The Border Collie’s history probably goes back to the first century B.C., when the Romans invaded Britain and brought with them dogs to herd their livestock. When the empire crumbled, Viking raiders are thought to have brought smaller spitz-type herding dogs with them, which they cross-bred with the larger Roman dogs to produce smaller, more agile sheep-herding dogs particularly well-suited to the climate and topography of the highlands bordering Scotland, England and Wales. These animals were bred for performance rather than appearance - and especially for their stock sense and innate ability to work long hours on rugged terrain with little human guidance.
All modern Border Collies trace back to a single dog named Old Hemp, who was born in the early 1890s in Northumberland, England. He competed in sheepdog trials from the age of one year and was undefeated in his lifetime, a record that apparently has never been matched. Other influential breed sires include Tommy and Sweep – both grandsons of Old Hemp – along with Craig, Wartime Cap and Wiston Cap, who was the 1965 International Champion and who possibly had the greatest influence on today’s Border Collies. Many excellent dogs were exported to America beginning in the 1890s. The International Sheepdog Society (ISDS) was founded in Scotland in 1906. The name “Border Collie” was coined in or around 1915 by the then-secretary of the ISDS. ”Collie” is thought to refer to the Scottish Highland colley sheep, with “colley” being an old Anglo-Saxon word for “black”, pertaining to the black markings on those sheep. Another theory attributes the origin of the name to the fact that “collie” is Gaelic for “useful,” which these dogs certainly are. Now headquartered in Bedford, England, the ISDS is still active in maintaining a registry and governing body for working Border Collies world-wide.
Border Collies remain invaluable to ranchers and farmers and continue to excel in herding and agility competitions. Their intensity, agility, extraordinary instincts and trainability are prized equally with their physical size and attractive appearance. This breed is considered by most to be the world’s premier sheep herding dog. They are affectionate with family and standoffish with strangers. They require vigorous exercise and mental stimulation to remain content.
The average lifespan of the Border Collie is 12 to 15 years. They may be prone to congenital deafness, familial cerebellar degeneration, epilepsy, hip dysplasia and certain ocular conditions such as nodular episclerokeratits, chronic superficial keratitis (pannus), primary lens luxation, cataracts, collie eye anomaly, generalized progressive retinal atrophy and other eye disorders. Their short-to-medium length coat requires regular grooming to prevent matting and dirt accumulation.