Collies vs. Shetland Sheepdogs

Rough Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs have a similar appearance but are not the same. While often mistaken for each other, they are two separate breeds with unique histories and attributes. However, Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs (affectionately referred to as “shelties”) are herding dogs and make loyal, affectionate companions.

Many think the Sheltie is a miniature Collie, but that is not the case. Since both breeds are herding dogs, they share a common history. They also have many differences when it comes to their temperament and size. Keep reading to learn about how Collies differ from Shetland Sheepdogs.



While the oldest written record of a Collie dates back to the 1800s, there is no certainty about its origins. From what we know, the Collie is from the Scottish Highlands. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), Collies were supposedly brought to Scotland by the Romans during their conquest of Britain in the 1st Century CE.

Nearly 2000 years later, the Collie became one of Queen Victoria’s favorite dog breeds. In the 1940s, Eric Knight’s novel Lassie Come-Home popularized Collies greatly. Due to Knight’s books, movies, and TV shows, Collies became the ideal companion for children worldwide.


Shetland Sheepdogs served as herding dogs for farmers on the Shetland Islands in the United Kingdom. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), Shelties are close relatives of the Collie but bred to be smaller. Due to the region’s harsh temperatures and food scarcity, farmers wanted smaller herding dogs that ate less. There are no written records of when Collies came to the Shetland Islands, nor is there a record of the origin of the Shetland breed. Until the early 20th Century, Shelties lived in isolation from other breeds. The AKC registered the Shetland Sheepdog breed in 1911.

Physical Differences

The clear difference between Collies and Shelties is their size. The Collie is much larger than the Sheltie. A male Collie stands at 24-26 inches and weighs 60-75 pounds, while female Collies stand at 22-24 inches and weigh 50-65 pounds. In comparison, Shelties of either sex stand at 13-16 inches and weigh 15-25 pounds. Due to their similar appearance, many confuse the Sheltie for a “toy” Collie even though they are different breeds.

Greg Speeks, the current president of the American Shetland Sheepdog Association believes that the Sheltie’s smaller size makes it a better choice for people living in urban areas. A Sheltie will adjust much better to a small apartment than a Collie.

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The two breeds also have other differences, mainly in their facial structure and coat type. Collies have a broader, longer muzzle with a cylindrical shape. In comparison, the Sheltie’s muzzle is narrow and short with a deep curve between the eyes that is prominent in their side profile. Another difference between the two breeds’ appearance is the shape and size of the ears.

Collies and Shelties have similar coats, which are thick and feature two layers. The undercoat has soft, fluffy hair, while the outer coat is straight and rough. Both breeds have long, straight hair around their head, mimicking a mane.

When it comes to appearance, the Sheltie is a small dog with a dense coat, which gives an appearance similar to a “ball of fluff.” In comparison, a Collie’s coat does not hide the shape of his body.

The two breeds come in similar colors, and their coats may be tri-color, blue merle, and sable. Some Shelties can also have an almost fully black coat with few markings.


Although Collies and Shelties are both herding dogs, they have distinct personalities. While the Collie only served as a sheepherder, the Sheltie’s purpose was also to protect the farm and its inhabitants. Due to their unique roles, both dogs developed distinct temperaments.


Compared to Shelties, Collies tend to bark less and are much calmer. Collies are likely to stay low and be calm around strangers. Between the two, Collies have a more serious and reserved temperament. They can be aloof to strangers and will take a while to become comfortable around new people. Collies are gentle, loyal, and affectionate and will form close bonds with their family members.

When it comes to training, you will have to give your Collie a lot of activities to keep it engaged. They are intelligent and can learn new things quickly. If you keep making your Collie do the same things repeatedly, it can become bored. Collies don’t bark as much as Shelties, but they do bark for attention. Collies can be very vocal if they feel lonely or deprived of attention.


Compared to Collies, Shelties are much more active and need to stay engaged. Shelties need activities to keep them occupied or they can become bored and destructive. They are high-energy dogs and you will always find them exploring. At times, they get into mischief due to their temperament.

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Shelties don’t handle boredom very well, so ample exercise and mental stimulation are important for their health. Shelties make loyal, watchful, and affectionate companions when provided with enough mental and physical exercise.

Similar to Collies, Shelties prefer being close to their owners. If deprived of attention, Shelties can develop excessive barking and destructive chewing habits. They are eager to please and intelligent, making them highly trainable. However, Shelties will only respond well to gentle training methods such as positive reinforcement. Harsh methods can make them resentful and stubborn.

Health Issues And Lifespan

Shelties and Collies are both relatively healthy dogs and have a long lifespan. On average, Shelties live a couple of years longer than the Collie. Smaller breeds are known to have a longer lifespan than larger dogs. Collies generally live between eight to twelve years, while Shelties can live up to fourteen years. Both dogs require exercise and a nutritious diet to live long, healthy lives.

When it comes to health problems, both these breeds are prone to a condition called hip dysplasia where the hip joint can slip out of place. Seizures and eye problems are other health issues that Shelties and Collies can both inherit. Additionally, Collies are at risk for canine bloat, while Shelties can develop hypothyroidism.


Shelties and Collies have dense coats which require regular brushing. Depending on how long or short you keep their coat, you need to brush it anywhere from once to thrice a week. They are moderate shedders year-round, but seasonal changes can trigger heavy shedding.

If you are looking for a hypoallergenic dog, neither of these breeds is for you. Their lustrous coats shed heavily all over the house during seasonal changes.


The Sheltie and Collie are both active and high-energy dogs that require a well-balanced and nutritious diet. Dog food containing ample protein, healthy fats, digestible carbohydrates, fiber, and key nutrients is best for both breeds. To keep their joints healthy, look for dog food with specific nutrients such as glucosamine and chondroitin. Both dogs need a diet rich in Omega Fatty acids to keep their coats shiny and healthy.

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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