Do you know your Blue Merle from your Sable Merle? Border Collies are one of the most recognizable medium-sized dog breeds due to their bright eyes and distinctive coat – as well as their adventurous determined nature and keen intelligence. But did you know that there are numerous different coat types for Border Collies? Not only do their types of coat vary in being a smooth coat or a rough coat – but also in its overall appearance which can be determined by the color, length, thickness, and texture of their hair.
Border Collie coat types can be categorized by i) the type of hair/fur and ii) the type of color. Purebred and mixed breed collies will all have varying characteristics in coat and fur; however, they all share the distinct rich double coat. Some of the key coat type distinctions between breeds of collie would include rough coat and smooth coat, with distinct colored breeds including Lilac, Sable and Blue Merle, Tricolor, Brown Collie and White Collies. A collie’s coat type – but also the time of year – will determine their propensity to shed and required frequency of grooming; depending on whether they have a heavy coat, thicker coat, winter coat, curly coat or short coat.
Every Border Collie is unique, with a unique heritage. However, going back a little further they all share common ancestors that can be traced back to the Scottish Highlands – meaning they share many characteristics, including that beautiful coat of course! This article provides an introduction into Border Collie coat types, to further your appreciation of your special mutt and his or her coat.
Border Collie Coat Types
Border Collies all have a double coat which means they have a top coat and a soft undercoat. The top outer coat is typically coarse and wiry while the undercoat is soft. This coat type makes them well adapted to the typically cold, wet, and windy conditions associated with the Highland border region areas this breed traditionally originates from.
A Border Collies’ coat sheds year-round but will usually shed more heavily twice a year – once in the spring, before they are given a rare bath, and again in the fall after they have been herded all summer. And yes, they will occasionally need that dreaded haircut too!
It is important to understand the different coat types because this can affect your dog’s health. Let us go through each of these coat types so that you can be more familiar with them and their significance.
The Smooth Coat
This is what you often see in commercials. The coat is short, shiny, smooth, and close lying. This type of Border Collie sheds very little but requires regular brushing to prevent tangles from forming around the ears or eyes where they will be harder to reach when brushing an area thoroughly. A smooth-coated Border Collie should also have its undercoat raked during grooming sessions to remove loose hair that would otherwise end up on your floor or furniture. During shedding season, a daily walk may not be enough exercise for your dog.
The Broken Coat
A broken-coated border collie has a light, shorter undercoat with an outer layer of long guard hairs. Some people find this type easier to maintain than the smooth coat because there is less risk of mats and tangles in this type. However, the wavy hair can become matted in certain areas like behind the ears or in between the toes. If you are not experienced in de-matting coats, then it would be best if you opt for a smooth-coated border collie instead of a broken coated one. The smooth coat does not have any dense undercoat so it will certainly save you time during grooming sessions.
The Long Coat
If you are thinking about grooming your dog yourself, then you should consider opting for the long-coated border collie. This type has wavy or straight hair which is longer than that of a smooth or broken coat. While this type does require more brushing compared to the other two types, it has little risk of matting and can be easily managed with regular brushing sessions. However, this type might not suit people who are always on the go because daily brushing may take up too much time.
The Curly Coat
This type is rather rare. The curls are formed naturally during the puppy stage so there is no need for grooming to maintain them except when they get into adulthood where moving parts like ears or legs often form mats. They usually require a professional groomer to ensure a healthy well-maintained coat.
With all of the coat types, pet owners will need plenty of time to groom their Border Collie. These family pets also need mental stimulation through activities such as agility training on a daily basis to help ward off any common health issues
Border Collie Puppy Coat
Puppies are often born with much softer fur than adult dogs. Their hair is naturally much, much shorter when they’re puppies so they need regular grooming to prevent their skin from rubbing on the ground and assembling together in clumps of hair and dead skin cells caught in tangles around the neck or tailbone. Puppy fur will stop getting softer once it reaches puberty, usually around 6-8 months old. When this happens, you need to start being more careful about what the dog is exposed to. If your Border Collie is still a puppy then it’s important that you brush them once a day, every day to keep their coat healthy. There are different tools available to help with coat grooming, such as a rubber curry comb for removing loose fur and dirt from their coat, slicker brushes can also be used, a wire-bristle brush for detangling matted areas of fur, and an undercoat rake for finishing off a groom in problem areas like tangles in the armpits or around feet.
Border Collie Coat Colors
It is important to understand that Border Collie coats come in a variety of color combinations due to the merle gene. This gene can also affect the eye, nose, and paw pad colorations. The Border Collie breed is most associated with the iconic black and white coat. Organizations such as the Border Collie Association, the American Kennel Club, and the International Sheepdog Society suggest appearance standard for the Collie breed which include 17 coat color variations.
Most people when they think of border collies, immediately imagine a black and white dog. However, there is such a wide array of colors in the breed that it might surprise you to know that some can be almost any color! There can be said, however, to be five main coat colors from which other variations spring:
i) tricolor (mainly black with white markings and some tan shading);
ii) blue merle (blue and black with silvery overtones);
iii) white (dominant white with markings);
iv) red merle (dark red/purple-tinged);
v) sable (sandy alongside white). Remember Lassie?
Blue Merle Border Collie
The merle pattern is dominant in most cases, therefore merles are more common than tri-coloreds or bi-colors. The merle gene dilutes random patches of hair on the coat to create interesting colored spots all over the dog’s body. Since merles typically have at least one blue eye (pigment present only in eyes), many believe they carry blue blood somewhere down their lineage. However this is not true, merle is a color variation and not a separate breed.
Merles come in the following colors: merle, merle with the brindle patch, merle with tan points, merle with white markings, tri-color (white base coat merle), blue merle border (black base coat merling), red merle (red base coat merling), chocolate/brown colored merles and dilutes of these colors such as fawn or cream.
Black, White and Brown Variations
While there are many combinations of black and white border collies, here are four examples to give you an idea of how big the color spectrum is in this breed: merles, bi-colors, tri-colors, and red merles. Brindles on a merle coat can be hard to see or hidden entirely depending on the base color. When on a merled coat they show up as very prominent striping along the dog’s body. Black is dominant over most other colors so it is rare to find recessive colors such as blue or liver on a merled border collie. Solid white border collie coats occur fairly often but finding merles on a base of white is extremely rare.
Each merle dog has two merle genes (one of each parent) and can therefore produce merle puppies with or without the merle pattern. When bred to another merle, both merle gene copies are passed on to 50% of the litter resulting in merles, non-merles and double merles that carry one copy of each gene.
Most experienced breeders will not breed two merles together because this almost always results in double merle litters, which have severely reduced fertility rates if they are able to reproduce at all. Double merles can also have hearing deficiencies as well as physical deformities such as blindness, small eyes or wonky faces so most people prefer to avoid breeding merles together.
Border Collies are an extremely active, intelligent breed requiring both physical exercise and brain exercise to stay healthy. We traditionally think of this as a black and white dog but Border Collies also can be seen in many different combination of colors. In sable (a mix between brown and black), tri-color (black and white with tan markings), red (also known as “red grizzle”), blue merle, bi-color, or piebald, all with or without white markings on their heads, necks or legs.