The Collie Spectrum: Understanding the Scotch Landrace

The wide diversity of looks that are called Scotch Collie can be confusing to some, especially since most modern dog breeds have such close conformation that all members of a breed look very similar. The Scotch Collie is what is called a “landrace breed”, they developed rather organically over a broad area of Northern Scotland and as such have a great deal of genetic diversity which displays itself in an array of looks and behaviors. Try thinking of all Scotch Collies as fitting within a spectrum of looks with the pointy nosed, high ear-set variety on one end of the spectrum and the more moderately nosed, lower ear-set variety on the other side, while everything in between those two extremes are also Scotch Collies.

Overlapping spectrums

Just beyond the Scotch Collie spectrum and slightly overlapping it in acceptable range is the Scotch Collie’s cousin the English Shepherd landrace. I have shown on this website that the English Shepherd’s place of origin is England and Lowland Scotland, as a breed that developed in a neighboring region there was a great deal of interbreeding between the two landraces in olden times, and even more since they came to America. So today we have a fair deal of overlap in these landraces, some Scotch Collies can be registered as English Shepherds, and many have.

Musical genres are spectrums

Another way to think of it is to compare breeds to genre of music, where you draw the line between genres can be a bit fuzzy. For example the line between Country and Bluegrass can be hard to define and some music seems to fit in both genres equally. Because musical genres, like landrace breeds covers a spectrum, the edges are fuzzy and often overlap.

The Scotch Collie landrace breed overlaps the Rough Collie breed on one side and the English Shepherd breed on the other side. Likewise the English Shepherd landrace breed overlaps Border Collies (in looks, not behavior) and Australian Shepherds.

Rebel, Lilly and PawPaw
The full spectrum, Lilly on the far left is more English Shepherd in appearance while Paw Paw above is more Rough Collie and Rebel below-right is more Scotch Collie

Breeding within spectrums

This brings up the question, if I breed two dogs from different parts of the Scotch Collie landrace spectrum, do I get a crossbreed dog? Some have suggested, for example that breeding of Sojourner’s Jacob to Sojourner’s Lady Jennifer resulted in crossbreed dogs, but are these two really different breeds or just different parts of the Scotch Collie spectrum?

If they are crossbreeds, then why are the puppies resulting from crossing Sojourner’s Jacob to Comanche Bluff Mona My Pal not crossbreed but fully registrable English Shepherds? Or do both breedings fit inside recognized landraces, with Jacob being in the overlapping section?



Rebel, pictured earlier, was bred to both the females in the picture with him, some puppies from his mating with Lilly were registered as English Shepherds, those from PawPaw have been referred to as crossbreeds.

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  1. Thought-provoking questions! I personally think the answer lies in the spectrum approach because it fits more in the long-term history and future of the dogs. Delineating by breed is, in my opinion, more of a short-term approach to genetics, and can create more issues than it resolves.

  2. Scotch Pine, Scotch Eggs, Scotch Tape, I’m sorry to tell you Bean but Scotch is a word with historic context far beyond the whiskey.

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