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The AKC Breed Standard

General Appearance

The Border Collie is a well balanced, medium-sized dog of athletic appearance, displaying grace and agility in equal measure with substance and stamina. His hard, muscular body has a smooth outline which conveys the impression of effortless movement and endless endurance -- characteristics which have made him the world's premier sheep herding dog. He is energetic, alert and eager. Intelligence is his hallmark.

Size, Proportion, Substance

The height at the withers varies from 19" to 22" for males, 18" to 21" for females. The body, from point of shoulder to buttocks, is slightly longer than the height at the shoulders. Bone must be strong, not excessive, always in proportion to size. Overall balance between height, length, weight and bone is crucial and is more important than any absolute measurement. Excess body weight is not to be mistaken for muscle or substance. Any single feature of size appearing out of proportion should be considered a fault.


Expression is intelligent, alert, eager and full of interest. Eyes are set well apart, of moderate size, oval in shape. The color encompasses the full range of brown eyes; dogs having primary body colors other than black may have noticeably lighter eye color. Lack of eye rim pigmentation is a fault. Blue eyes are a fault except in merles, where one or both, or part of one or both eyes may be blue. Ears are of medium size, set well apart, carried erect and/or semi-erect (varying from to of the ear erect). The tips may fall forward or outward to the side. Ears are sensitive and mobile. Skull is broad with occiput not pronounced. Skull and foreface approximately equal in length. Stop moderate, but distinct. Muzzle moderately short, strong and blunt, tapering to nose. The underjaw is strong and well-developed. Nose color matches the primary body color. Nostrils are well developed. A snipy muzzle is a fault. Bite: Teeth and jaws are strong, meeting in a scissors bite.

Neck, Topline, Body

Neck is of good length, strong and muscular, slightly arched and broadening to shoulders. Topline is level, with slight arch over the loins. Body is athletic in appearance. Chest is deep, moderately broad, showing great lung capacity. Brisket reaching to the point of the elbow. Rib cage well sprung. Loins moderately deep, muscular, slightly arched with no tuck-up. Croup gradually sloped downward. Tail is set low. It is moderately long, bone reaching at least to the hock. It may have an upward swirl to the tip. While concentrating at a given task, the tail is carried low and used for balance. In excitement it may rise level with the back. A gay tail is a fault.


Forelegs well-boned and parallel when viewed from front, pasterns slightly sloping when viewed from side. The shoulders are long and well-angulated to the upper arm. The elbows are neither in nor out. Dewclaws may be removed. Feet are compact, oval in shape, pads deep and strong, toes moderately arched and close together.


Broad and muscular, in profile sloping gracefully to set of tail. The thighs are long, broad, deep and muscular, with well-turned stifles and strong hocks, well let down. When viewed from the rear, hind legs are well-boned, straight and parallel or are very slightly cowhocked. Dewclaws may be removed. Feet are compact, oval in shape, pads deep and strong, toes moderately arched and close together. Nails are short and strong.


Two varieties are permissible, both having soft, dense, weather resistant double coat. In puppies, the coat is short, soft, dense and water resistant, becoming the undercoat in adult dogs. The rough coat is medium to long, texture from flat to slightly wavy. Short and smooth coat on face. Forelegs feathered. Rear pasterns may have coat trimmed short. With advancing age, coats may become very wavy and are not faulted. The smooth coat is short over entire body. May have feathering on forelegs and fuller coat on chest.


The Border Collie appears in many colors, with various combinations of patterns and markings. The most common color is black with or without the traditional white blaze, collar, stockings and tail tip, with or without tan points. However, a variety of primary body colors is permissible. The sole exception being all white. Solid color, bi-color, tri-color, merle and sable dogs are judged equally with dogs having traditional markings. Color and markings are always secondary to physical evaluation and gait.


The Border Collie is an agile dog, able to suddenly change speed and direction without loss of balance and grace. Endurance is his trademark. His trotting gait is free, smooth and tireless, with minimum lift of feet. The topline does not shift as he conveys an effortless glide. He moves with great stealth, strength and stamina. When viewed from the side, the stride should cover maximum ground, with minimum speed. Viewed from the front, the action is forward and true, without weakness in shoulders, elbows or pasterns. Viewed from behind, the quarters thrust with drive and flexibility, with hocks moving close together but never touching. Any deviation from a sound-moving dog is a fault. In final assessment, gait is an essential factor, confirming physical evaluation.


The Border Collie is intelligent, alert and responsive. Affectionate towards friends, he may be sensibly reserved towards strangers and therefore makes an excellent watchdog. An intensive worker while herding, he is eager to learn and to please, and thrives on human companionship. Any tendencies toward viciousness or extreme shyness are serious faults.


Any deviation from the foregoing should be considered a fault, the seriousness of the fault depending upon the extent of the deviation.

Approved Date: January 10, 1995
Effective Date: April 30, 1995

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