Border Collie Colors: All 24 Coat Colors Explained With Pictures

All Border Collie coat colors explained

You may have heard that Border Collies rank first in the list of most intelligent dogs according to Dr. Stanley Coren. But aside from being incredibly smart, they are also sought after because of their stunning coat colors.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes 17 standard Border Collie colors which are black, blue, blue merle, brindle, gold, lilac, red, red merle, sable, sable merle, saddleback sable, white and black, white and blue, white and blue merle, white and red, white and red merle, and white ticked.

Meanwhile, the non-standard colors which are also acknowledged by the AKC are seal, slate, white and gold, white and sable, and white and seal.

If you want to see how these shades look like, I suggest you skip closing this tab. I made sure to describe each color in this article and also added pictures for you to visualize them easily.

Contents show

Are Border Collies Only Black and White?

I guess it is common to see black and white Border Collies; that’s why many people assume that it is the only color that exists. The truth is, this is only one of the 17 standard tones that are recognized by the AKC and similar kennel clubs.

Historically, the black and white coloration of this breed is associated with its job as a herder. It is believed that livestock guardians such as Border Collies should be white so they can blend with the herd of sheep.

On another note, they also have to be dark since it is observed that sheep do not immediately respect or follow light-colored dogs. Hence, most Border Collies are of this shade combination in order to perform their day to day tasks.

What Are the Standard Colors of Border Collies According to Different Kennel Clubs?

The best way to identify if the Border Collie you bought is not a mix of some sort is by looking at the published breed standard by top kennel clubs. Your dog should exhibit one of the acceptable coat colors and not some other shade or combination that is not permissible.

I extracted the content of the breed standard published by the AKC, UKC, CKC, and FCI and presented them in a table below for your easy understanding.

Kennel ClubAcceptable Coat Colors
American Kennel Club (AKC)Standard colors are black, blue, blue merle, brindle, gold, lilac, red, red merle, sable, sable merle, saddleback sable, white and black, white and blue, white and blue merle, white and red, white and red merle, and white ticked.

Non-standard colors are seal, slate, white and gold, white and sable, and white and seal.
United Kennel Club (UKC)Black, red, gray, blue merle, red merle, sable, and other color combinations are acceptable. Their markings can be white or ticked.
Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)Any color is permitted.
Federation Cynologique Institute (FCI)A wide array of colors are permitted except white.

RECOMMENDED READING: Male vs. Female Border Collie: Which Is Better for You?

All Border Collie Coat Colors Explained (With Pictures)

Border Collies puppies with different coat colors

I’m sure you’ll find this section enjoyable to read because aside from the detailed description of the Border Collie’s coat colors, I also added some adorable pictures!

Let’s get to it, shall we?

Black Border Collie

This is often called by many the black and white Border Collie, but the white shade is only a marking.

As you will notice in the picture above, their coat is predominantly black, but they have white patches on their head, neck, chest, feet, and tail. Solid black Border Collies are very rare, but a few breeders claim that they do exist.

Blue Border Collie

To the untrained eye, a blue Border Collie almost looks similar to the black-colored pup because of their dark and light shade.

What they fail to notice is that their coat is a progressive ash gray. They were born with a black coat, but it lightens to gray/blue as they mature.

Blue Merle Border Collie

The blue merle Border Collie is a total looker. They commonly have a white chest and an overall gray coat with some patches of black on their ears, face, back, and tail.

For a pup to possess this color, one of its parents should carry the merle gene or the incomplete gene. This is responsible for melanin dilution and the production of a unique coat pattern.

Brindle Border Collie

Brindle Border Collies are quite controversial because many pet owners think that they are a mix. They argue that the brindle coat pattern isn’t natural for this breed, and therefore they have acquired it by being crossed with another canine.

They are already proven wrong by professional Border Collie breeders and various kennel clubs because they are really purebred. This dog can have any acceptable color as a base and a dark tiger stripe pattern which makes them look more interesting.

Gold Border Collie

Gold Border Collies are often called blondes because of their coat color. Looking at their genetics, they have acquired a gold coloration because of a certain dilution in their coat’s pheomelanin which is red in default.

Lilac Border Collie

Ah, this one’s my favorite! Just look at that unique fur. Border Collies with lilac coat coloration boasts of a combination of blue and chocolate.

This dog got its unique appearance from being twice diluted, first by the [bb] gene which changes black to brown, and second by the [dd] gene which dilutes the black color to blue or gray.

Red Border Collie

Red Border Collies appear in different tones of red. Some are dark, while others are very light that they almost appear as creams. Aside from black and white, red Border Collies are also one of the most common colors recognized by kennel clubs.

Red Merle Border Collie

The red merle Border Collie looks like it came straight out of a fantasy movie. It has a red base coat, some white markings on its chest, face, neck, and tails, and random dark patches which makes it look like a fictional character.

