Tricolor Border Collie Ultimate Guide: Facts about this Variation

tricolor border collies

One sunny afternoon, I had the pleasure of visiting a local kids’ club to talk about one of my favorite subjects: dogs. Specifically, I was there to share everything I know about Border Collies.

As I started, I could see the excitement in the children’s eyes. We talked about the history of Border Collies, their herding skills, and how they’re one of the smartest dog breeds in the world. The kids were fascinated, hanging on to every word.

But the real surprise came when I introduced the concept of the tricolor Border Collie. Until then, many kids, including a bright-eyed boy named Andy, thought Border Collies only came in black and white.

“Wait, what do you mean by ‘tricolor’?” Andy asked, his curiosity piqued.

“Well, Andy,” I explained, “apart from the usual black and white, tricolor Border Collies have tan markings on their legs, chest, and face. It’s like they’re wearing some extra color to stand out.”

“Whoa!” Andy responded, his eyes wide with wonder.

“Exactly, Andy! They’re unique and just as intelligent and capable as their black and white counterparts,” I replied, smiling.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with more questions and excitement as the kids learned about the versatility and beauty of the tricolor Border Collie. I want to share the same information below.

Tricolor Border Collie Breed Summary

Common Breed NamesBorder Collie
WeightMales 30-45 pounds, Females 27-42 pounds
Life Span 12 to 15 years
PurposeCompanion Dog & Herding
CoatDouble coat with a dense undercoat and a coarser outer coat
ColorTricolor (black, white, and tan)
TemperamentEnergetic, alert, and eager to please
IntelligenceExtremely intelligent, often considered the smartest dog breed
SocializationNeeds early socialization to prevent shyness
Activity LevelsVery high


Physical Characteristics of a Tricolor Border Collie

tricolor border collies

Their physical and mental attributes never cease to amaze me. Let’s discuss the specific physical characteristics that make Border Collies stand out.

Size and Weight

Border Collies are generally medium-sized dogs, though their build can lean towards the larger side depending on the specific lineage. From my observations, their elongated snout and triangular ears contribute to their alert and focused appearance. The tail, with its characteristic slight bob towards the end, and their intense gaze, are hallmark features of the breed. Males typically weigh between 30 and 45 pounds, while females are slightly lighter, making them agile and swift, perfect for the demands of herding and agility tasks.


The versatility of the Border Collie’s coat is truly remarkable. It can range from short to long, and be straight or slightly curled, reflecting the diverse heritage of the breed. While some enthusiasts prioritize skeletal structure and responsiveness over coat length, it’s the adaptability of their coat that stands out to me. This versatility ensures that the Border Collie is well-equipped for various climates and work environments, embodying the breed’s resilient nature.


The tricolor Border Collie showcases a stunning array of colors that add to the breed’s appeal. Typically, they exhibit a primary coat of black, brown, or red, accented with a distinctive white ‘ruff’ around the neck and shoulders. The third color, such as yellow, can be found marking their face, tail, and paws. This unique coloration not only enhances their aesthetic appeal but also highlights the genetic diversity within the breed.

The intense eye pigmentation and the fixed, determined stare, known as ‘the eye,’ is a trait shared by both tricolor and more common variants of Border Collies. This characteristic is more than just a physical attribute; it’s a tool that Border Collies use effectively in herding. The intense stare, or ‘the eye,’ can control livestock, compelling them to move away from it. This ability underscores the breed’s working heritage and their natural prowess as herders.

Tricolor Border Collie Origins

These dogs, the closest relatives to the original Landrace Collie of the British Isles, are a testament to the power of natural selection and dedicated breeding. Their long fur and boundless energy are perfect adaptations to the cold climates of northern Europe, something I find particularly remarkable.

During the Victorian era, the Border Collie’s fortunes saw a significant uplift. It’s intriguing to consider how Queen Victoria’s fondness for these dogs elevated their status as both pets and rodent controllers at royal estates and ignited a widespread interest that crossed borders and social standings. This decision by the Queen always makes me appreciate the historical significance of human preferences in shaping dog breeds.

