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Your Guide to Border Collie Coat Colours

Jana worked in animal welfare with abused and unwanted pets. She loves sharing her hands-on experience regarding domestic and wild critters.

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The Main Groups

Incredibly, over 20 coats exist (give or take the few odd ducks). Although Border Collie colouring is a bit more complex, for the sake of this article, they are divided into 3 main groups:

  • The white group
  • The tricolour group
  • The merle group

The White Group

Dogs in this category are not pure white animals. They have a solid colour and white markings on the face and legs. A good example is the image most people are familiar with—the classic black and white collie.

More Colours in This Group

  • Chocolate and white: A beautiful deep brown, which is also the reason why this coat colour is sometimes referred to as brown and white.
  • Red and white: A bright red; these dogs are often called golden or Australian reds.
  • Blue and white: This gorgeous dog has a top coat of steel blue.
  • Lilac and white: Lilac is a kind of silvery brown-blue (think of a Weimaraner and you're on the right track).
  • Sable and white: Sable is the name given to hair strands that are brown and black-tipped.
  • Seal and white: Seal occurs when genetics mess with sable; dogs with this coat vary from black to dark chocolate with an auburn tinge.

Delicious Chocolate

Chocolate collies never fail to attract attention with their deep and glossy colour.

Chocolate collies never fail to attract attention with their deep and glossy colour.

What Is Tricolour?

Technically, tricolour is not a colour. It's a pattern. Distinctive tan marks appear above the eyes, on cheeks, shoulders and legs. They follow a mirror-image pattern. In other words, each mark has an identical counterpart on the other half of the dog's body. For example, if the upper left leg has a tan patch, and only to a certain length and shape, it will be replicated on the right leg as well.

Tricolour is not unique to Border Collies and can be found in other breeds, including the Bull Terrier, Basset Hound and Corgi, to name but a few.

Identical Markings

This cozy chap is a good example of a tricolour collie. Note the identical way in which the tan markings appear on the left and right side.

This cozy chap is a good example of a tricolour collie. Note the identical way in which the tan markings appear on the left and right side.

Dogs in This Group

  • Black tricolour
  • Chocolate tricolour
  • Blue tricolour
  • Lilac tricolour

Magnificent Merle

Merle is a pedestrian stopper. Many owners walking their spotty beauties receive attention from strangers. Not only is this coat stunning, it's also more rare.

A merle dog doesn't have a solid saddle. Instead, the animal's body is white and covered in lines and splotches. What makes this coat so mesmerizing is the soft colours. All markings, as well as the dog's overall body colour are muted. Black dogs appear grey or blue. A red collie has its own pale version. To top it off, these dogs often gaze at admirers with eyes so blue, they'll make a Husky jealous.

The untrained eye can mistake heavy ticking for merle-colored dogs. However, here's an important rule to remember. The flecks, known as 'ticking', only appear on white markings (muzzle, chest, or legs). Merle patterns only appear on the coloured parts of the body (head, saddle area).

A Striking Coat Colour

Few forget their first encounter with a merle collie.

Few forget their first encounter with a merle collie.

Dogs in This Group

  • Blue merle
  • Blue tricolour merle
  • Chocolate merle
  • Chocolate tricolour merle
  • Slate merle
  • Slate tricolour merle
  • Lilac merle
  • Lilac tricolour merle
  • Red merle

The Double-Merle

Merle may be beautiful, but one kind is discouraged. The so-called 'double-merle' has a coat almost entirely white, with some splotching. There's nothing wrong with the animal's look, per se, but double-merles risk serious health problems, including failing eyesight and complete deafness. This can be devastating if the dog is a working collie.

Double-merle puppies are born exclusively from two merle parents. Each parent carry a single gene responsible for this coat colour, but a double-merle inherits a pair. Hence, the name and propensity for genetic problems.

Beautiful but at Risk

This is what a double-merle collie might look like. The body is all white, while the colour areas of the head display the merle pattern.

This is what a double-merle collie might look like. The body is all white, while the colour areas of the head display the merle pattern.

The Brindle Question

Some believe that the brindle Border Collie is a myth. Happily, they do exist. Several registered dogs with solid pedigrees that can attest to the fact that this coat colour is real. As far as things go, brindle collies proudly carry their stripes on dark saddles and sometimes on tan areas.

© 2019 Jana Louise Smit