Auld Hemp   1893 - 1901


Border collies originated from the collies used by the shepherds in the border country between England & Scotland in the 18th & 19th Century.  The original collies were often very strong, difficult to control & rough on stock.  The Aussie Shepherd, English Shepherd, McNab Sheepdog & the Kelpie are all cousins of the BC as they all originated from these original collies.

In 1893 a tri-coloured collie dog, by the name of "Auld Hemp" was born.  He not only had great herding ability, but was of a milder, quieter nature & was bred with other working collies to create a dog which had great herding ability but was kinder on the sheep & easier to manage.  He died in 1901. All true, pedigreed border collies of today can trace their ancestry back to "Old Hemp".

In 1915, they were given the name "Border Collie" to distinguish them from other collie types, which also came from the same working stock, but developed different appearances, natures & herding styles.

The BC was bred for working in hilly conditions & is outstanding when it comes to working sheep.  He is born with the instinct to gather sheep to his owner & often has to work alone, far away from his master. To do so, he has to be intelligent, independent & be able to problem solve.  If allowed, unlike other working breeds, which will find a shady tree or a water trough when they are "done", the BC will work till he drops with exhaustion.

A good BC will have a "strong eye", meaning he has the ability to fix his concentration on the sheep, ignoring all distractions that may be going on around him.  Too much "eye" is where the term "Sticky Dog" comes from & is undesirable.  Sticky Dog Syndrome is where the dog will get "fixed" on something & become so "fixed", that he switches over to the other side of his brain & turns off his hearing.  He literally can't hear you, when he becomes "stuck".

He has been bred to work & left to his own devices, he will round up anything that moves, ducks, chooks, cars, busses, kids, bikes, garden hoses & even ants, just to name a few.  He is often motion reactive, which means he is attracted to anything that moves. 


The BC is a medium sized dog with a double coat which can vary from short & sleek, to long & lush, & comes in many colours.  The most common colours are black, chocolate, red, lilac, blue, blue merle & chocolate merle.  They can have a combination of these colours (tri-coloured) & always display some white areas especially on the tip of their tail.  Other more uncommon colours are sable, brindle, mottled, slate merle & seal.  Their eyes can vary from dark brown to amber to blue & some BC's will have two eyes of a different colour as is often seen in the merles.  This is called "wall eye". Their ears can vary from fully erect, semi erect to floppy.  Their natural life span is from 10 to 17 years, with the average being 13 years. 

They are an intellegent & very energetic dog requiring daily physical & mental stimulation.  If they are not given this daily stimulation, they can become destructive & will generally drive you nuts.  For this reason, they are not suitable for small backyards, or even large backyards, where the owners are out all day & have very little time to commit to their dog.  They are a very social animal & thrive on the company of their "family".  They enjoy being part of the house-hold & should not be confined to living in the backyard & sleeping in a kennel. Because of their love of "herding", they are not really suitable for families with small children.  You can be lucky & get a "couch potato" type, & a good breeder can sometimes pick out a pup or older dog which will suit, but they still need daily work.  Because of these requirements, a good breeder will only sell to homes which they deem to be suitable for a BC & she will always put the welfare of her pups first.  A backyard breeder or pet shop/puppy farm, will sell to anyone who comes up with the money. 


The most common genetic diseases of BC's are hip dysplasia (HD), an eye disease called "Collie Eye", epilepsy & BCC (Border Collie Collapse).  They can also suffer from deafness, which mainly occurs in dogs which have excessive patches of white, or are merle, or have blue eyes.  It is associated with the Merle Gene & has a very strong hereditary component when present in two doses ie. Merle to Merle matings.  As such affected dogs should never be bred & merle to merle matings are banned.

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) is a congenital bilateral eye disease which affects the retina, choroid & sclera.  It can be mild or cause blindness.  There is no treatment for CEA.

Neuroronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL) is a rare, but serious disease which results in a severe neurological impairment & early death.  Dogs with NCL rarely live past two years.

Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome (TNS) is a hereditary disease where the bone marrow produces white blood cells but is unable to release them into the bloodstream.  Affected puppies have an impaired immune system & will eventually die from infections they cannot fight. 

Border Collie Collapse (BCC) is another condition that BC's can be inflicted with.  BCC is a nervous system disorder that is triggered by strenuous exercise.  Affected dogs are normal at rest & seem healthy.  Typical collapse episodes begin 5 to 15 minutes after the onset of exercise & include disorientation, loss of focus, swaying, staggering, falling to one side & lack of control of the limbs.  Some dogs seem relatively normal while exercising, & only present symptoms about 5 minutes after the exercise is halted.  Affected dogs are unable to exercise & must be retired from competition & work.  BCC is thought to be genetic & research is under way to find a genetic cause.  Affected dogs should never be bred from. 

There is no cure for these diseases, but DNA tests are available to detect carriers as well as affected dogs, (except for BCC) enabling breeders to select the right dogs to breed from.  Also, breeding only from dogs with good hip & elbow scores (determined through x-ray) can help to lessen the possibility of the pups developing hip or elbow dysplasia.  However, environmental factors, especially when the pup is still young & still developing, can play a large part in him developing HD, regardless of parents' hip scores. 

Merle to merle matings should never be carried out, as a pup born to such matings has a 25% chance of being born deaf and/or blind & be sterile. 

It is very important, if you think a BC would be right for you & your lifestyle, & decide to get yourself a BC pup, that you ask the breeder for proof that they have conducted these DNA tests on the breeding parents.


Most border collies are  sold on the "Limited Register", which means they are still Registered with the ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council) & their pedigree recorded, but the certificates are stamped, "not for breeding or export". They are still permitted to participate in all dog disciplines except Confirmation Classes.  This is NOT to protect the pockets of breeders, but to ensure that only the very best of dogs are bred from & is in the best interest of the Border Collie breed.  Very few BC's are sold on the "Mains Register" and any breeder offering all her pups as being Mains Registered is not doing the right thing by the breed. 

When you are looking for a BC pup, a good breeder will ask you many questions about your lifestyle & previous experience with the breed.  Then, if they think that you are a suitable owner for one of their pups, you will more than likely be asked to sign a contract agreeing to some conditions.  These include, but are not restricted to, agreeing to de-sex when the pup is of the right age (usually between 12 & 18 months, after the growth plates have closed), restricting exercise & training in line with his age & development, and agreeing to give the breeder first option if the dog needs to be re-homed for any reason.  A good breeder does not want to see one of her pups end up in Rescue.

Most of the border collies that end up in Rescue Centres are from back yard breeders who have very little, if any, knowledge of genetics or ethical breeding.  It is very rare to find a "papered" BC in Rescue.