top of page

History of the Collie

Find out more about the origin of the Collie. Or, click one of the buttons below to read in more detail about each period of history.

The Rough Collie, began life as the 'Shepherd's Dog', which was sometimes called the 'Colley'. As early as 1790, these dogs were characterised by a pointed face, tipped ears, and long coat. They were an extremely valuable asset to the farmer - performing all tasks on the farm save for protecting the flock from wolves. The shepherd's dog was known for its intelligence and intuition, as well as it's characteristic appearance.


Shown above: Thomas Bewick, Shepherd's Dog, 1790 and Thomas Brown, Shepherd's Dog, 1829

Descriptions from the mid 1800s reveal a collie who would be familiar today. Coat colours include black and tan; or one of the two (this devalued the animal), a sandy yellow, mixed greys, and black and white.

They seemed to be of a similar size today, with 21 inches and 23 inches in height being referenced. The breed standard for the Rough Collie today is 22-24 inches for dogs, and 20-22 inches for bitches. It is important to note, though, that there was no rule for the height of a good dog. 

One of the most important Collies of this era was Cockie, now known as Old Cockie, born 1868. He won over forty prizes in his lifetime, including many first places. His parentage is a mystery that many tried to solve, but to this day we have no definitive answer. 

People commonly believe Old Cockie to be the first sable collie, however the evidence suggests that although he was influential in popularising the colour, introducing it into the 'show collie' gene pool, he was not the first sable collie. I found reference to 'sandy yellow' collies as far back as 1847, in H. D. Richardson's 1847 Dogs: Their Origin and Varieties, Directions as to their General Management and Simple Instructions as to their Treatment Under Disease.

Read more about the pre-1880s collie here >

By the 1880s dog showing had already become a serious matter to the Victorians. The first year Collie classes were held at Crufts was 1891, where Ch Christopher took the Dog Challenge Certificate and Best of Breed. Christopher was out of Metchley Wonder and Peggy II.

At this show, Queen Victoria entered a Rough Collie dog named Darnley II, who took fourth in Open Dog.

Notable kennels of the era include Balgreggie, Edgbaston, Parbold, Wellesbourne, Wishaw, and Ormskirk.

bottom of page