Sheltie Planet

The Sheltie Family and Their Collie Cousins

By Becky Turner

Take a look at the Sheltie family tree. Rough Collies, Border Collies, Old English Sheepdogs, and plenty more...

The Border Collie

The Border Collie

Our Sheltie history revealed that the Sheltie family includes many Collie breeds. Farmers began importing Scandinavian herding dogs to the Shetland Islands in the 1700s, when the first crosses with mainland Collies were made.

Later crosses in the early 20th century developed the Toonie dogs into the modern Shetland Sheepdog we know today. So there is a good reason why they resemble Rough Collies.

The Collie Family

The Old English Sheepdog

The Old English Sheepdog

Collies are medium sized herding dogs originally from Britain. They generally have a lightweight build (underneath a lot of fur) and pointed snouts. They are active, intelligent and agile, ideal for herding cattle, sheep and other livestock.

Nowadays, many Collie dogs are bred for conformation showing and as pets, which has reduced their working dog instincts and produced a more subdued temperament. Members of the extensive Collie / Sheltie family include:

  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Australian Kelpie
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog
  • Bearded Collie
  • Blue Lacy
  • Border Collie
  • English Shepherd
  • Farm Collie
  • German Collie
  • Huntaway
  • Lurcher
  • McNab Shepherd
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Rough Collie
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Smooth Collie
  • Welsh Sheepdog

The Rough Collie

The Rough Collie

The Rough Collie

Lassie was a famous TV series which began in the 1940s featuring a line of Rough Collies owned by Rudd Weatherwax. Over the years, his Collie dogs appeared in multiple movies, TV series, radio programs and novels. They're the reason we Sheltie owners so often get approached with coos of: "Ooh! A mini Lassie!"

But if we're going to get technical, Shetland Sheepdogs are not miniaturized Rough Collies. There were plenty of Lassies in the early Sheltie family tree, but the underlying Sheltie breed has its own distinctive line coming from Spitz dogs.

Rough Collies are somewhat larger than Shelties, with males standing 22-26 inches tall and weighing 45-75 pounds. They have a more pointed face than their Sheltie cousins, but both share the same smallish eyes and attentive gaze.

Lassie dogs show no nervousness or aggression; but like Shelties should be well socialized when young or may become shy. Their closest relative is the Smooth Collie, which is a short-coated version, and considered by many to be the same breed.

So, next time someone calls your Sheltie a mini Lassie you can set them straight! :)

About The Author

Becky Turner is a writer and zoologist-in-training. Learn more about Becky here. If you'd like to support her work, check out her ebook, The Sheltie Anthology, a complete guide to everything Sheltie.