Scotch Collie vs. Collie: What's the Difference?

There are a lot of misconceptions about a Scotch Collie and people wonder if they are different than a Collie, particularly a Rough Collie. Keep reading to learn the difference.

Apr 27, 2024By Holly Ramsey
scotch collie vs collie difference

Most people are familiar with the Rough Collie, thanks to the iconic Lassie. Collies originated in Scotland so it stands to reason they could also be called a Scotch Collie. However, some argue that Scotch Collie and Rough Collie are two distinctly different breeds. Is there really a difference between these two breeds?

What Is a Collie?

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The Collie is a herding breed developed in Scotland and comes in two varieties: rough coat and smooth coat. When Lassie became a household name, the popularity of the Rough Collie skyrocketed and breeders worked hard to preserve the integrity of the breed. The Collie Club of America adopted a breed standard to which all collie breeders should adhere and strive to produce puppies that closely fit that standard.

Collies, like most purebred dogs, do have health concerns such as inherited diseases, including Collie Eye anomaly (CEA), Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), and the multidrug resistance gene (MDR1). They also come in an array of colors: sable and white, tri-colored, blue merle, sable merle, and white with a colored head.

What Is a Scotch Collie

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The simple answer is a Scotch Collie is a poorly bred Collie or even a cross-bred Collie that has been called a Scotch Collie. Many people claim the Scotch Collie is indeed a separate breed and preserves the original look and purpose of the Collie. There is even a registry, the Old-Time Scotch Collie Association (OTSC), that celebrates the Scotch Collie and claims this is a rare breed.

There are several Collie breeders not breeding to the set breed standard and are calling their breeding stock Scotch Collies to market Collies that do not look like the traditional Collie. Scotch Collies are smaller and generally have less hair than Rough Collies but cannot be classified as Smooth Collies.

Difference in Temperament

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The temperaments of Scotch Collie and Rough Collie are similar. There are instances where Scotch Collies are not purebred Collies and possess the temperament of the other breed crossed with the Collie. For instance, a Collie/German Shepherd cross may have the sweet disposition of the Collie or the intensity of the German Shepherd.

Collies are known for being smart and sensitive, people-oriented, and have a sweet disposition. They are wonderful with children and other animals. They excel in obedience and agility. Thankfully, Collies are not as active as the Border Collie but do enjoy spending time running in the yard or herding a flock of sheep.

Physical Differences

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The Collie and the Scotch Collie look different even though they are technically the same breed. The Collie adheres to a set breed standard whereas the Scotch Collie does not have a breed standard for breeders to follow.

The Rough Collie has a longer, thicker, heavier coat than the Smooth Collie and Scotch Collie. The Smooth Collie has a short coat, like a German Shepherd or Cattle Dog. The Scotch Collie has a shorter coat than a Rough Collie that is not as thick.

The Collie has a set head type whereas the Scotch Collie does not. The Collie has medium-sized, almond-shaped eyes and the Scotch Collie has larger-sized, rounder, more pronounced eyes.

The Collie stands 22-26 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 50 and 70 pounds. The Scotch Collie stands 17-24 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 35 and 60 pounds. The Scotch Collie has smaller bones and is a lighter dog than the Collie.

Health and Genetics

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Scotch Collie breeders claim the Scotch Collie has fewer health issues than the Collie. However, the Scotch Collie has the same genetics as a Collie and is susceptible to the same diseases. Genetic testing is an important part of responsible breeding. Even the Scotch Collies that have been crossed with other breeds can still develop the same diseases, including:

  • Multi-drug sensitivity gene (MDR1): they carry a gene that makes them sensitive to certain medications, especially Ivermectin.
  • Collie Eye anomaly (CEA): this is a group of inherited eye diseases including blindness, CEA is a genetic disorder that can be tested for.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): this is another eye disease that is inherited and causes the retina to die resulting in eventual blindness.
  • Degenerative Myelopathy (DM): a degenerative disease that is also inherited and causes weakness and eventual paralysis in the hindquarters.


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The Collie, both Smooth and Rough, are registerable through the American Kennel Club (AKC), Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), and Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI). The Scotch Collie is not able to be registered with any of these but can be registered with the OTSC Association.

Many Scotch Collie breeders state that the OTSC is an open registry, meaning they allow new bloodlines to enter the gene pool. In other words, they do not require verification that the dogs are registered to be purebred Collies. The OTSC claims this keeps the Scotch Collie more genetically diverse.

In theory, genetic diversity does sound good. However, the OTSC allows any dog that looks like a Collie to be registered as a Scotch Collie without proving proper genetics or lineage. But, when a registry does not require proof of lineage, how do you know the dogs being registered are Collies or even have a Collie in their ancestry?

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It seems those jumping on the Scotch Collie bandwagon are the breeders who do not produce Collie puppies that fit the breed standard and are looking for a new way to market these puppies. Consumers, or new puppy owners, have a set image in their mind of what a Collie looks like but when someone claims these dogs are a different breed, that becomes a game-changer. The puppy buyer is the one that is hoodwinked into believing they have purchased a well-bred rare breed dog and they have something special. Every dog, of course, is special in its own way, and owners will love them regardless.

Holly Ramsey
By Holly 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.