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Why Are Border Collies Black and White?

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It is not exactly clear why border collies are black and white. However, because they were bred originally to be a working farm dog, it is believed that white may have been selected so that they are easier to see at night in the moonlight. This pattern also provides camouflage from predators.

Despite the many theories, one thing is for certain: these dogs have a uniqueness that makes them stand out amongst other breeds.

It’s All About Herding?

The name of the breed comes from the border between England and Scotland. These dogs were used for herding sheep and cattle, which is why they did not need to be fast or agile like other dogs in order to keep up with their shepherds.

As to why all border collies are black and white, well, no one really knows! There is evidence that it may be due to breeding practices during hunting seasons or regional depictions of the breed in literature.

An online discussion group for people who work with sheep (including those who have border collies as pets) said that a black and white dog is easier to spot against a black and white background, which is the landscape that sheepherders usually have to work in. The dogs ward off the sheep in order to help the shepherd round them up during shearing times.

Others say that there were no other colors available when these dogs were being bred, and so the color pattern was “invented.” I have not been able to find any real documentation on this, though.

When my dog was a puppy I was told that her coloring provided good camouflage in the field of tall grass where she played as a pup. We first noticed her white markings after she had been in the field for six months. She really stood out in a sea of black and white sheep.

The Weather Theory

Some think that coloring may not have been selected because border collies are sheepherders but rather they are the result of where these dogs live.

In areas with colder temperatures, brown and cream colors were invisible on the sheep’s wool in the snowy fields. By contrast, in warmer climates, white dogs had an advantage because their hair seemed to attract more sunlight and their skin did not turn dark from sun exposure like the darker-haired dogs of other breeds.

What About the Eyes?

This could also be what gave Border Collies their other dual colors, such as blue eyes. When they became popular back in the 1800s, many breeders were unaware of these natural colors.

A Woman Holding a Young Blue-Eyed Border Collie

Are Border Collies Always Black and White?

Border Collies are not always black or white but black and white is their most common color. They also come in other colors like liver and white, cream, blue (which is very rare but possible), and chocolate. But those colors are rare.

Case in point, the famous dog Meg from the “Lassie” movies was a tricolored border collie.

Many border collies also have brown ears, paws, and noses in addition to the other markings that make up their entire body. However, there are some adult border collies who continue to grow white patches into their fur later on in life. My border collie is now 8 and is much “grayer” than she was a couple of years ago.

It’s obvious that these dogs have a certain amount of uniqueness that makes them stand out amongst other dogs. Their great nose and remarkable intelligence, for example.

Border-Collie-With-One-Blue-Eye

What Is the Rarest Border Collie Color?

Border collies come in a wide range of colors. When it comes to rareness. lilac, sable, and blue are least likely to ever be found in a purebred dog. With that, it seems to be at the top of the list of most uncommon colors for this breed.

The most common colors are black and white, black tri-color, red with some white markings, and red tri-color.

Is a Tri-Color Border Collie Rare?

A tri-color border collie is a cross between any of the following registered colors: sable and white, blue merle, red merle, or red.

A red border collie is a cross between a black and white dog, but it’s not uncommon for them to be born all in red like the dog below. A tri-color border collie is a cross between any of the registered colors of the breed. They are rare because they aren’t selectively bred like other colors.

Tri-color dogs are not very uncommon in the world of purebreds. They’re not as rare as a purebred red border collie but there are a few that have been found over the years

It’s possible to get a variation of black and white, although it’s rarer than the occasional blue and cream spotted white coloration of this breed.

How Many Colors Do Border Collies Have?

Border Collies have the usual black and white, but also come in a variety of other colors.

There are also chocolate, lilac (light gray), fawn (a brownish-tan), cream (yellowish white), and onyx (solid black). They all share the same head pattern as the black and white dog so it’s hard to tell them apart from appearance alone.

Other variations, although not as common, include sable (brown mixed with either black or red), brindle (the same as dogs), blue merles, blue dog and cream.

Can a Border Collie Be All White?

Yes: but it occurs very rarely.

The most important factor in determining if a dog can be all white is the genetic makeup of the pup. Some litters produce all white pups more than others. It is possible to use a gray gene to produce an all-white dog but you would need to mate a white female with a gray male to get this effect. A blue merle dam (blue on top of the head) will also give you an all-white pup if she produces one or more blue merles in her litter.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Border Collie and an Australian Shepherd?

Border collies and Australian Shepherds are both long in length but Border Collies are taller or longer than they are wide. They also have a long nose.

Aussies tend to be the same width as they are long, and have short ears while Border Collies have ears that hang down and are usually born black, then shed out white at around 1 year old.

To be exact Aussies are medium to large size dogs. They are usually grey, white with dark grey and sometimes black markings on their coat. Their head is wide and square-shaped when standing upright they have a long muzzle which makes them look like sheepdogs.

Border Collies are a more popular breed and come in different color combinations like sable, blue merle, red merle, red or cream merle.

Final Thoughts

While not all border collies are black and white, every single one of them is as smart as a whip. They are an absolute pleasure to own and I’m not sure I can ever go back to any other breed again. There is just something about them and I think they are the most enjoyable breed on the planet. Of course, I’m a bit biased.

For more, check out Why Are Border Collies Smart? (And How to Make Them Smarter).

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