Breeds
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Fun Facts You Didn’t Know About the Collie

You know Lassie the Collie, of course, but did you know that Queen Victoria had something to do with the breed’s popularity as well?

Lynn M. Hayner  |  Oct 30th 2017


The responsive, intelligent and adaptable Collie has focused on family for centuries. Work today? Check! Quiet therapy visit? Got it! Although ready for action, the Collie is also suited for R and R days. Collies adjust to the day and their family’s activities. They’ll slow down for small children and seniors but happily pick up the pace for older children or sporty adults.

Where do Collies come from?

A Collie sitting down and look back.

Collies were developed in England Scotland to tend to livestock. Photography ©oersin | Thinkstock.

The specific ancestry of this breed is slightly fuzzy, but we know Collies come from a long line of livestock-tending ancestors. Celts apparently so valued their herding dogs that they called them “useful” (collie). Developed in England and Scotland to herd, more recent Collie forefathers also safeguarded livestock to market.

Collies in pop culture

Eric Knight’s Lassie Come Home novel and the succeeding movies and television shows gave the breed even more popularity.

Eric Knight’s Lassie Come Home novel and the succeeding movies and television shows gave the breed even more popularity. Photography by Pictorial Press Ltd | Alamy Stock Photo.

In the mid-19th century, Queen Victoria’s affection for the Collie fostered the breed’s popularity. Lad: A Dog, a 1919 novel written by Albert Payson Terhune, also added to the Collie’s reputation as a sensitive, responsible breed.

The breed gained additional celebrity with Eric Knight’s Lassie Come Home (1940) novel and the succeeding movies and television shows depicting the heroic dog in action. In addition, the character of Lassie was featured on toys, comic books and the ever-popular metal lunch box.

But Hollywood depictions aside, Collies aren’t born trained and ready to rescue. For example, the first Lassie movie star, Pal, was exceptionally well-trained, but cameras had to stop rolling when motorcycles passed. Pal had a passion for chasing them! Lassie (along with only two other dogs, Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart) received a Hollywood star of fame.

Cherishing home

A Collie dog.

Collies love to be home with their families. Photography ©steamroller_blues | Thinkstock.

Social and self-controlled, the gracious Collie is typically friendly with other animals and people. As with most herding breeds, Collies bond closely and keep track of their beloved family’s whereabouts. Families often find that the Collie excels at judging character and situations. Collies also take their watchdog role seriously, barking readily when newcomers arrive.

Adaptable to many settings, Collies can thrive in either an apartment (with frequent walks) or on a big farm. While Collies don’t need or expect constant activity or attention, they do require steady companionship and exercise. If their families are sport focused, Collies can take top honors in competitive obedience, agility and rally. Eager for a working partnership, the Collie also excels in the herding sports as well as tracking.

At the end of either a day of work or play, the Collie will be happiest by his owner’s side. This is not a breed that thrives on extended separation. Lassie’s stories always involved Timmy, didn’t they?

Collie Facts

A Collie dog.

Collies usually live for 11 to 14 years. Photography courtesy Kathleen George and Jennifer Laik.

  • Life span: 11 to 14 years
  • Color: Blue merle and white and predominantly white with sable, tricolor or blue merle markings.
  • Coat: Two varieties: The rough coat is long and harsh textured; the smooth coat is short, dense and flat.
  • Blaze: Most Collies have a traditional white collar and sometimes white facial markings, called a blaze.
  • Undercoat: Both coats have abundant undercoats.
  • Shedding: Both coat types shed.
  • Grooming: Weekly brushing. The rough-coated has more significant shedding seasons and grooming requirements.
  • Weight: Males weigh some 60 to 75 pounds; females 50 to 65 pounds. Collie
  • Eye Anomaly: Pups should have their eyes checked between the ages of 6 and 8 weeks for Collie Eye Anomaly, a congenital, inherited eye disease that affects the retina, choroid and sclera.
  • Collie motto: “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” — Jane Austen

Originally an attorney, Lynn Hayner has been writing for companion animal publications for more than 15 years. She researches breed profiles, dabbles in animal law issues and collects stories about dogs and their families in her travels. A lifelong dog aficionado, Lynn is shadowed by her “Who the heck needs a leash, I’ll follow mama anywhere,” German Shepherd Dog, Zoey. Follow Lynn on Twitter at @lynnhayner.

Editor’s note: This article appeared in Dogster magazine. Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Dogster magazine delivered straight to you

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