Border Collie vs Collie: what are the differences?

border collie vs collie

Border Collies are loved herding dogs across America. They’re intelligent, funny, hard-working, and make great members of the family. But so do Collies, right? Isn’t Collie just a shortened version of Border Collie anyway? Well, no. They’re actually two distinct dog breeds with many differences between them. When thinking about Border Collie vs Collie it’s a good idea to think about Fly (you know, the dog from Babe) and Lassie. They don't exactly look like the same dog.

Even though their name is similar, there are actually some pretty big differences between these two dog breeds.

History of the two breeds


Collies were originally bred in Scotland to herd sheep. It’s thought that they’re a mix of local pups native to Scotland and dogs brought over to England by the Romans. To make it a little more complicated, a standard Collie can also be called a Rough Collie, a Long-haired Collie, a Lassie Dog, an English Collie, and a Scotch Collie.

Collies became particularly popular during the 1800s because they were one of Queen Victoria’s favorite dogs!

Border Collie

Border Collies are also herding dogs and also have a few names – but luckily not as many as the Collie. They can be called a Scotch Sheep Dog or, simply, just a Border. As their name suggests, they originated in the border regions between England and Scotland and England and Wales. They’re a mix of Roman herding dogs brought to England and Viking Spitzes. 

Border Collie vs Collie: their appearance


If you’re thinking about Lassie, you’re imagining a pretty long, fluffy-coated, herding dog. Collies actually, however, have two coat varieties. Long-haired pups are referred to as Rough Collies and short-haired as Smooth Collies.

They’re considered to be medium to large dogs and males can be 24 to 26 inches tall and weigh 60 to 75 pounds. Female Collies, however, are a little smaller and weigh 50 to 65 pounds, and are 22 to 24 inches tall.

They can have four recognized coat colors: tri-colored (sable, white, black), sable and white, blue merle, and white.

Border Collie

A big difference in terms of a Rough Collie vs Border Collie is their coat. Rough Collies have a much fluffier looking, longer coat compared to Border Collies’ sleeker ones. This is particularly true around their faces. Rough Collies have more voluptuous hair on their heads which almost looks like a mane. Border Collies may have a little feathering on their cheeks, but nothing compared to Rough Collies.

Although black and white is by far the most common coat coloring for a Border, the American Kennel Club recognizes 16 of them including blue, sable, and red merle!

Size-wise Border Collies are slightly shorter than Collies. Males can be 19 to 22 inches tall and females 18 to 21 inches. Their weight is between 30 and 55 pounds. 

The temperament of each breed


Collies are incredibly loyal family dogs. Despite their herding breed ancestry, they’re actually relatively calm in comparison to the Border Collie. They're affectionate, fun, playful, and are great around children and big families. They’ll be sure to keep an eye out and protect any member!

Because herding sheep is in their bones, they do need a good amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation. They’ll enjoy runs, dog sports, playtime in the doggie park, and good hikes with the whole family. They’re not really adapted to apartment living but if you’re willing to regularly take them out, it can work.

Collies are a highly intelligent dog breed and learn very quickly. Like all pups, Collies need early socialization to ensure they’re a friendly animal that’s good around other pets and people.

Border Collie

Border Collies can make amazing family pets but they will require a more experienced owner – or at least one with a lifestyle that can keep up with them. Both the Border Collie and the Collie are loyal and playful pups but the Border Collie needs a lot of exercise (more than a Collie) and for their brains to be put to work. Long walks, a good run around the park, or a long game of fetch will keep these dogs entertained.

Border Collies have a lot of energy that needs to be used up if they’re not to become bored and destructive. They excel in training and love to learn new things! Many Border Collie owners like to enroll their pups in canine activities and training, such as sheep herding, obedience training, and agility. This can really help them to be happy, affectionate, and playful dogs!

Like the Collie, Border Collies prefer to be in households with space and a big backyard to play in. If you live in an apartment and are thinking of adopting a Border Collie puppy, you’ll need to really keep them entertained and regularly take them outside to stretch their legs.

For novice dog owners, the Border Collie temperament could be a little tricky to deal with. They're quite demanding in their energy levels and exercise needs, but with good training and socialization, this breed can be a great family dog!


As with all dogs, it’s important that you adopt your pup from a responsible breeder who cares about health problems and does regular tests to make sure their dogs are healthy.

Even then, however, because both dog breeds are purebred pups, they can be susceptible to some genetic health problems.


Collies are generally a pretty healthy dog breed – especially if they get enough exercise, mental stimulation, affection from you, and are taken for regular checkups at the vet.

These are a few conditions they can suffer from:

  • Collie Eye Anomaly: An inherited condition that can occasionally lead to blindness. It causes changes in the eye which usually develop before the dog is two. Unfortunately, there’s no treatment for the condition but regular vet visits can help to diagnose it early on.
  • Dermatomyositis: An inherited autoimmune disorder that causes muscle problems and lesions. Both a Rough Collie and a Smooth Collie can suffer from it.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: A disease that may slowly make your Collie blind.
  • Hip Dysplasia: This is a common problem for many larger dogs in which the thigh bone doesn't fit correctly into the hip joint. Regular vet visits can help to catch it early on.
  • Drug sensitivity: Collies are known to react to the heartworm drug ivermectin, insecticides, and anesthesia. Check with your vet before giving your pup any flea or tick treatments.

Border Collie

Border Collies suffer from many of the same conditions Collies do. They’re not as prone to Dermatomyositis, but – in addition to the above problems – they can also suffer from:

  • Epilepsy: This causes seizures that may look like unusual behavior (such as manically running around) or could lead to them falling over. Generally speaking, most Border Collies can be well treated for epilepsy.
  • Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD): A condition in which the cartilage doesn’t grow properly in the joints. It can be detected in Border Collie puppies and puppy food may be a contributing factor.

Overall thoughts – which is better for you?

Both of these dog breeds make amazing pets. They’re friendly, intelligent, caring, and are good with kids. For less experienced owners, a Collie may be better as they’re a little less demanding in the exercise and entertainment department than a Border Collie. Both need socialization and a good amount of training to become loving pets that are well behaved!

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