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What is a Border Collie?

Border Collies are the workaholics of the canine world. For hundreds of years, they have been bred to work livestock—safely, quietly, effectively and tirelessly. They have been adapted to use in many climates around the world, herding an amazingly wide range of livestock, and other animals.

These dogs don’t fit into any mold.The shepherds who have bred them over countless generations, bred them to do a job, not just look a certain way to the owner or observer. Even the style of the way a particular dog works has come about through selective breeding to produce a dog that can do the job in the best possible way.

The actual breed of dogs, known as Border Collies come from Scotland, along the border between Scotland and England. Thus, the name Border collie. Registered Border Collies were first imported into the United States in the 1920s. In many parts of the world they are actually known as Working Sheepdogs.

A Short (very short) History of the Border Collie

During the time of the Roman empire, the Romans brought numerous herding dogs to the British Isles. Many of these dogs had come from Northern Africa, but only a few could withstand Britain's cold, wet weather. However, those that did survive, were bred with the local dogs, which were descendants of the Celtic dogs from north of Ireland.

Those original Roman herding dogs were larger than we see now—they were actually a combination of herding and guarding dog. They and shepherds came to the British Isles with the sheep that were meant to feed the Roman armies. As the Roman empire lost strength and hold on the British Isles, the Vikings of Scandinavian north increased their raiding, eventually overcoming and invading the areas we now know as Ireland and Scotland, bringing their own herding dogs.

These new sheep herding dogs were smaller, lighter and quicker dogs. Far more suited to the rocky Scottish highlands, they were crossed with the Roman breeds, eventually giving rise to a dog called collie, which seems to be derived from the ancient celtic word colley, thought to mean useful and/or faithful. It is also similar to a word that meant black, in one Celtic dialect. The word colley eventually was used for a dog working livestock.

Various types of this dog were used around the British Isles, and gave rise to several other herding breeds we know today, such as the Rough Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, and Bearded Collie. By 1576, a Dr. Johannes Caius gave a description of a working shepherd’s dog that surely describes our modern day Border Collie, in his book “English Dogges.”

The type we now know as Border Collies were first dubbed so by James Reid (secretary of the International Sheepdog Society), in 1915 in registration forms to indicate the dog’s origins from around the border between Scotland and England. By this time, the breed had been proving itself to be the best herding dogs both on the farm and in trials. Indeed, the first recorded Sheepdog trial was held in Bala, Wales, in October of 1873, and was won by William Thomson and his dog Tweed.

For information on how Border Collies work on hazing Canada Geese, be sure to visit our page, "Why Use Border Collies?"

The books we have researched from and recommend for more detail and history are:

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Some web sites which are nice for researching the Border Collie history are:

More Information:

Over the years, I've come to consider Border Collies to be more of a state of mind, than any other specific characteristic. The shepherds who developed Border Collies, bred them to do a job, not to fit some predetermined breed standards. While there are some basic or "classic" colors, Border Collies actually come in a wide variety of coats and coat colors. A wonderful site (and project), I have found is the "Collie Corner" by Sharon Webley. This is a site that should be in the favorites list of anybody who is involved in rescue. Be sure to visit and have fun viewing all sorts of colors and coat types of Border Collies!

A couple of sites that contain some wonderful descriptions and photos of various Border Collie colors is the Nice of you to Come Bye site.


Please note, the images you find throughout BuzzSaw's Border Collie Graphics and Store are the product of long hours and hard work. I hope you enjoy the fruits of my labor and am delighted that you have visited. However, please note, that just because you have found these images on the Web do not construe that they are public domain. Please respect copyright laws. If nothing else, respect my right to the fruits of my labor. Thank you!