typically stand 22-24 inches high at the shoulder, and weigh 50-70 pounds. Males are 24-26 inches in height, and 60-80 pounds in weight.

Perhaps its greatest asset is a Collie’s excellent temperament. As one of the most intelligent of any dog breed, the Collie displays a great deal of sensitivity, plenty of loyalty, and a watchful eye on children and other pets. As the success of the Lassie books, TV show, and movies demonstrates, this breed makes a fantastic companion to children, and will thoroughly enjoy their company. Collies are known for their social skills, and may even develop enough personality to consider themselves part of a human family.

Needs differ in the Rough and Smooth varieties. A Rough Collie, with its thick fur, will require a bath at least once every couple of months, and should be rinsed and dried well to avoid matting of the fur. (Shorter-haired Smooths should be bathed 4-5 times per year.) Roughs should be brushed at least once per week (and more often during winter when their coats are thicker); Smooths should be brushed once a week to get rid of excess hair. Both varieties shed quite a bit, so vacuuming often will be necessary for owners of this breed.

Collie Breed History

Though its exact origins are unknown, the Scotch Collie is believed to have descended from several species of sheepdogs in Scotland and Wales. Historians conclude that strong, aggressive, long-haired Scottish herding dogs were cross-bred with shorter-haired, domesticated Welsh dogs, which may account for the two Collie varieties in existence today. Still others believe Collies are descendants of the Borzoi (a Russian wolfhound) which would account for a Collie’s “noble” head. Historically, the name for this breed has had numerous variations: Coaly, coally, and colley – all derivatives of “coll,” the Anglo-Saxon word for “black” – have been recorded. (Though all-black Collies are extremely rare, the name was probably derived from “Colley sheep,” a black-faced breed of sheep Collies worked with in the Scottish Highlands.) Through the years, two different breed types emerged: the Rough Collie was the longer-haired dog, possessing a thick, coarse outer coat, that worked with livestock herds; the Smooth Collie, shorter-haired, was the “drover” dog that moved the livestock along to market.

Collies gained popularity in England in the late 1800s, when Queen Victoria owned several; the breed began being imported to the United States around 1880, where it quickly grew in demand. The AKC officially recognized the Collie in 1885; the breed was one of the first the organization recognized after the AKC was established in 1884. The Collie Club of America was formed in 1886, making it one of the oldest official dog clubs in the world. The breed’s popularity continued in the early 20th century, when Collies began winning top honors at dog shows. One man almost single-handedly responsible for Collies’ demand in America during this time was author and dog breeder Albert Payson Terhune. As owner of Sunnybank Kennels in New Jersey, Terhune bred numerous prize dogs in the early 1900s, and at least thirty of his books were stories about his dogs, of which the hereditary line exists even today.

And demand for Collies further exploded in the 1950s with the success of the TV series Lassie, which featured a Rough Collie as its main character. Today, Collies – both the Rough and Smooth – are known as an all-around favorite of any purebred dogs.

Collie Appearance

The Rough and Smooth varieties are identical in makeup, except for the length of their fur; Rough Collies have an abundance of hair at the mane, back, hips, and tail. Bred to be herding dogs, the Collie is muscular yet lean, with a well-proportioned, athletic frame. Its length is usually a bit greater than its height. A Collie’s head resembles a lean wedge, eyes medium-sized and oval, and it has large ears that often fold over frontwards at the tip. This breed has a fairly long, sinewy neck that helps to display its proud appearance. The chest is deep, often thick with hair to enhance its noble stance, and its legs, like the rest of its body, are long and muscular, giving it the ability to turn very quickly. This breed normally has a fairly long tail, often with a slight hook at the end.

Collie Coloring

The markings of both the Rough and Smooth Collies can be combinations of black, tan, white, sable, and merle. Many are tri-colored, with sable being the dominant color; this sable can range from pale tan to mahogany. Typically, these dogs have white chests, underbellies, and feet, with the other colors displayed in random patterns elsewhere on the body.

Collie Size

Collies are medium- to large-size dogs. Males typically stand 24-26 inches at the shoulders; Females, 22-24 inches. Weight can vary from 50-70 pounds for females, and 60-80 pounds for males.

Average Adult Height

22-26 in
*Height is measured in inches from the front paws to the top of the shoulder while the dog is standing on all four legs.

Average Adult Weight

50-80 lbs

Collie Temperament

Extremely intelligent, fiercely devoted to its owner, and possessing a noble air, this breed has long been prized for its excellent temperament. Collies are easily trainable, mild-mannered, and sensitive to other animals and to people, so the breed makes an excellent companion; because of its highly developed personality, a Collie often considers itself a member of a human family. As a natural herder, a Collie instinctively develops a deep, loyal relationship to its handler, which it considers its “shepherd.” This breed prefers social settings, and if left alone for long periods of time it will become bored and/or lonely, which will lead to excessive barking. One disadvantage of their intelligence is that some Collies can be a bit high-strung and oversensitive. Collies are also known for their work as therapy dogs and guide dogs for the blind.

Though no scientific evidence exists to support this, many believe that the Rough and Smooth varieties of this breed exhibit differing personality traits. The Roughs, they say, are more reserved and laid-back, and are considered more introverted than Smooths, which are often more energetic, hard-working and outgoing. This is possibly due to many generations of breeding, during which the separate personalities became more pronounced.

