The history of the collie

Our collies originally come from Scotland, from a hilly, partly mountainous landscape with many moors, from a region with a rather humid, cool and often very rough climate with an average day temperatures of 5 centigrade. The collie is a product of these surroundings and the demands made on the dog. Not its appearance was decisive, but rather what it could be used for. There were the leader of the pack, the herding dog, the tracker dog, the greyhound and the sheepdog. The collie had to guard the sheep without a brake, day and night, and in any whether and in all seasons. It was once an indispensable workmate to the shepherds. And therefore the collie is a dog with a lot of energy, a high intelligence, much stamina, it loves walking and has a good dose of distrust but shows no aggression. Not a guard dog or watchdog but a working dog, its appearance did not matter that much. It was a reliable, constant and loyal companion to the herd, and to those he follows it will still stand by unswervingly. It is not a unquestioning servant, it loves its family, yet does not loose its own personality.


The collie probably is one of the oldest breeds and can be traced back down to the 16th century. The origin of the collie breed has been subject to much research and speculation. Until today the question has remained unsolved whether it was the interbreeding with greyhounds, borzoi, Gorden- and Irish-setters before the year 1800 which led to the typical watchdog. Neither can the name “collie” be derived with certainty. The Anglo-Saxon meaning of the word ‚cal’ is ‘black’. It could be that “Collie” was a name referring to its black coat, maybe the original colour of the breed, and later served as a basis for the breed name “Colley” or Collie. Another version says that the name refers to black-headed sheep it had to guard. We can find both spellings in books, “Colley” as well as “Collie”, already in the year 1808. In 1859 the first dog show took place in England. In 1861 a Mr. Siviter showed a collie by the name of “Jeho”. In 1871 ”Old Mec”, a black-brown male, and “Old Cockie”, a yellow-white male, were shown. Old Cocky is looked upon as the forefather of all collies. Together with Champion Christopher, Old Cockie exerted the main influence on the Collie breeding in England in those days.



"Cockie Boy" a sable & white Collie

born  in 1867 , is said to be the first

known Collie of the "brown and white" colour

"Trefoil" a tri-colour "Galway Collie"  born in

1873 Ireland is the undisputed ancestor

of all of today's Collies




"Ch Charlamagne" born 4/01/1879

a son of Trefoil and grandson of Old Cockie,

sired Sefton who sired  Ch. Metchley Wonder

"Ch. Metchley Wonder" born in 1886, was

  a five time winner of  the Collie Club Challenge Trophy  He sired Ch Christopher



In 1873 the Kennel-Club was founded in Britain by the prince of Wales. On June 24th, 1881, the Kennel Club put up the first standard for the pedigree longhaired Collie. Around the turn of the century the collie was more and more bred as a working and a show-dog. As a result, even on the big shows collies turned up varying in their colour from sable, blue-merle, and even tri-coloured. Queen Victoria, too, was impressed by the efficiency, the abilities and the appearance of the collie and from then on herself kept collies at the royal court. The breed flourished and the dog underwent a sudden boom. The breeders started to further develop the collies, the beautiful dog was exported to oversee countries, it started on its triumphant procession across the world. During the first world war our Scottish shepherd dog was made use of in the medical corps and as a messenger and rescue dog with great success and enjoyed a marvelous reputation. This, however, also led to fierce competition with the German shepherd dog, which was more and more brought into action in the theatre of war and accordingly trained, and it gradually ousted the collie as a working dog. The breeders from now on mainly concentrated on the appearance of the collie, especially in view of the exhibitions taking place increasingly often. The collie became one of the most favored dogs. It is a dog of great beauty, a proud dog, not one detail is out of proportion in relation to its appearance as a whole. Strength, activity and elegance are smoothly combined, it shows no clumsiness or aggressiveness, but knows how to assert itself well and is considerably conscientious. During the past years its appearance has changed in many ways, and it is hard to imagine that today’s collie with its abundant coat would still be herding in the Scottish highlands. Its former efficiency and strength of nerves have undoubtedly been pushed into the background since the beginning of the Lassie-boom and had to a certain degree to give way to the dog’s beauty and quality.


Already as far back as 1874 and 1877 the shorthaired collie was listed in the “Smooth-Collie-class”. The female “Sharp” was a constant companion to Queen Victoria. Right away it is obvious how the collie is built, its stature, in other words, the real collie. Those were shorthaired dogs with a thin skin and were used and bred as herding, working and guardian dogs with good scenting abilities. The shorthaired collie was given its first breeding standard in 1881. Usually, today these collies are very self-confident and have excellent nerves. Thanks to its superb qualities, which hardly any of these dogs have lost, shorthaired collies nowadays make marvelous family dogs.

