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Tri-Color Border Collie: Facts, Origin & History (with Pictures)


May 20, 2023
border collie dog hiding in the bush

Border Collies are considered the most intelligent dog breed in the world. These herding dogs are loyal, friendly, and affectionate. Border Collies are workaholics, and they love having a job to do—whether herding, playing fetch, or excelling in an agility course, these dogs are an excellent breed to own and come in a few color variations, with one, in particular, being the tri-color coat.

In this post, we’ll explore the rarer tri-color coat of the Border Collie and other valuable information about this fascinating dog breed.

Breed Overview


White, black, tan, red, brown, blue merle

Suitable for:

Active families, families with children, families with livestock


Loyal & loving, intelligent, easy to train, friendly, energetic, affectionate

The tri-color coat is a rarer coat color variation in this breed that mostly consists of black, tan, and white. The most common color variation is the bi-colored black or brown with bands of white covering the chest, neck, and shoulders. Tan is often a third color seen in this breed, which can be found on the face, tail, or paws. These dogs can also have a blue merle or red merle coat.

The tri-color coat gives the Border Collie an unusual yet beautiful appearance, with vibrant combinations that occur in the fur. The weather-resistant double-coat is dense and comes in two varieties: a rough, medium-length feathered coat or a shorter, smooth coat.


Tri-Color Border Collie Characteristics

The Earliest Records of the Tri-Color Border Collie in History

Tri Color Border Collie
Image Credit: Lichtflut, Shutterstock

Border Collies have been around for thousands of years and were bred as herding dogs. It’s believed that this breed originated in the 1700s or 1800s in Northumberland, a county that lies within the border of two countries, Scotland and England, hence the name “Border” Collie. As for the rarer tri-color coat, the breed started with a tri-colored Border Collie named Old Hemp, who is considered the father of the breed.

Some experts believe these dogs’ roots can be traced back to Roman times some 2,000 years ago when the Romans brought their drover dogs along with them to Britain, but this bit of history is not exactly clear.

How the Border Collie Gained Popularity

In the past, and considering their remarkable herding abilities, the breed was thought of only as working dogs; however, they gained popularity in the 19th century when Queen Victoria became a fan of the breed and started owning them as pets. Queen Victoria was not the only person who became a fan—the public started realizing the breed’s affectionate, loving, and loyal nature, which allowed their popularity to increase as companion pets in addition to being exceptional herding dogs.

Border Collies moved around the world during the colonial era, helping farms with sheep herding.

Formal Recognition of the Border Collie

Several organizations recognize the Border Collie and its many color variations. The North American Sheepdog Society was formed in 1940 with the purpose of protecting and promoting the breed’s fantastic herding abilities. The American Border Collie Association was founded in 1983 and is the largest registry to date. This non-profit organization was founded by breeders who wanted to keep records of the working Border Collie bloodlines—they also fund health studies and genetic research on the breed.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) placed the breed in a miscellaneous class in 1955 but finally recognized them as their own class of dog breed in 1995. Lastly, the Border Collie Society of America was formed in 1990 and continues to preserve the integrity of the breed, along with promoting responsible breeding and ownership.


Top 5 Unique Facts About the Tri-Colored Border Collie

Border Collie soccer ball
Image Credit: Pxfuel

1. Border Collies Excel in Search and Rescue

Not only are these dogs incredible herders, but they also excel in search and rescue efforts, as well as serving law enforcement. Stories exist of Border Collies rescuing their owners from dire, life-threatening situations. One such story involved an owner who fell down a 70-foot cliff in a remote area. Saul, the owner’s Border Collie, ran in circles, jumped, and barked to alert rescue teams of his owner’s remote location.

2. The Tri-Colored Coat Comes in Many Colors

The most common tri-colored coat color variation is black, white, and tan. However, other color variations include solid colors of blue, black, sable, gold, red, slate, seal, and lilac, typically combined with white or tan. If the tri-color coat is brown, the dog will have a brown nose as opposed to black.

3. Celebrities Love Border Collies

Border Collies are a popular breed to own among elite celebrities such as Tiger Woods, Jeff Daniels, James Franco, Selena Gomez, and Jon Bon Jovi. The legendary James Dean loved Border Collies and owned the breed as well.

4. They Have a Unique Crouching Stance

We know Border Collies are excellent herders, but they also have a unique stealthy crouch when herding. They have the ability to be quiet, and the crouching stance allows them to move quickly with impressive precision. They also have an intense stare that allows them to herd livestock with less physical intrusion.

5. Border Collies are Movie Stars

This breed has seen its fair share of the big screen. You can find Border Collies in films such as Babe, and Snow Dogs, as well as the TV series Little House on the Prairie. Their intelligence enables them to be a wise choice of dog breed to use on film, and you’ll also see them in many commercials.

Do Tri-Colored Border Collies Make Good Pets?

No matter the color pattern, Border Collies make exceptional pets. They are loving, loyal, and incredibly intelligent, which allows for smooth housetraining. However, they are high-energy and require an excessive amount of exercise. One must devote the time to exercise the breed, especially if the dog is not being used for herding livestock. They are happiest when they have a job to do, and they excel in agility courses and other dog competitions.

They can be quirky, moody, and wary of strangers, but for the most part, they are fun and eager to please their humans. They get along well with other dogs with early socialization, but any introductions should be supervised. The breed does well with children, but don’t be surprised if the Border Collie “nips” at children’s heels in an attempt to herd them (the nip is not a bite and is harmless). Overall, the Border Collie is a popular breed to own and can be a fun dog to have around.

divider-dog paw


The Border Collie has many color variations, with the tri-color being the rarer color pattern. Regardless of color or color pattern, the Border Collie’s temperament is the same. They do require at least 1½ to 2 hours of daily exercise and get bored and destructive if they do not receive some form of physical and mental stimulation.

The Border Collie is always up for an adventure and is a fun breed to own. Housetraining and tricks are a breeze to learn, given their intelligence, and they are affectionate and loyal. A Border Collie is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a breed to add to your active family.

Featured Image Credit: Joop Snijder Photography, Shutterstock

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