The role of Border collies in colonial settings underscores their versatility and resilience. Imagine the relief and security a settler would feel, having a reliable collie by their side, protecting their flock, or alerting them to dangers. Their importance in such challenging environments is a testament to their adaptability and utility, aspects of the breed that I deeply admire.

The practice of using trained collies on ships to guard food stores from rodents speaks volumes about their value in past societies. The idea that these dogs were so essential they had to be listed on a ship’s manifest is a fascinating glimpse into the past, showcasing the special relationship between humans and dogs.

With the official recognition of the Border Collie as a distinct breed in the early 1900s, we see the culmination of years of evolution and specialization. Despite this formal distinction, the ongoing use of Border Collies in herding and agricultural settings worldwide reflects their enduring utility and the deep-rooted connection between these dogs and the people who work alongside them.

Notable Border Collies

Delving into the stories of notable Border Collies throughout history always gives me a sense of awe and admiration. It’s fascinating to think about how individual dogs have made significant contributions to the breed’s legacy, shaping its characteristics and popularity.

Take Old Hemp, for example. Whenever I read about his incredible skills and the impact he had on the Border Collie breed, I’m reminded of the power of genetics and the importance of standout individuals in animal breeding. Old Hemp wasn’t just any dog; he was a working collie whose abilities in the field set a standard for the breed. Knowing that he sired over 200 puppies and is a common ancestor to nearly all purebred Border Collies today makes me appreciate the interconnectedness of this breed’s genealogy. It’s almost like tracing your own family tree, but in the canine world, Old Hemp would be a great-great-grandfather many times over.

Winston Cap’s story is another that resonates with me. As the benchmark for what a Border Collie should be, both in terms of skill and physical attributes, he embodies the breed’s excellence. The fact that he has influenced the guidelines for certifying a purebred collie speaks volumes about his quality and the legacy he left behind. Whenever I see a Border Collie excel in herding or agility, I can’t help but wonder about the influence Winston Cap might have in their lineage.

Then there’s Reveille, the Texas A&M University mascot. The idea that a Tricolor Collie holds such a beloved place in the hearts of students and sports fans alike warms my heart. It’s a testament to the breed’s versatility and appeal beyond their working capabilities. Reveille isn’t just a mascot; she’s a symbol of spirit and pride, enjoying privileges that underscore her special status. Each time a new Reveille takes up the mantle, it’s like passing the torch in a long-standing tradition that celebrates the breed’s charm and intelligence.

Tricolor Border Collie Personality and Temperament

Talking about the personality and temperament of Tricolor Border Collies, I’ve always found them to be an incredibly interesting topic. These dogs are more than just their beautiful coats; they have a personality that’s both complex and delightful.

First off, Tricolor Border Collies are incredibly intelligent. I’ve seen them figure out puzzles and learn commands faster than you’d believe. Their smartness isn’t just for show, either. It’s a big part of who they are, helping them excel in training and problem-solving tasks. They seem to thrive on mental stimulation, so keeping their minds engaged is key.

They’re also known for being highly energetic. If you’ve ever spent a day with one, you’ll know they’re always ready for action, whether it’s a game of fetch, a run in the park, or a training session. Their energy is contagious, but it also means they need plenty of exercises to stay happy and healthy. I often remind potential pet parents that a bored Border Collie can become a handful, as they might find less desirable ways to expend their pent-up energy.

Border Collies, including the tricolor variety, have a strong work ethic. This trait is rooted in their herding heritage. Watching them focus on a task is impressive; they approach activities with a level of seriousness and dedication that’s admirable. It’s clear they love to have a job to do, even if that job is as simple as fetching a ball or navigating an agility course.

Socially, they can be a bit reserved at first, especially around strangers. It’s not that they’re unfriendly; they’re just cautious. However, once they warm up to someone, they can be incredibly loyal and affectionate. I always find it touching to see the strong bond they form with their families.

In terms of living with families, Tricolor Border Collies can be great companions, including for those with children. Their intelligence and energy make them fantastic playmates, although their herding instinct might kick in with younger kids. It’s something to watch for, but with proper training and socialization, it’s usually not a problem.

