Bearded Collie

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Bearded Collie
Other namesHighland Collie
Mountain Collie
Hairy Mou'ed Collie
Common nicknamesBeardie
Height Males 53–56 cm (21–22 in)
Females 51–56 cm (20–22 in)
Weight 18–27 kg (40–60 lb)
Coat long double coat with furnishings
Colour black, blue, brown, or fawn with white or tan markings
Litter size 4-12 pups
Life span 13.9 years
Kennel club standards
The Kennel Club standard
Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The Bearded Collie, or Beardie, is a herding breed of dog once used primarily by Scottish shepherds,[1] but now mostly a popular family companion.

Bearded Collies have an average weight of 18–27 kilograms (40–60 lb). Males are around 51–56 centimetres (20–22 in) tall at the withers while females are around 51–53 centimetres (20–21 in) tall.[2]


Bearded Collie, circa 1915

The legend of the Bearded Collie's origin is that the ancestors of what is today the Polish Lowland Sheepdog were abandoned on the shores of Scotland, and these dogs then bred with native herding dogs.[3] A variant on this story is that Kazimierz Grabski, a Polish merchant, reportedly traded a shipment of grain for sheep in Scotland in 1514 and brought six Polish Lowland Sheepdogs to move them. A Scottish shepherd was so impressed with the herding ability of the dogs that he traded several sheep for several dogs.[4] The Polish sheepdogs were bred with local Scottish dogs to produce the Bearded Collie.[5]

The first written reference to the Bearded Collie occurs in 1891,[6] when D.J. Thomson Gray describes them in his book The Dogs of Scotland as

A big, rough, ‘tousy’ looking tyke, with a coat not unlike a doormat, the texture of the hair hard and fibry, and the ears hanging close to the head.

It is generally agreed that Mrs. G. Olive Willison founded the modern show Bearded Collie in 1944 with her brown bitch, Jeannie of Bothkennar.[7] Jeannie was supposedly a Shetland Sheepdog, but Mrs. Willison received a Bearded Collie by accident. She was so fascinated by the dog that she wanted to begin breeding, so she began searching for a dog for Jeannie. While walking along the beach, Mrs. Willison met a man who was emigrating from Scotland; she became the owner of his grey dog, David, who became Bailie of Bothkennar.[6]

Bailie and Jeannie of Bothkennar are the founders of the modern show breed;[5] there are only a few other registrable blood lines, preserved in large part by the perseverance of Mr. Nicolas Broadbridge (Sallen) and Mrs. Betty Foster (Bredon). These are based on Turnbull's Blue—a Bearded Collie from pure working stock, registered in ISDS when ISDS still registered non-Border Collies. He sired three litters of registerable Bearded Collies.[citation needed]

While the registered breed lines can be traced to a limited number of bloodlines, there are still many unregistered Bearded Collies in Scotland, some still working as herding dogs.[6]

The breed became popular during the last half of the 20th century—propelled, in part, by Potterdale Classic at Moonhill, a Bearded Collie who won Best in Show at Crufts in 1989. The Bearded Collie Club celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2005.[citation needed]

As pets[edit]

A Bearded Collie with a toy rope.

The Bearded Collie ranks 117 out of 175 breeds in popularity in the United States, according to the American Kennel Club's yearly breed ranking.[8] A Bearded Collie is best obtained from a reputable breeder or a dog rescue.[9][10] There are Breaded Collie rescue associations, such as Bearded Collie Rescue[11] and "Rescue Me".

Bearded Collies make excellent pets for those willing to accommodate their high energy level - they are very enthusiastic and have a bouncy nature. They also require regular grooming; weekly brushing is mandatory for keeping their long hair mat-free. Some Bearded Collie owners opt to keep their pets in a "puppy cut" haircut, which reduces the need for brushing. Bearded Collies are an energetic breed, originally intended to work in the Scottish Highlands herding sheep; they also excel at treibball,[12] dog agility and Obedience trials.[citation needed]

Working life[edit]

A Bearded Collie herding sheep.

The Bearded Collie is used to herd both sheep and cattle. It is essentially a working dog—bred to be hardy and reliable, able to stand up to the harshest conditions and the toughest sheep. The working Bearded Collie has become less common in the last few decades and risked dying out; however, thanks to the efforts of a few shepherds like Tom Muirhead and Peter Wood, the "working Beardie" has survived and is becoming more popular. It has been exported to Australia and the United States, and finds favour among those looking for an independent and intelligent sheepdog. The Working Bearded Collie Society's mission is to preserve the working abilities of non-registered working dogs from "bearded" ancestors.[citation needed]

The KC-registered Bearded Collie has fallen into disfavour with the shepherds of Wales, Scotland and elsewhere because of the show-breeding community's lack of interest in producing "hardy and reliable" animals; show-bred lines tend to develop excessive coats, in particular. However, in some countries (notably Sweden and the United States) herding programmes have been developed for the breed. The breed organisations in those countries actively encourage breeders to emphasise qualities other than appearance.[citation needed]

The Bearded Collie may have earned its nickname "bouncing beardie" because the dogs would work in thick underbrush on hillsides; they would bounce to catch sight of the sheep. Bearded Collies also have a characteristic way of facing a stubborn ewe, barking and bouncing on the forelegs. A typical Bearded Collie is an enthusiastic herding dog which requires structure and care; it moves stock with body, bark and bounce as required. Very few Bearded Collies show "eye" when working; most are upright.[citation needed]

Herding instincts and tractability can be assessed in noncompetitive herding tests. Bearded Collies exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.[13]


A three-year-old Bearded Collie in Scotland.

