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20 Border Collie Colors: 17 Standard & 3 Non-Standard Variations

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Last Updated: October 31, 2023 | 10 min read | Leave a Comment

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The Scottish Border Collie is one of the best herding dogs in the world, if not the best. They are energetic and hardworking and have been ranked as the most intelligent breed, all the traits you could ask for in a working canine. They are also affectionate with their family, incredibly sweet, and not too in your face like some other breeds can be. Border Collies are dependable doggos and are pretty popular in America.

The most common Border Collie color is black and white, and what many people don’t know is that there are 17 standard colors on the Border Collie coat rainbow. These include Black, Blue, Blue Merle, Red, Red Merle, Sable, White & Black, White & Blue Merle, White & Red, Saddleback Sable, Sable Merle, Gold, Brindle, White & Blue, White & Red Merle, and White Ticked. There are three non-standard and rare colors too: Seal, White & Seal, and White & Gold. And if that wasn’t enough variety, there are also eight types of Collie markings. This makes the Border Collie one of the most colorful dog breeds in the world.

Whether you’re wondering what coat color your Border Collie is or researching the breed before you welcome one into your home, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we explore all of the mesmerizing Border Collie coat colors, which are the most common and the rare colors, and the ones to avoid. We also answer some frequently asked questions that can help you choose the right Collie coat color.

Border Collie Genetics

Two pigments determine the color of any dog’s coat. These are eumelanin, which generates dark colors like black and brown, and pheomelanin, which causes the amount of yellow and red in a coat. How these pigments appear depends on the color genes a Border Collie inherits from their parents. These color genes affect how intense these colors are. Some Borders inherit the dilution gene, which dilutes a color, making it less vibrant. They can also inherit genes determining their coat markings, including merle and sable.

Border Collie Color-Related Health Concerns

Puppy dog border collie and stethoscope isolated on white background

There is controversy surrounding dilute-colored pups because the recessive dilute gene carries an increased risk of color dilution alopecia (CDA). A recessive gene means a dog must inherit two copies of this gene, one from each parent, to materialize. CDA is most commonly seen in blue, fawn, and lilac-colored dogs. Usually, affected dogs are born with a healthy-looking coat, but it starts to thin or become patchy at around six months. It can also cause the skin to become flaky and itchy. Although it is not curable, it is simple to manage. But because CDA is an inheritable disease, any dog with CDA means that they, their parents, and siblings should not breed.

Merle is not a color but a pattern, but it is used as a color in the breed standard, as is sable. The merle gene is a dominant modifying gene, meaning that pups only need to inherit this gene from one parent rather than both for the merle pattern to appear. The merle gene affects their coat, nose, and eye color. Their noses and eyes are usually light in color, such as a pink nose and pale blue eyes. If a pup inherits the merle gene from each parent, it can cause many health-related problems, including blindness and deafness. These dogs are double-merles. Responsible breeders never breed two merle dogs. So, working with a reputable breeder who breeds ethically is essential.

Standard Border Collie Colors

The American Kennel Club (AKC) is the leading kennel club in America, and the Border Collie breed standard states 17 standard coat colors. Some are more common than others, but all are equally acceptable in the show ring. On top of these acceptable coat colors, there are also eight types of acceptable coat markings, which can appear on any coat color. There are other kennel clubs worldwide that all have slightly different rules about proper colors. Let’s look at the standard coat colors that the AKC accepts.

Black

Border Collie on Hay

A black Border Collie usually has a predominately black coat. But they have white markings, and because of this, they are often confused for a white and black Border Collie. Black Border Collies can have any other marking type, too. A pure-black Border Collie is so rare that some breeders question whether they exist.

Blue

Like the black Border Collie, a blue Collie has a predominantly blue coat with white markings. The color blue isn’t actually blue, but instead a dark gray color or a dilute black. So, genetically speaking, they are black Borders, but they have inherited the dilute gene. Both of their parents must carry the dilute gene for this coat color to appear, which makes them rarer than black Borders. This coat color is associated with CDA.

Blue Merle

Blue merle Borders have a blue-colored (dilute black) coat with a merle pattern. The merle pattern here appears with black and blue patches that emerge on the blue-colored areas. Pups with a merle pattern are striking and becoming increasingly popular. This means that they usually cost slightly more than their non-merle siblings.