Sable Border Collie

Sable Border Collies usually have a tan base coat with black tippings. The lightness or darkness of their fur depends on the combination of these two colors, but often they do not appear very dark. They may also have white markings, as shown in the picture above.

Sable Merle Border Collie

Aside from having a black-tipped coat, sable merle Border Collies also showcase some patches of dark color on their skin which is typical for dogs who inherited the incomplete or merle gene.

If you look closely at the sample I included, you’ll notice that the dark patches are all on their ears, body, and tail. However, their neck and chest remain white.

Saddleback Sable Border Collie

Saddleback Sable Border Collie
Photo from @okktak (IG)

Is this your first time hearing the word saddleback? Don’t worry. It may sound complicated, but it just simply means that the sable coloration in a Border Collie’s coat is spread further.

For instance, in the picture presented, the sable color does not completely cover the length of the dog’s body, but instead, there are noticeable spaces where the white markings occur. Saddleback sable Border Collies also have a little tan on their face and body; that’s why they look tri-colored.

White and Black Border Collie

Does this differ from black and white Border Collies? Definitely!

While black Border Collies are often addressed as black and white because they have “some” markings on their body, the white and black pups are predominantly light-colored with a tinge of black on their coat.

Just look at the example given above. You’ll see that the black shade is only found on some parts of the Border Collie’s back and tail.

White and Blue Border Collie

Similar to the former color discussed, white and blue Border Collies have a white base and tinges of dark color on their coat. The only difference is, theirs are grayish in shade.

White and Blue Merle Border Collie

Just one look at a white and blue merle Border Collie and you can surely tell that they are rare. Their white base coat is almost 80% of their whole color pattern in most cases, and they also have blue or clear eyes.

White and Red Border Collie

White and red Border Collies combine white and a deep or light tone of red on their coat. They aren’t that rare, but they aren’t that common either as compared to the black and red varieties.

White and Red Merle Border Collie

The white and red merle Border Collie is also considered unusual because it has more white on its coat and there are patches of red merle on its body. Refer to the photo above for their exact appearance.

White Ticked Border Collie

As evident from its name, white ticked Border Collies have some sort of black ticking on their white markings found on their face and legs. This isn’t a flaw and is completely accepted by the AKC and similar kennel organizations.

What Are the Non-Standard Border Collie Colors?

These non-standard Border Collie colors are referred to as such because they cannot compete in conformation shows. If you have one and you are worried that they won’t also be accepted in agility and similar skill tests as well, rest your brows because they can still join and win.

Seal Border Collie

A seal Border Collie has a black coat that appears brown when seen in sunlight. This brown tint is at times lighter, but often it is almost liver-colored.

How to easily identify them, you ask? Look at your dog closely when they are basking in the sun. Usually, their nose, legs, and tail will remain dark, but the other areas of their body will have a red cast.

Up until this day, the genetics behind this coat color is not identified. But I’m sure, in the near future, canine scholars will focus on deciphering the mystery of this shade.

Slate Border Collie

A slate Border Collie is nothing but a gray pup that is slightly lighter than those who are tagged as blue. They may also have white markings on some parts of their body, just like their other cousins.

White and Gold Border Collie

White and Gold Border Collie
Photo from @echothebc (IG)

White and gold Border Collies are commonly mistaken as white and cream because of their extremely light coloration. But if you are a Border Collie fanatic, you’ll quickly identify that they are white and they have tones of gold or blonde on their coat.

White and Sable Border Collie

White and sable Border Collies possess a white coat with some sable coloration. As explained in the former section, sable is a unique shade that combines tan hairs and black tippings.

White and Seal Border Collie

White and seal Border Collies exhibit a white coat with black tones that turn brown in sunlight. Study the photo above, which shows exactly what I described. You can’t exactly say that its coat is black because of its visible reddish cast.

Can Border Collies Be Tri-Colored?

If you are a tri-color dog fancier, this news will excite you. Border Collies can come in a combination of three shades. They can exhibit any of the colors considered as standard along with some tan points on their body. Check out the examples below:

Black Tri-Colored Border Collie

This tri-color Border Collie is predominantly black, but it has tan points on its face, legs, and tail. There are also visible white markings that complete the three tones.

Red Tri-Colored Border Collie

This red tri-color Border Collie is primarily dark red, but it also showcases some white markings and tan points on its ears, face, back, feet, and tail.

Can Border Collies Be Solid White?

Border Collies can have a predominantly white coat, but there is always some part of them that will exhibit color just like the white and black variety. This is due to a recessive gene that controls the amount of white spotting on their fur.

If you come across an all-white Border Collie, don’t curse me just yet. They may appear to be all white, but they don’t actually have any pigment because they are suffering from Albinism.

