Bearded Collie

Gemma Gaitskell
Dr Gemma Gaitskell (BVetMed MSc MRCVS, Royal Veterinary College, London)
 
Photo of adult Bearded Collie

The Bearded Collie is a medium sized breed of dog that is bouncy, charismatic and intelligent. Originally bred as a driving and herding dog in Scotland, today the Bearded Collie is often kept as a companion and excels in modern dog sports due to its athletic nature. The breed has a long shaggy coat, which is extremely weatherproof, but needs regular brushing to stop it becoming matted.

The Bearded Collie is outgoing and playful and has an exceptionally good nature. It is typically very tolerant with children and loyal to its family. The breed is intelligent and quick to learn and thrives on mental stimulation. It is therefore important to keep training varied to prevent boredom. Due to its working roots, the Bearded Collie needs plenty of exercise and is best suited to an active household in a country environment. On average, the breed lives between 12 and 14 years, although it can still be prone to suffering from some inherited health problems.

About & History

The Bearded Collie is a medium sized breed which belongs to the pastoral group of breeds within the UK Kennel Club. It is also known as the Highland or Mountain Collie or more affectionately as the Beardie. It is believed that the breed was developed in the 1500’s when Polish Lowland Sheepdogs taken to Scotland by Polish sailors impressed local Scottish shepherds so much that they traded them for sheep. These dogs were then crossed with local Scottish herding dogs to form the Bearded Collie, which was widely used for herding sheep and cattle throughout Scotland. The modern Bearded Collie breed standard was developed at the beginning of the 20th century but it was not until the 1940’s that the breed began to see a revival in its popularity.

Today, despite its working roots, the breed is more commonly kept as a family pet and, with its good nature, it is certainly well suited to this particular lifestyle. It's inbuilt herding instinct and working abilities also mean that the Bearded Collie excels as a working dog, in working trials and in modern dog sports, such as obedience trials, agility and flyball.

Appearance

Bearded Collie Large Photo

The Bearded Collie has many different coat colours and combinations that are accepted for registration with the UK Kennel Club:

  • Black
  • Black & White
  • Black Tricolour
  • Blue
  • Black & White
  • Blue & White
  • Blue Tricolour
  • Brown
  • Brown & White
  • Brown Tricolour
  • Fawn
  • Fawn & White
  • Fawn Tricolour
  • Grey & White
  • Grey Tricolour
  • Slate
  • Slate & White
  • Slate Tricolour

The Bearded Collie is a medium sized breed that should measure 51 to 56 cm at the withers – although proportions are valued over size. Female dogs should be slightly smaller than male dogs. The breed should have a muscular medium length neck which leads to well-angled shoulders and straight front legs, which are strong. The chest should be deep and long, followed by a short loin and an overall level back. The back end should be strong and muscular and the tail should be low set and never carried overly high.

The breed should have a broad flat head that is proportionate to its overall size. The muzzle should be the same length as the skull and should remain fairly wide at the end with a wide, square nose. The pigmentation of the nose, lips and eyes should be in line with coat colour. The jaws should be strong and form a perfect bite, with good quality white teeth. The breed should have large, wide set eyes, which have an affectionate expression. Ears should be medium sized and fold over towards the cheeks.

The Bearded Collie should have a smooth, athletic gait that covers plenty of ground giving the impression of a suppleness and an effortlessness to the movement.

Character & Temperament

The Bearded Collie is a bouncy, charismatic breed that is intrinsically good natured with a steady and reliable character. The breed is excellent with children and extremely loyal to its family. It does not typically suffer from separation anxiety, but as with any dog, it should not be left alone for extended periods of time. The breed is not typically kept as a guard dog but its loyal nature and tendency to be vocal means it will not hesitate to warn of danger.

Trainability

Photo of Bearded Collie puppy

The Bearded Collie is an intelligent breed that is quick to learn and thrives on plenty of mental stimulation. This means that the breed is usually quick to pick up on commands and training, and problems with recall are not normally an issue.

The Bearded Collie is normally easy to house train if it has sufficient access to outside space, such as a garden or walks and a consistent routine. However, their intelligence can mean that the breed is prone to becoming easily and this can lead to disobedience.

Health

The Bearded Collie has an average life expectancy of between 12 and 14 years of age. It is classified as a Category 1 breed by the UK Kennel Club with no specific points of concern. The breed can, however, suffer from some inherited health problems and there are some health schemes which are mandatory or strongly recommended for the breed. Some of the health problems which can affect the Bearded Collie include:

  • Hip Dysplasia (HD) – Hip dysplasia is a condition which can encompass either one or various different developmental abnormalities in the hips that can lead to joint problems when dogs are older. Radiographs of the hips are scored using specific criteria by experts in dogs, which are over a year old. The lower the score, the fewer signs there are of dysplasia. The maximum score is 106 for both hips combined. Development of the condition can be influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Participation in this scheme is mandatory for Kennel Club Assured Breeders.
  • Collie Eye Anomaly/Choroidal Hypoplasia – This condition occurs when there is abnormal development of part of the eye – the choroid. This can be diagnosed in young puppies but effects can vary widely between dogs, depending on the severity of the abnormality. In severe cases, the effects can result in significant loss of sight. DNA testing for this condition in the Bearded Collie is strongly recommended.
  • Eye Testing – Eye testing is strongly recommended for the Bearded Collie as this can be the only way to detect mild cases of Collie Eye Anomaly.

In addition Bearded Collies can be affected by:

  • Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s Disease) – This condition is caused by a lack of production of corticoid hormones and causes unspecific symptoms such as tiredness, vomiting, collapse that are often confused with other conditions. If left untreated, they can be fatal. Treatment is lifelong but if correctly diagnosed and treated is provided in time the outcome can be favorable.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Bearded Collie is an energetic breed with a typically bouncy and lively nature. The breed’s working routes as a sheepherder mean that it requires plenty of exercise and needs at least an hour and a half of walking a day. Ideally, some of this time should be spent off the lead to allow dogs to run and tire themselves out. The breed needs to be kept busy with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation and is therefore not suited to city environments.

Grooming

The Bearded Collie is a double coated breed with an soft insulating undercoat covered by a long, harsh, shaggy outer coat. This needs regular brushing to stop it from becoming matted and dirty and should be well dried in wet weather to prevent skin problems from developing. The Bearded Collie should have its coat trimmed periodically and this typically leaves beard like features around the face, with the coat increasing in length as it reaches the chest and body.

Clipping the coat short can reduce the amount of care needed for Bearded Collies kept as family pets where a typical cut is not necessary, but still requires some brushing. The length of the Bearded Collie’s coat means that it can shed significant amounts of hair, especially during seasonal coat changes.

Famous Bearded Collies

Some examples of famous Bearded Collies include:

  • Nana, the Bearded Collie in the Peter Pan play and films
  • Coal, the Bearded Collie in the film The Shaggy Dog
  • Ralphie, the Bearded Collie in the film Hotel for Dogs

Cross-Breeds

Some popular Bearded Collie cross-breeds are:

  • Beacol – Cross between a Bearded Collie and a Beagle
  • Beardoodle – Cross between a Bearded Collie and a Poodle

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