Red

Red Border Collie at the vet

Red Borders range from rich gold to dark, almost brown shades. Because they have white markings, they are often confused with white and red Borders. Red is a recessive gene, so they must have inherited it from both parents. Red Borders are rarer than black and blue pups, making them popular. These Borders are sometimes mistaken for chocolate-colored Collies, but this color does not technically exist in the breed. We explain more about this misconception later.

Red Merle

Red merle Borders have a red-colored coat but with a merle pattern. The merle pattern appears on the red parts of the coat and consists of white and dark-colored markings. Red merle Borders are uncommon, making them desirable. Like other merle-patterned dogs, they are more likely to have lighter-colored noses and eyes.

Sable

A sable Border can have a black, blue, red, or lilac base coat. Technically, sable is not a color but a pattern where the color of the hair is lighter at the root and darkens towards the tips. Most sable dogs are light in color and have white markings on their body. Although some sables have a darker coat, it is much harder to identify a darker sable jacket. This is why they are often mistaken for other colors.

White & Black

Border collie playing with toy ball on couch indoors

White and black Borders are commonly mistaken for black Borders, which also have white markings. What’s the difference? White and black Borders have a predominantly white coat with a few black patches. These black patches are common on their ears, back, or tail.

White & Blue Merle

Similar to the previous color, white and blue merles are Borders with a predominantly white coat with blue merle patches. These merle patches consist of irregular black and blue markings. These pups are more likely to have light-colored features.

White & Red

red and white Border Collie face with lavender field behind them

White and red Borders have a primarily white coat with light to deep red areas. Unlike red Border Collies, their coats have more white than red. Do not confuse this dog with a white and gold Border, which is not an acceptable standard for Border Collies.

Lilac

Lilac color dogs are stunning because depending on what lighting they are in, they can look different shades of brown, blue, or gray. But they are red color Borders but with the dilute gene, and the diluted red appears lilac. They are one of the rarest standard colors, so they often cost more than other pups in a litter. Because this dilute color is recessive, a lilac Border has an increased chance of developing CDA.

Saddleback Sable

Identifying a saddleback sable Collie can be tricky, and they aren’t one of the common varieties. These are sable-colored dogs but have a darker area across their back and sides, looking like they are wearing a saddle. This saddleback pattern is only found in a few other dog breeds, like the German Shepherd and the Corgi.

Sable Merle

Sable merle Borders have sable and merle patterns on a mostly white coat. The colored areas on the coat exhibit a merle pattern, and many of the hairs on the colored patches are black-tipped. The merle pattern can make identifying these dogs as true sable merles difficult.

Gold

Gold Border Collies are commonly called blondes. They have a predominately light-colored, gold-yellow coat with white markings. Technically, they are red dogs, but the dilute gene makes the color less vibrant, resulting in a light color. Like the other dilute colors, there is an increased risk of CDA in gold Borders.

Brindle

Brindle Collies have a base coat in any color but with darker colors across their bodies. This makes them look like tiny, fluffy tigers. There is controversy surrounding this color because some believe that brindle doesn’t appear naturally in this breed. But it does, and the AKC accepts it as a standard color, so there shouldn’t be any dispute.

White & Blue

Silver Border Collie sitting on the ground white background

White and blue Borders sport a majority white coat but with a few blue areas. These blue patches result from the recessive dilute gene, meaning CDA could be a health issue for this pooch.

White & Red Merle

White and red merle Borders have mostly white coats with red merle patches. The red patches range from deep gold to dark brown, with irregular dark red color and black markings. This pup is likely to have light-colored features.

White Ticked

Border Collie tugging on rope toy

White ticked Border Collies usually have predominantly white coats with a few black markings. The white areas have black flecks, which “ticked” describes. Some people think this coat is a faulty white and black, but it is beautiful and accepted by their breed standard.

Non-Standard Border Collie Colors

A dog breed’s standard lists the colors accepted in the show ring. The following Border Collie colors are recognized in the breed but are much rarer than the others listed above because they are non-standard colors. This is mainly because responsible breeders choose not to breed these dogs as they don’t meet the expected color standards. But they occur in litters from time to time. Let’s take a closer look at them.

Seal

The color seal is rare and subtly striking. They appear black to dark brown, but the brown tint is liver-color and varies in vibrancy. To identify a seal Border Collie, you must observe them in daylight. Their legs, nose, and tail usually stay dark, while the rest of the dark areas glow with a liver-orange tint. This bronzing effect develops with age, and many have a darker stripe down the back. Little is known about this color and the genes that cause it. This is a very rare color coat.