"Ch Black Hawk Of Kasan" born in 1966

was the first Smooth Collie to win Best In Show

at the CCA National Specialty; first Smooth Collie to win an all breed Best In Show, and six times

won Best Of Variety at the National

"Ch Sunnybank Thane" with his breeder / owner

the well known author  Albert Payson Terhune

" Thane" can be found in many pedigrees of

todays Collies, including those who come down

through Ch Tartanside The Gladiator

"Ch. Wellesbourne Conqueror", born 1895,

a double great grandson of Christopher, was imported into the  U.S, at the age of seven to become one of the instrumental sires in U.S. pedigrees .  .

Collies were extremely popular in the U.S. between the 1930's

and into the 1970's.  Many of the top Collies shown as early as

the 30's were of a quality that would easily rival the show winners of today, and up and coming breeders who like to speak of "bettering the breed" would be well advised to  take a good look back at these dogs and rather concentrate perhaps on "maintaining" the breed.  The 1970's is similarly often referred

to as  a time of exceptional quality in Collies,  and many who

still remember those dogs speak more of "rekindling" the breeding principles that resulted in that "glory era" than of "bettering the breed".



Eric Knight wrote the well  known "Lassie Come Home"

in 1938, during the breed's heyday.  It was first published as

a short story in The Saturday Evening Post, and later

developed into a novel.  According to Knight's wife, Jere, he modeled "Lassie" after his own Collie, "Toots", whom she described as her husband's inspiration and "shadow".  Sadly, Knight, who was a Major in the U.S. army, was killed in action

in 1943 (World War II) and never saw the motion picture based

on his book that MGM released later that year.


It is interesting that the dog in Eric Knight's short story and

book was a tri colour Collie, while the movie featured a sable

and white.  One would assume that, had this switch not been made, the tri would today be considered the "preferred colour"

in the hearts of all those who came to know the breed by association with the "Lassie" character. It is also interesting

that the male dogs who portrayed "Lassie" in the movie, and subsequently on television, each had a white blaze on their face,

a marking that was common and perfectly acceptable to the Collie fancy at the time.  As  time went on, however, the

blaze came to be specifiaclly associated with "Lassie", and

Collie breeders, for whatever reason, (or more likely fad)

began to consider it "undesirable" in their show dogs. In more recent times, however, the Collie fancy has begun to again accept all manner of white markings, including a blaze on the face, as perfectly acceptable.


Hollywood's "Lassie" did much to both familiarize and endear

more than one generation to the Collie breed.  With the advent

of television,  American and even international audiences

enjoyed a weekly serving of "Collie drama" that no doubt played

a large role in the breed's popularity well into the 1970's.

Additionally, a number of movies featuring "Lassie" (portrayed

by either the original dog, "Pal", or a direct descendent in a

line that continues to this day) has kept the Collie in the

public conscious.  Fittingly, both the "Lassie" character, and

the dog who portrays him, has always served as an

ambassador for the breed in proving to be an exemplary family dog,  insightful therapy dog, and a highly intelligent and

always elegant companion.


An earlier writer who did much to add to the continuing popularity of the Collie was Albert Payson Terhune.  He wrote numerous dog stories and books during the 1920's and 1930's, with many

of them based on the lives and adventures of his own beloved Collies.  Terhune was a Collie breeder and exhibitor himself,

and the dogs he wrote about became an "introduction to the breed" for many who went on to become  breeders and

exhibitors themselves.  His book "Grey Dawn", a particular favorite, helped to popularize the blue merle color, and, to this day, many breeders report receiving calls from prospective new Collie owners who want a blue merle puppy based on their love

of  Terhune's Grey Dawn.


In his biography on Terhune, titled "The Master Of Sunnybank",  Irving Litvag wrote,


.... "You took this Collie dog and you told stories about his greatness and goodness and love and eternal loyalty, and with your story telling skill, you made us actually fall in love with a Collie dog!  And he became the dog we always wanted to have and never did.  Maybe even more than that.... maybe he

became the friend we always wanted to find, or even the brother or the father.  And this authentic-imaginary dog...  this Collie dog took hold of us and won't let go."


Terhune's Collies had that effect of people even when portrayed

by other Collies.  When Terhune's book, "Lad: A Dog" was

made into a motion picture in 1961, a young actress by the

name of Angela Cartwright was given a leading role in the movie.  She reports the experience started a love affair with the Collie and their Sheltie "cousins" that continues down to this day.


