The Shetland Sheepdog Family Tree
The Sheltie family tree includes many Collie breeds as well as the extinct Greenland Yakki. The original Shelties, a Scandinavian Spitz type breed, were crossed with Rough Collies and Border Collies in the 19th and 20th centuries, which is why they share so much in common today.
Our Sheltie history revealed that the Sheltie family tree includes many Collie breeds. Farmers began importing Scandinavian herding dogs to the Shetland Islands in the 1700s, when the first crosses with mainland Collies were made.
Later crosses in the early 20th century developed the Toonie dogs into the modern Shetland Sheepdog we know today. So there is a good reason why they resemble Rough Collies.
The Collie Family
Collies are medium sized herding dogs originally from Britain. They generally have a lightweight build (underneath a lot of fur) and pointed snouts. They are active, intelligent and agile, ideal for herding cattle, sheep and other livestock.
Nowadays, many Collie dogs are bred for conformation showing and as pets, which has reduced their working dog instincts and produced a more subdued temperament.
Members of the extensive Collie / Sheltie family include:
- Australian Cattle Dog
- Australian Kelpie
- Australian Shepherd
- Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog
- Bearded Collie
- Blue Lacy
- Border Collie
- English Shepherd
- Farm Collie
- German Collie
- McNab Shepherd
- Old English Sheepdog
- Rough Collie
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Smooth Collie
- Welsh Sheepdog
The Rough Collie
Lassie was a famous TV series which began in the 1940s featuring a line of Rough Collies owned by Rudd Weatherwax. Over the years, his Collie dogs appeared in multiple movies, TV series, radio programs and novels. They're the reason we Sheltie owners so often get approached with coos of: "Ooh! A mini Lassie!"
But if we're going to get technical, Shetland Sheepdogs are not miniaturized Rough Collies. There were plenty of Lassies in the early Sheltie family tree, but the underlying Sheltie breed has its own distinctive line.
Rough Collies are somewhat larger than Shelties, with males standing 22-26 inches (56-66cm) at the shoulder and weighing 45-75 pounds (20-34kg). They have a more pointed face than their Sheltie cousins, but both share the same smallish eyes and attentive gaze.
Rough Collies show no nervousness or aggression; but like Shelties should be well socialized when young or may become shy. Their closest relative is the Smooth Collie, which is a short-coated version and considered by many to be the same breed.
So next time someone calls your Sheltie a mini Lassie you can give them the whole backstory.