Tricolor Border Collie Care Guide

tricolor border collies

When it comes to caring for a Tricolor Border Collie, understanding their unique needs is essential for keeping them happy and healthy. These beautiful and intelligent dogs require specific attention in several areas, including their diet, exercise, training, and mental stimulation. In this care guide, I’ll share some practical advice and insights that I’ve gathered over the years, focusing first on one of the most crucial aspects: feeding.


A proper diet is fundamental to your Tricolor Border Collie’s health and well-being. Given their high energy levels and active lifestyle, it’s important to get their feeding regimen right.

When searching for the appropriate kibble at your local pet supply store, you should ask for a brand marked ‘active’ or ‘working’ dog. These tend to be fortified with a grain-based filler substance that makes them a high-energy food source without needing to use any artificial additives. To provide your Collies a high-quality dog food, make sure to check that your chosen bag of kibble is also graded for your dog’s size and age, and that it is not marketed as a medication of any kind. Many dog foods on the market are formulated specifically to address conditions like obesity or nursing, and should not be used if the condition in question is not applicable to your dog. Below is a breakdown of the key guidelines to consider when planning your dog’s diet.

Puppy Stage

For Tricolor Border Collie puppies, nutrition is critical for their growth and development. I recommend feeding them high-quality puppy food specifically formulated for medium-sized breeds. These foods are designed to support their rapid growth phase and provide the energy they need. Typically, puppies should be fed three to four times a day in small portions. This helps prevent overfeeding and supports their digestive system.

Adult Stage

As they transition into adulthood, usually around 12 months of age, Tricolor Border Collies require a balanced diet that supports their energy levels. A high-quality adult dog food that meets the nutritional standards for active breeds is ideal. For most adults, feeding them twice a day works well. Portion size is important here; too much food can lead to weight gain, especially if they’re not getting enough exercise. Always check the feeding guidelines on the dog food package, and adjust based on your dog’s activity level and weight.

Senior Stage

When Tricolor Border Collies reach their senior years, typically around 8 years and older, their metabolism slows down, and their energy levels may decrease. It’s often necessary to adjust their diet to prevent obesity and manage health issues such as joint problems. Senior-specific dog food formulas are lower in calories but still provide the necessary nutrients they need. Feeding them smaller portions more frequently can also help manage their weight and digestive health.


Grooming your Tricolor Border Collie isn’t just about keeping them looking good; it’s also a key part of their overall health care. These dogs have a beautiful, dense double coat that requires regular maintenance to keep them comfortable and prevent issues like matting and skin problems. Here, I’ll go through the different grooming activities that are important for taking care of your Tricolor Border Collie.


Regular brushing is a must for Tricolor Border Collies. I find that brushing them at least two to three times a week helps to remove loose fur and prevent tangles, especially in their dense undercoat. During shedding season, which usually happens twice a year, you might need to brush them daily to manage the increased shedding. A slicker brush and an undercoat rake are great tools for this breed, helping to reach both layers of their coat effectively.


When it comes to bathing, Tricolor Border Collies don’t need to be bathed too frequently. Every few months is generally enough unless they get particularly dirty from outdoor activities. Using a mild dog shampoo that’s gentle on their skin and coat is important to avoid irritation. After bathing, make sure they’re completely dry before letting them back outside, especially in colder weather.

Nail Trimming

Keeping their nails trimmed is another key aspect of grooming. If you hear their nails clicking on the floor, it’s time for a trim. Long nails can cause discomfort and even affect their gait and posture. If you’re not comfortable trimming their nails yourself, it’s a good idea to have a professional groomer or vet take care of it.

Ear Cleaning

Checking and cleaning their ears regularly is important to prevent ear infections, especially since Border Collies can be prone to them. I always recommend a gentle approach, using a soft, damp cloth to wipe around the outer ear and a vet-recommended ear cleaner for the inner ear. It’s crucial not to insert anything into the ear canal, as this can cause injury.

Dental Care

Finally, dental care shouldn’t be overlooked. Regular brushing of their teeth helps to prevent plaque buildup and dental diseases. Starting this routine early and using dog-specific toothpaste can make it a more enjoyable experience for your Tricolor Border Collie.