Even Charles Shultz, in his comic strip "Peanuts" mentioned Terhune when Charlie Brown lamented, in 1954,  that "The only stories" Snoopy cared to have read to him were those written

by the well known Collie breeder.


Several of Terhune's Sunnybank Collies were campaigned to

their championships, and incorporated into the breeding programs of other fanciers.  We can still find a few of them in our Collie pedigrees today.  The property that was once the home of the Terhunes and the now famous Sunnybank Collies is maintained as a park and memorial to the author  and his dogs.  Many Collie fanciers visit "Sunnybank" each year to view the site where "The Place" once stood, the grounds where the dogs once frolicked, and the graves of Sunnybank Lad, Sunnybank Grey Dawn, and the others

who's stories have touched and inspired so many.


Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the Collie's popularity in this country brought much recognition for acts of heroism and deeds consistent with "true Collie character".

The Kennel Ration Dog Hero Of The Year Award, in it's time a well known and highly regarded purveyor of this national honor, bestowed it's highest distinction to Collie dogs on a number of occasions, more than any other single breed.  This recognition continued to as  recently as 1993, when  their "First Runner Up" award went to a Collie who saved a baby from choking to death.

(Records beyond that year could not be located for this article).

No  U.S. Collie history would be complete without mentioning

Ch Solo of Sheil, a beautiful Smooth Collie born in 1953 and imported to the U.S. where she was bred to

Ch Hertzville Hightop to produce the lovely tri color male dog,

Ch Glengyle Smooth Sailing.  Solo was not the first Smooth imported into this country, but thru her son, she came to be the foundation for the most influential line of Smooths.  Ch Glengyle Smooth Sailing's grand daughter, Ch Kasan Fine And Fancy, was bred to Ch High Man Of Arrowhill to produce the tri color Smooth dog, Ch Black Hawk Of Kasan."Hawk" was the very

first Smooth Collie to win the Collie Club Of America's National Specialty Show, as well as the first Smooth Collie to win a U.S.

Best In Show at an all breed competition. Most Smooth Collies

in the U.S. today, as well as many others throughout the world are descended  from this beautiful and exceptionally well structured dog.

Collie History

by Terry Thistlethwaite


While the story of  the far travelled tri colour Collie in Erik Knight's"Lassie Come Home" has affixed the country of Scotland in the minds of most as the origin of the Collie breed,  the historical record takes us back to a time before the Scots embraced the breed to discover it's foundation.  When Celtic tribes invaded the British Isles before the time of Christ, they brought with them livestock dogs that were highly regarded in a society based on a pastoral livlihood.  These dogs, in fact, prove to be the early ancestors of the breed that

came to be called "Collie".  The breed name itself has been said

to possibly have come  from the "Coaley" sheep of Scotland, but more likely the name, too, dates back to the Celts, who's word for "useful" was, in fact, "Collie".


Localized types of "Collie" (or "useful herding dogs")  developed

in different areas throughout Great Britian during the Middle Ages with concentrations primarily in Ireland, the north Border country, and Scotland.  Historical records speak of the Galway Collies, North Country Collies, Weslh Hillman, Irish Collies, Dorset Sheepdogs, Smithfields (forebears of today's Australian Cattle dogs): Ban Dogs and Rutherfords (forebears of today's Kelpies); Highland Collies (from which came the blue merle colour); and Beards, Shags, and Welsh Grey Collies (forebears of today's Bearded Collies). It was the Galway Collies from which Trefoil, the undisputed ancestor of all modern day Collies decended. Trefoil was born in Ireland in the year 1873, and was an elegantly beautiful rough coated tri colour dog, (black, white and tan) much the same as Erik Knght's fictional Collie, Lassie.


That the primary foundation of the Collie lies in Ireland rather than Scotland is oft debated by researchers, and surely not to be conclusively decided in this article.  In researching this debate, however, I came across the writings of H.D. Richardson, who, in an article published in The Irish Penny Journal in 1841 noted,


"...The venerable Bede, as well as the Scotch historian John Major, informs us that Scotland was originally peopled from Ireland under the conduct of Reuda, and adds, that even in his own days half Scotland spoke the Irish language as their mother tongue; and many of my readers are doubtless aware that even at this present time the Gaelic and the Erse are so much alike that a Connaught man finds no difficulty in comprehending and conversing with a Highlander, and I myself have read the Gaelic Bible with an Irish dictionary. Scotland also was called by the early writers Scotia Minor, and Ireland Scotia Major. The colonization, therefore, of Scotland from Ireland, admits of little doubt...."


