Collie refers to a breed of herding dog originating primarily in Scotland. The exact origin of the name is uncertain, although it probably originates in Older Scots col(l) (coal), meaning black. Another explanation sometimes put forward is that collie was a regional word for “something useful”.
Types of Collies
The Lassie movies, books, and television shows, which starred Rough Collies, helped to popularize Collies in the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as in many other countries. The Collie Club of America is one of the oldest breed-specific clubs in existence in the United States (founded in 1886). However, there are three different dog breeds with “Collie” in their name:
It is not widely known that although the movie/television character Lassie is female, nearly all dogs used to play the role over the years have been male. This is apparently because male Rough Collies have a more luxuriant coat and are considered more photogenic.
The farm collie was a generic term for a wide range of herding dogs common in North America until the middle of the 20th century.
Shetland Sheepdogs (commonly known as “Shelties”) are sometimes mistaken for Collies, but are a completely different breed of distinct origin.
The highlands of Scotland were the natural home of the Collie, where the sheepdogs had been used for centuries by shepherds, but the modern form of the breed was mostly developed in England in the late 1800s. This early form of the breed was usually referred to as the Scotch collie (or Scottish collie) in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Scotch collies were heavier and less fine-boned than today’s Rough and Smooth dogs. The ancestors of the modern Collie were first exhibited as “Scotch Sheep-Dogs” in the 1860 Birmingham (England) dog show.
The modern Collie of both Rough and Smooth varieties are available in four distinct colors. Sable and White dogs are generally the most recognizable, the choice of the Lassie television and movie producers. The sable color on these dogs can range from a light blonde color to a deep reddish-brown, with any hue in between possible. Tri-Color dogs are mostly black and white with tan markings. Blue Merle collies are best described as Tri-Color dogs whose black has been diluted to a mottled gray-blue color. White collies are usually mostly white on the body with a head coloration of any of the three previous. A lesser-known variant of collie coloring is that of the “phantom merle” – a seemingly tricolor dog, with only perhaps a slight merling of one or two areas of fur, who actually carries the gene for merling. If bred to another dog with a merle gene, the resulting pups may be “double-dilute” – which can result in devastating neurological conditions.
As modern-day “Lassies”, both rough and smooth collies have become successful guide dogs, service dogs, and therapy dogs. At least one guide dog school (Southeastern Guide Dogs in Florida) currently trains smooth coated collies as guide dogs, and a number of collie service dogs are currently partnered with disabled individuals around the United States.
Especially Collies suffer from a special gene defect due to a mutation in the multidrug resistance gene, MDR1. This is also known as “the Ivermectin-sensitive Collie”. All dogs with this mutation must be descandents of a dog who lived in Great Britain in the midst of the 19th century. This mutation is found worldwide and can even cause the death of a dog, if he gets the wrong medicine (based on Ivermectin, Doramectin, Loperamid and many more pharmaceuticals). Therefore all Collies and breeds or dogs akin to them should be tested.