Due to its intelligence, a Collie will be an excellent watchdog, but it is not known as an aggressive animal. A very family-friendly breed, these dogs are extremely clean and are known for being easily housebroken. Some Rough Collies, because of their thick fur, will dislike going into water; this is not seen as an issue for the Smooth variety.

Collie and Children

As natural people-pleasers, Collies are great with kids. A Collie will make an excellent play companion without being too aggressive; because of its sensitive nature and natural intelligence, the breed will also become very protective when the need arises.

Collie and Other Pets

This breed socializes very well with other animals. Depending on the situation, it will be gentle with and protective of other pets. Due to its highly developed personality, a Collie will develop an emotional relationship with animals with which it comes in contact on a regular basis; Collies are known to even “pet-sit,” keeping a watchful eye on smaller animals like rabbits or baby goats.

Collie and Strangers

Overall, Collies handle strangers very well, often greeting them in a friendly manner. Collies are instinctively curious, so these dogs will want to know who is entering their territory. Because of its protective nature, a Collie may become a bit aggressive to a stranger if it feels threatened by him or her; according to experts, a little training to teach a dog proper manners will solve this issue.

Collie Photos

Below are pictures and images of the Collie.

Sable & White Rough Collie
Two Blue Merle, White, & Tan Rough Collies
Sable & White Smooth Collie Running
Sable & White Smooth Collie
Blue Merle, White, & Tan Rough Collie
Blue Merle, White, & Tan Rough Collie Running
Sable & White Rough Collie Running
Sable & White Rough Collie
Blue Merle Rough Collie
Blue Merle, White, & Tan Rough Collie

Collie Maintenance

Baths are recommended about once every 6-8 weeks. With longer-haired Rough Collies, be sure to rinse the shampoo very well, and towel the dog dry, to prevent its fur from matting. Nails are of moderate length, and should be trimmed if they get too long. (A good sign of excessive nail length is when a dog’s nails “click” when it walks on a hard surface.) Some Collies may have health issues like eye problems or increased sensitivity to different medicines, so extra veterinary visits may be necessary.

Grooming Requirements

Rough Collies have thick outer-coats, so they shed excessively; they should be brushed often, depending on the time of year. (In winter, twice a week is recommended; in summer, once per week is fine.) Because of the coat thickness, one suggestion is to brush the Rough Collie’s fur in sections: back legs, sides/belly, front legs, neck/chest, and then the head.

Smooth Collies, though shorter-haired, shed quite a bit as well; Smooths should be brushed once a week to remove excess fur that might otherwise collect on furniture and bedding.

Exercise Requirements

As a herding breed, a Collie will need a good amount of exercise. And as highly social animals, they will most enjoy playing with humans, whether it’s a simple game of fetch, catching a Frisbee - something Collies are known for - or playing tag with children. The breed is also easily trained to be a good walking or jogging companion.

Living Requirements

Collies do well in any type of living situation. Provided enough exercise, the breed will be happy in an apartment, and will enjoy being close to its owner. One drawback is that, regardless of living conditions, Collies tend to bark more often than other breeds, so apartment living may not be suitable. No matter its living environment, a Collie will shed upon any indoor surface. If kept outside, a fence is recommended; otherwise, because of its inquisitive nature a Collie may “run off” if given the chance.

Temperature Range

The ideal climate for a Collie depends on whether it is of the Rough or Smooth variety. Rough Collies, because of their thick fur, will overheat quite easily, so they are better suited for cooler climates. Smooths are generally more adaptable to a wider variety of temperatures. Regardless of the weather, both varieties need plenty of water, and will require some shade when the temperature rises.

Collie Health

The Collie, while considered a healthy breed overall, is not without several health issues. Its most common ailment is Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA), also known as Collie eye defect. A condition that is present at birth, CEA is characterized by a gene mutation that causes improper eye development, and symptoms can range from mild effects (such as cloudy spots on the eye or sunken eyeballs) to severe cases of retinal detachment and blindness. No treatment or cure exists. Veterinarians recommend testing Collies as puppies to determine whether they carry the mutated gene, and could possibly be affected by CEA.

Another genetic condition in Collies, though not as common as CEA, is abnormal sensitivity to some drugs, such as Ivermectin (used to treat heartworm) and similar medications. Like the above-described CEA test, vets recommend drug screening for puppies to find out if alternative medications are needed.

Additionally, Collies may also suffer from hip dysplasia, in which the hip socket is formed abnormally and leads to arthritis and lameness. This condition, also genetic, is considered rare among the breed.

  • Collie Eye Anomaly
  • Drug Sensitivity
  • Gray Collie Syndrome
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • View all 5...

Collie Breed Recognition

The following dog breed registries and organizations recognize the Collie as a dog breed:

  • American Canine Registry
  • American Kennel Club
  • America's Pet Registry
  • Australian National Kennel Council
  • Canadian Kennel Club
  • Continental Kennel Club
  • Dog Registry of America Inc.
  • Federation Cynologique Internationale
  • Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • National Kennel Club
  • New Zealand Kennel Club
  • North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • United Kennel Club
  • American Canine Association, Inc.
  • View all 14...