Allowing the rough and smooth collies to breed
could solve the problem of broadening the gene pool of the smooth
variety; but the idea is opposed by many breeders of both types,
including some that breed for beauty and some that breed for work.
But what would be the effect on the two types if this were to be
There can be a number of distinct types within each
variety in every country. This can be due to regional types and the
availability of certain sires/dams or, to a lesser degree,
successful kennels that
emerged with a distinctive type. This was also common centuries ago
when the regional types sometimes evolved or merged to become
specific breeds such as the modern Collie (Rough and Smooth),
Bearded Collie, Welsh Collie, Border Collie, etc. Most kennels do
not have their own distinctive type unless they have a long-term,
focused breeding program and adhere to it even if it sometimes means
making the occasional outcross (in dog breeder’s terms, this would
mean breeding to a member of another family not related
closely/however, it means an entirely different thing in the
scientific world!!). Long story short, if you do not like the
conformation, type, or other attributes of the potential breeding
partner, don’t breed to it! It doesn’t matter whether it’s Rough or
Smooth as far as I’m concerned.
Oftentimes it is said that Rough Collies are more
laidback, whereas Smooths are reportedly more aggressive (that is,
assertive or pushy), and perhaps even more active (medium drive,
with a few being high drive). But, I’ve seen all types of
personalities and drive levels in both varieties of which I’ve owned
since 1969. Perhaps this is because we’ve been breeding the
varieties together here in the USA since essentially the beginning.
If you examine photos or other images of Smooth
Collies of a century or more, there are some that were of EXCELLENT
structure, overall type, and beauty! Take a look at the Rafael Tuck
vintage postcards – look at those beautiful dogs of over 100 years
ago especially the Smooth Collie who could certainly beat many dogs
in the show ring today!
Type and quality can fluctuate in any breed or
variety, and fads can occur with excessive emphasis or not enough
emphasis on certain features (eg. excessive coat in Roughs, hard
expression in many European Smooths – the eyes, stovepipe muzzles in
some American dogs – all of these are not correct). This can also be
impacted by the “popular sire syndrome,” the lack of good local
breeding stock, or when regional types develop. Here in the USA,
photos of both Roughs and Smooths showed quite a variation in type
from approximately 1915 until well after WW II. Events such as WW I
and WW II caused the cessation of shows, trials, and the closure of
many kennels, and undoubtedly impacted the progress that could be
made at the time toward breed improvement. By the mid 1950s-1960s,
the breed made strides in improvement marked by the appearance of
several notable and prolific producers. There was a long period of
time during the early-mid 1900s when we thought the Smooth was going
to completely disappear in the USA. But, a syndicate of breeders
brought fresh stock over from the UK and attempts were made to
revive the variety. It took some time, but the variety re-emerged.
Healthy infusions of fresh Rough Collie blood appeared to help
improve type. Then, along came Ch. Black Hawk of Kasan (Ch. High Man
of Arrowhill ex Kasan Fine and Fancy)! This handsome and correct
stud helped place the Smooth Collie on a level playing field with
the Rough. Hawk was the first Smooth to take BOB (Best of Breed)
over Roughs and Smooths at the Collie Club of America National, the
first Smooth to earn an all-breed BIS (Best in Show), and was BOV
(Best of Variety) Smooth six times at the National. He was a very
special dog, regardless of variety! The type and structure is
actually similar to that of the handsome Smooth in the Raphael Tuck
card illustrated. Important to note for our purposes here is that
Hawk is the product of Rough to Smooth breeding (sire was a Rough,
and Dam was a Smooth and the pedigree is replete with R/S breeding).
Hawk can be counted among some of the very best produced on our
shores. For the record, his date of birth was 1966.
As an aside, it struck me as rather odd back in the
late 1980s when I came across a Simon & Schuster dog book wherein it
stated that Smooth Collies had Greyhound in them. Hmmmmm. Up to that
time, as an all-breed historian I had never heard of that. I did
know that Collies were used to breed for lurchers a (a type of dog,
rather than an established breed), but Greyhound in our Collies? I
didn’t believe it until I became involved with the International
Collie Handbook which, at that time, was a 600+ page annual book
with photos and articles of Collies truly from all around the world!
Within the pages, I did start to see dogs that reminded me of a
possible Greyhound interjection at some point in their long past –
the head, the uncollie-like eyes and expression,
the excessive tuckup, etc. Currently, if you should consider these
Greyhound-like dogs that are STILL occurring primarily in Europe
(many with a hard eye and expression) I would determine if the dog
was correct to our standard, was a dog of good health, genetics,
highly intelligent, highly trainable, athletic, had the endurance of
a working dog, had the correct Collie character and if I liked
him/her, or not. Then I would make my breeding decisions based on
that, not on whether they were Rough or Smooth. There are also
Roughs out there that have an almost foreign eye and expression –
the eyes appear overly slanted, the head appears to be dished, and
then there is the excessive coat and sometimes poor movement. Please
be so critical as you make your selections of breeding partners. The
future and viability of the breed depends on it!
Roughs and Smooths are frequently bred together
here in the USA often with great success. And, even when utilized
overseas if the breeder is selective as he/she should be in choosing
breeding partners, very nice results can occur.
While on the subject of breeding, I’d like to direct you to a
good article that talks about the female actually contributing more
than the previously thought 50% of the genetics to the offspring:
What some of the breeders have found is that the
offspring frequently resemble the dam. Apparently the adage is true:
A kennel is no better than the bitches it houses.
