Shetland Sheepdogs or “Shelties” share a lot of aesthetic traits with the collie and are often called the Miniature Collie. The reality is that the breeds, despite a few similar bloodlines, are very, very different! Collies and Shelties were developed in different regions (though both in Scotland), and despite the fact that both breeds are intended for herding, each was bred with completely separate strengths and weaknesses.
The Shetland Sheepdog is named for its region of origin, the Shetland Islands. The breed was developed in the early 19th century and recognized by the AKC in 1911, whereas Collies, also a Scottish breed, are documented as far back as the 1600s. Both breeds were used as herding dogs and are classified in the AKC Herding Group, but their jobs were slightly different. The Collie was intended to herd and protect sheep, while the Shetland Sheepdog’s primary task was to keep the sheep away from crops that they could potentially trample, eat, and destroy.
The most obvious difference between the Collie and the Sheltie is their size. Shelties stand only 13 to 16 inches at the shoulder, while Collies tower over them at a shoulder height of 22 to 26 inches. Collies also weigh in at a minimum of 50 pounds, twice the maximum weight of a Shetland Sheepdog by AKC standards!
The Shetland Sheepdog earned its Miniature Collie nickname primarily because of their coat’s similarity to that of the rough-coated Collie. The smooth-coated Collie has a different appearance altogether, with a far shorter, silkier coat. The Shetland Sheepdog’s beautiful coat is due in no small part to the coat of the rough-coated Collie, as Collie bloodlines were used in the development of the Shetland Sheepdog.
The biggest difference between Collies and Shelties, besides their size of course, is in their personalities. They are both intelligent, hard-working breeds with significant herding skills and instincts, but the similarities end there. The Collie is a gentle, refined breed that carries itself eloquently. They are not loud dogs, rarely barking unless they are working or commanded to. They are unconcerned with strangers, but are still loving and affectionate with their owners and families. On the other side of the coin is the Shetland Sheepdog, which can be a bit if a goofball. Shelties love to run and play with anyone that will have them and are said to have a sense of humor.
Many people unfamiliar with the breed differences choose Shetland Sheepdogs for their pet because they feel a Collie is too large of a breed for city life. The irony in this decision is that Collies are much more docile and would likely be more content to relax with their owners and go for long walks, as opposed to the Sheltie who would probably like to run laps, catch frisbees and play all day!
Both breeds make fantastic dogs for families or single owners alike. They are both loving and good with children, and despite their varying activity levels, are both adaptable to any type of loving environment that suits their basic needs.
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