Coats and Colors
There are four recognized colors for the Collie: Sable and White; Tri-Color; Blue Merle; White. All four colors appear in both Smooth and Rough Varieties of the breed. "Pure for sable" is not a color, but is sometimes used to describe a sable collie that, because it does not carry the recessive gene for Tri-Color, will only produce sable colored puppies. Some of these "Pure for Sable" collies are a very pale sable, and/or lack the typical sable's darker shaded markings around the face (known as a mask).
Another color variation, the "sable merle," can occur in collies. These are sable colored collies that carry the gene for the merle color pattern (usually because one of their parents or grandparents was a blue merle). Sable merle is not recognized as a distinct color, so these dogs are usually registered and shown as "Sable and White." Sable merle collies often have blue eyes. Blue, blue-flecked, or merled eyes are a normal color pattern for merle colored dogs, but blue-eyed sable colored dogs are not shown. (The breed standard allows for one or both of the eyes of a blue merle colored collie to be blue or merled, however, in sable colored collies dark eyes are preferred for the show ring.) A mottled, merle patterning on the ears or body can indicate that a sable is a sable merle, but these patterns often fade as the dog ages. Sable merles are often, but not always, a paler shade of sable than the traditional Sable and White. Sable merle is not a "defective" color -- no geneic disorders are associated with this color pattern.
A Double Dilute, or "white merle," is the only defective color pattern in collies. Double Dilute collies can be produced when both parents are blue merle or carry the merle gene. Double Dilute collies are often entirely white, or carry a small amount of coloring, usually around the eyes and ears. Double dilute collies do not make suitable pets -- they are usually both deaf and blind and often have neurological disorders. Double dilutes can occur in a litter with healthy, normal pups. Double dilutes should not be confused with "White" collies that are predominatly white, but are a normal, recognized color pattern in the breed. Normal "White" collies can have blue merle markings.
Both long-haired Rough collies and short-haired smooth collies are double-coated and require regular grooming. While smooth collies have short hair, their undercoat makes their fur more like a German Shepherd than a Lab. Examining the collie and brushing the coat thoroughly at least once a week prevents many health problems. The proper tools and some instruction from an experienced collie owner can help make grooming a routine both dog and owner can enjoy. Smooth collies offer all the benefits of collie companionship with less coat maintenance.
From the Official Standard for the Collie (approved May 10, 1977, American Kennel Club)
The four recognized colors are "Sable and White," "Tri-Color," "Blue Merle," and "White." There is no preference among them.
The "Sable and White" is predominately sable (a fawn sable color of varying shades from light gold to dark mahogany) with white markings usually on the chest, neck, legs, feet and the tip of the tail. A blaze may appear on the face or on the backskull or both.
The "Tri-Color" is predominately black, carrying white markings as in the "Sable and White" and has tan shadings on and about the head and legs.
The "Blue Merle" is a mottled of "marbled" color, predominatly blue-grey and black with white markings as in the "Sable and White" and usually has tan shadings as in the "Tri-Color."
The "White" is predominately white, preferable with sable, tri-color, or blue merle markings.
The Smooth Variety of Collie is judged by the same Standard as the Rough Variety except that the references to the quality and the distribution of the coat are not applicable to the Smooth Variety, which has a short, hard, dense, flat coat of good texture, with an abundance of undercoat.