Scotch Collies, the Complete Guide

a Scotch Collie

The Scotch Collie is probably the best dog you’ve never heard of. This smart, well-behaved dog breed was almost completely wiped out a few decades ago. So although they may take a back seat in popularity to more well known collie breeds they are definitely in the front of the pack when it comes to good dogs for home, family and farm. Read on to learn more about the wonderful Scotch Collie.

What is a Scotch Collie?

Scotch Collie was the name given to the original Scottish sheep dog which the Scottish people called “collie” and the English called “Scotch Collie”.

As time went by and this type of dog was bred for different purposes it evolved into different breeds, some of those breeds and the reasons they were bred are;

  • Rough Collie – dog show circles in England and the United States.
  • Border Collie – moving large herds of sheep in the English/Scottish border region.
  • Australian Shepherd – herding in the American west, crossed with Spanish sheep dogs.
  • English Shepherd – farm dogs from Texas and middle America, mixed heavily with the English shepherd’s dogs.

And yet while some people were busy evolving the Scotch Collie to suit their purposes, some people were working to keep the old original Scotch Collie true to its form and function. These dogs, kept true to the original collie were the foundation for the breed called the Old-Time Scotch Collie today. To learn more about the history of the breed follow this link.

  • Height: 17 – 25 inches high
  • Weight: 35 – 80 pounds
  • Life span: 12 15 years

The Scotch Collie is a very human oriented dog, they are famous for their obedience and “biddability”. The more time a person spends with a Scotchie the more bonded they become and the therefore easier to train, they really want to please their people.

Another related characteristic of the Scotch Collie is their sensitivity to human needs and emotions, they often notice when a person is not feeling well, is sad or needs help and will respond appropriately because of this they are often used as service and therapy dogs.

The Scotch Collie does not usually wander far from home, although males will go farther afield than females. They also make great watch dogs, barking at unknown people while welcoming friends they know.

They have an innate sense of order around the home or property and will sometimes try to put things back as they feel they should be. As an example we had a cow break down a fence while we were in town one time and our Scotch Collie held the cows in the corner and did not let them wander around because he know the cows did not belong in the front yard.

Gabby, a Scotch Collie
A beautiful Scotch Collie keeps watch over the farm.

This is a quick summary of the Scotch Collie and why they make great family and farm dogs. The questions and answers below may help to answer other questions you have about the breed.

Do Scotch Collies shed?

Yes, Scotch Collies have what is termed a “moderate” coat, that is to say it is not nearly as heavy as the average Rough Collie. And it is sometimes referred to as a “teflon coat” meaning that mud and grass burs and other things they pick up as they run around, don’t cling to them but easily fall off. A Scotch Collie living on a farm that gets no regular grooming is still a fairly clean dog. It is a low maintenance coat needing little regular attention other than brushing it out when the dog is shedding. They are a long haired dog and as such they shed at least once a year, if you have collie in your house you get used to the idea of dog hair. It is, in my mind, one of the only negatives about this breed.

What color do Scotch Collies come in?

Scotch Collies come in all the usual collie colors they include;

  • Sable and white
  • Clear Sable
  • Shaded Sable
  • Tri-Color
  • Bi-Black
  • Blue Merle
  • Milk Sable
  • and a few others less commonly

Are Scotch Collies good family pets?

Yes, Scotch Collies are great family dogs. They do well with kids and are often protective of children always watching for any danger to kids. There are many inspiring stories of Scotch Collies protecting kids, one that comes to mind involves the dog putting himself between a charging bull and the kids. Scotch Collies also do well as watch dogs, alerting the family to any intruders either human or animal. They are very smart but also quite calm, not hyper or high strung like a Border Collie and some other breeds known for their intelligence.

Are Scotch Collies smart?

Yes, Scotch Collies are very smart and may rank among the smartest dog breeds on earth. They are known for being problem solvers, figuring things out and working through a problem in an almost human way. Many of the old stories about these dogs that get retold are about their amazing thinking ability and intelligence, you can check out some of these stories that I have compiled at this link.

What health problems effect Scotch Collies?

For the most part Scotch Collies are extremely healthy dogs living long and productive lives. There are a few health problems that can effect Scotch Collies that I will cover in more detail below, keep in mind that these problems are extremely rare.

