In every way, my dog Tyrion looks exactly like a well-bred border collie, with a quick, agile gait, a well-balanced, lean body, and a classic “rough” coat with white markings. However, he’s not the medium-sized dog that one would expect to find in a border collie show ring-at just 17 pounds and 16 inches tall, he’s well beneath the minimum for the AKC’s breed standard and could not be considered a real border collie. Of course, that hasn’t stopped inquisitive conversationists at the dog park from asking me where I got my “miniature border collie.”
Do Miniature Border Collies Exist?
The fact is that my miniature border collie, like his “sister” who is nearly four times his size, was a rescue with an uncertain background. I have no way of knowing if he was actually bred to be a miniature border collie or if he simply has many of the breed’s traits in a pint-sized form. As a trip to the agility ring of a dog training center might show you, several breeders have indeed been working to reproduce the agility, intelligence, appearance, and work ethic of the border collie in smaller dogs, but there’s some question as to whether these dogs can be legitimately advertised or sold as miniature border collies.
The Breed Standard
Border collies on average tend to be medium-sized dogs, with those bred strictly for conformation stacking 18-22 inches in height and weighing 27-42 pounds. A border collie can not be registered with the American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club if it is outside these fairly strict limits. This means that “miniature” border collies are not appropriate as show dogs and may not meet breed standards. By the strictest terms, a border collie who never grows beyond sixteen inches in height can not be considered a border collie at all. However, appearance-based breed standards are extremely controversial among border collie enthusiasts, with many breeders considering these standards harmful to the development of the breed itself.
Working-Dog Breed Diversity
On the whole, border collie enthusiasts oppose the use of border collies as show dogs and their acceptance by kennel clubs, instead supporting those who breed these dogs strictly for their original purpose: as hard-working, agile, fit herders. Those who breed and own working border collies consider their working dogs, not AKC-conforming “show” dogs, to be the only real border collies, and show-bred dogs to be only a vague imitation of the actual breed itself. Working border collies come in many more shapes and sizes than conformation-bred border collies, including in “miniature” forms bred not for convenience or cuteness, but for their agility. The American Border Collie Association notes, “Because they’re not bred for appearance […] they can weigh from 25 to 55 pounds.” This allows for dogs both much larger and much smaller than border collies recognized by the AKC.
The Breeding of Miniature Border Collies
Although there are no kennel clubs or border collie groups that recognize the legitimacy of “miniature border collies,” there are breeders who produce border collies significantly smaller than average. Some of these may be purpose-bred as herding dogs to tend dwarf sheep or other small livestock, while others might (controversially) be bred for novelty. If they are bred from true border collie parent stock, these “dwarf” border collies come to
Mix and Designer Miniature Border Collies
Some “designer” breeders may choose to mix smaller breeds with the medium-sized border collie to attain a dog with a smaller stature than its parent breed. Depending on how its genes play out, a designer dog that is half border collie may look almost exactly like a miniature border collie. Some dogs that might be bred to the border collie include the Shetland sheepdog (a miniature breed that traces much of its ancestry to the border collie), the Cardigan Welsh corgi, and the Papillion. Those bred with other herding breeds are most likely to stay true to the border collie standard in agility and instinct.
Although there is no recognized breed or subtype known as a miniature border collie, this naturally diverse breed can include some dogs who are significantly smaller than their cousins. Furthermore, while it’s controversial to breed border collies for any purpose other than herding, some breeders are also producing smaller-than-average border collie pups either through selective breeding of two small border collie parents, or through out-crossing to smaller breeds of dog. However, so far, there is no formal recognition of the miniature border collie as a distinct breed or type of dog.