• Breed Standard







Pre 1987 Kennel Club, London

GENERAL APPEARANCE - The Collie should instantly appeal as a dog of great beauty, standing with impassive dignity, with no part out of proportion to the whole.

CHARACTERISTICS - To enable the Collie to fulfill a natural bent for sheep-dog work, its physical structure should be on the lines of strength and activity, free from cloddiness and without any trace of coarseness. Expression, one of the most important points in considering relative values, is obtained by the perfect balance and combination of skull and foreface; size, shape, color and placement of eye, correct position and carriage of ears.

TEMPERAMENT - (Not specified.)

HEAD AND SKULL - The head properties are of great importance and must be considered in proportion to the size of the dog. When viewed from the front or the side the head bears a general resemblance to a well-blunted, clean wedge, being smooth in outline. The skull should be flat. The sides should taper gradually and smoothly from the ears to the end of the black nose, without prominent cheek bones or pinched muzzle. Viewed in profile, the top of the skull and the top of the muzzle lie in two parallel straight planes of equal length divided by a slight, but perceptible "stop" or break. A mid-point between the inside corners of the eyes (which is the center of a correctly placed "stop") is the center of balance in length of head. The end of the smooth, well rounded muzzle is blunt, but not square. The under jaw is strong, clean cut and the depth of the skull from the brow to the under part of the jaw, must never be excessive (deep through). Whatever the color of the dog the nose must be black.

EYES - These are a very important feature and give a sweet expression to the dog. They should be of medium size, set somewhat obliquely, of almond shape and of dark brown color, except in the case of blue merles when the eyes are frequently (one or both, or part of one or both) blue or blue flecked. Expression full of intelligence, with a quick, alert look when listening.

EARS - These should be small and not too close together on top of the skull, nor too much to the side of the head. When in repose they should be carried thrown back, but when on the alert brought forward and carried semi-erect, that is, with approximately two-thirds of the ear standing erect, the top third tipping forward naturally, below the horizontal.

MOUTH - The teeth should be of good size, with the lower incisors fitting closely behind the upper incisors; a very slight space not to be regarded as a serious fault.

NECK - The neck should be muscular, powerful, of fair length and well arched.

FOREQUARTERS - The shoulders should be sloped and well-angulated. The forelegs should be straight and muscular, neither in nor out at elbows, with a moderate amount of bone.

BODY - The body should be a trifle long compared to the height, back firm with a slight rise over the loins, ribs well sprung, chest deep and fairly broad behind the shoulders.

HINDQUARTERS - The hind legs should be muscular at the thighs, clean and sinewy below, with well bent stifles. Hocks well let-down and powerful.

FEET - These should be oval in shape with soles well padded, toes arched and close together. The hind feet slightly less arched.

TAIL - The tail should be long with the bone reaching at least to the hock joint. To be carried low when the dog is quiet, but with a slight upward swirl at the tip. It may be carried gaily when the dog is excited, but not over the back.

GAIT/MOVEMENT - Movement is a distinct characteristic of this breed. A sound dog is never out at elbow, yet it moves with its front feet comparatively close together. Plaiting, crossing or rolling are highly undesirable. The hind legs, from the hock joint to the ground, when viewed from the rear, should be parallel. The hind legs should be powerful and full of drive. Viewed from the side the action is smooth. A reasonably long stride is desirable and this should be light and appear quite effortless.

COAT - The coat should fit the outline of the dog and be very dense. The outer coat straight and harsh to the touch, the undercoat soft, furry and very close; so close as to almost hide the skin. The mane and frill should be very abundant, the mask or face, smooth, also the ears at the tips, but they should carry more hair towards the base; the fore-legs well feathered, the hind legs above the hocks profusely so, but smooth below. Hair on the tail very profuse.

COLOUR -The three recognized colors are sable and white, tricolor and blue merle.

  • Sable: Any shade from light gold to rich mahogany or shaded sable. Light straw or cream color is highly undesirable.
  • Tricolor: Predominantly black with rich tan markings about the legs and head. A rusty tinge in the top coat is highly undesirable.
  • Blue Merle: Predominantly clear, silvery blue, splashed and marbled with black. Rich tan markings to be preferred, but their absence should not be counted as a fault. Large black markings, slate color, or a rusty tinge either on the top or undercoat are highly undesirable.
  • White Markings: All the above may carry the typical white Collie markings to a greater or lesser degree. The following markings are favorable: White collar, full or part; white shirt, legs and feet; white tail tip. A blaze may be carried on muzzle or skull or both.

SIZE - Dogs: 56-61 cm (22-24 ins) at shoulder.
Bitches: 51-56 cm (20-22 ins).
Dogs: 20.5-29.5 kg (45-65 lbs),
Bitches 18-25 kg (40-55 lbs).



  • Length of head apparently out of proportion to body; receding skull or unbalanced head to be strongly condemned.
  • Weak, snippy muzzle; domed skull; high peaked occipital; prominent cheek bones; dish-faced or Roman-nosed.
  • Prick ears, low-set ears.
  • Undershot or overshot mouth; missing teeth.
  • Round or light colored and glassy or staring eyes are highly objectionable.
  • Body flat sided, short or cubby; straight shoulder or stifle; out at elbow; crooked forearms; cow-hocks or straight hocks;
  • Large, open or hare feet; feet turned in or out; long weak pasterns.
  • Tail short, kinked or twisted to one side or carried over the back.
  • A soft, silky or wavy coat or insufficient undercoat.
  • Nervousness.
  • NOTE - Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

 Brief History of the Collie

Collies were long ago bred as sheep herding dogs in Scotland and northern England. Although the exact origin of the collie remains uncertain, both the smooth and rough collie existed long ago in the unwritten history of the herding dogs of Scotland and northern England.

