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Breed Standard In Australia

Border Collies come in many different colours. 

Before the standard changed in July 2018 to allow all colours and other various attributes such as coat length and ear set, only a limited number of them are recognised in Australia’s Breed Standard. Australia failed to recognise the all the genetically possible colours. The breed standard now just states “Variety of colours permissible. White should never predominate”.

The change in the allowable colours has now allowed breeders who do breed for the pet market, sports and other disciplines to correctly register their dogs on any register. Where previously they would be have been incorrectly registered as one of the few allowable colours. This was of serious concern to our breed databases as many dogs were incorrectly registered regarding colour.

The allowance of the “popular fad colours” is still a hot debate amongst many breeders, with some breeders still strongly against the change in breed standard.

There are many other pages available on the web showing the various colours in which border collies come in. I have included a link on my links page for a kennel in the United Kingdom who, I believe has a good summary of the various colours and their genetic composition.

Is any colour rare?

You will see some breeders advertising certain colours as “rare”. In truth, they are trying to get in unsuspecting buyers to pay more for their puppies. It is important to note that no colour is “Rare”.

Black/white is a dominant colour within the breed and the other colours are all recessive, with the exception of the merle coat pattern which is dominant.

Recessive traits mean that both parents need to carry the colour to express the desired colours in their progeny.

Dominant means that only ONE parent needs to carry the colour to possibly produce the colour in the litter. Dominate also means that is it not carried in the same way as recessive genes. With the case of merle for example, one parent must be merle to produce merle. Progeny from such a mating that aren’t merle cannot produce merle the next generation.

With a basic understanding of genetics, an extended pedigree displaying the colour, selective breeding choosing colour as a preference and knowing what colours have been produced previously, a breeder can have a good idea of what colours will be produced and the likelihood of it occurring.

When thinking of colour with regards to the recessive genes, think of “Clear” as not carrying the desired colour (Eg; Black/white), “Carrier” as carrying the colour (Eg: Red/white) and “Affected” as being that colour (Eg; Chocolate/white). This will hold true, except for the Merle gene as it is a dominate gene and needs ONE parent to be merle to produce merle offspring. Merle is a described as a coat pattern rather than a colour. It affects the colour under neath (with the exception of Red/white which is considered a masking gene and will not be expressed)

For this example, say a “Red/white” border collie is mating to another “red/white” border collie. As both parents are “Affected” with the colour, all progeny will be red/white. The same will also be true for the other colours such as blue/white, chocolate/white, tricolour etc.

When a mating is done where the parents are carrying colour, the possible combinates will depend on which colour the parents are carrying. The more colour within a pedigree, the more chances there are of of the parents producing that colour when mated to another dog carrying the same colour/s.

If colour is not rare, how come they are more expensive? In simple terms: Supply vs Demand

In recent years there has been a rise in the number of breeders breeding for colour. With the popularity of pet people wanting colour, certain breeders are catering to this demand by breeding solely for the colour pet market.

It should be stressed here that there is nothing wrong with having a colour preference. What is wrong, is breeding for the wrong reasons. That is sacrificing genetic health, conformation and temperament in the desire to produce colour puppies to cater to the demand for the pet market.

Some breeders have a genuine colour preference and prefer something different to the “common” black/white border collie. The more ethical, responsible breeders still breed quality animals by not limiting their options by choosing to breed for colour alone. If you are wanting a coloured puppy, these are breeders you should seek out.

Other breeders are choosing to breed in preference for colour in their breeding program for the sake to produce multi coloured litters and ofttimes tend to avoid other better quality animals (who may carry the desired colour, but not necessarily produce it in consistent frequency). It is the avoidance of these other quality animals which is of concern to the future of the breed. The structure and conformation of the coloured border collie cannot be improved if only lower class dogs are consistantly being used in a breeding program.

With the rise of the various colours, some people are wanting one which is “different”. In many cases they are paying higher prices for their puppy than what should be paid. Some breeders charge up to double for a coloured border collie compared to their black/white border collies. Why? Because people will pay their price.

A good breeder does not charge more for male or female, or for black/white verses colour. Regardless of what a breeder is breeding for. Health testing the parents should be an integral part and parcel of a breeding program. The ANKC does not mandate we hip/elbow score, eye test or even DNA profile our breeding stock. In some states there is legislation concerning DNA status and the breeding of carrier/affected animals.

Ethical breeders will do what ever tests are available to them to ensure they are breeding healthy, quality animals. With the rise also in litigation cases and certain media on pedigree dogs, it is important to be attempting to do the right thing by the breed.

An example of a shaded sable border collie I produced in 2009. This colour was not recognised in Australia’s breed standard at the time. Sable however is becoming increasingly popular amongst some of the colour breeders. However I do NOT breed for sable or any other fad colour.