PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE BORDER COLLIE
The Border Collie is a medium-sized dog who has won people over the world round with its elegant silhouette and lively, athletic character. In addition to the many great qualities this dog breed possesses temperament-wise, it also has a beautiful physical appearance with many great strengths that we showcase below.
Border Collie Coat
One of the first physical characteristics you notice about a Border Collie is their gorgeous coat. According to The Kennel Club's breed standard, the Border Collie's coat can be moderately long or smooth, with a soft, dense undercoat. This provides good weather resistance, helping the Border Collie perform their sheepdog tasks.
In terms of grooming, the Border Collie's coat doesn't take much looking after. Outside of moulting periods (during which they should be brushed every day), short-haired Border Collies only need brushing once per week, and long-haired Border Collies should be brushed two or three times per week. One or two baths per year will suffice for this dog breed unless they get particularly dirty. In any case, avoid bathing your dog more than once per month, at the risk of damaging their skin.
Border Collie Colour
The breed standard for the Border Collie, established by The Kennel Club, differs from many other breeds by means of one astonishing peculiarity: it accepts all colours, on the sole condition that white does not predominate. This means the breed offers many possibilities; something to please everyone! However, some colours are much rarer than others.
Here are some of the many colours of Border Collie that you can find:
Black and white Border Collie: This is the most common colour combination and the one that first comes to mind when thinking about the physical characteristics of the Border Collie.
Tri-coloured Border Collie (black, white, and cream/tan): A variation on the first colour combination, this tri-coloured variety includes cream and tan colouring on the muzzle and legs.
Blue merle Border Collie: The blue merle colour is a kind of "diluted" black, which looks almost grey.
Blue merle and cream/tan Border Collie: Same variation as the black and white Border Collie. Cream and tan colouring is found on the muzzle especially.
Red merle Border Collie: The red merle colour is similar to brown. This colour coat is very rare for Border Collies.
Red merle and cream/tan Border Collie: This tricolour combination features dominant red merle colouring with cream/tan variations on the muzzle.
Chocolate Border Collie: Rarer than the black and white combination, the chocolate brown colour is one of the most sought after physical characteristics for a Border Collie. The brown colour is usually accompanied by white.
Chocolate tricolour Border Collie: This colour combination features mostly chocolate brown and white, but the colour is more diluted in some places, giving the impression of a much lighter shade of brown.
Light brown or sand Border Collie: This is a coppery colour, a little darker at the roots and lighter towards the ends. Like other colours, this is generally mixed with white.
Slate Border Collie: Here, the dominant colour is black, which is diluted with white to create a very dark grey.
Slate merle Border Collie: In slate merle dogs, the black colour is diluted even further to reveal brown spots on the legs and head. The black here is slightly lighter in colour than that found on a slate Border Collie.
Lilac Border Collie: The lilac colour features a purplish-brown base with white.
Lilac merle Border Collie: Here, the lilac colour is further diluted by the M gene, which reveals brown spots which are much lighter than the rest of the coat.
Seal Border Collie: This colour is a genetic mutation from the sable colour; dogs with this coat vary from black to dark chocolate with an auburn tinge.
Seal merle Border Collie: The seal colour is diluted in places, resulting in a tricolour coat: seal, sable, and white.
The Australian Red (ee-red) Border Collie
Among the many different coat colours found in Border Collies, we can cite the particular case of the Australian red Border Collie. This colourway features blonde tones, as red masks other colours by layering over it. Sometimes it's possible to find out the dog's real base colour by looking at the nose, but this method is not always effective. There are several subtypes of the Australian Red Border Collie:
Border Collie Complex Colour Genetics
The colour of a Border Collie's coat is no accident. It's the result of a combination of genes, each one carrying a very precise set of information. In the Border Collie, several genes are involved in producing the colour of the fur.
