The elegant, sweet, good-natured collie is one of the most recognizable breeds of dog, thanks to its most famous representative, Lassie. Usually recognized by their luxuriant golden coats and soft white chests, collies actually come in four recognized color combinations, some more rare than others. Whatever the coat, a collie makes an excellent companion for active families and children.
The sable color is considered the traditional collie coat and is the dominant color combination for the breed. Two pure sable parents always will bear sable puppies. The sable areas, which typically lie across the head and down the back, can range from a golden, honey yellow to a rich, chocolate brown. White covers the chest and most of the legs. A less common but highly desired variation is a straw or light cream-colored sable.
Tricolor coats are not exactly uncommon, but are far less common than the traditional sable. Tricolor collies are a mix of black, white and brown, with black as the main and white and brown covering the legs, chest, stomach and face. The black and brown gene is recessive to the sable gene, meaning that a puppy must inherit this recessive gene from both parents to be born tricolor.
Merle collies have a distinctive slate-colored, bluish coat. Though recognized by the American and UK Kennel Clubs as an official collie coat, merle is, nevertheless, uncommon in collies. A less frequent variation than solid merle is a marbled merle. There is no merle gene in collies. Rather, merling results from diluted black alleles and can be accomplished only by breeding merle or tricolor collies.
White collies are the rarest of the breed. Typically, they are all white except for their heads and sparse patches, which are either sable or tricolor. They are the result of breeding two merles. Part of the reason white collies are rare may be that some breeders originally labeled them as defective, their washed-out coats and pale blue eyes seen as undesirable. Occasionally, some born white also are born blind and/or deaf, though some gain sight and hearing as they become adults.