11 Bright Facts About Border Collies
Border collies are fun, energetic dogs that love problem-solving almost as much as they love people. Learn more about this classic working dog.
1. Modern border collies can trace their lineage back to one dog.
Old Hemp (born in 1893) is widely considered to be the progenitor of the border collie. Unlike other dogs of his kind, his herding method was quieter and less aggressive. Despite having a softer technique, his method got results and impressed breeders. Old Hemp became a stud dog and fathered over 200 pups.
2. Romans brought sheepdogs to Great Britain.
The Roman Empire was the first civilization to master the art of raising and herding sheep. They brought sheep and shepherds over to the British Isles, where they established a wool industry. Many of the sheepdogs the Romans brought to Britain couldn’t hack it in the cold weather, so the Celtics began breeding their own. These new dogs were smaller and more agile than their predecessors; they were called collies after the ancient Celtic word colley, meaning useful or faithful.
3. Their name comes from the region in which they flourished.
Border collies get their name because they were initially bred on the border of Scotland and England. It is believed that James Reid, the secretary of the International Sheepdog Society, coined the name while describing the dogs in letters to colleagues.
4. They’re furry geniuses.
Dogs are pretty smart as a species in general, but no breed can beat the border collie in intelligence. The bright pooches were bred to be independent problem solvers capable of solving complex tasks.
5. But that doesn’t mean training them is easy.
Because these dogs are so smart, it means they pick up on everything and learn very quickly. This means you need to train them right away before they develop any bad habits, such as barking, nipping, or whining—behaviors many border collies default to when they're bored. Train them young and make sure they're focused on the task at hand, as their attention tends to wander.
6. Collies are the ultimate herding dogs.
Herding dogs like border collies have been specially bred to chase and organize animals. This modified predatory behavior incorporates the beginning of the hunt (stalking, crouching, nipping), but without the killing. Border collies make particularly good herders thanks to their independence and intelligence. The need to herd is so deeply ingrained in these dogs, that some modern owners actually rent sheep for their pets to corral.
7. Crouching is a technique.
Border collies can move swiftly in a catlike, crouched position, thanks to a space between the tops of the shoulder blades, which lets the dogs slither by while staying low to the ground. This technique lets them herd animals with extreme precision.
8. Watch out for "the eye."
Another trick up the border collie sleeve is the “the eye.” This intense stare intimidates the livestock and helps the dogs herd and control the animals. You may catch your dog giving you this look when you have something delicious in your hand.
9. One has a big vocabulary.
Chaser the border collie is often called the smartest dog in the world. She has been working with John Pilley, a professor of psychology, to learn an impressive number of English words since she was two months old. Chaser first learned that specific toys had different names when she was just five months. Since then, Chaser has slowly amassed an arsenal of words, and has the cognition and development of a toddler.
The clever pooch shows off her smarts by bringing specific items when asked. Even more impressive, she understands that items have a unique proper name (like Franklin), and then a more general common noun name (like toy). She knows the proper noun names of her 1000 unique toys.
10. Another holds a more unusual world record
A talented border collie named Striker holds the record for Fastest Car Window Opened by a Dog. The canine rolled down the non-electric car window in 11.34 seconds.
11. Staying active is a must.
Don’t expect to lay around the house with this dog. The smarter the breed, the easier it is for it to get bored when left with no stimulation. Border collies are working dogs and enjoy having tasks to keep them busy throughout the day; the high-energy dog needs to redirect its spunk or else it will misbehave.