The collie is a distinctive type of herding dog, including many related landraces and standardised breeds. The type originated in Scotland and Northern England. The collie is a medium-sized, fairly lightly built dog, with a pointed snout. Many types have a distinctive white pattern over the shoulders. Collies are very active and agile, and most types of collies have a very strong herding instinct. Collie breeds have spread through many parts of the world (especially Australia and North America) and have diversified into many varieties, sometimes with mixture from other dog types. Some collie breeds have remained as working dogs, used for herding cattle, sheep and other livestock, while others are kept as pets, show dogs or for dog sports, in which they display great agility, stamina and trainability. While the AKC has a breed they call “Collie”, in fact collie dogs are a distinctive type of herding dog including many related landraces and formal breeds. There are usually major distinctions between show dogs and those bred for herding trials or dog sports. They typically display great agility, stamina and trainability and more importantly sagacity.
Common use of the name “collie” in some areas is limited largely to certain breeds – such as to the Rough Collie in parts of the United States, or to the Border Collie in many rural parts of Great Britain. Many collie types do not actually include “collie” in their name.
Collies are generally medium-sized dogs of about 22 to 32 kg (48 to 70 lb) and light to medium-boned. Cattle-herding types are more stocky. The fur may be short, flat, or long, and the tail may be smooth, feathered, or bushy. Collies can have both naturally long or naturally bobbed tails. Some breed clubs historically dock the tail. The tail can be carried low with an upward swirl or twist or high over the back. The tail never curls at the base or touches the back. Each breed can vary in coloration, with the usual base colors being black, black-and-tan, red, red-and-tan, or sable. They often have white along with the main color, usually under the belly and chest, over the shoulders, and on parts of the face and legs, but sometimes leaving only the head colored – or white may be absent or limited to the chest and toes (as in the Australian Kelpie). Merle coloration may also be present over any of the other color combinations, even in landrace types. The most widespread patterns include sable, black-and-white, and tricolour (black-and-tan and white) also known as black sable.