This condition is considered a fault by major kennel clubs so quit rejoicing that you found one. They carry a multitude of health problems that will probably get you bankrupt even before it turns one year old.

Here’s how an albino Border Collie looks like for your reference:

What Are the Rarest and Most Common Colors of Border Collies?

It is a known fact that a dog’s coat color is often associated with its price. Common ones are much less cheap than those that are extremely rare.

If you want to save a few bucks, here are the most common colors of Border Collies:

  • Black with white markings
  • Black tri-color
  • Red with white markings
  • Red tri-color

Meanwhile, if you are really after rare Border Collies, here are they:

  • Lilac
  • Blue
  • Saddleback Sable

Border Collie Coat Genetics: Why Do They Have So Many Different Colors?

There are two pigments that determine the coat color of Border Collies, and they are called eumelanin and phaeomelanin.

Eumelanin is black in default, but it turns into blue, brown, and other shades because of a particular gene that alters or restricts its production. These colors created are called dilutes and can also affect the dog’s eyes and nose colors.

On the other hand, the phaeomelanin, which is the second pigment responsible for a dog’s coat coloration, is red in default. The term “red” covers the deep red shade to cream, gold, orange, and yellow.

Some specific genes also alter the color of this pigment which results in varying Border Collie colors.

The Effect of Coat Color on Border Collie’s Health and Behavior

As of this day, there is no identified effect of coat color on a Border Collie’s behavior. However, in terms of health, many scientific pieces of research point out that merle and all-white dogs or albinos are more prone to a list of diseases and congenital disabilities. Here are some of them:

  • Eye Sensitivity: Both merles and albinos are found to be sensitive to light. They exhibit eye redness and discomfort when exposed to too much sun, leading to eye infections and even vision loss.
  • Skin Sensitivity: This health issue is common for albino and merle Border Collies. Symptoms of this condition include excessive scratching, dry patches, and hair loss.
  • Skin Cancer: Since their skin is very sensitive, merles and albinos may develop skin cancer if continuously exposed to UV rays. This is fatal and may lead to death if left untreated.
  • Microphthalmia: Most albino Border Collies have abnormally small eyes due to microphthalmia. Because of this, secondary issues arise like vision loss, cloudy eyes, and tiny eyelid opening.
  • Blindness: Most albino Border Collies are blind from birth due to the absence of pigment in their eyes. Unfortunately, nothing can be done for dogs with this condition.
  • Deafness: Merle and albinos are more prone to deafness than other coat colors and patterns. This is due to the unpigmented skin on their ear canal, which leads to the degeneration of their nerve endings.

RELATED: Border Collie Lifespan: How Long Do Border Collies Live?

Do Border Collie Puppies Change Color When They Grow?

As is with other breeds, Border Collies also change color as they mature due to pigment progression. Some anecdotal accounts of owners state that from being light tan, their Border became golden and that their dark brown pup became glossy black.

Watch this short video and observe how the Border Collies change color as they reach six months:

Raising my Border Collie Puppy up to 6 Months

If you expect dramatic coat changes, like a gold pup turning into blue, you should probably head out of the fantasy world you are living in. Dogs can’t exhibit such a degree of coat color alteration due to the way their genes are wired.

On another note, if your dog is already an adult and you noticed some changes in the shade of their coat, this may be a result of:

  • Skin disease
  • Nutritional status
  • Sunlight
  • Medication

Always check on your vet to identify if your Border Collie has acquired a specific health condition that causes the changes in the shade.

RECOMMENDED READING: How Much Are Border Collies? Cost of Buying and Raising a Border Collie

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Border Collies Shed a Lot of Hair?

Border Collies are moderate shedders, but they also experience seasonal shedding where they blow their coat excessively once a year. You better be prepared with a good quality brush to cut the amount of hair they’ll shower your furniture.

What Type of Coat Does a Border Collie Have?

Like other working dogs, Border Collies are bred to be double-coated to protect them from cold climates and keep them cool during hotter seasons. Their undercoat acts as some sort of insulation, so they are equipped to deal with any weather conditions.

Are Border Collies Hypoallergenic?

No. Border Collies might even trigger allergies and asthma attacks because of their shedding tendencies. I know this is a deal-breaker for most of you, but it has to be said to avoid risking your very own life.

Final Thoughts

That was quite a fun discussion, don’t you think? There are a lot of Border Collie colors you probably discovered by reading this and I know you already have your favorite. Can’t blame you on that because I, too, have my own preferred shade.

If you want to learn more about this breed aside from its colors, I suggest you browse through my other blogs because I have also dedicated several articles on their cost, health, lifespan, etc.

You can even share them with your other Border Collie loving friends which I would very much appreciate.

Till then, fellow dog enthusiast!

John Carter

My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially dogs. I've got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.

Recent Posts