Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be taking a look at the breeds that stand out as being the most intelligent, biggest, smallest, etc. in their class. This week let’s take a look at the breed considered my most people to be the most intelligent breed: the Border Collie.
Originating in England’s Scottish-bordering county of Northumberland, the Border Collie breed was established around 100 years ago as a working and herding dog. Considered highly intelligent, extremely energetic, acrobatic and athletic, they frequently compete with great success in sheepdog trials and dog sports.
Working border collies can take direction by voice and by whistle at long distances when herding. Their great energy and herding instinct are still used to herd all kinds of animals, from the traditional sheep and cattle, to free-range poultry, pigs, and ostriches. They are also used to remove unwanted wild birds from airport runways, golf courses, and other public and private areas.
This is a breed that excels in many jobs, including Hearing Dog and Search & Rescue work. Swift, agile and tireless, the Border Collie has an incredible desire to work. The high-energy nature of the breed requires both mental and physical stimulation so think carefully before getting a Border Collie as a pet: they need to be working and may well become frustrated if the stimulation they crave is not forthcoming.
The Border Collie’s coat may be rough (long coat), semi-rough or smooth (short haired). Typically, the coat colour is black and white, but colours vary and include: red and white, tri-colours (brown, black and white), liver, blue merle, red merle, yellow or white with small amounts of brown, black or red. Eye colour ranges from amber to dark brown and sometimes blue. The height of a Border Collie ranges from 18 to 22 inches (46 to 56 cm). Bone structure also varies from lightweight to heavy-boned, coming in the range of 25 to 65 lbs.
Border Collies are generally a hardy breed; however, like all breeds, they may be susceptible to certain inherited diseases as well as allergies and skin conditions. In addition, because the Border Collie is such an active breed, the dogs can also be prone to athletic injuries, such as pulled muscles, cruciate ligament ruptures, cuts and punctures, as well as ripped toenails and footpads.
Community Therapy Dogs is fortunate to have an 8 year old Border Collie in our program. Her name is Rain and she lives with her family on a farm northeast of Strathmore. She has been a working dog her whole life and in her “downtime” she visits AgeCare Sagewood seniors’ facility and Brentwood School, both in Strathmore, with her owner Jean. With her calm demeanour and loving nature, Rain has made many friends over the last 5+ years, both with seniors and elementary school kids.
So if you decide that a Border Collie is for you and you can offer the physical and mental stimulation the dog needs, don’t be surprised when you start getting herded around your home: it’s just in their DNA!