Training and Exercise

Proper training and exercise are crucial for a tricolor Border Collie’s well-being. Given their high intelligence and energy levels, these aspects cannot be overlooked. Training not only helps in managing their behavior but also strengthens the bond between you and your dog. Similarly, adequate exercise is essential to keep them physically fit and prevent behavior problems that stem from boredom or excess energy. Here’s a closer look at each of these aspects.


I find that training a tricolor Border Collie can be a rewarding experience due to their eagerness to learn and please their owners. Starting from a young age, basic obedience training involving commands like sit, stay, come, and heel is essential. Positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats and praise, are highly effective with this breed. Given their intelligence, they pick up on cues quickly but also enjoy the challenge of learning new commands or tricks, which keeps training sessions engaging for them.

Owners have shared stories of how their Border Collies have learned complex commands and tasks, illustrating their capability for advanced training. Agility training is another area where these dogs excel, utilizing their natural agility and speed. It’s a fantastic way to keep them physically active while also providing a mental workout.


When it comes to exercise, I find that tricolor Border Collies require plenty of it. A simple walk around the block won’t suffice for these energetic dogs. They thrive on activities that engage both their body and mind. This includes long walks, running, playing fetch, and participating in dog sports like agility, flyball, and herding trials. These activities not only help in burning off their energy but also satisfy their instinctual drive to work.

Many owners have found success in creating a routine that includes a mix of physical and mental exercises to keep their Border Collies happy. It’s not uncommon to hear of these dogs enjoying hiking trips with their owners, where they can explore and run freely in a safe environment.

Mental Needs

Addressing the mental needs of a tricolor Border Collie is as important as their physical exercise. Their sharp minds require constant stimulation to avoid boredom, which can lead to destructive behaviors. Puzzle toys, interactive games, and regular training sessions are excellent ways to keep their minds active. Teaching them new tricks or commands is another way to provide mental stimulation, and it’s something that Border Collies usually love.

Owners often share how incorporating mental exercises into their daily routine has made a significant difference in their dog’s overall happiness and behavior.


Finally, socialization plays a key role in developing a well-adjusted tricolor Border Collie. Introducing them to a variety of people, animals, environments, and situations from a young age helps in building their confidence and reduces the chances of fear or aggression later in life. Socialization can include visits to the dog park, inviting people over to your home, and exposing them to different sounds and experiences in a controlled manner.

Hearing from owners, it’s clear that well-socialized dogs tend to be more adaptable and comfortable in various settings, making them easier to take along on adventures or simply enjoy a peaceful life at home.

Tricolor Border Collie Health Issues

Border Collies

Understanding the health issues that can affect tricolor Border Collies is an essential part of being a responsible pet owner. Knowing about these potential health problems helps you to be proactive in managing your dog’s health, ensuring they lead a long, happy, and active life. Here’s a closer look at some common health issues seen in tricolor Border Collies, including symptoms and causes.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition commonly found in Border Collies, where the hip joint doesn’t fit together perfectly, leading to arthritis or lameness. Symptoms often include difficulty rising, reluctance to jump or run, and a noticeable limp. The cause is primarily genetic, though factors like improper weight, nutrition, and rapid growth can exacerbate the condition. It’s something I’ve heard many dog owners discuss, highlighting the importance of watching for early signs and consulting with a vet for management strategies.

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA)

Collie Eye Anomaly is a genetic disorder that affects the eyes and can range from mild to severe, potentially leading to blindness. Symptoms might not be outwardly visible, which is why genetic testing by breeders is crucial. The condition involves abnormalities in the development of the eye, which can affect the choroid, sclera, and sometimes the retina. Owners often learn about this condition through breeder disclosures or veterinary examinations, underlining the value of thorough health screenings.


Epilepsy in Border Collies can lead to recurrent seizures, which are distressing to witness as an owner. The causes can be genetic, environmental, or unknown. Symptoms include convulsions, stiffness, loss of consciousness, or unusual behavior like unprovoked pacing. Management often involves medication and lifestyle adjustments to reduce seizure frequency and severity. It’s a condition that requires understanding and patience, as I’ve learned from conversations with other pet owners facing similar challenges.


