Everything you need to know about Border Collies

Written by Napo HQ
Reviewed by Dr Tamir Spiegel
2nd Apr 2024
9 mins read
Smart, loyal and agile. The Border Collie is well known for its herding skills, which also makes them amazing pets for active people!

Key Stats

Breed history

The Border Collie's story begins in the hills on the border of England and Scotland, hence the name! “Collie” is an old word for herding dog, which is why so many different breeds have it in their name now. You’ve got Border Collies, Rough Collies, and Bearded Collie to name a few. One theory is that “Collie” is from the old Scots word for “useful”.
They’re definitely useful dogs! Farmers needed clever dogs to help with herding livestock in the hills, and Border Collies excelled. They were carefully chosen and bred for their intelligence, agility, and strong work ethic. They were bred to be quick thinkers, good at following commands, and have a super strong herding instinct.
One Border especially became highly prized for his style of herding, and the fact sheep responded easily to him. His name was Old Hemp and he lived from 1893 to 1901. Despite his short life, he’s thought to have sired over 200 puppies, and every purebred Border Collie alive can trace their ancestry back to him!
Border Collie are still the go-to sheepdog today. If anyone talks about a sheepdog, or shepherding, you probably picture a collie! Their speed, agility, obedience, and intelligence also make them fantastic competition dogs for obedience and dog sports. They can also make great pets in the right active homes.


Border Collies are medium-sized dogs with a strong and agile build. Their eyes are expressive and alert, and usually brown in colour. Some have eyes that are two different colours. This is called ‘heterochromia’, and is more common in dogs with merle patterned coats. Their noses vary in colour depending on their coat colour, and will be black, brown, or blue.
As puppies they have floppy ears, but as they grow their ears usually stand up. Although some Borders can have floppy ears!
They have an double coat which helps to keep them warm, and the top coat helps keep them protected from scratches and dirt. Their fur can be short or “smooth”, or medium-length or “rough”.
Their bodies should be athletic and muscular, which matches their reputation as skilled working dogs. They way they move should also be “stealthy”.

Border Collie colours

Border Collies come in a wide variety of colours but always with a combination of white and another colour. However, they shouldn’t be predominantly white. That’s the only rule according to the breed standard!
The breed standard colours in this breed include:
  • Black & White
  • Black Tricolour
  • Black White & Tan
  • Blue & White
  • Blue Merle
  • Blue Merle & Tan
  • Blue Merle & White
  • Blue Sable
  • Blue Sable & White
  • Blue Tricolour
  • Blue Tricolour Merle
  • Blue White & Tan
  • Brown & White
  • Brown Merle
  • Sable
  • Brown Merle & White
  • Brown Sable
  • Brown Sable & White
  • Brown Tricolour
  • Brown Tricolour Merle
  • Brown White & Tan
  • Chocolate & White
  • Cream
  • Gold
  • Gold & White
  • Gold Merle & White
  • Gold Sable
  • Gold Sable & White
  • Lilac
  • Lilac & White
  • Lilac Merle
  • Lilac Merle & White
  • Lilac Tricolour
  • Lilac Tricolour Merle
  • Red & White
  • Red Merle & White
  • Red Tricolour
  • Red Tricolour Merle
  • Red White & Tan
  • Sable & White
  • Sable Blue Merle
  • Sable Merle
  • Sable Merle & White
  • Seal
  • Seal & White
  • Slate
  • Slate & White
  • Slate Merle
  • Slate Merle & White
  • Slate Tricolour Merle
Merle is a pattern which is like a marbled effect in their coat. Sable is another fur pattern where the ends of their hairs are dark, but the roots are light brown or sandy colours. Sable Border Collies often have a darker back and lighter legs.

Border Collie temperament

The typical Border Collies temperament is intelligent, alert, and responsive. As a working breed, they should be obedient and even-tempered, meaning they shouldn’t be nervous or aggressive.
They love learning new things and pleasing their owners. To be kept happy and healthy, they need a lot of mental stimulation. As well as plenty of exercise. But being one of the smartest breeds on the planet, they need to be kept busy to prevent boredom and potential behaviour problems as a result.
Because of their herding instincts, Border Collies might try to gather people or objects, or try to control the movements of people or animals around them. It's in their nature. Giving them an outlet for this through activities like herding balls, and training, help prevent behaviour issues like chasing traffic or herding people.

