This is a medium dog of strong bone, slightly longer than it is tall, combining grace, agility, substance and stamina. Its trot is smooth, ground-covering and tireless, moving with stealth and strength. It is able to change speed and direction suddenly. Border collies must be able to display incredible agility even after working for long periods. The coat can be either smooth or rough. The smooth coat is short all over the body; the rough coat is medium to long in length and flat to slightly wavy in texture. Its expression is intelligent, alert, eager and full of interest, a reflection of its temperament.
The border collie is a bundle of mental and physical energy awaiting its chance to be unleashed on the world. Among the most intelligent and obedient of breeds, it is nonetheless a disastrous house dog if it is not given a challenging job every day. Given sufficient exercise, it is a dependable and loyal companion. It is intent on whatever it does and tends to stare, which can be unnerving to other animals. It also likes to chase other animals. It is reserved, even protective, toward strangers.
The consummate sheepdog, the border collie is the result of over a century of breeding for function above all other criteria. In the 1800s, a variety of sheep-herding dogs with differing herding styles existed in Great Britain. Some were “fetching” dogs, dogs having an innate tendency to circle stock and bring them back toward the shepherd. Most of these were noisy dogs, tending to nip and bark as they performed their job. Boasts of the superiority of certain dogs were only natural; in 1873 the first actual sheepdog trial was held in order to settle some of these boasts. This contest would indirectly lead to the first border collies, by way of a dog named Hemp, who so distinguished himself in trials that he sired a great number of offspring. He herded not by barking and nipping, but by calmly staring at the sheep (“giving eye”) intimidating them into moving. Hemp is considered to be the father of the border collie. In 1906, the first standard was drawn up, but unlike the physical standards of most breeds, this was a description of working ability, with no regard to physical appearance. This emphasis has shaped the breed ever since. In fact, the dogs were still referred to simply as sheepdogs; only in 1915 was the name border collie first recorded, in reference to the dog’s origin around the English and Scottish borders. The border collie came to America and instantly dazzled serious shepherds with its quick herding and obedience capabilities. In fact, the latter opened a new door for the breed as one of the top competitive breeds in obedience trials. Having worked hard to gain the reputation of one of the smartest breeds of dogs, a breed unspoiled by cosmetic emphasis, many border collie fanciers actively fought AKC recognition as a show dog. In 1995, however, the AKC recognized the breed and herded it into the show ring.