- Height: 21-22 inches (male), 20-21 inches (female)
- Weight: 45-55 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
- Group: Herding Group
About the Bearded Collie
Standing 20 to 22 inches at the shoulder and covered head to tail in a shaggy double coat, Beardies bear a passing resemblance to another British favorite, the Old English Sheepdog. Beneath the coats, Beardies are the more lean and angular of the two. The lavish facial hair shouldn’t obscure the characteristic expression: a dreamy, faraway gaze.
These rambunctious comics can be a handful—but mostly, Beardies are approximately 50 pounds of heart, energy, and laughter. Well-socialized Beardies will get on nicely with other animals and kids. They bore easily, and training must be kept interesting. Outdoorsy families looking for a sturdy dog to share an uptempo lifestyle will never find a more affectionate and amusing sidekick.
Originally known by such names as the Highland Collie and Mountain Collie, Bearded Collies for centuries earned their feed on the Scottish Highlands as rugged herding and droving dogs prized by shepherds for the ability to do a hard day’s work amid Scotland’s raw climate and hilly terrain. Beardies were expected to help control cattle at pasture and drive the herd to market.
Origin stories vary. It was once believed that the Beardie is an ancient breed, predating the Roman conquest of Britain in the first century b.c. These days, the prevailing theory is that Beardies are descended from Central European stock, notably Polish Lowland Sheepdogs and Komondorok, brought to Scotland in the 1500s. As with most breeds utilized mostly by peasants and shepherds of the distant past, no definitive records of the Beardie’s creation have come down to us.
We do catch glimpses of the breed in paintings of the 1700s, a golden age of British portraiture. Such masters as Reynolds and Gainsborough included dogs recognizable as Beardies in portraits of well-heeled Scottish clients. This indicates that somewhere along the way the humble shepherd’s dog became a fashionable ornament of high society.
By the early 1800s the look and demeanor of the breed as we know it was set. In Victorian times they were popular on the Scottish show circuit, but the disruptions of World War I decimated the population of Beardies and other popular breeds. But you can’t keep a good breed down. Britain’s devoted breeders rebuilt the Beardie population in the years between the two world wars. The first litter of U.S. Beardies was born in 1967, the breed entered the AKC Stud Book 10 years later, and it was a charter member of the AKC Herding Group, formed in 1983.
The Bearded Collie should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
The Beardie grooming regimen consists of two parts. The first is a daily brushing to remove tangles and foreign matter, which shouldn’t take more than five or ten minutes, assuming the dog hasn’t gotten into something messy. The second part is a weekly session with a pin rake, brush, comb, and possibly anti-tangle spray to remove dead hair and return the coat to pristine condition. This generally takes a half-hour to an hour. As with all breeds, the Beardie’s nails should be trimmed regularly, because overly long nails can cause the dog pain as well as problems walking and running.
The Bearded Collie is an energetic, boisterous breed that requires a fair amount of outdoor exercise. Unlike many of their owners, Beardies are happy to run and play outside no matter what the weather. They need some sort of activity every day, whether playing ball; a long walk, run, or hike; or just playing in a large, fenced-in yard or other area with a companion, human or canine. And, of course, being bred to herd sheep, Beardies love to participate in athletic events such as herding, rally, agility, and obedience competitions. A busy Beardie is a happy Beardie.
As with all dogs, early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended. Gently exposing the puppy to a wide variety of people, places, and situations between the ages of seven weeks and four months will help him develop into a well-adjusted, well-mannered adult. Puppy training classes serve as part of the socialization process and help the owner learn to recognize and avert certain undesired behaviors that may be developing. Like many other Herding breeds, the Beardie was bred to work out in the field on his own without any direction from people. This independent (some would say stubborn) streak can make training a challenge, but patient owners will eventually succeed in winning over their Beardies using positive reinforcement – and lots of treats.
The Beardie is a sturdy breed, and responsible breeders screen their breeding stock for health conditions such as hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, autoimmune diseases, allergies, and eye problems. As with all breeds, a Beardie’s ears should be checked regularly to remove foreign matter and avoid a buildup of wax, and the teeth brushed daily.