Jump to content
BC Boards

Recommended Posts

Right off the top of my head:

AKC  = more awareness of the breed (via televised dog shows like National Dog Show, Westminster, etc.)

More televised dog sports that usually have border collies (i.e. disc dog, agility, etc.)

Commercials - hard not to see at least one commercial with a border collie in it any given evening of television-watching.

Movies - wasn't there a surge after Babe came out?

Will the surge harm the breed?  Absolutely.  History tell us this.  Ask the Dalmatian people who live in fear every 6 years or so when 101 Dalmatians is re-released.  Ask the German Shepherd people.  When a breed gains popularity, the breed usually suffers. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Popularity has led to the demise of many breeds, and the Border Collie is facing the same fate.  However, this is not a recent occurrence.   Historically, Border Collies were bred for one reason, their work with livestock.  A few decades ago,  as their popularity grew, Border Collies started being bred for the show ring, for dog sports, for fancy colors,  for pets, etc.   Is this harming the breed?   Absolutely.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another contributing factor, in my mind, are all the studies that list the Border Collie as the smartest dog.  
When I was in rescue, I can't tell you how many calls I got from people who had never had one.  When I would ask them why they wanted a Border Collie, they almost always said it was because they read that Border Collies are the smartest breed.  I then told them about living with a dog that is perhaps smarter than you are, and how hard you have to work to keep ahead of them.  And how much you should be doing with them.  Most people just want to "have" a dog but not work with it.  They want bragging rights that their dog is smarter than everyone else's.  I didn't hear back from most of those people, thank goodness.


Kathy Robbins

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As Nancy has said, this didn't start recently. When I got my first border collie 40 years ago most people I ran into didn't even know what they were (most assumed they were "miniature Collies" aka Shetland sheepdogs).

Then, almost simultaneously in the early '90s came what we've come to call the Dog Wars* with the AKC over their recognizing border collies for conformation showing (they were formally recognized in '95), Stanley Coren's book The Intelligence of Dogs (1994), and the movie Babe in '95, all of which brought a lot of attention to the breed. Unfortunately, it ended up being disastrous for the working breed that we love.

Coren's book was considerably more nuanced than the list of breeds ranked in order of "intelligence" that was contained in it. The media reported the rankings, which placed border collies as the most intelligent breed of dog, almost exclusively without mentioning that much of what Coren used to determine the rankings had as much or more to do with the breeds' trainability and other characteristics than it did with innate intelligence or even problem solving ability. He discussed those and other measures in the book, noting than many of the low ranking dogs on his intelligence scale were indeed highly intelligent in many ways but were more difficult to train (or, actually, less interested in working in partnership with people, which made them less responsive to training). That information was rarely (if ever) included in the sensationalized announcements of (often the 5 or 10) most intelligent breeds of dogs that still pop up with annoying frequency.

Babe caught a lot of people's attention with its endearing talking animals and made the breed seem appealing to families.

And finally, after many years during which the AKC and the working border collie world enjoyed a mutually agreeable arrangement whereby the border collie was parked indefinitely in a category that didn't allow for full recognition but did permit people to compete in AKC sanctioned dog sports (which was pretty much only Obedience Trials at the time), a small group of people who wanted to show border collies in conformation and didn't have much interest in livestock started their own club and petitioned the AKC for full recognition.

It was at about this time that agility and then other dog sports were becoming popular and also that the AKC began to become interested in expanding its list of recognized breeds (with a resulting increase in income through registration fees) and the newly formed "parent club" for border collies eventually succeeded in it's quest for full AKC registration. So with most Americans unquestionably believing the AKC to be the authority on all things purebred dogs, a media frenzy highlighting border collies as the most intelligent breed of dogs (which most people wrongly equated with being easy to own) and a new and greatly expanded interest in dog sports ready made for highly competitive Type-A personalities, border collies seemed to fit just about everybody's bill and their popularity took off exponentially in a rise that hasn't abated even today.

Now, instead of being the breed that few people had even heard about, it was the one that everyone wanted. And all sorts of people had all sorts of various reasons for breeding that had nothing to do with the original purpose and intent the breed was developed for -- and little understanding that the very characteristics that make border collies the premier herding breed in the world is genetically extremely fragile. And so we now have Border Collies (capital B, capital C) that bear only marginal resemblance in appearance and talent to the working border collies (lower case b and c) that made vast tracts of marginal land economically viable in the area where they were first developed.

For the people whose livelihoods are dependent on a superior livestock working dog or who otherwise love them for their unique border collieness (to borrow your term), after the ruckus died down not much has changed other than that most of us stay out of the fray and keep doing what they were doing all along, though they might have to do more legwork to weed out the imposters when making breeding and purchasing decisions. For the other breed of dog (yes, AKC show bred Border Collies are now a genetically distinct breed) that is the same in name only, most of us belonging to the first group would agree that it's harmed the breed. If what defines a border collie is its innate ability to work sheep and other livestock and that's been at best watered down, or worse completely lost, then is it the same breed? Many of the so called Border Collies parading around the show rings are easily recognizable from the working dog at first sight. If not then, then the moment they're put to sheep the difference becomes clear that the vast majority are mere shadows of the dogs whose name and history they're masquerading as. It's not much different for the dogs specifically bred for non-traditional working "herding" dog sports that even if they're registered with one of the working registries are often pretty different in both physical appearance and temperament than their working cousins. There's a reason the differently bred dogs are often referred to as Barbie Collies or Sporter Collies to distinguish them from working border collies.


*BTW, if you haven't already read it, you might want to see if you can find a copy of Donald McCaig's The Dog Wars, published in 2007 and AFAIK still available new in paperback. You'd asked in another post what border collie culture is and this is a great way to learn more (along with Donald's other books about border collies, both fiction and nonfiction).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That is a great answer Gentle Lake!

:ph34r::lol: That is basically how I was introduced to border collies. My mom who is NOT a good fit for a border collie got a border collie puppy from a cattle farm since they are the smartest breed. My sister and I ended up having to train the border collie. My Mom realized she was not a good fit and sent the border collie to live with my brothers in Montana. My sister then got a border collie puppy who was perfect. I then got Cressa and have ever since been addicted. Before my mom getting one I didn’t know anything about border collies. Like what is ABCA is that even a real registry why isn’t she AKC.  :blink: 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My introduction to the Border Collie breed was the Footrot Flats comic by Murray Ball from New Zealand.  I read the comic from childhood, owned some of the books, loved the movie.  Then ended up with my very own Dog.  I defy anyone to tell me Oscar was not the spitting image.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...