Allergies are not uncommon in Border Collies and can be triggered by food, environmental factors, or fleas. Symptoms include itching, red skin, hair loss, and sometimes gastrointestinal issues. Identifying the cause can involve food trials or environmental changes. From what I’ve observed, managing allergies often requires a combination of dietary adjustments, medication, and preventive measures to keep the dog comfortable.

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)

OCD is a condition where abnormal cartilage growth in the joints leads to pain and mobility issues. It’s seen in growing dogs, including Border Collies, and can affect shoulders, elbows, hips, or knees. Symptoms include limping and reluctance to use the affected limb. Causes include genetics, rapid growth, and nutrition. Addressing this issue early on, based on what I’ve heard from other owners, can prevent long-term damage through surgery or rest.

FAQs on the Tricolor Border Collie

What is a tricolor Border Collie?

A tricolor Border Collie is a variation of the Border Collie breed that has a coat featuring three colors: typically black, white, and tan. The primary color is usually black, with white markings often seen on the face, neck, feet, and tail tip, and tan markings usually appearing around the face, legs, and sometimes under the tail.

How often should I exercise my tricolor Border Collie?

Tricolor Border Collies are highly energetic and require substantial daily exercise to keep them healthy and happy. It’s recommended to engage them in physical activities for at least 1-2 hours a day. This can include walks, runs, agility training, and playing fetch. They also thrive on mental stimulation, so incorporating training sessions and puzzle toys into their routine is beneficial.

Are tricolor Border Collies good with children?

Yes, tricolor Border Collies can be great with children, especially if they are raised together or the dog has been properly socialized. Their friendly and playful nature makes them good companions for kids. However, due to their herding instinct, it’s important to supervise interactions and teach children how to interact with dogs respectfully.

Do tricolor Border Collies shed a lot?

Yes, tricolor Border Collies do shed, especially during the shedding seasons in spring and fall. Regular brushing, at least a few times a week, can help manage the shedding and keep their coat healthy. During peak shedding periods, daily brushing might be necessary to keep loose fur under control.

Can tricolor Border Collies live in apartments?

While tricolor Border Collies are adaptable, their high energy levels and need for regular exercise make them better suited to homes with more space, such as those with a backyard. However, with sufficient daily exercise and mental stimulation, a tricolor Border Collie can live in an apartment. It’s essential to commit to an active lifestyle and provide them with enough physical and mental activities to prevent boredom and destructive behavior.

Are tricolor Border Collies easy to train?

Yes, tricolor Border Collies are known for their intelligence and eagerness to please, which makes them relatively easy to train. They excel in obedience, agility, and various dog sports. Positive reinforcement techniques work well with this breed. It’s important to start training early and keep sessions engaging to make the most of their learning capabilities.

What health issues should I be aware of?

Tricolor Border Collies are generally healthy but can be prone to certain genetic health issues, including hip dysplasia, Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA), epilepsy, allergies, and Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD). Regular veterinary check-ups, a healthy diet, and exercise can help manage and prevent these conditions. Prospective owners should also seek out reputable breeders who conduct genetic testing on their breeding dogs.

An Energetic and Intelligent Companion for Active Families

The tricolor Border Collie, at its core, shares the intelligence, energy, and versatility known to Border Collies, making them standout companions. However, their distinctive tricolor coat set them apart visually from other variations of the breed.

For those who are active and willing to engage with their dog mentally and physically, the tricolor Border Collie is an ideal match. I find that their need for stimulation and activity suits energetic individuals and families who can provide them with the exercise and mental challenges they thrive on. It may not be the best choice for people with less time or inclination toward high levels of activity.

About John Woods 299 Articles
John Woods is the founder of All Things Dogs, member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, graduate in Animal Behavior & Welfare and recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America.

1 Comment

  1. Very informative ..I just recently adopted a short hair tri color female 2 1/2 years old she’s a darling she smiles at me a lot..very endearing. She has some minor problems because she wasn’t socialized when she was a puppy she’s very shy but she seems to be relaxing and becoming calmer and a little more social since she’s been with me…she sticks to me like glue and is always very happy to see me when I return home.. I’m very lucky to have met her and taken her into my home she will be a center of affection for the rest if her life something she didn’t get when she was a puppy. Your article was wonderful and I enjoyed reading it !

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