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A dog bred originally for herding, the Smooth Collie is the short-coated version of the well-known Rough Collie of which ‘Lassie’ was one. Many breed organisations consider the long or rough-coated, and the Smooth Collie to be one in the same breed.
The subject of much speculation, the history of the Smooth Collie is somewhat murky, with the most common theory being that they are descended from Scottish herding animals that were originally bred from Roman dogs in the fifth century.
The origins of the breed’s name are also the subject of much debate. While some experts think the word ‘Collie’ is a derivative of the of the word ‘coaly’ – a reference to the dog’s original, dark colouring, other breeders think that the dog is named after the sheep it used to herd known as ‘colley’. Others think the word is taken from an Anglo-Saxon term meaning ‘useful’, while there may also be a link to the Gaelic / Irish words for ‘doggie’ which are càilean and cóilean.
The more recent history of the Rough and Smooth Collies began during the reign of Queen Victoria, when she showed an interest in the herding dogs used on the farms and estate of Balmoral. She purchased a number of the dogs for her own kennel and in doing so guaranteed the popularity of the Smooth Collie. The rise in numbers of Smooth Collies led to the breed’s development as a pet and showing animal.
In the US the Smooth and Rough Collie are considered the same breed and are often inter-bred. Interestingly, even the UK Kennel Club allowed interbreeding between the Rough and Smooth Collies until 1993.
Average height to withers: 24” – 26” (dogs) 22” – 24” (bitches)
Average weight: 20 – 34kg
The Smooth Collie is a large dog that is slightly longer than it is tall. The breed boasts a level back, a deep chest and a ‘sweet’ face that is considered vital for the show ring. With a flat-ish skull and a long muzzle, the Smooth has slightly erect ears which begin slightly bent and tapered when the dog is a puppy and end up erect in the adult dog.
The collie has a soft, dense undercoat and straight, coarse guard hairs that are a couple of inches in length – slightly longer around the ruff of the neck and the backs of the legs.
The breed is accepted in four colourways: sable (the same as Lassie), which can cover all colours between light honey to mahogany; tricolour – black with tan and white markings; blue merle which is a silvery blue with black and/or sable markings and sable merle – a lightly ‘stippled’ version of the standard sable. White is occasionally seen, but this is normally a white coat that will carry some black, merle or sable spots.
Many Smooths have blue or sable eyes, which many people find attractive and unusual in a dog.
The Smooth Collie is in many ways the perfect family dog. They are easily trained and very sociable animals. They are not generally aggressive, but they may be vocal and alert. If they are trained effectively they can make excellent guard dogs, but they may become irritating if allowed to bark continuously.
As with all herding breeds the Smooth Collie needs regular and plentiful exercise and its intelligence and willingness to please means it’s easy to train, although care should be taken when disciplining them as they are a sensitive breed. They are good with children and other animals and get on well with other dogs as long as they are socialised from an early age. When trained they make excellent agility, herding, obedience and sport animals. Smooth Collies also make great assistance dogs and some are still used as working dogs.
For its size the Smooth is a long-lived breed, but like most types there are certain conditions that affect some animals within the breed. Collie eye anomaly is the name for a range of issues that affect these breeds that range from problems with blood vessels in the eye, to blind spots and detached retinas. Indeed, the problem is so prevalent within the collie breeds that those dogs without eye problems are uncommon.
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) can also affect collies and involves the gradual degradation of the retina which eventually leads to blindness. Many of the symptoms of PRA do not appear until the animals are in middle age or older.
Multi-drug sensitivity can also occur in collie types and can sometimes prove fatal. Reactions can occur with very common treatments, for instance Invermectin, which is a popular treatment for worms and mites. Thanks to advances in medical technology however, a blood test can now be used to detect this sensitivity.
Smooth Collies have also presented with epilepsy and gastric torsion or ‘bloat’, an often fatal condition involving the twisting of the stomach that can present in larger, deep-chested dogs.
The coat of the Smooth Collie should be brushed thoroughly once a week – more frequently when the dog sheds, which will be twice a year. As a very intelligent animal, the Smooth will require training from an early age to keep his mind occupied. He will also need plenty of walks in order to keep him physically stimulated. These are dogs that are perfect for sports that combine mental and well as physical effort, such as agility and obedience and will really enjoy their work.
As well as being a clever, active animal, the Smooth Collie makes a fantastic family pet. His sociable, friendly nature will ensure he quickly becomes a very important and much-loved member of the family. They are not dogs to leave for long periods of time as they are prone to bark so may not be suitable for families where the adults work full time.