As sheep herding is one of the world's oldest occupations, the collie's ancestors date far back in the history of dogs. The collie was considered principally as a drover's dog used for guiding cows and sheep to market, not for standing over and guarding them at pasture.

Until the last two centuries, both the rough and smooth collie were strictly working dogs, without written pedigrees. Their masters saw no need for pedigrees, if indeed they were even interested in keeping stud books for their dog breeding. The earliest illustrations known to bear a resemblance to the collie are found as woodcuts in The History of Quadrupeds by Thomas Bewick, antedating 1800. The rough collie was described as a "shepherd's dog" and the smooth as a "ban dog." The rough collie was described as being only 14 inches at the shoulder and the smooth was said to be much larger and descended from the Mastiff. (Mastiff in this sense does not refer to the breed we know today by that name, but was something of a generic term used basically to describe a common type of dog.)

The rough collies at that time were not only much smaller but had shorter, broader heads and were usually black, or black and white in colour.

From early in the 19th century, when some dog fanciers began to take interest in these dogs, the keeping of written pedigrees began and the breed progressed rapidly, becoming not only larger in stature but also more refined. The dog "Old Cockie" was born in 1867, and he is credited with not only stamping characteristic type on the rough collie, but he is believed by some authorities to be responsible for introducing to the breed the factors which led to the development of the sable coat colour in the collie. A short time later collies were seen of almost every imaginable colour, including red, buff, mottle of various shades and a few sables.

At that time the most frequently seen colours were black, tan and white, black and white (without tan) and what are now called blue merles, but which were known then as "tortoise shell."

The early pedigrees were very much abbreviated, as compared with our present breed records. In fact, the first volume of the English stud book showed 78 "sheep dogs and scotch collies" registered up to 1874. Fifteen of them had written pedigrees but only three extended beyond sire and dam. Proof that pride of ownership was given priority over written records is found in the fact that it was in 1860 that the first classes for "scotch sheep dogs" were offered at the second dog show ever held in England, that of the Birmingham Dog Society. Both varieties competed in the same classes.

Shortly thereafter, Queen Victoria visited Balmoral and saw her first collies. They captivated her, and she enthusiastically began to sponsor them. There was a marked surge in the popularity of the breed which found itself not only the indispensable helpmate of the humble shepherd, but the treasure and the playmate of the royal and the rich. Collie type was essentially "fixed" by 1886 so that English breeders have never seen fit to change the height and weight established in their standard at that time. Numerous so-called "clarifying changes" have taken place in the United States standard over the ensuing years, but except for recognizing that the Collie has become slightly larger and heavier in the USA, there is no fundamental difference, even today, from that 1886 description of the ideal Collie.

Many of the early settlers in the new world brought dogs with them to herd their sheep and cattle in the colonies, but it was not until May of 1877, 17 years after their show ring debut in England, that they were shown in what had become the USA, at the second show of the Westminster Kennel Club in New York. Classes were offered for "shepherd dogs, or collie dogs" and a few were entered. The next year, however, would see great interest and excitement as two collies imported from Queen Victoria's Royal Balmoral Kennel were entered! Soon collies were to be found as prized possessions of the wealthy and socially eliteon both sides of the Atlantic. Kennels were established in the USA by the well-known fancier J. P. Morgan and his financial contemporaries, and many fashionable estates up the Hudson River and on Long Island had collie kennels.

English dogs were imported into the USA for what were then considered to be exorbitant prices.
Today's collies should still be bred as a working dog, and therefore when bred to the Collie Standard, they should have stamina, agility and intelligence. While the rough collie's coat can be very abundant, except on the head and legs, it must fit the collie well. The collie is not a show pony, it is a working dog! It has a harsh outer coat and a softer undercoat. The smooth collie's coat is short, hard, dense and flat, with good texture.
Today, both the smooth and rough collie come in three colours and colour combinations when bred to the Collie Standard. Sable and white coats are predominantly sable and varying shades of fawn (from light gold to dark mahogany) with white markings, usually on the chest, neck, legs, feet and tip of the tail; a blaze may appear on the foreface or back of the skull or both. Tri-color coats are predominantly black and have the same type of white markings as the sable and white coat, with tan shadings on and about the head and legs. Blue merle coats are a mottled or marbled color, predominantly blue-gray and black, with white markings as in sable and white coats, and sometimes with tan shadings, as in tri-color coats. White coats are not recognised as part of the Collie Standard in Australia or Europe, but are recognised in the USA where they are predominantly white in color, with sable, tri-color or blue merle markings. Both rough and smooth collie coats require regular and thorough brushings to keep them clean and free of mats.

Being no longer in great demand as a herder, today's collie, no matter where you find them in the world, has transferred their hard working, intelligent and loyalty to serving as a devoted and reliable family dog, wonderful companions and family friends, and show a particular affinity for small children. Today's collie remains an alert watchdog, quick to sound alarm, and very protective of his family, although a collie should never be an aggressive dog. Elegant and beautiful in appearance, loyal and affectionate in all his actions, self-appointed guardian of everything he can see or hear, the collie will always represent, to his many admirers, the ideal family companion.

Collies are now bred, shown, and adored in most countries these days, and are one of those enduring breeds that we would all be the poorer without!