The Rough Collie (also known as Long-Haired Collie or simply “Collie” in the United States) is a long-haired variety of the collie sheepdog that originated in Scotland in the 1800s. It is a strong, active and natural working dog that stands naturally straight and firm. It has a moderately wide chest, sloping shoulders and well-bent hocks. The tapered head shows a clean and smooth outline that resembles a lean wedge. The eyebrows are slightly prominent which complements the flat skull and a very slight stop. It has a smooth, well-rounded muzzle, strong and clean-cut underjaw, and a scissors bite set of good-sized teeth. The obliquely placed almond-shaped eyes of the Rough Collie gives a forward outlook especially when viewed in the front. The eye colour matches that of the coat except for blue merles where the eyes are dark brown. At rest, the ears are folded lengthwise and folded back into the ruffle. A heavily frilled, fairly long and muscular neck supports the head to the equally muscular body. The back is level, supported by muscular hips and thighs. The front legs are well feathered to the back of the pasterns and well-built. The hind legs are also muscular with well-bent hocks and stifles covered in smooth hair. The tail is covered with very profuse hair and is carried low with an upward swirl at the end but carried brightly but not over the back when the dog is excited or in motion.
The undercoat is soft, woolly and dense while the outer coat is straight and rough. The hair covers almost all parts of the body and is abundant particularly on the mane and frill, except on the head and legs. Acceptable colours are sable and white, tri-colour, blue merle, and white.
Male Rough Collies stand between 55.8 to 66 cm from the withers and can weigh between 20 to 34 kg. Females stand between 50.8 to 61 cm at the shoulder and weigh between 15.8 to 29 kg.
The Rough Collie descended from generations of local herding dogs from Scotland and Wales brought here by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago. The variety from Scotland was large and aggressive and was used primarily to herd sheep. The variety from Wales was smaller, agile and friendly and also herded sheep and goats. These varieties were then interbred with local English sheepdogs producing a long-haired collie and a short-haired variety but with broader heads and shorter muzzles that are smaller than today’s Collies. Because the original Collies were predominantly black, some suggest that the name “collie” might have come from the old Ango-Saxxon word “coll” which means black. Others say that the name probably came from the Scottish black-faced sheep called the “colley” which the dogs frequently herd. These early Collies were then crossed with the Borzoi or Russian wolfhound which produced a breed with a longer muzzle and taller stature.
The breed became popular when in the 1860s, Queen Victoria saw and acquired a Rough Collie when she visited Balmoral Castle in Scotland. She immediately fell in love with the breed’s gentle temperament and good looks and brought it to England where it became a fad.
In 1888, J.P. Morgan imported a Rough Collie from England named Southport Perfection and paid a record sum of $8,500. He established a Collie kennel called Cragston in New York. The famous 1943 movie “Lassie Come Home” features a Rough Collie named “Lassie” as the main character.
Like many sheepdogs, a Rough Collie has a tendency to bark a lot but it can be easily trained not to bark especially if done so at an early age. Some collies tend to be bossy while others are calmer and gentle. It makes a wonderful guardian of the farm and flock especially during winter since it can stand the coldest of temperatures. It is a breed that is highly trainable, flexible, loyal, agile and graceful – all important traits of a quality herding breed and perfect family companion.
The Rough Collie is a highly intelligent breed, eager to learn and responds well to gentle training. They can be trained easily to compete in dog sports such as agility contests, obedience, conformation, Flyball, tracking and herding trials. It can also be trained as a search and rescue dog and has been known as a therapy dog and guide dog.
The Rough Collie’s long double coat makes it suitable to cold places and can endure extreme temperatures. Weekly brushing is recommended to keep the hair tangle free and the undercoat from matting. Brushing also promotes blood circulation which promotes good skin health free from allergies. Bathe or dry shampoo only when necessary. The Rough Collie sheds heavily twice a year.
While a Rough Collie is generally a tough and healthy breed, there are some health issues that can affect the dog, including:
Rough Collies may also be sensitive to the anti-parasitic medication Ivermectin and related drugs which can cause neurological problems and even death if overdosed.
The Rough Collie is a medium to large-sized breed and needs a considerable amount of exercise to stay healthy. Daily long walk or an hour of play outside is an idyllic daily activity. A small apartment is not an ideal home for this breed. It is relatively inactive indoors and will do well in a house with an average-sized yard. The natural home of the Collie is the cold Highlands of Scotland so do not let the dog run or play under the heat or it may suffer.
A Rough Collie is neither aggressive nor shy and is typically excellent with children and other animals. However, it must be socialized properly as early as a puppy to prevent shyness. It is naturally protective of small children and makes an excellent guard dog.