The Rough Collie has often been described as the most beautiful breed in the world, and it would be hard to deny the breathtaking splendor of its luxurious coat and melting expression. Celebrated works, such as Albert Payson Terhune’s book Lad: A Dog and the Sunnybank book series based on his own Collies, and Eric Knight’s Lassie Come Home, plus the films and television series featuring Lassie, have romanticized the breed and cemented its exemplary character in the minds of the public.
All collie breeds originated in Scotland, and although their exact origins are unknown, a variety of longhaired and smooth-coated sheepdogs herded and drove sheep and cattle for centuries in the Highlands. In the 1860s, two events thrust the Rough Collie into the public eye. The Birmingham National Dog Show in 1860 featured a class for sheepdogs, and the entry of longhaired Collies caused great interest. At the same time, Queen Victoria visited Balmoral Castle in Scotland, and saw the breed for the first time. She was so taken with them that she brought some home to Windsor Castle, near London, making it a fashionable breed.
Many theories for the origin of the breed name exist. It might have been derived from coll, colly, coally or one of several similar variations (the word col means “black” in Anglo-Saxon). Most of the early Collies were tri-colored (black with white and tan), and some were black and white. Another theory connects today’s Collie to the popular breed of black-faced sheep in Scotland known as colleys. The dogs that herded them would likely have been known as “colley dogs.” Yet another explanation is that the name might have come from the Gaelic words càilean or cóilean, which mean “doggie.”
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