White & Seal

White and seal Border Collies have a predominately white coat with a few seal markings. These seal markings have black tones that appear brown in the sunlight and bronze with age. This is also a very rare coat color.

White & Gold

A Border Collie with a predominately white coat with few gold patches is rare and not seen as a standard color. They are often confused for white and red Borders, but the gold color is lighter than the red.

Other Border Collie Colors

In this section, we list the colors that are sometimes seen in the breed but are rare and not recognized by the AKC.

White & Sable

White and sable Border Collies have a mainly white coat with some sable coloration. They differ from sable-coated Borders, which also have white markings. The difference here is that these pups are mostly white, which is not acceptable to the AKC.

Slate

Slate Border Collies look similar to blue Border Collies, but their coat is lighter gray than what is acceptable by the kennel clubs. These Borders have white markings.

White

A pure white Border Collie coat does not exist. All Border Collies have some color to their coat, even if it’s just a little. However, you might come across an albino Border Collie. They appear all white, but this is not a color. Instead, it is a lack of color. Any breeder selling a pure-white Border Collie is selling a Border Collie suffering from albinism due to a genetic mutation. Albino dogs suffer from a multitude of health and behavioral problems. Although they can make excellent pets, you should avoid buying one, and they usually have a lower life span, too.

Border Collie Markings

On top of the coat colors, here are all the standard coat markings that Border Collies can have:

  • Tan points.
  • White markings.
  • White markings & tan points.
  • White markings, ticked.
  • White markings, tan points, ticked.
  • White markings, brindle points.
  • White markings, brindle points, ticked.
  • Merle markings.

Border Collie Color Misconceptions

The world of Border Collie colors is confusing. With so many different coat color options and markings, it has led to color chaos. Here are three Border colors that don’t technically exist, but you might hear some people talk about them. Let’s explain and clear it up.

Black Tri-Color

A black tri-color Collie has three colors in their coat, the primary color being black. But instead of being a tri-color dog, they are a black Collie with white markings and additional tan points. So, although they are technically tri-color, “black tri-color” isn’t a Border Collie coat color in itself.

Red Tri-Color

A red tri-color Border Collie coat isn’t a color, just like the black tri-color isn’t. Instead, they have a red base coat with white markings and additional tan points. Again, “red tri-color” isn’t the correct coat color name for these dogs.

Chocolate

The color name “chocolate” does not appear in any Border Collie breed standard. Chocolate is often used to describe a brown shade of red coat. So a “chocolate” colored Border Collie is simply a red-colored Border that appears more brown than red. Similarly, when a “red tri-color” sports browner shades of red, they are sometimes called chocolate tri-colors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Four Dogs Running

What Color Border Collie Sheds The Most?

The color of a Border Collie coat does not affect how much they shed. Border Collies have double coats, and they shed equally. Border Collies have two coat types, which are smooth and rough, and although they shed the same, you might notice it more in a rough-coated collie as they sometimes have slightly longer hair. The only exception to this rule is a dilute color Border, with an increased CDA risk. CDA can cause patchy hair loss, but this is not the same as shedding.

Does Coat Color Affect A Border Collie’s Health?

Some coat colors, like dilute colors or double merles, are associated with an increased risk of health problems. These include issues regarding eyesight, hearing, skin health, and others. But not all dilute colors or double merles have health problems. The main concern should be to work with a reputable breeder who can provide you with the recommended Border Collie health checks.

What Color Border Collie Should I Get?

Buying a particular colored Border Collie usually comes down to personal preference. Some prefer traditional colors, like black or red, with white markings. In contrast, some people choose alternative and rarer colors, such as blue merle or lilac. If your Border Collie is going to be a family companion, their coat color doesn’t matter. But if you plan on showing your Collie in the show ring, you want to select a standard color. More importantly, pick a Border Collie with a personality that suits yours.

What Color Are Border Collie Eyes?

Like Border Collie coats, Border Collie’s eyes come in various colors. The only stipulation in their breed standard about eye colors is that “blue eyes in dogs other than merle are not preferred.” Some Border Collies have different or multi-color eyes, known as heterochromia. These pups are particularly striking and in demand.

Final Thoughts

The Border Collie coat color collection is one of the largest and most mesmerizing of them all. Some of the more traditional and standard colors are more common than others. And even some of the standard colors are rare. And then there are non-standard colors that are even rarer. Whatever color you pick, just be sure to work with a reputable Border Collie breeder who chooses health over color.

Border Collie at the vet on exam table.

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