Thus, even if the modern day version of the Collie began in Scotland, the modern day version of the Scotsman began in Ireland!  As the dog was clearly of Celtic origin -- so were both the Irish and the Scottish people.  Add to that  infusion of the Gordon Setter (a Scottish breed) and the Irish Setter (an Irish breed), both known to have had their place in the development

of the Collie breed, and it seems the breed is best said to be of "Irish / Scottish origin" dating even further back, of course, to the Celts.


One ot the earliest Collies of note was a dog named

"Old Cockie", (also called "Cockie Boy") born in 1868, and

said to be the first known sable and white (or brown and white) coloured Collie.  This dog was highly lauded for his endearing  expression and fine head detail. He was among the first

"herding breed" dogs to be shown in England.,  at the Birmingham National Dog Show in 1870.  Old Cockie was

the sire of Maude, who was bred to Trefoil to produce a dog named Ch Charlamagne. Born in 1879, Charlamagne became the grandsire to Ch Metchley Wonder, a top winning Collie

who was purchased for such a high price that the sale made headlines.  His son, Ch Christopher, born in 1887, was bred extensively in Britain before being exported to the U.S. All Collies today are decended from Ch. Christopher.


A point of interest here is that the mother of Ch Christopher's great grandsire, Scott,  was  a Smooth Collie by the name of "Ch Waite".  She was the very first Smooth Collie champion, and thru Ch. Christopher, is an ancestor of all Collies today.  Thus there exist no Rough Collie lines in which Smooth Collies

do not appear.


Queen Victoria had a big influence in popularizing the Collie in the 1880's, and had Smooth Collies as well as white Collies in her Royal Balmoral Kennel.. In the U.S., wealthy fancier J.P. Morgan and his well funded associates imported many top winning British Collies into their mostly New York and eastern seaboard kennels at prices that would be considered

substantial even by today's standards. In 1885 (the same year

the Scottish Collie Club was founded),  the breed was

accepted into the American Kennel Club.  A year later, 1886,

the Collie Club Of America was born..

"Ch Tartanside The Gladiator" born 1969 ,

was an all breed Best In Show winner , and won the

CCA National Specialty three times, once from the Veteran's class. He went on to become one

of the most influential Collie sires in the U..S..

Unchanged in character, today's Collie ideally represents a physical standard not much different than what he did in the

late nineteenth century.  Below is the breed standard as it was written for the Collie in 1890 by the Scottish Collie Club:




Collie Standard, 1890, Collie Club Of Scotland



Head moderately long in proportion to the dog's size, covered with short soft hair. Skull flat, moderately wide between the

ears, and gradually tapering to the eyes.

There should be a very slight elevation of the eyebrows,

and very little stop.


Muzzle of fair length, tapering to the nose, which,

whatever the colour of the dog, should be black. The

teeth, which are white and of good size, should not be

over nor undershot. Both are faults, the latter the greater

of the two.


Eyes, of fair size, but not prominent, are placed rather close together, and set obliquely in the head, which gives that

cunning foxy expression so characteristic of the breed. Colour, any shade of brouwn, the darker the better, yellow eyes being

a great fault. Dogs of a mirled colour should have a mirled or china eye, and sometimes both eyes

are of this colour.


Ears small, placed rather close together at the top of

the head, covered with short soft hair, and carried semi-erect when at attention; at other times thrown back, and buried in

the frill.


Neck long, arched, and muscular.


Body rather long than short, ribs well rounded, chest

deep and narrow in front, but of a fair breadth behind the shoulders, which should be oblique. Loin rather long,

and slightly arched, showing power.


Legs.--Fore legs straight and muscular, with a fair amount of

flat bone, the fore-arm moderately fleshy, the hind legs less fleshy, very sinewy, and hocks well bent. Pasterns long and

light in bone. Feet oval in shape, the soles well padded, and

the toes well arched and close.


Tail, moderately long, carried low when the dog is quiet, gaily when excited, and almost straight out when running.


Coat.--This is a very important point. The coat, except on the head and legs, should be abundant, the outer coat harsh to the touch, the inner coat soft and furry, and very close, so close

that it is difficult on parting the hair to see the skin. The hair

very abundant around the neck and chest; this is termed the

frill. The mask is smooth , the fore legs slightly feathered, the hind legs below the hocks smooth. Hair on the tail very profuse, and on the hips long and bushy.


Colour.--Any color.


Size.--Dogs 21 to 24 inches at shoulder, bitches 2

inches less.


