Thanks to Lassie -- heroine of novels, comics, movies and TV shows for nearly a century -- even people who know little about dogs recognize the rough collie. Onscreen, a male dog has always portrayed the heroine. That's just one of many interesting facts about the rough collie.
When full-grown, rough collies range from 22 to 26 inches tall at the shoulder, weighing between 50 to 75 pounds. Males are larger than females. According to the American Kennel Club, "The well-fitting, proper-textured coat is the crowning glory of the rough variety of collie." Except for on the legs and head, the coat is thick and full. It's a double coat, with a straight, rather hard outer coat and a softer, abundant undercoat. The collie's mane and neck is especially furry. The tail is very hairy, as are the hips.
The American Kennel Club recognizes four colors for registered rough-coated collies. These are sable and white -- the "Lassie" shades -- consisting of various shades of gold to dark brown; tri-color, mostly black with white and tan; predominately white; and blue merle. This last color is black or gray with a marbled look. The genes of "Old Cockie," born in 1867, stamped the rough-coated collie type as well as introducing the now-classic sable coat. Before Old Cockie, most collies were black and white; black, white and tan and blue merles.
While the earliest history of the collie is lost in the mists of time, the breed's ancestors were herding dogs in the north of England and Scotland. The collie's popularity took off in the 19th century after Queen Victoria saw these herding dogs when visiting the Scottish Highlands.
The basic description of the collie has not changed since the Collie Club of America, the second dog club to join the AKC, formed in 1886. The breed's popularity increased with the publication of Albert Payson Terhune's "Lad: A Dog", and Eric Knight's "Lassie Come Home."
Shining Star Award
Any collie that is working as a therapy dog or service dog, or that has done a good deed for her family or community, is eligible for the Shining Star award sponsored by the Collie Club of America. Nominated dogs do not need to be owned or bred by Collie Club of America members. In 2010, its initial year, 34 dogs were nominated. The winners were Iris and Lizzie of the Pet Therapy Foundation For Blind Children.
Timmy's Not in the Well
Contrary to the classic saying, during the nearly 20 seasons of "Lassie" on prime time TV, she never rescued Timmy from a well. She did rescue him from quicksand, a wolf, a bear, a tiger, rivers and a mineshaft. In fact, Jon Provost, who played Timmy, called his autobiography "Timmy's in the Well." But the catchphrase, "What's wrong, Lassie? Is Timmy sinking in quicksand?" doesn't have the same ring to it. According to Lassie Web, the gallant dog herself actually fell down a well in one episode.
If you or any family members are allergic to dogs, don't buy a rough-coated collie. Not only does the collie blow out its coat each spring and fall, it sheds year-round. Brush your rough-coated collie every day to minimize the amount of hair that ends up on the rugs and furniture. It also keeps collies from developing doggie odor. When the coat blows, you can actually pull large amounts of hair right off the dog.
Collies are athletic, smart and easy to train. However, they're sensitive, according to the CCA, so don't scold them harshly or yell at them when they've done something wrong. A firm tone of voice is all that's necessary to get your point across. Collies make good family dogs. They tend to love all members of the family equally, unlike some other breeds who clearly choose a favorite.
Many collies carry a gene rendering them sensitive to the common canine heartworm preventative ivermectin. Your vet can prescribe other types of heartworm preventative medication to keep your dog safe from these dreaded parasites while not causing a reaction. Collies are also prone to several hereditary eye diseases, including progressive retinal atrophy, which eventually renders the dog blind.
- American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Collie
- American Kennel Club: Collie - Did You Know?
- American Kennel Club: Collie - History
- American Working Collie Association: AWCA Brings You the Latest Research on Drug Sensitivity in Collies.
- Vet Street: Collie
- Lassie Web: Lassie - Episode Guide: Season 10 1963-1964
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.