How much exercise does a Border Collie need?

Border Collies are high-energy dogs and need at least 90 minutes of daily exercise to keep them happy and healthy. This includes activities like walks, runs, playtime, and interactive games or dog agility.
Mental stimulation through training sessions and puzzle toys is also crucial for this intelligent breed. Without enough exercise and mental stimulation, they can develop behavioural issues from getting bored.

How to groom a Border Collie

Border Collies have a double coat with a dense, weather-resistant outer coat and a softer undercoat. They’re shed all year, typically shedding more in spring and autumn as they change between winter and summer coats. Regular brushing, ideally a few times a week, helps keep their coat in good condition, removes loose hair, and reduces shedding. During shedding seasons, more frequent brushing should help reduce the amount of fur flying around the house.
You should bathe your Border Collie every few weeks or months to help keep their skin and fur clean and healthy.
Like any breed, regularly brushing their teeth is important for their overall health. Ideally they should have their teeth brushed every day. But even just a few times a week helps to keep them healthy. You should also clip their claws about once a month to stop them overgrowing or splitting.

Common Border Collie health problems

Joint problems

Hip dysplasia is a condition where the bones in the hip joint don’t fit together properly. It can be painful and uncomfortable, causes more wear and tear on the hips, and can reduce mobility. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital to improve quality of life and avoid it getting worse.

Eye conditions

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) is a hereditary eye condition where the eyes are underdeveloped. It also affects closely related breeds like Shetland Sheepdogs and Australian Shepherds. Responsible breeding practices help reduce the risk of CEA.


Border Collies can be affected by different neurological disorders that affect the brain, spine and specific nerves. Epilepsy is one of these conditions that causes seizures or convulsions, which look distressing but aren’t painful. But any seizure can result in long-term harm to the brain and other essential organs. If your dog has a seizure, contact your vet straight away.


While it’s not very common, Border Collies can be prone to deafness. Especially if they inherit the merle coat gene. Regular hearing checks can detect any issues early on.

Frequently asked questions about Border Collies

How long do Border Collies live?

The average Border Collie lifespan is between 12 to 15 years. How long they live can be influenced by things like their genes, what they eat, how much they exercise, getting regular check-ups from the vet, and the kind of home they have. Giving them good food, making sure they stay active, taking them to the vet, and giving them a happy home can help them live a longer and healthier life.

How fast can a Border Collie run?

Border Collies can run as fast as 30mph, making them one of the faster dogs on the planet. Although German Shepherds can be faster, and they’re certainly not as fast as the Greyhound, which are the fastest dogs at around 40mph.

Do Border Collies shed?

Yes, Border Collies do shed. They have a double coat that consists of a dense undercoat and a longer outer coat. While they are not heavy shedders compared to some other breeds, they do experience seasonal shedding, especially during spring and autumn. Regular brushing can help manage shedding, remove dirt, and keep their fur in good condition.

Are Border Collies good with kids? 

Border Collies are generally good with kids, as long as they’re introduced properly. They're playful and full of energy and can keep up with active older families.
But you'll need to supervise them and introduce them carefully, as Borders do have a tendency to ehrd things. Including kids.
But, every dog is unique. So no matter the breed, it's crucial to teach kids how to interact with dogs, and make sure your dogs are happy too. Always supervise interactions and teach children to be gentle and respectful towards their furry friend.

Are Border Collies good with cats?

Some Border Collies may form strong bonds with cats and even become close companions. Meanwhile others may need more time to adjust, or might even try to herd them!
Border Collies can generally get along well with cats, but their behaviour may vary depending on the individual dog and the specific cat. 
As with any breed, it's important to introduce them slowly and carefully to establish a positive relationship between a Border Collie and a cat.

Do border collies bark a lot?

Border Collies aren’t known for barking a lot, or excessively. Barking comes down more to training and socialisation. Generally, Border Collies like other dogs, bark to express excitement, alertness, or in response to something. 

Are Border Collies aggressive?

Border Collies are generally not considered aggressive. As a working dog, their breed standard even specific they shouldn’t be nervous or aggressive. 
But, like any breed, each dog is different, and factors such as socialisation, training, and environment can influence their behaviour. Early socialisation and positive training are important in shaping their temperament.

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