Now, as for trying to breed for an all-around dog,
both show and work, this is another topic that has been argued for
many, many years in quite a few different breeds whether working,
herding, sporting, or hound. History is replete with examples of
some breeders in other breeds who have tried to merge working and
- English Springer Spaniels (who are especially
notorious for having field-type Springers, and the extremely
different show-bred Springers)
- Border Collies (who are no longer immune to the
demands of the show ring – show-bred Borders look very much
different than their farm- or trial-bred cousins, are calmer,
and do not seem to have the intensity of “eye” the breed to
- Golden Retrievers (field-bred Goldens are very
different in drive – generally higher drive – than their
show-bred cousins. Also, physical appearance is quite different,
and generally smaller and lighter boned)
- Australian Shepherds (actually an American
breed, the farm type Aussie is MUCH different in looks and is
much smaller and lighter in bone than his show-bred cousin.
However, personal experience tells me that they are quite
similar in personality)
Our Collies come from a background as a
stock-keeper, as well as many
duties he was called upon to perform as an all-around farm dog.
Since the beginning of dog shows in the mid-1800s, written standards
of perfection were established for breeders to refer to as a guide.
However, these standards did not and could not provide guidance on
how to breed for a working dog. Without a means of testing the merit
of this working dog’s abilities, his instincts, his trainability and
his intelligence and strength of character how could they maintain
the very qualities that made a Collie a Collie??? Therein lies the
argument that is maintained until today across
working and sporting breeds – show dog versus working dog. Now that
we have moved more towards a highly urbanized society, there is much
less need for a stock dog and much less opportunity for us to test
the mettle of our dogs to ensure that who they are and what they are
is what we want to perpetuate for future generations. Few people
live on farms or have ready access to livestock for introductions,
training, testing or even trialing. However, at least we can still
test, train and trial our dogs in other working or sporting dog
capacities which can help demonstrate their intelligence,
trainability, sound temperament/disposition, etc. Activities such as
agility trials, animal-assisted therapy, obedience trials, Frisbee,
carting, water rescue, etc. The Collie is one of the most, if not
the most, versatile breed available!
In America, rough- and smooth-coated collies are
two varieties of the same breed. Is it too late to accept this idea
in Europe? Have the two types diverged too far on our continent to
make a union impossible?
I think that it can still be done. It would take
discerning breeders making good selections to help both varieties
(breeds) progress. As you know, I am a firm proponent of the
all-around Collie – a Collie who is structurally sound and of good
breed type, good genetic health, has retained working ability and
drive, intelligence, trainability, and the famous Collie character.
I don’t want a big hairy fob that has excessive
making him so impractical and difficult to groom for the average pet
owner that he is no longer popular with the general public. I also
do not want a head that is too long and lean (ridiculed by some as
“needle nose”), or a stovepipe muzzle with way too much out there!
Moderation is key.
And, several pet peeves of mine. Breeders, please
please be aware of the all important “critical periods” in a puppies
life. What you do or don’t do during these formative years has a
considerable impact on the future dog. Only breed intelligent,
trainable Collies! Please contact me if you need more information on
the critical periods, and how to manage them.
Here is a very nice illustration of a Rough and
Smooth Collie that could be used to illustrate the standard and
helps to demonstrate the similarities in the varieties. This is Ch.
Cul Mor’s Conspirator (Rough) and Ch. Cul Mor’s Kilcullen O’Ebonwood
(Smooth) from the cover of a book in my collection, The Smooth
Collie, Brother to the Rough, American Smooth Collie Association
(edited by Catherine Summy), c. 1967.
In Europe, many breeders of the two collie
breeds often show impatience with each other and don't want to hear
talk about reuniting under a single breed name, each claiming the
superiority of his or her breed. Is this best for their breed. What
would be the benefits of reunification?
I think it is very short-sighted not to consider
reunification of the Rough and Smooth Collies into a single breed as
they used to be! Here in the USA, they are simply 2 coat varieties
of the same breed. This has worked very well for over 100 years!!!
Geneticists state that all purebred dogs have become too inbred, and
that we need to have a broader gene pool base to select from. In the
UK, I understand that the Smooth Collie is now considered to be a
“vulnerable breed.” In 2010 alone only 54 Smooths were registered
with the UK. That is a worrisome number to me. How can you keep the
breed going, and how are you going to avoid excessive inbreeding?
Here in the USA, the quality of Smooth Collies is
generally at a high level. When judged at a conformation show, they
have nothing to hide with that short coat and it is quite apparent
physical merits are or are not. With the Roughs, of course you have
to really get your hands into the heavy coat to feel the structure
of the dog. A heavy coat can hide a lot of structural faults!
Selection of breeding partners should be on the physical and mental
aspects of the dog regardless of whether the dog is a Rough or
Another pet peeve of mine, but this time related to
the standard. I sometimes hear people say, “Oh, we don’t want to
dink around with the standard – it shouldn’t change.” But, YES, it
has changed my friends, and quite a lot over the past 130+ years!
Take, for instance, color. Color was “immaterial” in the original
and some subsequent standards. Who went and mucked it up by making
changes? And, just who decided to start calling us Rough and Smooth
Collies? Frankly, I think we should return to the name Scotch Collie
although our breed did have other names prior to that even.
We’ve really come a long way in breed improvement.
But the Collie remains an easily recognizable breed worldwide, and
shares his wonderful and unique character and sense of humour with