people imagine the tradition rough coated, black and white dog
when considering the Border Collie, the breed does, in fact,
come in a variety of coat colors and coat textures.
From a genetic
perspective, Border Collies can have either smooth coats or
rough coats. The smooth coat is dominant over rough, so once a
rough is bred to a rough there is no chance for a smooth coated
puppy. That is why there are so many more rough coated dogs in
the breed. Breeding for the double recessive results in 100%
rough coated offspring. Smooth coated dogs may carry the
recessive gene for rough coats. So, when bred to a rough coated
dogs, a smooth coat that carries the rough gene will produce
approximately 50% smooths and 50% roughs.
Both coat types
also come in a variety of textures and lengths. The rough
variety can have a dense, wooly undercoat along with very long
guard hairs. These dogs tend to exhibit qualities of their
Nordic ancestry. Some of their coats are so thick that it makes
grooming a serious challenge. When the texture isn't hard
enough, the coat will mat around the ears, under the armpits and
under the tail if regular grooming is not provided. On the
other hand, some rough coated dogs have a more slick appearance,
with limited fringing, although all rough coated dogs will have
some trimming around the ears, legs and tail. Rough coated
Border Collies can come in just about any length, thickness and
texture in between the two extremes.
The smooth coated
variety, too, can have variation. Some dogs sport a thick
undercoat, others have much less. Some have longer guard hairs
that may even have a bit of wave. Others have short, straight
guard hairs. But, there is an obvious difference between a
rough coated dog and a smooth coated dog. None of the smooth
coats have the thin coat of, say, a Doberman Pincher or Boxer,
however. The breed has been designed to be able to weather any
condition in which the job must be performed, and a healthy coat
is essential, regardless of its length. Typically, the coat
type can be distinguished in puppies from about 5 weeks onwards.
Needless to say,
the smooth coated dogs are far easier to care for. Their coats
do not pick up water or dirt to the same degree as the rough
coated dogs which means they track less filth into the house.
The smooth coats will dry more quickly after a bath, swimming or
working in the rain. Smooth coats do not carry in clumps of mud
or balls of snow on their underbellies. Their coats will never
mat and never requires excessive grooming. A once-over with a
simple brush on occasion keeps their coats in great condition.
The smooth coated dogs do not pick up burrs or other debris,
either. For these reasons, they are very popular in the
southern states, where cattle ranches do not have time or the
inclination to maintain a fluffy coated canine.
It should be noted
that, regardless of the coat on the outside, they are all Border
Collies on the inside. There is but one difference between
rough and smooth coated dogs, and that is the length (and
therefore the ease of managing) of the coat.
Darnfar Sage (smooth coat) and DarnFar Pete (rough coat)
Many great Border
Collies have been of the smooth variety. If one attends a
Border Collie herding trial, it will be easy to encounter many
smooth coated dogs. The herding folks do not discriminate based
on coat type – and many handlers prefer these easy maintenance
dogs. But, for some reason, they are not as common in dog
sports like Obedience and Agility, which are more likely to be
viewed by the average pet-owning spectator. I speculate that is
because, at one time, competing in any AKC performance event
required acquiring an Indefinite Listing Privilege for the dog.
That meant sending photographs of the dog along with the
paperwork. It was then up to the AKC to determine whether they
would grant an ILP to allow the dog to compete. Folks who may
have been concerned that the AKC would not recognize a smooth
coat as a pure bred Border Collie refrained from purchasing
smooth coated puppies. Years ago, I was given that exact
advice. So, the “typical” appearance of a Border Collie in AKC
performance events became the more traditional look; black and
white, rough coat with typical markings.
Temperament is so
important in the selection of a Border Collie that is destined
to be a companion animal. Working ability is far more important
than appearance if the dog will become a performance partner.
Structural soundness is critical for a dog’s long term health
and ability to carry out a job. Coat length, color and
markings are far less important than any of these other
criteria when choosing a Border Collie puppy.
We often get
requests for puppies with a very specific appearance. One
person wrote asking for “a black and white puppy with one blue
eye, preferably the left eye, with prick ears and a split face
with the white side on the right side”. We also get requests
for a specific ear set. Due to the development of a dog’s ear
cartilage, ear set won’t be known on a specific puppy until
after four to five months of age, well after it has gone to its
new home. To us, these sorts or requests suggest that the buyer
isn’t at all interested in purchasing a well-bred, properly
socialized puppy with a great temperament. Instead, they
perceive the dog as its coat color – which is very far down on
our list with respect to what kind of companion and working
partner the puppy will grow up to become. We are dedicated to
placing the right puppy into each home – hoping to match the
puppy’s energy level and personality with the human’s
disposition and lifestyle. For us, temperament, structure,
genetic health, bidability, and the very important herding work
ethic are more essential than coat color or type to make a good
match. We hope that prospective puppy buyers will consider
these critical criteria first, before coat color and / or coat
At DarnFar Ranch,
some of our best dogs are smooth coated Border Collies.
Therefore some of our litters may have smooth coated puppies.
If either the mother or the father is smooth, there is a 50%
chance for smooth coated puppies. We encourage prospective
puppy buyers to remain open to the idea of owning a smooth
coated puppy in order to offer them the greatest selection from
the puppies that are available in any one litter.