Rough Collie vs. Smooth Collie: Is There a Difference?

The Collie comes in two different varieties: rough and smooth. They look different, but is that the only thing that separates them?

Dec 9, 2023byHolly Ramsey
rough collie vs smooth collie is there a difference

When most people think of a collie, Lassie pops into their mind. Smart, loyal, with a big, beautiful coat. But there is another lower-maintenance variety of the collie that is gaining popularity. Unlike the Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgi, which are two separate breeds, the Rough and Smooth Collie are the same breed.

History of the Collie

smooth collies laying down
Image credit: Pinterest

The history of the Rough Collie and Smooth Collie is identical. Both are herding dogs originating in the highlands of Scotland in the 18th century to herd sheep. The smooth variety was used more for driving the sheep, whereas the rough variety stayed in the fields with the shepherds. The name Collie is believed to come from the black-faced Scottish sheep called “colleys.” The Collie was often referred to as “Colley dog.”

While their history began in Scotland, it is England that helped develop the Collie into the breed we know today. In the late 1800s, the first Rough Collie was exhibited at the Birmingham, England dog show as part of the Scotch Sheepdog class. The first English Collie, a rough, was imported into North America in 1879. The Collie Club of America was founded in 1886. The Smooth Collie was imported into the United States a few years later.

Coat Types

rough collie standing in grass
Image credit: Wyndlair Collies

According to the breed standard on the American Kennel Club’s website, “the well-fitting, proper-textured coat is the crowning glory of the Rough variety of Collie.” The hair is abundant except on the legs and head. The mane, frill, skirting, and tail are very profuse. The Rough Collie is a double-coated breed with a straight, harsh outer coat and a shorter, softer undercoat.

The Smooth Collie is also a double-coated dog with a straight, harsh outer coat that is close-fitting to their body. They have a short, dense undercoat. The hair forming the frill around the neck and skirts on the hindquarters is thicker and slightly longer. Both varieties do shed; the Rough Collie does shed more than the Smooth Collie.

Collies that are shown in conformation shows do require specific conditioning and prepping for dog shows. The Rough Collie does need more coat conditioning than its Smooth counterpart. Judges at dog shows do look closely at the condition of the Collie’s coat.

Size and Temperament

rough collie puppies
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Both varieties are the same size according to the breed standard. Males are 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder in height and weigh between 60 and 75 pounds. Females are 22 to 24 inches at the shoulder in height and weigh between 50 and 65 pounds.

The temperament should be the same for both the Rough Collie and the Smooth Collie. They are affectionate, loyal, and smart. The Collie is very trainable but does not do well with harsh training techniques. They excel with positive reinforcement.

Collies are known for being excellent with children of all ages. They also make terrific watchdogs and will sound the alarm when a stranger comes on their property. Well-bred, well-trained Collies are not aggressive. With the right training, Collies make fabulous service, therapy, or emotional support dogs.

Activity Level

tri rough collie in grass
Image credit: Van-M Collies

Collies love to “talk” and originally used their voice to help move sheep. When a Collie does not get enough exercise, they will become excessive barkers and may cause difficulties between neighbors. This breed is better suited to country living but will thrive in any environment when they are given enough attention, training, and exercise.

Grooming Requirements

sable white rough collie
Image credit: Orvis

The Rough Collie does require a lot of grooming to maintain its thick, luxurious coat. They shed their undercoat in the spring. Plan on grooming your Rough Collie once a week to keep any tangles from forming. They will need a bath every four to six weeks, and at that time, their ears should be cleaned and their nails trimmed.

The Smooth Collie does not require as much grooming and just needs a thorough brushing every few weeks. They also need a bath, nail trim, and ear cleaning every four to six weeks. Being a double-coated breed, the Smooth Collie does shed profusely in the Spring.


blue merle rough collie
Image credit: Wyndlair Collies

Both varieties do have several health issues and ethical breeders will perform the necessary genetic testing to ensure the puppies they produce are healthy. Before purchasing a puppy, ask about any genetic testing performed on either the puppy or its parents.

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) is a group of eye diseases that affect collies and, depending on the severity, can cause blindness. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is another eye condition that can also cause blindness. Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is a condition that affects the spinal cord and can cause total paralysis. Multi-drug resistance Mutation (MDR1) affects a large percentage of Collies, making them extremely sensitive to several medications.

Whether you are in love the with classic “Lassie-type” collie or prefer the lower maintenance Smooth Collie, these loyal dogs make excellent companions. There are several Collie rescue groups with foster homes or locate a reputable breeder offering healthy, well-adjusted puppies. Adding a Collie to your family is a wonderful choice whether it is a Rough or Smooth Collie.

Holly Ramsey
byHolly Ramsey

Holly is a 2nd generation dog breeder/trainer and has over 25 years of experience with several different breeds. She enjoys working with her Japanese Chin and Rough Collies and helping her mom and daughter with their chosen breeds. Most evenings, Holly is hanging out with her daughter watching movies, crafting, or playing with the fur-kids.