Border collie colors

Animal file: Border collie

One of the most iconic dog breeds in the world is arguably the Border Collie, both for its intelligence and its beauty. Surely, when thinking about this breed, a black and white dog quickly comes to mind, however, there are many types of border collie depending on the color of their coat.

In reality, the varieties of this breed are very numerous, including the merle version of almost all possible colors, which appears due to a gene that encodes the presence of those different shades typical of merle coats. In this article we show you all the colors of the border collie and we explain why each one of them appears.

You may also be interested in: Differences between Border Collie and Australian Shepherd Index
  1. Accepted colors in the border collie
  2. Border collie color genetics
  3. All the colors of the border collie: types and photos

Accepted colors in the border collie

One of the most remarkable curiosities of the border collie is its wide range of colors, since this is determined by its genetics. Following the border collie breed standard elaborated by the International Cynological Federation (FCI), all the colors that we will detail below are accepted. However, the white color, for reasons of force majeure, must be avoided, being excluded from the standard..

All colors go on an always white layer, being the tricolor specimens those that present different variations in the combination of the following tones: red, black and white. Thus, depending on genetics, these colors will present one tone or another, as we will tell you right away..

Border collie color genetics

The color of the coat, the eyes and the skin itself is determined by different genes. In the case of the border collie, a total of 10 genes directly involved in pigmentation, for which melanin is responsible. Melanin is a pigment of which there are two classes: pheomelanin and eumelanin. Pheomelanin is in charge of the pigments that go from red to yellow and eumelanin of those that go from black to brown.

Specifically, of these 10 genes, 3 are direct determinants of basic colorations. These are genes A, K and E.

  • Gen A: if it is the Ay allele, the animal has a coat between yellow and red, while if it is At, it has a tricolor coat. However, the expression of gene A depends on the presence or absence of the other two genes, K and E..
  • Gen K: in this case, three different alleles occur. K, being dominant, prevents the expression of A, causing a black coloration. If it is the Kbr allele, A is allowed to express itself, causing a coloration in which a kind of stripes appear on the yellow-red color that give it a brindle coat. Finally, if it is the recessive gene k, A is also expressed, so that the characteristics of K. are not present. As with gene A, gene K depends on E for its expression.
  • Gen E: this gene is responsible for eumelanin, in this way, if the dominant allele E is present, both A and K can be expressed. In the case of homozygous recessive allele (ee), the expression of eumelanin is prevented, being in those dogs only pheomelanin.

But the expression of these main genes can only explain the following colors: Australian red, black, sand and tricolor..

Secondary genes in border collie coloration

In addition to the 3 main genes listed above, there are a total of 5 genes that interfere with and modify coloration in the border collie. Briefly, these genes are:

  • Gen B: has effects on eumelanin. The dominant allele B is considered normal, while b causes the black color to become brown..
  • Gen D: this gene affects the intensity of the color, acting as a diluent of the same in its recessive version d, in such a way that it turns, for example, black into blue, lightens yellow and red and makes brown lilac.
  • Gen M: like D, the M gene in its dominant allele causes a color dilution, having an effect on eumelanin. In this case, the black would turn to blackbird blue and the brown to blackbird red. The appearance of homozygosity of the dominant gene (MM) originates specimens of the white blackbird type, which lack any coloration, but the most worrying thing is that they have serious health problems, such as blindness or even lack of eyes, deafness, among other conditions. For this reason, the crossing between blackbird specimens is prohibited by the federations and they prevent the registration of these types of border collie in order to avoid promoting the appearance of these animals, which would suffer a lot throughout their lives, something that happens in albino dogs very often.
  • Gen S: there are 4 alleles of this gene, responsible for the expression of the white color in the animal's mantle. In the case of the dominant allele S, the white would be almost absent, while in sw, the most recessive of all, the animal would be completely white, except for some almost isolated color spot on the face and body and the nose, which also would present coloration.
  • Gen T: the recessive t allele is the normal one and T causes the marbled coloration to appear, which only becomes visible when the dog is already a certain age.

The combination of all these genes already explains the total range of colors of the border collie, which we detail below.

All the colors of the border collie: types and photos

The different genetic combinations originate multiple variations in the color of the border collie, with a great variety of coats. Therefore, we show all the types of border collie that exist, we explain which genetics predominate and we share images that show the beauty of each color pattern.

Black and white border collie

The black and white coat is usually the most common and easy to find, it is determined by the dominant gene B, that although it is accompanied by the recessive (a), it does not let any other color show.

Border collie black and white tricolor

The M gene in its heterozygous dominant allele (Mm) causes three colors to appear in the coat: white, black and a cream color pulling on fire, especially visible in the contours of the black spots.

Border collie blue merle

This cloak, which previously was not accepted by the shepherds because it alluded to its similarity to the wolf, is due to the dominant gene M in heterozygosis, bearing the blue color as a dilution of the black color due to the presence of this diluting gene.

