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What A Collie Is: Understanding the AKC Breed Standard

The Collie breed standard, approved on May 10, 1997, outlines the ideal physical characteristics of a Collie. While interpretations can vary slightly, the standard serves as a guideline for breeders and judges to ensure consistent Collie conformation.


The standard is divided into sections that detail various aspects of the Collie's appearance, including:


General Character: Describes the Collie as a lithe, strong, and responsive dog with a balanced and harmonious physique.

Head: Emphasizes the importance of a well-proportioned head, neither heavy nor narrow. Specific details cover the skull shape, muzzle, stop, and eye placement.

Eyes: Almond-shaped and medium-sized, with color varying depending on coat type (except for blue merles, which prefer dark brown eyes). Expression is crucial, conveying intelligence and inquisitiveness.

Ears: In proportion to the head, carried erect when alert and folded back when relaxed. Proper ear carriage is essential for a balanced expression.

Neck: Strong, clean, and muscular, with a slight arch and a proud carriage.

Body: Firm, muscular, and slightly longer than tall. Details cover chest depth, back strength, and croup slope.

Legs: Straight and muscular forelegs with flexible pasterns. Hind legs are less fleshy but powerful, with well-bent hocks and stifles. Feet are oval-shaped and well-padded.

Gait: Sound and effortless, with a smooth, even stride at various speeds.

Tail: Moderately long, carried low when relaxed and raised with a slight upward curl when excited.

Coat (Rough Collie): Double coat with a harsh, weather-resistant outer coat and a soft, dense undercoat. Abundant fur on the mane, frill, and tail is a hallmark of the Rough Collie.

Coat (Smooth Collie): Short, hard, and flat with a dense undercoat.

Color: Four recognized colors exist: sable and white, tri-color, blue merle, and white. No color preference is given within the standard.

Size: Males are ideally 24-26 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 60-75 pounds. Females are slightly smaller at 22-24 inches and 50-65 pounds.

Expression: One of the most crucial aspects, reflecting intelligence, alertness, and breed character. A balanced head, proper eye placement, and correct ear carriage all contribute to a desirable expression.


Tri Smooth Collie Male
Clearvu's Trevor
Sable Rough Collie Female
Clearvu's Gemma
 

The following is taken word for word from the AKC website in regard to the breed standard, the above outline is a simplified version. 


Rough 

General Character: 

The Collie is a lithe, strong, responsive, active dog, carrying no useless timber, standing naturally straight and firm. The deep, moderately wide chest shows strength, the sloping shoulders and well-bent hocks indicate speed and grace, and the face shows high intelligence. The Collie presents an impressive, proud picture of true balance, each part being in harmonious proportion to every other part and to the whole. Except for the technical description that is essential to this Standard and without which no Standard for the guidance of breeders and judges is adequate, it could be stated simply that no part of the Collie ever seems to be out of proportion to any other part. Timidity, frailness, sullenness, viciousness, lack of animation, cumbersome appearance and lack of over-all balance impair the general character. 


Head: 

The head properties are of great importance. When considered in proportion to the size of the dog the head is inclined to lightness and never appears massive. A heavy-headed dog lacks the necessary bright, alert, full-of-sense look that contributes so greatly to expression. Both in front and profile view the head bears a general resemblance to a well-blunted lean wedge, being smooth and clean in outline and nicely balanced in proportion. On the sides it tapers gradually and smoothly from the ears to the end of the black nose, without being flared out in backskull (cheeky) or pinched in muzzle (snipy). In profile view the top of the backskull and the top of the muzzle lie in two approximately parallel, straight planes of equal length, divided by a very slight but perceptible stop or break. A mid-point between the inside corners of the eyes (which is the center of a correctly placed stop) is the center of balance in length of head. 


The end of the smooth, well-rounded muzzle is blunt but not square. The underjaw is strong, clean-cut and the depth of skull from the brow to the under part of the jaw is not excessive. The teeth are of good size, meeting in a scissors bite. Overshot or undershot jaws are undesirable, the latter being more severely penalized. There is a very slight prominence of the eyebrows. The backskull is flat, without receding either laterally or backward and the occipital bone is not highly peaked. The proper width of backskull necessarily depends upon the combined length of skull and muzzle and the width of the backskull is less than its length. Thus the correct width varies with the individual and is dependent upon the extent to which it is supported by length of muzzle. Because of the importance of the head characteristics, prominent head faults are very severely penalized. 


Eyes: 

Because of the combination of the flat skull, the arched eyebrows, the slight stop and the rounded muzzle, the foreface must be chiseled to form a receptacle for the eyes and they are necessarily placed obliquely to give them the required forward outlook. Except for the blue merles, they are required to be matched in color. They are almond-shaped, of medium size and never properly appear to be large or prominent. The color is dark and the eye does not show a yellow ring or a sufficiently prominent haw to affect the dog's expression. The eyes have a clear, bright appearance, expressing intelligent inquisitiveness, particularly when the ears are drawn up and the dog is on the alert. In blue merles, dark brown eyes are preferable, but either or both eyes may be merle or china in color without specific penalty. A large, round, full eye seriously detracts from the desired sweet expression. Eye faults are heavily penalized


Ears: 

The ears are in proportion to the size of the head and, if they are carried properly and unquestionably break naturally, are seldom too small. Large ears usually cannot be lifted correctly off the head, and even if lifted, they will be out of proportion to the size of the head. When in repose the ears are folded lengthwise and thrown back into the frill. On the alert they are drawn well up on the backskull and are carried about three-quarters erect, with about onefourth of the ear tipping or breaking forward. A dog with prick ears or low ears cannot show true expression and is penalized accordingly.


