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  • Writer's pictureAnna Ervin

Collies' Origins

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

Collies' Inherited Traits

Colorado Mountain Ranger and Autumn

Where did collies get their admirable traits of loyalty, intelligence, gentleness, and bravery? The answer can be found by understanding the collies' origins. The collie has been around for a very long time; therefore, it is hard to know where the collies' origin begins precisely. The farthest back the collies' origins have been traced is the conquest of Britain by the Romans. This conquest occurred about 1,979 years ago, and it is believed to be when the rough collie dog and the traits that are greatly admired today, began.

Collies' Ancestors

Colorado Mountain Cliff

The ancestor of the modern collie was a herding dog brought over with the Romans to Britain. This dog would have been quite different from the "Lassie Collie" envisioned today. Nevertheless, the collie was influenced by this ancient herding dog that was introduced into Britain. Marcus Terentius Varro, an ancient Roman author, wrote and described the traits of the Roman herding dogs. "The dog being the guardian of the flock, which needs such a champion to

defend it. Under this head come especially sheep but also goats, as these are the common prey of the wolf, and we use dogs to protect them." It is clear that the ancestor of the collie was a guardian to sheep and goats, protecting the animals put into their care.

Origin of Collies' Name

Autumn and Ranger's Puppy

The collies' name provides insight into the collies' British roots. Sources trace the word "Collie" as far back as the 1650s; however, there is some debate concerning the name's root. The American Kennel Club points out that the collies may have originated from the English word Coaly, which means "coal-black." However, other sources state that the name "collie" originated from Irish Gaelic, which in that language, collie means useful. Therefore, it's unclear if collie originated from coaly or derived from the Irish Gaelic word for "useful." A few interesting facts that might help to clarify the origins of the name is that the collie was a "product of the Highlands," as stated by Watson in his book, The Dog Book, and the collie was unique to Scotland until the 1860s.

Expansion of Collies

Colorado Mountain Pebbles

Collies were introduced into England when Queen Victoria fell in love with the breed during her visits to the highlands. The collies' introduction to England made the breed outstandingly famous because it allowed many people to see the many qualities of this beautiful, loyal and useful dog. The introduction of collies into England contributed to them becoming one of the most recognizable and popular breeds in the world.

Collies' Adaptation

Colorado Mountain Autumn

The Collies' ancestors wouldn't have been adapted to the climate of Britain because these dogs would have come from Italy. The change of environment would have presented an issue; therefore, for the dog to prosper in Britain, the Roman dogs would have "interbred with local dogs," creating a more vigorous and more adapted companion for the people of Britain, known as the collie. Collies have also adapted overtime to have a variety of different coats colors, lengths and markings. The collie that would've been seen rooming the highlands of Scotland would have been either tri or sable with white markings; however, the modern collie comes in white, tri, sable, merle and a mixture of the colors mentioned above. The collie was breed for protecting and herding sheep and goats. This trait has made the modern collie a wonderful family dog because it has carried down a very sweet and loyal disposition.

Worked Cited Page and URLs

 Presberg, C. (2015, July 15). The Origin of The Word "Collie". BC Museum: History. Retrieved February 17, 2022, from
Bradley, A. (2020, August 16). The collie dog family. Depend On Dogs. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from 
Breed of the Month. The Rough Collie. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2022, from
Collie breed profile. Continental Kennel Club Inc. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2022, from
Collie Dog Breed Information - American kennel club. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2022, from
National Purebred Dog Day®. (2017, February 25). The etymology of collie. National Purebred Dog Day®. Retrieved February 17, 2022, from
says:, L. F., & says:, A. (2019, August 23). Complete history of the collie, from ancient times to today. Old Time Farm Shepherd. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from
Timeline of the Romans in Britain. Historic UK. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2022, from
Varro, M. T. (37BCE). Varro: De Re rustica. LacusCurtius • Varro - De Re Rustica. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from 
Watson, J. (1906). Volume 1. In The Dog Book. essay, Heinemann.

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