Border collie blue merle tricolor

In the case of the blue merle or tricolor blackbird, what happens is that a genotype occurs in which there is present a dominant gene E and another B, apart from the M gene in heterozygosity, which causes the expression of the three colors and a greyish nose.

Chocolate border collie

Chocolate is another of the most popular border collie colors because it is more "rare" to find. Chocolate collies are those that are brown or liver in color, with a brown nose and green or brown eyes. They always present the gene B in recessive homozygosity (bb).

Tricolor chocolate border collie

This type of border collie is the same as the previous one but, in addition, there is the presence of a single dominant allele of M, causing the brown to be diluted in certain areas. Therefore, three different shades are presented: white, chocolate and a lighter brown.

Border collie red merle

In the border collie red merle the base color is brown, but always blackbird due to the presence of the dominant allele Mm. The red merle color is quite infrequent, since it requires the combination of the recessive bb allele to occur for the chocolate color to appear..

Border collie red merle tricolor

In this case, in addition to what is necessary for the merle network to occur, we also have the presence of the dominant allele of gene A, that causes the appearance of the three colors. In this case, this uneven color dilution appears, presenting a white base with marks in which black and red are present, the latter predominant. In this way, in this type of border collie more shades of brown and some black lines are observed, unlike the previous one..

Border collie seal

In these specimens there is a different manifestation of the gene that would encode the color sable or sand, which, lacking the dominant allele of black, is much darker than sable. Thus, in this type of border collie we observe a brownish black color.

Border collie seal merle

As in the rest of the merle, the presence of the dominant M allele causes an irregular color dilution to appear, which causes 3 colors to appear. In this case, the colors of the border collie that we see are the sand, black and white.

Sable border collie

The sable or sand color appears due to the interaction of eumelanin and pheomelanin, which causes the color to be lighter at the root and darken at the tips. This causes a copper color with different shades combined with white.

Sable merle border collie

This type of border collie has the same genetics as the sable border collie, but with the presence of the dominant M allele combined with the recessive (Mm). In this way, the dilution of the color is observed, resulting in the blackbird pattern..


Lilac border collie

The lilac It arises from the dilution of the brown color, so that this diluted color with a white base appears in the mantle. The nose of these specimens is brown or cream, which shows that brown is the base color.

Border collie lilac merle

What changes in lilac merle is that in these types of border collie there is a dominant allele of the M gene, which acts by irregularly diluting the brown base color of the lilac.


Border collie slate or chalkboard

In these specimens, whose original base is black, the black is diluted due to the presence of gene D in its homozygous recessive version (dd). For this reason, the colors of the border collie present in this type are white, as in all, and slate.

Border collie slate or slate merle

The black spots and the black truffle indicate that the base color of these animals is black, but their phenotype, that presents Mm, it causes the black color to become even more diluted in the different parts of the coat, causing the presence of different shades, including tan brown hairs on the legs and head. Unlike the blue merle, the slate merle has a black nose and eyes that are generally dark gray or blue. In addition, the color of the coat is usually lighter.

Australian red border collie or Ee-red

The main characteristic of the Australian red border collie is that this color is usually presented by masking other colors and showing in blonde shades of different intensity. The base color can be discovered by looking at the nose and eyelids, although this is not always possible, so the only sure way to know what the base color is is through a genetic test. In this way, in Ee-red border collie red appears above another color that cannot be seen with the naked eye, considered the base color, for this reason the following are distinguished Australian red border collie subtypes:

  • Ee-red black: black base color and a crimson red color that covers it.
  • Ee-red chocolate: red is intermediate, neither excessively intense nor very faded.
  • Ee-red blue: with a base coat of blue and a bluer red.
  • Ee-red merle: This is the exception in terms of being able to distinguish the base color from the commented shape, since the Australian red merle-based border collie looks as if red were a solid color. Only through the use of genetic tests can it be known exactly if it is a copy of the border collie Ee-red merle.
  • Ee-red sable, lilac or blue: although less common, there are also specimens in which Australian red masks these colors.

White border collie

As we have mentioned previously, the white border collie is born as a result of the presence of two dominant alleles of the M gene. This heterozygosity of the merle gene produces a completely white puppy, without truffle or iris pigmentation. But, these animals they have a very delicate health, presenting serious health problems that affect his entire body, from blindness to liver or heart problems, among others. For this reason, the crossing of two merle specimens is prohibited by most canine federations, due to the possibility that border collie banks are born, which would carry these problems throughout their lives..

On the other hand, we recall that white is the only border collie color that is not accepted by the FCI. Thus, although it constitutes a type of border collie that exists, as we say, its reproduction is not recommended. However, if you have adopted a border collie with these characteristics, do not miss the care of albino dogs.

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