Weight.--Dogs 45 lb. to 60 lb., bitches 40 lb. to 50 lb.


General Appearance.--A lithe active dog, with no useless

timber about him, his deep chest showing strength, his sloping shoulders, and well-bent hocks speed, and his "bawsint" face high intelligence. The face should bear a sharp, doubtful expression. As a whole, he should present an elegant and pleasing outline, quite distinct from any of our other domesticated breeds, and show great strength and activity.


Faults.--Domed skull, high peaked occipital bone, heavy pendulous ears, full soft eyes, heavy feathered legs,

short tail.


Scale of Points

Head  15

Eyes  5

Ears  10

Neck and shoulders  10

Body  10

Legs and feet  15

Tail  5

Coat  20

Size and general appearance  10

Total  100




The smooth collie only differs from the rough in its coat, which should be hard, dense, and quite smooth




Unchanged is that the Rough is judged by the same

standard as the Smooth, with coat being the only difference. Colour, which was not of any consideration in the 1890's standard, is now elaborately defined in four categories, with much debate occurring regarding the showing of sable merles, and especially sable merles with blue, or partly blue eyes. Clearly we see here that the breed's founders had no concern over such things, as they allowed "any colour" of Collie, and accepted "merled or china eye" in any dog that was a

"merle" -- with no distinction being made that the dog had to

be "blue" merle in order to have blue in the eye(s).


Today, many, and likely most Collies still maintain the

herding instinct that was intrinsic to the founding of the

breed.  Herding tests and trials are still held in which

Collies are able to prove their natural inherent aptitude,

even though most have daily jobs more along the lines of

watching over children and keeping the sofa warm.  Along

with that instinct, the "fertile resourceful brain" spoken of

by Leighton and the "true heart and soul" spoken of by

Terhune remain likewise intact, as do the beauty and the

elegance that envelop the whole -- The Collie; the "useful

dog" we have come to love and to cherish, and have

dedicated our best efforts to preserve.

"Ch Magnet" born in 1912,  is often called the foundation sire of U.S. Collies. Imported from England at the age of nine,his impact was made

on both U'S. and Brithish lines.

"Ch Anfield Model" born in Scotland in 1902,

was Conquerer's grandson..  He influence was

highly sought as he excelled in qualities of

head and expression.  He appears on both sides

of the pedigree of Ch Magnet.

"Laund Loyalty Of Bellhaven" , born 1928,was  the only 'Collie ever to win Best In Show at  Westminster.  It was his first and only appearance in the show ring, as he was retired after threats were made on his life

"Ch Eden Emerald" born in 1922,

was a grandson of Ch Magnet,

and grandsire of Ch El Troubador Of Arken

Most Collies in England and the U.S.

trace back to this prolific sire.

"Ch Halbury Jean" born in 1924,is often referred to as  "the mother of

the U.S.Collie".  She was a Collie of outstanding quality, and the dam of El Capitan Of Arken (who was unshown due to an injury)

"Ch El Ttoubador Of Arken" born in 1930

was a son of El Capitan Of Arken,

and the foundation sire for several well known

Collie lines, most notably thru his son,

Ch Future Of Arken

"Ch Silver Ho Parader" born in 1943

became the foundation for the Parader line,

which, in turn, became the foundation line

for  most of the significant US Collie lines today..

"Ch Parader's Golden Image" born in 1945,

was a son of Ch Silver Ho Parader.  This dog sired 24 champions, and is behind both Ch Tartanside The Gladiator and Ch Black Hawk of Kasan

"Ch High Man Of Arrowhill" born in 1951,

was a great grandson of Ch Parader's Golden Image, and the sire of Ch Black Hawk Of Kasan

"Ch Ravette's Wayside Traveler"

was the grandson of another Ch Silver Ho Parader

son, Parader's Future Sensation.

He became the double grandsire  of

Ch Tartanside The Gladiator

"Ch Shamrock Smooth Rocket U.D."

(1957) was a graduate Guide Dog For The Blind

and the first Champion Collie to earn the

Utility obedience degree from the AKC.

He sired multiple champions, obedience titlists,

guide, therapy, and assistance dogs.


"Ch Laund Lynne", born 1917 in England,

This beautiful blue merle Smooth Collie would surely be competitive in today's show ring.

She had no fewer than 95 Best In Show

(or "Best Female In Show") wins

and worked as a sheep and cattle herder.

She retired from the show ring at the age of ten

to successfully raise a liter of seven puppies.

Including Ch Black Hawk Of Kasan and

Ch Tartanside The Gladiator