10 Surprising Facts About Scotch Collies

facts about scotch collies

The Scotch Collie is an amazing breed of dogs that are making a comeback today from near extinction 30 years ago. Keep reading to learn 10 surprising facts about Scotch Collies.

Collies herding sheep in Ansdell painting
Scotch Collies working sheep in the Scottish Highlands as recorded by Richard Ansdell in the mid 1800s

10. Scotch Collies originated as a herding dog in the Scottish Highlands.

Although many people associate the breed with England it was actually far to the north, in the Scottish Highlands that the dog originated. There it helped shepherds care for the sheep which is the collie’s true and proper occupation although today Scotch Collies fill many different jobs. The place of their origin is indicated in the name, “Scotch Collie”, Scotch being an old fashioned adjective indicating that something comes from Scotland.

To see more historic paintings of Scotch Collies working in the Scottish Highlands follow this like to Richard Ansdell paintings of Collie dogs.

a scotch collie working on a farm

9. Scotch Collies have a teflon coat.

Meaning that things don’t stick in a Scotch Collie’s coat. So they can run around, playing and working all over the farm all day, through high grass full of seeds and burrs, in the mud, rolling in dirt etc. but somehow none of these things seem to cling to the Collie for long. When the dog is ready to come in inside you look at the coat and wonder why he is so clean. It’s the Scotch Collie’s teflon coat, all the unwanted bits of field and wood have fallen off outside where they belong.

Jim was Ezra Meekers Scotch Collie
Jim, a Scotch Collie who was called “the best dog ever” and travelled the Oregon Trail multiple times.

8. Scotch Collies are extremely smart and obedient.

Although I hate saying this because there is always that one dog, but as a whole Scotch Collies are very smart. They have been known to react in ways that demonstrate that Scotch Collies can figure out a problem. Stories abound that demonstrate the intelligence of the Scotch Collie. Their smarts alone makes them great, now add to intelligence with super obedience, called biddability, and Scotch Collies look even better. Mine are so eager to please that I can call them back when they are chasing a cat or a rabbit and they will return to me right away.

Check out this historic article about a dog name Bob who traveled over 3000 miles to his home after he was lost far from home.

Scotch Collies are, and always have been a landrace breed

7. Scotch Collies are a landrace breed.

This means that the Scotch Collie breed developed developed rather organically over time to meet the needs of Scottish shepherds. It was not developed and bred to meet a rigid breed standard like most modern dog breeds. There is more diversity in a landrace breed, more wide ranging looks and behavior. So if you want a large Scotch Collie you can find it, likewise if you are looking for a smaller one. Some may make better watch dogs while others are more friendly to strangers. This diversity in behavior and appearance is expected in a landrace breed. Other landrace dog breeds you may be familiar with include the Border Collie and the Jack Russell Terrier.

Read this article to learn more about the difference between landrace Collies and purebred Collies.

a classic scotch collie of the nineteenth century

6. Scotch Collies were nearly lost to history when the kennel club bred collies away from the original type.

Although the Scotch Collie represents the original type of Collie they are a small, rather unknown breed because the kennel clubs took Collies in an entirely different direction. As the modern Rough and Smooth Collies were developed through selective breeding to a tight standard, the old fashioned Collies were left behind like some redneck cousins you don’t invite to your family picnics. This neglect almost lead to the extinction of the Scotch Collie.

Read this article, Whatever Happened to Old Shep by Linda Rorem about the demise of the Scotch Collie and the rise of purebred Collies.

Eric Knight and his Collie Tootsie, the inspiration for Lassie
Eric Knight and his Collie Tootsie, the inspiration for Lassie

5. Lassie was based on a Scotch Collie type but portrayed in movies and TV by a modern type Collie.

Eric Knight wrote Lassie Come-Home based on his knowledge of the Collies common in his homeland of Yorkshire in northern England and an old fashioned type Collie that he owned named Tootsie. So the model for Lassie was old fashioned type Collies and her brains and problem solving skills better match those of the old time Scotch Collies than those of a modern show Collie. Unfortunately when it came time to cast Lassie for the screen, a more modern looking Collie was chosen and this caused the popularity of the Rough Collie to skyrocket. So Knight’s book, a tribute to the brains of the old fashioned Collie, inadvertently helped contribute to the demise of the Scotch Collie.

To learn more about Lassie and her inspiration check out this article, What Kind of Collie Was Lassie?

farmers with their scotch collie puppy

4. Scotch Collies are a heritage farm animal.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s Scotch Collies were very common on farms and were thought by many to be a necessary part of a successful farm. A number of things changed the Collie’s place in farm life in the mid twentieth century such as Lassie (see above), the demise of small family farms and the rise of the Border Collie. Since the 1980s there has been a resurgence of interest in heritage livestock breeds and many rare farm breeds have been saved from extinction. Unfortunately The Livestock Conservancy which helps with many heritage farm animal breeds in America will not recognize dog breeds so the Old Time Scotch Collie is left out of conservation efforts for heritage farm breeds.

Check out this historic article about when Missouri wanted to breed Scotch Collies and distribute them to farmers to improve agriculture in the state.

Dunrovins Ole Shep a scotch collie of the 1990s

3. Scotch Collies were snatched from the brink of extinction in the 1990s by a few committed individuals.

Several people without knowledge of each other began looking for any remnants of the Scotch Collie breed at around the same time in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Richard McDuffie of South Carolina and Erika DuBois of Nova Scotia both spent a great deal of time, money and effort in the search for Scotch Collies. Eventually a few dogs in remote areas came to light and have been carefully bred and increased. The several hundred Scotch Collies alive today and the Old-Time Scotch Collie Association owe their existence to these dedicated and hard working individuals who got things moving thirty years ago.

Read my article Improved off the face of the earth to learn about efforts made to save the Scotch Collie.

Dunrovins rebel was a scotch collie

2. Scotch Collies love working hard but are also content to lay at your feet all day

This is the most delightful thing about Scotch Collies to me. When I got my first Scotchie I was looking for a dog to help with moving my sheep but I didn’t want a high energy dog like a Border Collie and I got exactly what I wanted. If I am working around the farm, moving sheep, stringing fence or anything else, my Scotch Collies will stay out in the field with me all day working hard and loving it. But when I decide to spend a lazy Sunday sitting around the house binge watching TV, my Scotch Collie is perfectly content to lay at my feet all day without getting antsy or anxious.

scotch collies are very attuned to human emotions

1. Scotch Collies are very sensitive to human emotions

Because Scotch Collies are so human oriented, they love spending time with their people and look to them for direction and to see and understand what is going on. They seem to read and pick up on human feelings easily. If you are sad and down your Scotch Collie will likely be there to make you feel better. Likewise if you are happy, she will be there to share your jubilation. They are very keyed in to human activity, for this reason Scotch Collies make great therapy and service dogs because they naturally look to humans for direction and want to help.

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