The History of the Collie Rough & Smooth

Collie (Rough)

c.1915

Collie (Smooth)

c.1915

For centuries they were the native sheepdog of the Gaelic-Highlands of Scotland

A Smooth Collie

working as a WWI Messenger dog

The early history of the Rough and 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 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.

Both Rough and Smooth collies are descended from a localised variety of herding dog originating in Scotland and Wales.

The Scottish variety was a large, strong, aggressive dog, bred to herd highland sheep. The Welsh variety was small and nimble, domesticated and friendly, and also herded goats. When the English saw these dogs at the Birmingham market, they interbred them with their own variety of sheepdogs, producing a mixture of short- and long-haired varieties.

 

After the industrial revolution, dog ownership became fashionable, and these early collies were believed to have been crossed with the Borzoi(Russian Wolfhound) to get a more "noble" head (longer muzzle), which is today one of the true characteristics of the Rough Collie. It is not known conclusively if the Borzoi cross made it into the mainstream of the breed.
 

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 and Rough are classified as separate breeds in Australia. 

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