Information about the Smooth Collie

The Smooth Collie is a breed of dog developed originally for herding. It is a short-coated version of the Rough Collie of Lassie fame. Some breed organisations consider the smooth-coat and rough-coat dogs to be variations of the same breed.

The early history of the Smooth Collie, like that of many dog breeds, is largely a matter of speculation. The most common view of the breed is that they are descended from a population of shepherds’ dogs brought to Scotland by the Romans around the 5th century. Even the origin of the breed’s name is unclear, variously claimed to describe the early shepherd dog’s dark colour (“coaly”), or derived from the name of a breed of sheep with black faces once commonly kept in Scotland (“Colley”), or derived from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “useful.” The word may could also trace to Gaelic or/and Irish – in which the words for “doggie” are, respectively, càilean and cóilean. This would be more consistent with the breed’s origin in the Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highlands than an Anglo-Saxon term.

The modern history of both the Smooth and Rough Collie began in the reign of Queen Victoria, who became interested in the shepherds’ dogs while at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. In 1860, she purchased some of the dogs for her own kennel. With the Queen’s interest, it became fashionable to own Smooth Collies. Thus began the breed’s transformation from working farm dog, similar to the modern Border collie, to the dog bred as a pet and for the sport of conformation showing that we know today.

The Smooth Collie today is considered a variety of the same breed as the Rough Collie in the United States, meaning that they can interbreed and some statistics are kept only for “Collie” rather than for both varieties individually. The smooth and rough are classified as separate breeds in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. The latter is a fairly recent development, however, with the Kennel Club (UK) allowing the interbreeding of the two varieties until 1993.

The Smooth Collie is a large dog, ranging in size from 22 to 24 inches (56 to 61 cm) for females and 24 to 26 inches (61 to 66 cm) for males at the shoulder; weights vary from 45 lb (20 kg) for females up to 75 lb (34 kg) for males. Standard size for the breed is on the larger end of the range in the United States and Canada, smaller elsewhere; for example, for the AKC, the range is 22 to 26 inches (56 to 66 cm) and 50 to 75 lb (23 to 34 kg).

The Smooth Collie is slightly longer than it is tall, with a level back and a deep chest. The features of the head, particularly the “sweet” expression, are considered very important in the show ring. The breed has a long muzzle, flat skull, and semi-erect ears (although, in practice, the ears typically must be folded over and taped in puppyhood, or they will usually be fully upright in the adult dog).

The coat consists of a soft, extremely dense undercoat and straight, harsh outer guard hairs. The guard hairs are one to two inches long, with the longer hair mainly in a ruff around the neck and on the backs of the thighs. The coat requires a thorough weekly brushing. Shedding is moderate most of the year, heavy during the twice-yearly shedding season.

Smooth Collies come in four colours: sable (Lassie’s colour; can be light gold to deep mahogany); tricolour (black, with tan and white markings); and blue merle (silvery gray marbled with black, and tan markings), all marked with white areas on the chest, neck, feet/legs, and tail tip. An additional colour is white (these Collies are predominantly white, with heads and usually a body spot of sable, tri, or blue colour). The fourth colour is sable merle, which is a light stippled version of sable, sometimes (as with blue merle) accompanied by blue or merled (parti-coloured) eyes. Blue eyes or merled eyes in a non-blue merle collie are not disqualifications in the AKC standard although they are heavily penalised. There are, however, plenty of blue-eyed or merled-eyed sable merle collies who are AKC breed champions.

The Smooth Collie is generally a sociable, easily trained family dog. Although not an aggressive breed, they are alert and vocal, making them both good watchdogs if well trained and potential nuisances if allowed to bark indiscriminately. Collies are agile and active dogs and need regular exercise in some way. This breed is easy to train, due to its high intelligence and eagerness to please its owners. Training this breed requires a light touch, as they are sensitive to correction and shy away from harsh treatment. They get along well with children and other animals, usually getting along with other dogs. Smooth Collies are used both as family pets and in obedience competition, agility, herding trials, and other dog sports. Some are still used as working sheepdogs. They are also very useful as assistance dogs for the disabled.