Of the ten genes involved, three directly determine the colour of the hair: the K gene (dominant black), the E gene, and the A gene (yellow and red). *Note that when discussing genetics, upper-case letters always indicate a dominant gene and lower-case will indicate a recessive gene. The expression of the colour carried by the gene depends on the presence or absence of certain alleles, the combination of which allows different colours to appear. Sometimes it is the case that the presence of one gene prevents the expression of another, which is then completely erased. This is particularly the case for the K allele, the dominant colour of which is black. This prevents the expression of the A gene. If the K gene is recessive (k), then the A gene can be expressed. The K gene, for its part, depends on the E gene.
Five other secondary genes then intervene to modify the colour of the coat: genes B, M, D, S, and T. The M (merle) gene needs to be watched carefully, as it can sometimes cause serious health problems in dogs.
Beware of Dangerous Interbreeding
Solid or dominant white is not accepted by the breed standard as a coat colour for Border Collies. Why? Quite simply because the gene responsible for this colour carries serious genetic problems, which can permanently impact the health of the dog.
White Border Collies are the result of two dominant alleles of the merle gene (M). In this case, the animals are born entirely white: even the nose is light in colour. They are also likely to suffer from blindness, deafness, and heart or liver problems. Interbreeding between two merle dogs is prohibited by most canine clubs and federations around the world, including The Kennel Club in the UK. We urge you not to purchase a white Border Collie: this encourages bad breeding practices. Be wise to dangerous breeding, and do not be tempted by the idea of having a "rare" dog. Serious breeders will not perform this kind of breeding.
Border Collie Body
The Border Collie's body is athletic and well-proportioned. It is quite lightweight, betraying the great agility of this breed. Don't be fooled by this apparent lightness, however, Border Collies are powerful, resilient dogs. The ribs are well sprung, and the chest is deep and rather broad. The body is slightly longer than the height at the withers. The abdomen is slightly lower than the flank.
The thighs are long, the hocks strong and let down. The feet are oval, with deep pads and strong toes. The tail is medium in length and set low. It is well furnished with hair and slightly curved at the end.
The Border Collie's head is quite broad, with a muzzle that tapers towards the nose. The skull and the muzzle are the same length, with a well-marked stop. The colour of the nose largely depends on the colour of the coat. It is generally black, except in brown or chocolate Border Collies when it may be brown. In blue Border Collies, the nose should be slate colour.
The eyes are oval-shaped and brown in colour, except for merle dogs who may have one or both blue eyes, or particoloured eyes. The ears are medium, set wide apart, and carried erect or semi-erect.
Border Collie Size and Weight
The Border Collie is a medium-sized dog with a fairly lightweight build. Males measure between 50 and 55cm at the withers and weigh between 18 and 28kg. Females measure between 48 and 52cm at the withers and weigh between 15 and 25kg. There is not a huge difference between the size of the two sexes, so your choice between the two will mainly depend on your personal preference. It should be noted that, as with all medium to large dogs, Border Collies are often affected by hip dysplasia. This is one of the most common health problems for Border Collies. Choose your breeder carefully and make sure that your new puppy's parents are both free from this serious joint disease.
Of course, the aforementioned sizes refer to grown adult dogs. A three-month-old male Border Collie puppy weighs between 5.8 and 8 kilos. A female puppy of the same age will weigh between 5.1 and 7.6kg. They then grow and increase in weight very quickly, until they are around 8 or 9 months old.
At around six months, the female Border Collie weighs between 9 and 14 kilos, versus 10.7 to 14.7kg for males. At the age of one year, the dog's weight oscillates between 11.9 and 18.4kg for females and 13.8 and 19.4kg for males. As you can see, some dogs are much lighter than others.
From this point on, the Border Collie's growth is much more linear. Border Collies reach their adult size and weight between 14 and 16 months old, for both males and females. The end of the growth period is later for taller and larger dogs.
Growth is a critical time for every puppy. Not only is it the time when your puppy forges a relationship with the world around them, but it is also the most crucial period for dog training, which needs to be taken seriously. Even though Border Collies tend to be very intelligent and docile, you need to teach them good behaviours and socialise them from a young age, while also protecting their joints by avoiding putting too much strain on them. If you're not careful, you risk causing joint problems in your dog that could seriously damage their mobility and therefore their quality of life. Avoid crazy races, jumps, and skids during these early stages and favour quieter activities instead.
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