It can be difficult to correctly identify border collies. Until the mid-1990s, the breed was not recognized by the AKC (nor did breed enthusiasts want it to be). It was bred entirely for function and not conformation to a standard appearance. The same is true for many breeds that look like border collies, since related dogs also tend to be function-bred types of dog, not dogs carefully bred to match an appearance. There are many breeds that look like the border collie, almost all of which are related to the border collie and perform a similar function.
Some breeds that look like border collies include:
1. The Australian Shepherd
Also known as the Aussie, this beautiful dog has a quick mind and an agile body and is only slightly less active than its distant cousin, the border collie. Australian shepherds (which were actually bred in the U.S., not Australia) usually have a rough coat, which can have many of the classic border collie patterns, including and can be black, red, blue merle, with or without white “Scottish markings.” Aussies have a natural or docked bobtail, unlike border collies, which usually have full tails.
2. Welsh Shepherd
A cousin of the border collie, the Welsh shepherd is bred entirely for appearance and varies a lot in the way it looks. Usually, they have a “smooth” or short coat with black and white markings that often follow the same pattern as border collies’ markings. Like border collies, they can also be red and white, blue merle, or tricolor. They tend to be extremely active and have a powerful work ethic.
3. English Shepherd
This incredibly active, intelligent, and adaptable dog can look almost exactly like a border collie, although it varies a lot in its appearance. The English shepherd breed supposedly traces its ancestry all the way back to the dogs of ancient Rome, and has changed little since then. Nevertheless, it can look similar to newer breeds and may have the classic black-and-white Scottish markings of a border collie. They tend to be larger and more muscular than most herding breeds.
Koolies are an attractive, agile breed that can look like a border collie in some cases. They were bred in Australia from German stockdogs, some of whom had border collie- like traits. The breed was once characteristically blue merle with blue eyes, but these genes produced a lot of deaf pups, so koolies were eventually cross-bred with other herders to strengthen the breed. Many koolies have red-and-white, merle-and-white or black-and-white markings reminiscent of border collies. They usually have a short coat and are extremely active.
Also known as the McNab border collie, this very attractive breed of exemplary herders traces its lineage directly to border collies. Alexander McNab, the breed’s founder, immigrated from Scotland to California in the 1800s and bred his working border collies to the best shepherd dogs in the region. The result still remains in the McNab, which often looks indistinguishable from other border collies but may have a short coat, large ears, and a natural bobbed tail.
6. New Zealand Heading Dog
Another direct descendant of the border collie, the New Zealand heading dog is a very agile and active dog that usually has black-and-white or black-white-and-copper coloration, although it’s occasionally tan or red. It can have either a rough or smooth coat and it often has the classic pattern of markings seen on border collies. Like many herders, New Zealand heading dogs often don’t make good house pets because they are very active and need a lot of exercise and work to be mentally healthy.
Even if a dog looks almost exactly like a border collie, it can be hard to say what kind of dog it really is, since border collies and related dogs have been purpose-bred for many years and are very diverse in appearance. The striking features that people typically associate with border collies isn’t limited to one breed.