Several dog breeds are called collie, but the iconic collie is Lassie, a classic Scottish collie, also known as the rough collie. The word collie has more than one possible derivation: a Gaelic word meaning “useful” or “coaley” for either the dark coat of the ancestral farm dog or the black-faced sheep it herded.
The Lassie Look
The Scottish collie is a medium-to-large animal, averaging about 60 pounds and standing some 2 feet tall at the shoulder; males tend to be larger and females smaller. In proper condition, the body is lean and muscular with a narrow head, long muzzle and tulip ears. The luxuriant outercoat of the rough collie, with a full ruff and plumed tail, gives an impression of greater size and bulk, but the true conformation is more apparent in the smooth-coated variety. Four coat colors are recognized: sable (pale gold to deep mahogany, with black-tipped guard hairs) with white collar, chest, boots and tail tip; tricolor (black with white markings accented by tan highlights on the face and legs), blue merle (white coat swirled, speckled and patched with black, gray and tan, with the same pure white markings as the sable and white) and white (overall white coat patched or spotted with any of the other accepted colors).
The Scottish collie is known for a gentle, affectionate disposition, and for being protective of his family. He’ll bark if he thinks something’s wrong or if he’s alone too long, and may herd children and other pets if he thinks they’re straying, but with less intensity than his cousin, the border collie. He’s smart, versatile and willing to learn anything, from service work for challenged humans to athletic pursuits such as agility and flyball.
Scottish collies should have little “doggy” smell because their coats are not oily. However, both the smooth and the rough version need regular brushing to remove dead hair from the undercoat; twice a week should be adequate. Pay particular attention to petticoats, the long hair on the back of the hind legs, and the underside of the tail -- soiling of these areas can alert the groomer to health problems such as diarrhea or incontinence. A brisk walk or a play/training session can give a Scots collie adequate exercise, but the length and intensity vary with the individual dog. Some Scottish collies are naturally more active than others; it’s up to you to adjust accordingly. Any high-quality commercial dog food can nourish your Scots collie adequately, but some dogs can be prone to food allergies. Consult your veterinarian for advice if your collie shows signs of food sensitivities.
Because they were at one time very popular, Scottish collies were bred heavily and not always wisely. Get your puppy from a reputable breeder or rescue an adult collie of known health status. The breed is known to have some health problems, such as skin and eye complaints, and can be highly sensitive to certain medications, such as ivermectin, the main ingredient in heartworm prevention, and flea control products. Consult your veterinarian before using any such products for your collie. If you intend to breed your merle Scots collie, don’t breed to another merle, as genetic conflicts can be damaging and possibly lethal to the puppies.