Rough Collie

The Rough Collie is a dog breeds developed originally for herding in Scotland. It is also well known because of the works of American author Albert Payson Terhune, and was popularized in later generations by the Lassie novel, movies, and television shows. There is also a smooth-coated variety; some breed organizations consider the smooth-coat and rough-coat dogs to be variations of the same breed.

Rough Collie Appearance

Three coat colors are recognized for Rough Collies: sable and white, where the "sable" ranges from pale tan to a mahogany; tricolour, which is primarily black edged in tan; and blue merle, which is mottled gray. All have white coat areas, in the collar, parts of the leg, and sometimes the tail tip. Some may have white blazes on their faces. Rough Collies have a more pointed face than their look-alike Sheltie 'cousins'. The downy undercoat is covered by a long, dense, coarse outer coat with a notable ruff around the neck, feathers about the legs, a petticoat on the abdomen, and a frill on the hindquarters.

The desired size and weight varies among dog breed standards; male collies can stand 55.8 to 66 cm (22 to 26 in) at the shoulder; the Female averages 5 cm (2 in) shorter. The males are usually in the weight range (45 - 75 lbs) and the females are usually 5 to 10lbs less. Anecdotely, large breed rough collies from the U.S. can weigh in excess of 100lbs. According to the American and UK Kennel clubs Breed standards, UK Rough Collies can be a lot smaller than their USA counterparts; USA breeds can still qualify for the AKC standards.

One of the characteristic features of the Rough Collie is its head. This is light in relation to the rest of the body, and resembles a blunted wedge tapering smoothly from ears to black nose. The muzzle is well rounded, and never square. There is considerable variation in the colour of the head, however. The eyes are medium sized and attentive. The ears are supposed to be bent, the bottom part vertical and the tips sloped forwards, although the dog can lay them back, or hold them vertical when alert. Collies not for the show ring, many times have ears which do not bend at all.

Once seen, the contrast between the Rough Collie head and that of a Border Collie is immediately apparent, the latter having a considerably shorter muzzle and a distinct stop between muzzle and forehead. The ruff is also distinctive in distinguishing the two breeds.

Rough Collie Temperament

The double layered coat needs to be brushed frequently and thoroughly to keep it in a show condition, but it does not require extensive care. Rough collies should show no nervousness or aggressiveness, and are good with children and other animals. However, they must be well socialized to prevent shyness. They are mid to large sized dogs, are suited to live in small apartments because of their calm disposition; as they are not high strung as the poodle, labrador and other hunting breeds. The herding instinct is very much apparent in some dogs, but other dogs do not show this as much. Rough Collies are very loyal and protective to their owners. They are a good family dog. They are eager to learn and to please and respond best to a gentle hand. They relish human company and should be let outside as they need to run and exercise. By nature gentle and domesticated, they are fearless in danger and will rush to defend their owners. Due to several booms in the popularity of this dog breeds, breeders more concerned with profit than breeding good dogs have produced Collies that are high-strung, neurotic or extremely shy. These problems are not typical of well-bred Collies, and can usually be avoided by acquiring a Collie either through an ethical breeder or a good rescue organization.

Rough Collie Health

While Rough Collies are generally resilient and healthy, there are some health issues that can affect the breed.

Collie eye anomaly (CEA), a genetic disease which causes improper development of the eye and possible blindness, is a common ailment in the breed. More rarely, Collies can be affected by Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), another genetic disease in which bilateral degeneration of the retina results in progressive vision loss culminating in blindness. Through genetic testing and careful screening program it would be theoretically possible to eradicate both of these problems in purebred lines, however, certainly in the UK, the Kennel Club does not require these tests to be done either for registration or showing. Some people (particularly professional breeders) claim that the problem is made worse with the less rigid breeding standards of home breeders and puppy mill breeders, but there are no scientific studies to support this. Collie puppies should be screened at an early age by a certified veterinary ophthalmologist to check for both of these problems. Note, the UK Kennel Club "Accredited Breeder Scheme" requires eye tests and recommends the genetic test for this class of members, however, a very small proportion of UK registered puppies are bred under this scheme.

Canine cyclic neutropenia is a cyclic blood disorder that is usually fatal to affected puppies. The disease is also referred to as "gray collie syndrome," due to affected puppies having a pale gray, pinkish/gray or beige coloring, none of which are normal Collie colors. Puppies that survive through adulthood are plagued with immune disorders throughout their lives and rarely live more than three years. DNA testing can help detect carriers of the recessive gene that causes the disease.

Hip dysplasia: As with most of the larger dog breeds, hip dysplasia is a potential concern for Rough Collies. Although this disease appears to be "multigene", careful selection by many breeders is reducing this problem. The UK Kennel Club "Accredited Breeder Scheme" requires hip-scores this class of members, however, a very small proportion of UK registered puppies are bred under this scheme.

Collies may carry a mutant Mdr1 gene that results in a sensitivity to Ivermectin and related drugs. A screening test is used to determine if alternative medications are required. Overdoses from the proscribed medications can result in neurological imparement or even death. This faulty gene is present in several breeds, but is well known among collies.

Famous Rough Collies

  • Lassie, a line of Collies originally owned by Rudd Weatherwax that have starred in numerous films, multiple television series, a radio program, and has been the subject of various novels and non-fiction works. One of the few animal actors to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • Lad, the main hero of Albert Payson Terhune's early 20th century novels about his Sunnybank Collies.
  • Pal, the first Collie to portray Lassie and from whom the Lassie line is descended.
  • Ch. Laund Loyalty of Bellhaven, a nine-month-old Rough Collie who is the youngest dog to ever win the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
  • Reveille VIII, the mascot of Texas A&M University.
  • Colleen, a collie from London (voiced by Tress MacNeille) on Road Rovers.
  • Wilson, a Collie who appears in the Japanese manga series Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin.
  • The helpful Collie (voiced by Tom Conway) , from 101 Dalmatians. He leads Pongo, Perdita and the puppies into the safety of a dairy farm somewhere in Hertfordshire.
  • Sam, Martin Riggs' dog who appears in every movie from the Lethal Weapon franchise.
  • Rob Roy and Prudence Prim, famous snow white Collies owned by President Calvin and First Lady Gracie Coolidge.
  • Laddie a parody of Lassie on The Simpsons episode Canine Mutiny
  • Zeb, dog from Olney, Maryland popular in the mid-Atlantic states as a "spokesdog" for Collie Rescue.
  • Pip, dog from Bolton, England famous local rescue dog.

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