The Breed History
An ancient British Isles breed, this Collie may have blood from a variety of stock such as Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Magyar Komondor, and sheep herding dogs of the Isles. Though they do not look like the traditional "collie" image, the name collie merely implies being a sheep dog. Little is in the record until the start of the 1800s for this breed. They came to North America in the 1950s, but were not registered in the AKC until 1976.
Breeding for Function
Bred for herding independently, these dogs also excel at competitive agility and obedience sports. They are excellent drivers and caretakers of livestock. They are particularly suited to working in cold, damp conditions over rough ground. They were also selected for companionship later in breed development.
Height at Withers: female 20-21" (51-53 cm), male 21-22" (53-56 cm).
Weight: females 40-60 lb (18-27 kg), males 40-60 lb (18-27 kg).
Coat: They are double-coated and the outer coat is harsh and flat. No coat trimming is allowed for showing. Black, fawn, blue, brown with or without white markings are the accepted colors, and coats are characteristically thick and shaggy. Coats usually lighten as they mature, then darken and then fade once again as the dog ages.
Longevity: 12-14 years.
Points of Conformation: Medium-sized, they have an athletic build, and their alert inquisitive expression is a feature of the breed. The head is broad with moderate stop, the nose is large and eyes are widely set. Color of nose and eyes are in harmony with the haircoat. Prominent brows frame their large eyes, and their beard is also well developed. Medium-sized ears are pendulous and hairy. The medium neck is slightly arched, topline is level, and the thorax is deep but not broad. The tip of the tail reaches to the tarsus, and is carried low and curved. Feet are oval and toes well arched. Gait is long and straight.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
These dogs are noted for their level temperament and high intelligence. These dogs require a lot of exercise and grooming. They can be independent, sometimes a bit stubborn perhaps, but make an exceptional pet for the right owner. They are also reported to be loving, active (bouncy is a word commonly used), and friendly. They have a strong chase instinct, so should not run off-leash out of an enclosure. They like close contact with their family. They are strong alarm barkers and very loyal. Early training and socialization are important. Exercise should include lots of play to help keep them fit and mentally challenged. They may try to herd children by nipping at heels.
Normal Physiologic Variations
This breed is slow to mature. Beardies may be sensitive to loud noises.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 6.1% affected.
Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison's disease): Immune mediated destruction of the adrenal gland. Typical presentation of lethargy, poor appetite, vomiting, weakness, and dehydration can occur from 4 months to several years of age. Controlled by a major recessive gene, but not a simple recessive disorder. Estimated heritability of 0.76. Estimated at a frequency of 2% to 3.4% in the breed. Treatment with DOCA injections or oral fludrocortisone.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 2.6% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Bearded Collies have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Cataracts: Anterior or posterior punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Identified in 4.53% of Bearded Collies CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Bearded Collie with a cataract.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 4.35% of Bearded Collies CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 4.3% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%). Reported at a frequency of 5.9% in the 1996 BCCA Health Survey.
Retinal Dysplasia: Multifocal and geographic retinal dysplasia. Can cause retinal hemorrhage, retinal detachment, and blindness. Can also be related to subendothelial corneal opacities. Unknown mode of inheritance. Identified in 1.6% of Bearded Collies CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Corneal Dystrophy: A non-inflammatory corneal opacity (white to gray) present in one or more of the corneal layers; usually inherited and bilateral. Unknown mode of inheritance. Identified in 1.33% of Bearded Collies CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Choroidal Hypoplasia: Inadequate development of the choroid present at birth and non-progressive. This condition is more commonly identified in the Collie breed where it is a manifestation of "Collie Eye Anomaly". CERF does not recommend breeding any Bearded Collies affected with the disorder. No genetic test is available in the breed. Identified in 1.15% of Bearded Collies CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Seasonal Flank Alopecia: Seasonal, bilateral, symmetrical alopecia affecting the flank, dorsum and tail.
Primary Lens Luxation: Occurs at an increased frequency in the breed. Often progresses to secondary glaucoma and blindness. Reported relative risk of 4.48x versus other breeds.
Pemphigus Foliaceus: There is a significantly higher risk of developing pemphigus foliaceus versus other breeds. Typical lesions include dorsal muzzle and head symmetric scaling, crusting, and alopecia with peripheral collarettes, characteristic footpad lesions, with erythematous swelling at the pad margins, cracking, and villous hypertrophy. Average age of onset is 4 years. Treatment with corticosteroid and cytotoxic medications. One-year survival rate of 53%. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy: Disorder causing loss of toenails. Onset between 3-8 years of age, affecting 1-2 nails, then progressing to all toenails within 2-9 weeks. Requires lifelong treatment with oral fatty acid supplementation. Multiple affected Bearded Collies have been identified indicating a breed prevalence, but there is no known mode of inheritance.
Brachygnathism, Cleft Lip/Palate, Cryptorchidism, Epilepsy, Oligodontia, Patent Ductus Arteriosus, Prognathism, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Subaortic Stenosis, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, and von Willebrand's Disease are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Black Hair Follicular Dysplasia: Identified in one litter of Bearded Collies. Congenital breaking off and loss of black hairs. Total hair loss (of black hairs) by 6-9 months. No treatment is available. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Ectopic Hepatocellular Carcinoma: An ectopic focus of hepatic tissue with associated hepatocellular carcinoma was identified in the greater omentum of a 14-year-old neutered male Bearded Collie.
Tests of Genotype: none
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC certification: Required testing includes hip radiographs, CERF eye examination (each year until 5, then every 2 years), and thyroid profile including autoantibodies (each year until 5, then every 2 years). Optional recommended tests include elbow radiographs. Recommend patella evaluation and cardiac evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Beardie, Highland Collie (historical), Mountain Collie (historical), Hairy Mou'ed Collie (historical) Highland Sheepdog (historical)
- Registries: AKC, CKC, UKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 109 (383 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Bearded Collie Club of America: www.beardie.net/bcca
Bearded Collie Club of Canada: http://bccc.pair.com
Bearded Collie Club (UK): www.beardedcollieclub.co.uk
BeaCon For Health: Bearded Collie Foundation for Health: www.beaconforhealth.org
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