History of Border Collies

While the exact origins are not entirely clear, there is a fascinating history of border collies behind the breed that sheds light on how they became the iconic dogs we know today. The earliest mentions of dogs that resemble the Border Collie can be found in the 16th century, in a book called “The Shepherd’s Week” by John Gay. The book features illustrations of small, agile dogs with sharp noses and alert expressions, which were commonly used by shepherds to herd and protect their flocks. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that the Border Collie as we know it today began to take shape.

During the 1800s, sheep farming was an essential industry in the United Kingdom, and the demand for efficient and reliable sheepdogs was high. A variety of breeds were used for this purpose, including the Welsh Sheepdog, the Bearded Collie, and the Old English Sheepdog. However, the most influential breed was the smooth-coated Scottish Sheepdog, which was known for its stamina, speed, and trainability.

The smooth-coated Scottish Sheepdog was bred with other herding breeds, including the Collie, to create a more versatile dog that could adapt to a range of herding tasks. These dogs were initially known as the “Scotch Collie” or “Working Collie” but were eventually referred to as the Border Collie due to their origins in the border regions of Scotland and England.

The Border Collie quickly gained a reputation as an incredibly skilled herding dog, capable of working independently and with incredible precision. They were highly valued by farmers and shepherds, who relied on them to manage their flocks and protect them from predators. The breed’s intelligence, athleticism, and loyalty made them the ideal dog for this purpose, and they quickly became one of the most popular breeds in the region.

history of border collies

In 1893, a collie named Old Hemp was born near the border of Scotland and England. Old Hemp was intelligent and had natural herding abilities. His owner and breeder, Adam Telfer, made him the top working dog on the farm. With a reputation as an outstanding herder, Old Hemp became a sought-after stud dog. Estimates say his offspring totalled more than 200, making him the foundation sire of the Border Collie breed. Old Hemp is credited as the progenitor to the history of Border Collies as we know them today, and in 1901, with the birth of his son, Old Kep.


Being a cool climate, the classic, well recognised black and white dog with a longer coat was suitable for working. However, when the breed became popular in warmer areas, farmers developed working lines of Border Collies with shorter, lighter coats. Working line Border Collies also come in many colours and marking variations and tend to be taller, leaner dogs, bred primarily for their ability to work rather than their appearance.

The popularity of the Collie grew, with Queen Victoria known to be an enthusiast of the breed and by the late 19th century, the competitive field sport of sheepdog trials was established.

Border Collies are still widely used throughout the world to control livestock. Long considered one of the world’s greatest herders, the breed developed its distinct herding style – with explosive running and its stealth in crouching and creeping around its flock still seen in the modern-day breed.

The popularity of Border Collies slowly grew – breeders focused on breeding for either working dogs or for the show ring – and by 1995, the Border Collie dog breed was formally recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Today, the Border Collie remains one of the most versatile and beloved breeds in the world. They are used for a range of tasks, from herding and sheepdog trials to search and rescue operations and therapy work. Their incredible athleticism and work ethic have also made them popular in dog sports such as agility, flyball, and Frisbee.

Border Collies bred for the show ring and as family companions are commonly the more traditional black and white dog with a moderate double coat. Anyone considering a Border Collie needs to accept that regular grooming and hair shedding is part of living with a Border. While Borders from working lines may have much easier coats to deal with, grooming any dog is necessary. You need to either budget for someone to do this or make it a part of your weekly routine.

Although these lines’ type and temperament can vary a great deal, these dogs tend to have very high working drives. While well suited to farm life, they may not be ideal in a family situation unless the owner is very dedicated and provides some form of substitution for work on a regular, preferably daily basis, such as participating in dog sports.

Known for their intelligence and high trainability, the versatility of the Border Collie was also starting to be recognized, which is still seen today, in their agility work and dog sports as well as working as service dogs, in particular, search and rescue.

In conclusion, the fascinating history of Border Collies dates back centuries. From their humble beginnings as small, agile herding dogs to their status as one of the most beloved breeds in the world, they have proven to be incredibly adaptable and versatile. Whether you are a farmer, a dog enthusiast, or simply looking for a loyal and intelligent companion, the Border Collie is a breed that is sure to impress.

history of border collies

history of border collies

error: Content is protected !!