  • Collie eye anomaly is a genetic disease that can effect a dog’s vision if both parents are carriers of the gene. A DNA test can check for the offending gene.
  • mdr1 is a genetic disease that is found in many collie breeds, it renders the dog more sensitive to the negative effects of certain medications including ivermectin, a popular de-worming treatment. A DNA test can check for this issue too.
  • Hip dysplasia is a rare disorder among Scotch Collies that can affect the dog’s mobility, making it harder or painful to get around.

Most Scotch Collies live healthy lives without any major problems such as those mentioned above. If you are interested in getting your dog tested here is the link to the DNA testing service that we use.

Where do collies come from?

The Scotch Collie originated in the highlands of Scotland long ago, perhaps through a mixing of Celtic dogs with Nordic herding Spitzes. By the 1700s they were well established in their current form among the shepherds in Scotland, by the early 1800s they were spreading south and gaining in popularity among the shepherds of England.

1790 illustration of a Scotch Collie
An illustration of a Scotch Collie from 1790

The critical year was 1860 when they were first shown in a dog show in Birmingham, England, this signaled the beginning of problems for the Scotch Collie. As the breed grew in popularity among the dog show crowd they begin to breed them towards arbitrary standards with no thought to preserving their intelligence and other unique characteristics. By 1900 there were already two types of Scotch Collie, the smarter, working variety and the show type. As the twentieth century progressed the pointy headed, heavy coated show dogs that were fashionable were bred more and more and the old type which had fallen out of fashion were left behind.

By the 1980s the old Scotch Collie type was nearly extinct when a few people began trying to save them before it was too late thus the Farm Collie Movement began. Read more about the people behind the Farm Collie Movement in this article I wrote. The dogs we have today are the results of those efforts in the 80s and 90s to save and revive the Scotch Collie, the breed club for them is called The Old Time Scotch Collie Association and it was only formed in 2010. Visit the Old-Time Scotch Collie Association’s website at this link.

How old to Scotch Collies live?

Generally Scotch Collies live to between 12 and 15 years old. Of course there are always exceptions and some Scotch Collies get sick and die early but these cases are rare. One of the biggest killers of Scotch Collies is not a disease but cars, because they are a herding breed, the Scotch Collie’s desire to chase cars is great and more than a few great Scotchies have met their end through car chasing.

Are Scotch Collies aggressive?

No, in fact it is against the Old-Time Scotch Collie breed standard so any aggressive dogs are ineligible for registration. Scotch Collies are generally sweet, good natured dogs that will bark at strangers and protect family members.

How much do Scotch Collies cost?

This is a hard question to answer because breeders set their own prices. Generally Scotch Collies cost between $600 and $1000 at the time of this writing. Because it is a rare breed there may not be any Scotch Collie breeders in your area, in that case you will need to figure on paying transportation costs on top of the cost of a puppy.

Do collies make good farm dogs?

The collie was originally bred to be farm dogs in Scotland and although their sweet disposition made them popular as pets the Scotch Collie has continued to be commonly used as a farm dog down to today. They are excellent farm dogs, attentive, protective and smart yet calm and not high-strung. They are best suited to a small farm where their “off-switch” means that when there is no work to do they won’t drive you crazy.

Do Scotch Collies do well in cities?

Surprisingly, yes. Some types of farm dogs don’t do well in cities but the Scotch Collie seems to be able to adapt to city living. Of course not all are the same, talk to the breeder about the temperaments of the parents in detail before you decide to make a Scotchie into a city dog.

Where can I get a Scotch Collie?

As a rare breed getting a Scotch Collie is not always easy. Puppies are often listed on the Old-Time Scotch Collie Association’s website but older dogs are extremely hard to come by because they make such great dogs that people rarely get rid of them. You may need to get one shipped from a different part of the country because breeders are not found in every state. Beware of imitations, only the Old-Time Scotch Collie Association has the real deal, there are a few breeders out there with Rough Collies who try to pass off their dogs as Scotch Collies because the demand is greater for the latter.

Scotch Collie Puppies
A litter of Scotch Collie puppies in a variety of colors

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