The English Shepherd Vs Border Collie – An Overview of The Similarities & Differences
Versatile and hardworking, the English Shepherd and the Border Collie are great pets for rural environments or families with plenty of time to walk and run outside.
Although these breeds are quite similar, there are some differences between Border Collies and English Shepherds. If you’re interested in a highly active, loyal dog, either of these breeds will become your ideal companion!
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English Shepherd vs. Border Collie: Similarities
Border Collie vs. English Shepherd: Differences
English Shepherd Border Collie Mix: The English Collie
It doesn’t always have to be English Shepherd vs. Border Collie! In fact, some breeders are crossing the breeds. Welcome the English Collie! These active mixed-breed pups are also called “Shepherd collies” and are high-energy working dogs.
Although they’re cute, the English Shepherd Border Collie mix is a rare crossbreed that you won’t find easily. Plus, there aren’t any associations or clubs dedicated to it. Most “English collies” happen by chance! If you want a puppy, ask a professional breeder: they might know of an unexpected litter.
The English Shepherd Dog: Breed Profile
History of the English Shepherd
Also known as the British Shepherd, these dogs don’t come from the United Kingdom! In fact, English Shepherd dogs were born in the United States. This breed is a mix between different types of Collies brought to the new continent by British and Irish settlers. They called them “English Shepherds” because of their strong resemblance to those initial collies brought from the UK.
English Shepherd Breed Standard
These athletic dogs are slender and powerful, perfect for handling large cattle. Their bodies are sturdy and muscular, with wide ears that flop over their heads. The breed standard states these dogs should be strong and compact, with a slightly rounded head and smart eyes.
“Being a "total" breed, English Shepherds should be judged both on their ability to work livestock and their physical and structural appearance.” – United Kennel Club, English Shepherd Breed standard
English Shepherds have medium to long coats and need consistent grooming. If you don’t brush your pup on a weekly basis, their coat will tangle! English Shepherds usually have two or three colors.
What Color Are English Shepherd Dogs?
According to the United Kennel Club, there are 5 different colors allowed for English Shepherds. The most common combination is Tan & Black English shepherds. On the other hand, Black & White English shepherds look very similar to Border Collies.
Behavior & temperament
English Shepherds are highly energetic and very agile dogs. They love to work and thoroughly enjoy following commands. Because they learn fast, they easily work independently.
English Shepherds, like other herding dogs, need consistent training since puppyhood. They’re also very active, and need structured playtime when not working. If you don’t give your English Shepherd enough exercise, they tend to become destructive and unhappy. This breed tends to use their teeth to herd, and you should control this behavior through consistent, positive reinforcement training.
Fun Fact: English Shepherds tend to be “mouthy” and use their teeth to guide you around. Correct this behavior since puppyhood to avoid trouble!
This versatile dog is ideal as a multi-purpose working companion because of its strong herding instincts, guarding capabilities and loyalty. They love kids and make excellent family dogs when properly exercised.
PRO TIP: English Shepherds have a strong prey drive they use to herd cattle. This might be triggered by seeing young children or other pets run around. They won’t hurt anyone, but might use their teeth to “guide” them! Cats are especially bothered by this, so make sure everyone in the family understands the risks before getting this breed.
The Border Collie: Breed Profile
History of the Border Collie
This breed descends from a variety of British collies, and their name probably comes from their origin in the Anglo-Scottish border. Nowadays, all purebred Border Collies can be traced back up to Old Hemp. This dog was born in 1893 in Northumberland, and died in 1901. Some experts state Old Hemp fathered around 200 pups in his lifetime!
Even though they have a British-American origin, Border Collies were bred in large numbers in Australia and New Zealand since the early 1900s.
What Do Border Collies Look Like?
Border Collies are medium-sized dogs with an athletic build, dropped ears and smart round eyes.
