The Welsh Collie (also known as Welsh Sheepdog) is a highly intelligent breed, almost similar in intelligence to the Border Collie of Scotland. For centuries, this breed has been working side by side with shepherds in the remote mountainous regions of Wales where it originated, to flock sheep and other livestock. Although as intelligent as the Border Collie, the Welsh Collie has a distinct technique of herding sheep, unlike the Border Collie that directly stares on the flock. The Welsh Collie is a loose-eyed worker, meaning it does not fix its eye directly on the flock. One similarity in herding style though, is that it is able to work independently without human command.
The Welsh Collie is a well-balanced breed, always on high alert ready to take command from its owner. It has a broad head with a very distinct stop and a tapering muzzle tipped by a black, brown or slate coloured nose. The head is paired with oval shaped eyes that boast an alert and intelligent gaze. Typical eye colour is brown but blue merles can have one or both blue eyes. The medium-sized ears are pricked, but usually folded at the tip and carried erect or semi-erect. The teeth form a perfect scissor bite. The muscular neck is slightly arched and is wider at the shoulder than at the nape. Strong bones support the well-muscled front and hind legs. The deep chest has well-sprung ribs with muscular loins. The tail is usually carried low with a slight curve and carries it raised over the back when excited. Coat varies from long to short and smooth with dense softer undercoat. Colours include black, black-and-tan, red, blue merle or roan with or without white markings.
It is purely a working breed so there is no standard height. The approximate height is 46 cm while the weight can vary from the lighter 16 kg of northern Wales to the bulkier 18 to 20 kg variety of southern Wales.
The Welsh Collie was traditionally used to move livestock over long distances, taking cattle and sheep to markets in Wales and Britain. However, it’s true origin is shrouded in obscurity much like any other ancient breeds. It is thought that the Welsh Collie may have come from the Gellgi or “covert hound”, an indigenous herding dog of Wales which is mentioned in manuscripts relating to Welsh Law some 800 years ago. This local dog would have had the role of both herding animals and as guard dog. In its role as a droving dog, the Welsh farm dog was fundamental in helping the cattle and sheep owner in driving the flock for hundreds of miles from the remote areas of Wales to the markets in England. It played an important role in keeping the herds calm in the open countryside and safe from wild animals. By the 1940s, this group of purebred native Welsh sheepdog was on the verge of extinction as a result of cross breeding. There is no historical record of its genealogy so the only suggestion of breed purity is its “Welsh” manner of working. The Welsh Collie that we now have is mostly descended from the old Black-and-Tan sheepdog with a mix of the now extinct sable or blue-merle Welsh Hillman, the shaggy Old Welsh Grey and working Border Collie.
The Welsh Collie is a true working breed similar to the collies found in Scotland and Britain. It has a strong guarding instinct and a natural working practice to circle a large horde of livestock. It is a loose-eyed worker unlike the fix-eye manner of working found in Border Collies. It is a very capable dog which can work independently or under the command of its owner. Being a high energy dog, it is happier when working, so it is best suited to an environment where it can practice its native herding instinct. It is usually wary around strangers but will not typically show any aggressive behaviour and would rather keep its distance.
The Welsh Collie is a very intelligent breed of working dog and is highly trainable. Being a working breed, it can compete in dog sports such as agility trials, obedience, flyball, tracking and herding events. It is not a dog for first-time pet owners since it requires someone who can handle and train it with such familiarity as to make the dog truly happy. Puppies should be socialized and trained at an early age to curb their strong herding instinct if it should be kept as a pet. Short but interesting training sessions will keep the puppy focused. Positive reinforcement from a firm but gentle hand is the best training method for this breed.
The smooth or rough double coat requires regular grooming to keep the hair healthy and the skin free from allergies. Trimming or stripping is not required for the Welsh Collie. It is a moderate shedder so routine brushing is advisable.
The average lifespan of a Welsh Collie is between 12 and 15 years. It is a generally hardy breed, owing to its lineage as a sheepdog. It requires a good quality diet to stay healthy. Health issues (if any) are still somewhat hard to pinpoint because the Welsh Sheepdog Society was only formed in 1997 and only a handful of puppies have been registered. The main focus is to make the Welsh Collie remain a pure and healthy breed through strict breeding program regulations.
The Welsh Collie requires an adequate amount of exercise and mental stimulation on a daily basis. It is not an animal that will suit an apartment life. It will be better off in a home with a large estate such as farmlands where it can live an active, outdoor life.
This breed has a high herding instinct and will typically display herding behaviour even in a home environment so it is not a highly advisable breed to a family with small children and/or small animals. However, they will do well in an environment with older children who know how to behave around dogs. The Welsh Collie is a bit wary around strangers and other unfamiliar dogs but once it gets to know the scent, it will get on quite well with other pets.