Border Collie History

The origins of the breed are not that easy to trace back through history, however it seems most likely that the ancestors of the Border Collie that we know and love today came from Ireland. As far back as the 5th century BC Celt farmers bred herding dogs to assist them with work around the farm. These were often powerful dogs, difficult to control and rough with stock. The world “collie“ is a derivative of the Celtic dialect name for “useful”.

For centuries shepherds continued to breed and train dogs to assist them in managing livestock and in 1873 the first sheep dog trials began in Bala, Wales which naturally encouraged more consistent breeding from the more successful dogs.
The keen herding instinct and great power over sheep that working Sheepdogs (Border Collies) possessed, were such useful assets that it was worth trying to find a milder-natured type to cross them with. A Northumbrian farmer, Adam Telfer, succeeded in finding the right blend. The Border Collie of today is descended from Telfer's dog, "Hemp". Not only various temperaments, but a variety of working styles and skills were combined in Hemp to produce the working Sheepdog (Border Collie).

Adam Telfer from Roy originally bred two dogs. A black and tan dog and a black coated bitch called Meg. From this mating Hemp was born in September 1893, a tri coloured dog. He lived until May 1901. Many shepherds during this period used Hemp for stud purposes so many of today’s Border Collies have descended from his bloodline.

In 1906 sheepdog enthusiasts from the border region of England and Scotland formed the International Sheep Dog Society. It was the establishment of the ISDS and in particular the later forming of a stud book register, which finally established a registered breeding system for the working Sheepdog (Border Collie) within the British Isles.

The name "Border Collie" was created after World War 1 to distinguish working collies from show collies. Bred for hill conditions, the working Sheepdog (Border Collie) is exceptional when it comes to working sheep. Able to perform a multitude of tasks, he is born with instinct to “gather” the sheep to the shepherd, a trait that makes him most useful on the hill. A Border Collies ability to control sheep is measured by the "eye" (the amount of concentration on sheep that the dog shows). Because they must often work far from their handlers, Border Collies must also be intelligent and independent.

During this time several dogs were exported internationally in particular to New Zealand and Australia. It was New Zealand that produced and published the first breed standard description of the Border Collie. The first Border Collies were registered with the New Zealand Kennel Club in 1919 and later exhibited in conformation shows. Although records show that Border Collies were exhibited at a breed show in Australia in 1907 the quantities shown were few and it was not until the 1950's and 1960's that dedicated breeders in Australia began to proliferate and establish the breed in the conformation classes. In 1963 the Australian Kennel Control Council recognised the Border Collie as a breed that could be shown in conformation classes at championship level shows. Surprisingly the breed which originated in the British Isles was not recognised by the UK's pedigree dog authority the Kennel Club until June 1976. The Border Collie had been accepted onto the Kennel Club's obedience register, however it was referred to as a Working Collie or Working Sheepdog. Obedience enthusiasts had quickly recognised the incredible working capability of the breed and therefore did a simple name registration with the Kennel Club. This permitted competition at obedience events where a proven pedigree is not mandatory however conformation showing was not permitted. It was not until the threat of competing in "Imported Breed" classes with registered dogs from abroad that the UK Kennel Club officially acknowledged the breed and permitted registered ISDS dogs to be additionally registered with them as Border Collies.

Today the term "Working Sheepdog” is the name given to a Border Collie which is not registered with the Kennel Club and may or may not be registered with the ISDS. Only puppies from Kennel Club registered Border Collies or ISDS registered dogs can be registered with the KC as Border Collies.

Border Collies are today accepted as a pure breed dog across the world, they continue to perform as herding dogs despite the adoption of modern farming techniques and technologies.