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Border Collie Coat, Colors, and Markings

A short guide with photos to information on the Border Collie coats, colors, and markings!

From the AKC Breed Standard:

Two varieties are permissible, both having close-fitting, dense, weather resistant double coats with the top coat either straight or wavy and coarser in texture than the undercoat which is soft, short and dense. The rough variety is medium in length without being excessive. Forelegs, haunches, chest and underside are feathered and the coat on face, ears, feet, fronts of legs is short and smooth. The smooth variety is short over entire body, is usually coarser in texture than the rough variety and may have slight feathering on forelegs, haunches, chest and ruff. Neither coat type is preferred over the other. Seasonal shedding is normal and should not be penalized. The Border Collie's purpose as an actively working herding dog shall be clearly evident in its presentation. Excess hair on the feet, hock and pastern areas may be neatened for the show ring. Whiskers are untrimmed. Dogs that are overly groomed (trimmed and/or sculpted) should be penalized according to the extent.



The Border Collie appears in all colors or combination of colors and/or markings. Solid color, bi-color, tri-color, merle and sable dogs are to be judged equally with no one color or pattern preferred over another. White markings may be clear white or ticked to any degree. Random white patches on the body and head are permissible but should not predominate. Color and markings are always secondary to physical evaluation and gait.


While everyone thinks of your classic, traditional black and white Border Collies, they actually come in a wide range of colors! Below I am posted photos with short descriptions, as simple as I can keep it without getting into big genetic terms for anyone not familiar with them!
Please note--- all text and images on this page are property of & copyright to Danielle Nichols of Ammardan Border Collies or used by me with permission. You may not copy, distribute or reproduce without my written permission!


The tradition black. Black is a dominant color and will always be produced unless other color genes are carried by both parents.

Blue Merle. The merle is a modifying gene that causes the merle pattern. It is a pattern acting on any color base (ie: genetically a blue merle is a black dog, or a red merle is a red dog with the modified pattern breaking up the color). The merle can come in endless shades and patterns. It is a dominant gene, meaning it will produce merle no matter what dog it is bred to. It is NOT a recessive/carried gene, one parent must be merle to produce merle. You MUST avoid breeding Merle to Merle. There are many health issues that come along with breeding 2 merle dogs together, specifically blindness and deafness. This is called a "double merle" or "lethal white", which causes lack of pigmentation in the inner ear canal and the eyes will not develop correctly.

Another shade/pattern of Blue Merle.

Brown (Red or Chocolate). There can be some confusion in this color name depending on who you talk to. In the working Border Collie world it is called "red" and in the show world it is called "chocolate". I usually refer to it as red. Genetically it is just BROWN. The color can vary greatly from deep dark chocolate, to liver, to light tan. Brown is a recessive gene, meaning both parents must carry the gene to produce it. If you breed 2 Reds together you will produce ALL Red puppies. Pictured right is an example of a beautiful Red, "Jesse" (Ch Wildblue Before Sunset) owned by Deanne Veselka of Wildblue Border Collies.

Red Merle. This is the same brown gene as above, with the Merle pattern acting on the brown base.

Tri color. The Tri color, or tan points, are a marking you can find on any color base. You will find these points on the cheeks, eyebrows, legs, and under the tail. The tan color can vary from a deep copper brown to a pale tan. Tri is a recessive gene, meaning both parents must carry the gene to produce it. If you breed 2 Tri dogss together ALL the puppies will have tan points. Pictured right are light tan points on a blue merle dog.

BLUE. The Blue is a diluted black. The blue can vary in shades from light gray to dark charcoal gray that almost looks black. You can tell a true Blue dog by looking at the nose leather and pigmentation, which will also be blue/gray and not black. Even the merle gene can act on the dilute to produce a "Slate Merle" or "Dilute Merle" with gray patches rather than black patches. Blue/dilute is a recessive gene, meaning both parents must carry the gene to produce it. If you breed 2 Blue dogs together ALL the puppies will be blue. Pictured right is a newborn blue puppy. Some blues tend to darken some as they get older.
GOLD. Just like with the Brown gene, there can be confusion in what this color is called (and yes, it IS a different gene than brown!). I refer to this color as Gold, genetically it is the ee gene (yes, two lower case e's). The ee gene is responsible for the gold, tan, lemon, yellow, cream, apricot in many breeds. You may hear the Gold referred to, in the Border Collie breed, as any of those terms or also Australian Red. The gold shades can vry greatly from deep copper Gold like a Golden Retriever to cream or almost a dirty white look. Gold is also a masking gene, meaning genetically the dog can be a Merle, a Tri, or a Dilute but still looks gold! You will know by how the dog produces, or by the color of the nose leather (if it's dilute). Gold is recessive, and both parents must carry the gene to produce it. Pictured right is an example of 2 golds. Same gene, but two different shades.

LILAC. Lilac comes from the Brown gene being diluted. Genetically the dog is both chocolate and blue/dilute, both genes are present. Both copies of the chocolate and blue/dilute gene must be carried by both parents to produce the color.  The merle gene can be expressed on the lilac to produce a "Lilac Merle", with lilac patches rather than black patches.

SEAL. This is not a common color in the Border Collie breed, but we are seeing it more and more. It is a dog carrying the sable gene, but does not fully express the sable pattern on the coat.



MARKINGS on the Border Collie.

FULL COLLAR. The collar is what is referred to as the white around the dogs neck. A full collar means the white wraps all the way around.

Broken collar, or half collar. "Broken" collar meaning the white is interrupted by the black markings, such as the photo to the right. A "Half" collar meaning the collar may look full on one side but be colored on the other side.

BLAZE. The blaze is what is referred to as the facial markings. A blaze is an even white marking between the eyes of the dog. The white goes across the muzzle, up between the eyes, and up to the forehead, sometimes even bleeding into the collar. The blaze can vary in width, and sometimes there may be more white on one side of the face than the other. Pictured right is a classic blaze.

Pictured right is a narrow blaze.
PATTERN WHITE or piebald.
Danielle Nichols- Ammardan Kennels. Photography, graphics and text property of Danielle Nichols. Do not copy or reproduce without permisson.