Neck: 

The neck is firm, clean, muscular, sinewy and heavily frilled. It is fairly long, carried upright with a slight arch at the nape and imparts a proud, upstanding appearance showing off the frill. 


Body: 

The body is firm, hard and muscular, a trifle long in proportion to the height. The ribs are well-rounded behind the well-sloped shoulders and the chest is deep, extending to the elbows. The back is strong and level, supported by powerful hips and thighs and the croup is sloped to give a well-rounded finish. The loin is powerful and slightly arched. Noticeably fat dogs, or dogs in poor flesh, or with skin disease, or with no undercoat are out of condition and are moderately penalized accordingly. 


Legs: 

The forelegs are straight and muscular, with a fair amount of bone considering the size of the dog. A cumbersome appearance is undesirable. Both narrow and wide placement are penalized. The forearm is moderately fleshy and the pasterns are flexible but without weakness. The hind legs are less fleshy, muscular at the thighs, very sinewy and the hocks and stifles are well bent. A cowhocked dog or a dog with straight stifles is penalized. The comparatively small feet are approximately oval in shape. The soles are well padded and tough, and the toes are well arched and close together. When the Collie is not in motion the legs and feet are judged by allowing the dog to come to a natural stop in a standing position so that both the forelegs and the hind legs are placed well apart, with the feet extending straight forward. Excessive "posing" is undesirable. 


Gait: 

Gait is sound. When the dog is moved at a slow trot toward an observer its straight front legs track comparatively close together at the ground. The front legs are not out at the elbows, do not "crossover," nor does the dog move with a choppy, pacing or rolling gait. When viewed from the rear the hind legs are straight, tracking comparatively close together at the ground. At a moderate trot the hind legs are powerful and propelling. Viewed from the side the reasonably long, "reaching" stride is smooth and even, keeping the back line firm and level. As the speed of the gait is increased the Collie single tracks, bringing the front legs inward in a straight line from the shoulder toward the center line of the body and the hind legs inward in a straight line from the hip toward the center line of the body. The gait suggests effortless speed combined with the dog's herding heritage, requiring it to be capable of changing its direction of travel almost instantaneously.


Tail: 

The tail is moderately long, the bone reaching to the hock joint or below. It is carried low when the dog is quiet, the end having an upward twist or swirl. When gaited or when the dog is excited it is carried gaily but not over the back. 


Coat: 

The well-fitting, proper-textured coat is the crowning glory of the Rough variety of Collie. It is abundant except on the head and legs. The outer coat is straight and harsh to the touch. A soft, open outer coat or a curly outer coat, regardless of quantity, is penalized. The undercoat, however, is soft, furry and so close together that it is difficult to see the skin when the hair is parted. The coat is very abundant on the mane and frill. The face or mask is smooth. The forelegs are smooth and well feathered to the back of the pasterns. The hind legs are smooth below the hock joints. Any feathering below the hocks is removed for the show ring. The hair on the tail is very profuse and on the hips it is long and bushy. The texture, quantity and the extent to which the coat "fits the dog" are important points. 


Color: 

The four recognized colors are "Sable and White," "Tri-color," "Blue Merle" and "White." There is no preference among them. The "Sable and White" is predominantly sable (a fawn sable color of varying shades from light gold to dark mahogany) with white markings usually on the chest, neck, legs, feet and the tip of the tail. A blaze may appear on the foreface or backskull or both. The "Tri-color" is predominantly black, carrying white markings as in a "Sable and White" and has tan shadings on and about the head and legs. The "Blue Merle" is a mottled or "marbled" color predominantly blue-grey and black with white markings as in the "Sable and White" and usually has tan shadings as in the "Tri-color." The "White" is predominantly white, preferably with sable, tri-color or blue merle markings. 


Size: 

Dogs are from 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weigh from 60 to 75 pounds. Bitches are from 22 to 24 inches at the shoulder, weighing from 50 to 65 pounds. An undersize or an oversize Collie is penalized according to the extent to which the dog appears to be undersize or oversize. 


Expression: 

Expression is one of the most important points in considering the relative value of Collies. Expression, like the term character, is difficult to define in words. It is not a fixed point as in color, weight or height and it is something the uninitiated can properly understand only by optical illustration. In general, however, it may be said to be the combined product of the shape and balance of the skull and muzzle, the placement, size, shape and color of the eye and the position, size and carriage of the ears. An expression that shows sullenness or which is suggestive of any other breed is entirely foreign. The Collie cannot be judged properly until its expression has been carefully evaluated. 


Smooth 

The Smooth variety of Collie is judged by the same Standard as the Rough variety, except that the references to the quantity and distribution of the coat are not applicable to the Smooth variety, which has a short, hard, dense, flat coat of good texture, with an abundance of undercoat.”


To learn more we highly recommend reading the articles linked below:

 
Rough Tri Collie Male
Clearvu's Altas

Conclusion

Understanding the Collie breed standard allows breeders and judges to evaluate Collies for conformation purposes. For potential owners, the standard provides a blueprint for the breed's physical characteristics and temperament. While conformation shows value adherence to the standard, many Collie owners simply appreciate these intelligent and loyal companions, regardless of minor variations in appearance.



Ready to welcome a beautiful, intelligent, and loyal Collie companion into your life? Contact us today and explore the joy of owning this amazing breed!

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