Farm Collies, the Definitive Guide

I got into farm collies completely by accident over a decade ago when I was looking for a dog to help with the sheep on my small acreage farm. Maybe it was the string of truly stupid dogs I had owned before my first farm collie but it is no exaggeration to say that farm collies have changed my life. Since that time I have bred litters, founded a breed club for them, arranged get togethers of other farm collie lovers, worked to rescue dogs from shelters and other bad situations, advertised and promoted them in print, online and in person, and done innumerable other acts both large and small to help the humble farm collie and to give back to this amazing breed.

Farm Collie Definition

What is a farm collie? Good question, I wish I had an easy answer for you.

The term farm collie is frequently applied to any dog of the collie family that is either old fashioned in looks or that does farm work.

The original collie dog was the Highland Scotch Collie that helped with sheep herding in the Scottish Highlands from time immemorial until the Border Collie took over in the early twentieth century. This was the original farm collie, born and bred for farm work and was definitely old-fashioned in looks beings that these were the olden days.

This is, in my perspective, the true farm collie, the Scotch Collie, registered today as the Old-Time Scotch Collie, the remnant of the old original Scottish collie dogs. Although the name “farm collie” is loosely used for a wide range of collie type dogs.

a Canadian farm collie, Tracy of Fordwich
Tracy of Fordwich, a Canadian collie

Farm Collie Breeds

From those original Scottish Highland Collies the rest of the collie family was bred, Rough and Smooth Collies to meet the weird and arbitrary standards of the kennel clubs and the Border Collie for its peculiar crouching manner of moving sheep. The English Shepherd breed came about by crossing heavily with the shepherd dogs of England, the Australian Shepherd by crossing with Spanish shepherd dog. Other, more obscure collie types had similar histories, the collie spread out around the world and was bred to meet different needs and standards.

Today a farm collie could be any one of the following breeds or some combination of these breeds. In order to be farm collies however the dog must exhibit some of the old fashioned looks of the old Scotch Collies as well as their intelligence and working abilities (whether or not they actually live or work on a farm).

  • English Shepherd
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Rough Collies
  • McNab
  • Old-Time Scotch Collie

Of these types the Old-Time Scotch Collie is the closest to the original collies of the Scottish Highlands and their breed association works to keep them that way without changing them to meet arbitrary standards. You can visit the Old-Time Scotch Collie Association website at this link to read about their activities and breeding program.

some farm collies of recent history


What are the advantages of farm collies? Here is a quick rundown of the reasons why in my opinion the farm collie is the perfect dog.

  • They are wicked smart
  • They are very laid back and not hyper
  • They are super human oriented

Intelligence – All collie breeds are known for their brains. The farm collie’s smarts make it possible for them to pick up new commands quickly, puzzle out problems and anticipate your desires easily.

Calm – The farm collie is a work dog but unlike the Border Collie and some other dogs in this family, the farm collie is not high strung and does not need to be constantly occupied. They are content to lay about when there is no work to do but are also ready for activity at a minutes notice if there is a need.

People oriented – A farm collie wants to be with his or her people. The more time you spend with your farm collie the better results you will have. On the other hand, the more time you spend apart for your dog the more problems you will have. They always do best in homes where someone is at home most of the day, families that home school or work from home are especially successful with farm collies. Their human oriented personality make them especially obedient dogs as they want to please their people.


There are not many negatives to farm collies but here are a couple of the more common complaints.

  • They shed hair
  • They do not like being alone for long periods
  • They desire, even demand attention at times

All collie dogs have a hair problem, they shed and sometimes it feels like it is an unending supply of hair. I know some farm collie owners who have spun the collie hair into yarn and knitted sweaters out of it. It is a problem you must learn to live with if you have a collie of any kind.

A naughty collie is most likely one who has been left at home alone for long periods. They strongly desire to be with their humans, left alone they can start to chew things or cleverly escape kennels and in general make trouble. The best behavior will be obtained by spending a great deal of time with your farm collie.

A farm collie’s human oriented behavior can be a good thing when you are calling them off of chasing a cat and they respond on the first call. However the other side of that coin is that they want lots of attention, if you do not have time to give a farm collie then perhaps a different breed would be best for you.

Farm Collie Puppies

Because a farm collie puppy can be any of several breeds you should be especially diligent when selecting a puppy. Ask the breeder all about the parents and their temperaments, even go meet those dogs in person if possible. Make sure that the parents meet your requirements for then type of dog you are looking for. You may want to ask if their dogs…

  • Bark at strangers
  • Are obedient
  • Chew up or otherwise damage things
  • Are hyperactive
  • Chase or harass livestock
  • Hunt vermin
  • Anything else you might be looking for in a dog

If you are looking for farm collie puppies check out our puppy page linked here which has lots of detailed information on selecting a farm collie puppy and links to some websites where they can be located.

farm collie puppies


Bringing A new dog home is a big decision that requires a great deal of thought. Make sure you are fairly confident that yours will be a forever home before you make arrangements.

A farm collie may be unhappy if left home alone for long periods of time. You will find that they thrive best in homes with a stay at home parent, with homeschooled kids or with people who work from home. Still there are farm collies living in all kinds of situations, on farms, in cities and suburbs, farm collies that contentedly stay home alone all day and those that don’t. The secret is understanding the landrace character of the farm collie (see this link which explains landrace) and finding a dog who has the characteristics to thrive in your situation. As I advised in the puppy section above, talk to the breeder.

Remember that the farm collie is still a rare breed, so it would be good if you would at least consider breeding one litter from your farm collie. Only by conscientious breeding will their numbers increase. If you do decide to breed you will find that the Old-Time Scotch Collie Association can help you to find good permanent homes for the puppies.

More Information

To learn more about the farm collie explore the pages of this website which records the history of these wonderful dogs. Here are a few recommended articles.

Another great source of information about farm collies living and breeding today is the Scotch Collie pedigree database linked here which records the names, photos and other information about living or recent farm collies. It is free and open to the public to browse.

If you have any questions about farm collies go ahead and leave a comment below and I will answer you as soon as possible.

Related Images:


  1. If I post a picture of my collie, whom I believe to be a scotch collie .. could you give me your opinion if you think he is old time scotch or not?

  2. He looks good but it is hard to tell just from looks. Rough Collie crossed with a variety of other dogs can produce similar looks.

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