The size of an average litter is seven pups.[citation needed]


A 2024 UK study found a life expectancy of 13.9 years for the breed compared to an average of 12.7 for purebreeds and 12 for crossbreeds.[14]

Leading causes of death amongst Bearded Collies in a 2004 Kennel Club survey were old age (26%), cancer (19%), cerebrovascular disease (9%), and chronic kidney failure (8%).[15]


Further existing breed dispositions of the Bearded Collie include: Dermatological conditions, such as pemphigus foliaceous and black skin disease, follicular dysplasia, musculoskeletal conditions such as congenital elbow luxation, ocular conditions, such as corneal dystrophy, cataract and generalized progressive retinal atrophy (GPRA).[16]


Hypoadrenocorticism (also known as Addison's disease) is an inherited disease in Bearded Collies, although the mechanism of inheritance is not known.[17] It occurs when the adrenal cortex produces insufficient glucocorticoid and/or mineralocorticoid hormones. It affects approximately 2–3.4% of Bearded Collies in the USA/Canada,[18] and causes the death of at least 1% of Bearded Collies in the UK.[19] These are much higher percentages than for the general dog population (0.1%), and hypoadrenocorticism causes a disproportionate number of deaths among young dogs.[18]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The role of Nana in the original production of the James Barrie play Peter Pan was performed by a Bearded Collie.[citation needed]
  • A Bearded Collie named Coal[20] featured in the 2006 film The Shaggy Dog starring Tim Allen.[21] This film involves Dave who turns into one after getting bitten by a sacred dog.
  • Ralphie, a Bearded Collie, appears in the 2009 film Hotel for Dogs.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joyce., Collis (1992). The complete bearded collie. Jones, Pat. New York: Howell Book House. ISBN 087605131X. OCLC 25245755.
  2. ^ "Bearded Collie: Dog Breed Selector: Animal Planet". Animal Planet. Retrieved 3 November 2011.
  3. ^ FCI Breed Standard
  4. ^ "NZKC - Breed Standard - Bearded Collie". New Zealand Kennel Club. Retrieved 3 November 2011.
  5. ^ a b Wilcox, Bonnie (1989). Atlas of dog breeds of the world. Internet Archive. Neptune City, N.J. : T.F.H. Publications. ISBN 978-0-86622-899-2.
  6. ^ a b c "History of the Bearded Collie". Bearded Collie Club of America. 2012-10-09. Retrieved 2024-04-10.
  7. ^ "Brambledale Bearded Collies | True Beardie Type?". Retrieved 2016-05-19.
  8. ^ Stephen Smith (2016-02-22). "Most Popular Dog Breeds in America - American Kennel Club". Archived from the original on 2007-07-16. Retrieved 2016-05-19.
  9. ^ "Breeders | Bearded Collie Club of America". 9 October 2012. Retrieved 2016-05-19.
  10. ^ "How to Find a Good Dog Breeder : The Humane Society of the United States". Archived from the original on November 22, 2009. Retrieved January 6, 2010.
  11. ^ "Rescue | Bearded Collie Club of America". 6 October 2012. Retrieved 2016-05-19.
  12. ^ "Treibball". YouTube. 2007-08-28. Retrieved 2016-05-19.
  13. ^ Hartnagle-Taylor, Jeanne Joy; Taylor, Ty (2010). Stockdog Savvy. Alpine Publications. ISBN 978-1-57779-106-5.
  14. ^ McMillan, Kirsten M.; Bielby, Jon; Williams, Carys L.; Upjohn, Melissa M.; Casey, Rachel A.; Christley, Robert M. (2024-02-01). "Longevity of companion dog breeds: those at risk from early death". Scientific Reports. 14 (1). Springer Science and Business Media LLC. doi:10.1038/s41598-023-50458-w. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 10834484.
  15. ^ Adams, V. J.; Evans, K. M.; Sampson, J.; Wood, J. L. N. (2010-10-01). "Methods and mortality results of a health survey of purebred dogs in the UK". Journal of Small Animal Practice. 51 (10): 512–524. doi:10.1111/j.1748-5827.2010.00974.x.
  16. ^ Gough, Thomas (2008). Breed predispositions to disease in dogs and cats. Oxford, UK: Wiley. p. 23. ISBN 978-1405107488. OCLC 53231203.
  17. ^ Scott-Moncrieff, JC (2014). "Chapter 12: Hypoadrenocorticism". In Feldman, EC; Nelson, RW; Reusch, CE; Scott-Moncrieff, JCR (eds.). Canine and feline endocrinology (4th ed.). Saunders Elsevier. pp. 485–520. ISBN 978-1-4557-4456-5.
  18. ^ a b "1996 Bearded Collie Health Survey. Presented as part of the BCCA Health Committee Annual Report for 1997–1998. (But report suggests survey was not sponsored by BCCA. Not clear exactly who to cite.). Although called a 1996 health survey, the data apparently come from surveys submitted in 1997 and 1998". Archived from the original on August 13, 2007. Retrieved July 22, 2007.
  19. ^ "Purebred Breed Health Survey 2004 • The Kennel Club". Archived from the original on 2013-08-13. Retrieved 2016-05-19.
  20. ^ Chang, Justin (5 March 2006). "The Shaggy Dog". Variety. Retrieved 2017-11-03.
  21. ^ Smith, Neil (27 March 2006). "BBC - Movies - review - The Shaggy Dog". Retrieved 2017-11-03.

External links[edit]