They have a medium-to-long coat and are usually bi-color, usually black and white. These dogs have a coarse and dense coat that needs brushing. If your dog will be going outside or you have a garden, you will need to groom them twice a week and daily during shed season! To know more about the grooming needs of Border Collies, check out our in-depth article here.
Behavior & Temperament
Border Collies are one of the most popular herd and cattle dogs in the world. They like to please their owners and have a strong prey drive, making them ideal farm dogs. These pups are very smart, easy to train and can work all day long thanks to their high stamina.
Because of their brains and endless energy, Border Collies need to keep busy. For those Border Collies that aren’t working dogs, this means they need lots of exercise, walks, playtime and dedicated training. If you don’t give mental stimulation to your Border pup, they’ll become destructive and rambunctious.
Fun Fact: Border Collies have lots of energy and need plenty of exercise to be happy. If not, they might become destructive!
This tends to be “mouthy” if you don’t train them properly. To avoid this, train your puppy from day one not to use their teeth, and provide ample playtime for them to burn energy.
PRO TIP: Want to know how to recognize a Border Collie? A purebred Border Collie stares at prey (“the eye” of the Border Collie) while herding. Working Border Collies are rated according to this (medium-eye, hard-eye…) (3)
Are Border Collies Healthy Dogs?
In general, Borders are relatively healthy with a 12 to 15 year lifespan. Nevertheless, there are some health conditions you should be aware of before adopting one.
Collies are prone to the “Collie Eye Anomaly” (aka CEA) (2). This genetic condition affects a dog’s sight, preventing the Retina from getting adequate blood supply, and can go from mild to severe. If a pup suffers from severe Collie Eye Anomaly, they might become blind.
PRO TIP: Some English Shepherds also carry the CEA gene. Be sure to ask your breeder if your pup’s parents were tested!
This breed is also prone to hip dysplasia, a painful genetic condition where the hip joint rubs and doesn’t function properly. A responsible breeder will screen all dogs before having a litter, but you should ask them for both parents’ health results before buying a puppy.
English Shepherd vs. Border Collie: Which one is best for your family?
If you’re having a hard time with this Shepherd vs. Collie decision, rest assured, you’re normal! Because their needs are so similar, your ultimate choice might boil down to looks and availability.
Because both of these are herding breeds, they’ll need a highly active family that can keep up with their needs. The English Shepherd and Border Collie tend to want to herd and chase younger children and small pets. These breeds tend to use their teeth a lot, although they won’t cause harm. This makes them a better fit for older families that don’t have prey-like animals. If you already have a beloved family pet and still want a herding dog, you’ll need to offer consistent training and lots of exercise to keep everyone happy and safe.
Besides that, both breeds are good with children and love to have a playing companion!
For more dog breed informational articles check out our below guides:
- Branstad, B. (1982). The canine connection: Dog magazines in the USA. Serials Review, 8(4), 7-30. Retrieved on April 24th, 2020. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00987913.1982.10763402
- Gelatt, Kirk N., ed. (1999). Veterinary Ophthalmology (3rd ed.). Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.
- Henny, B. (2003). A Guide to the Livestock-working Dog. Oregon State University. Retrieved on April 23th, 2020. https://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/downloads/tm70mv36f
- McIntosh, P. (2014). Canine Companions and Helpers. In English Teaching Forum (Vol. 52, No. 3, pp. 38-46). US Department of State. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Office of English Language Programs. Retrieved on April 24th, 2020. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1045543.pdf
- United Kennel Club (1990) “Border Collie”. Retrieved on April 24th, 2020. https://www.ukcdogs.com/docs/breeds/border-collie.pdf
- United Kennel Club (2004) “English Shepherd”. Retrieved on April 24th, 2020. https://www.ukcdogs.com/docs/breeds/english-shepherd.pdf
Vedrana Nikolić (B.A. in Cultural Anthropology) - Professional Writer.
Vedrana is a writer, anthropologist & dog lover. Currently pursuing a Masters degree in Semiotics studying, among other things, the communication between animals and humans.
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