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Working Out Your Mixed Breed Border Collie’s Ancestry

Mixed breed or cross breed dogs – or mongrels – make for great pets, and every one of them is of course unique and highly individual in both looks and temperament. Certain cross breeds are particularly popular in the UK, to the point that some of them are even more prolific in numbers than many pedigree breeds, such as the Cockapoo and Labradoodle.

Mixed breed dogs might originate from an unplanned mating, or as a deliberate, planned effort to produce a certain type of dog that possesses all of the best and most positive traits of their two parent breeds. However, unless you are told when you buy or adopt your dog what their ancestry is, this can be something of a guessing game, even if you know for sure one of the breeds involved.

The Border collie is a medium-sized dog breed that is popular as both a domestic pet and for working herding roles, and they are also a breed that can regularly be found making up one half of a cross breed dog’s ancestry. If you know that your dog is part Border collie but aren’t sure about the other side of their heritage, you might be interested to find out if there are any ways that you can find out what the other breed involved in the crossing was, and there are a few different things that can tip you off.

In this article we will share some tips on how to work out what type of dog your mixed breed Border collie’s other parent was, to enable you to better understand your dog’s core traits. Read on to learn more.

Appearance traits

Even when you compare two different dogs with the same two breeds of parent, the appearance of each dog might be quite different. Taking a big picture view to your dog’s appearance might give you clues to their ancestry, but individual traits too can often tip you off to your dog’s origins.

If you’re not already very familiar with the core appearance traits of Border collies, try to get to know them a little better so that you will be able to spot traits that might indicate the breed or breed type of the other half of your dog’s mix. Here are some of the things to look at:

  • Your dog’s tail: Is it a typical Border collie tail, or is it shorter, more curved, or otherwise unusual?
  • The ears: Are your dog’s ears triangular like the Border collie, or are they more rounded or perhaps longer and more floppy?
  • Looking at your dog’s face, does the length of their muzzle, their dentition or their eyes and head indicate the markers of another breed?
  • What type of coat colour and texture does your dog have, and does this have more in common with another breed than a Border collie?
  • How large is your dog? If they are markedly smaller or larger than the average Border collie, this may narrow down the options.
  • The physical build of your dog can help too – are they rather more muscular or leaner than a purebred Border collie?
  • Also, look for distinctive traits that are only found in a few dog breeds to narrow things down, such as double dewclaws or webbed feet.

Temperament traits

As well as having distinct physical differences, different dog breeds and types each have core temperament traits that will manifest in their preferences and behaviours. You should be able to narrow down certain traits that your dog possesses that don’t fall within the norms for Border collies, to help you to work out the type of breed involved in the crossing.

Here are some points to look out for:

  • Dog breeds used for watchdog and guarding roles will usually be alert, watchful and quite territorial.
  • Retrieving dog breeds are usually lively, friendly, outgoing and good natured, as well as very intelligent. They also love to play, and are quite food obsessed!
  • Terrier breeds have a high prey drive, and are usually lively, independent and often quite stubborn or one track minded.
  • Sighthounds are usually quite calm, affectionate and lazy, which can balance out some of the Border collie’s high energy levels.
  • Spaniel breeds are usually fun loving, outgoing, great to train and quite sensitive.

These points cover just a few of the most common universal traits of some different dog types, and there are many more to discover too. If your own Border collie mix seems to have a specific temperament trait that isn’t widely associated with the breed, do some research to find out what breeds are most commonly expected to possess it and narrow down your options from there.

Is it worth having your dog DNA tested?

If you’re determined to find out what breeds make up your own dog’s ancestry, you might want to consider having them DNA tested and following the scientific clues. While we usually associate DNA testing with identifying the markers of hereditary health conditions in dogs, there are also companies that offer a DNA testing service to identify your dog’s breed makeup.

Whether or not the results returned to you will be highly accurate is the matter of some debate, but if you feel that you already have a good idea of your dog’s breeding based on other clues, DNA testing can help to confirm or refute your ideas an provide a little more direction on what else to look for.


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