Border Collies are among the smartest dog breeds. They were originally bred for herding, and the listening skills and ability to follow commands set them apart from their peers in both intelligence and energy.
You’ve probably seen a blue-eyed Border Collie at least once in your life, whether on TV or at your local dog park, which may have left you wondering if that specific canine was simply a freak of nature, or if blue-eyed Collies are common.
The truth is many Border Collies can and do have blue eyes. This is particularly common in Border Collies with spotted, or tricolor fur, although it’s not impossible to find in standard black and white Collies too.
Border Collies are one of a few dog breeds that can exhibit a range of eye colors from nearly black, to brown, to amber, to blue. Some people even report their Collie’s eyes are more a shade of green than anything else, which is relatively rare in the dog world.
This article offers a detailed explanation of why some Border Collies have blue eyes, whether specific types of Border Collies are more prone to having them, and whether blue eyes could pose any health or behavioral risks in Collie pups or adults.
Where Do Border Collies Come From?
The origins of Border Collies, hailing back to the British Isles, are important to consider when attempting to explain their unusual eye color.
Scientists aren’t totally sure where Border Collies first got their blue eyes, and the idea that they had somehow been bred with huskies at some point has repeatedly been proven false.
Border Collies were raised and bred for their sheep herding abilities. Many shepherds praised blue-eyed or mismatched Collies above others as they believed one color could see nearby sheep while the other saw the sheep that were far away.
Modern-day scientists have proven these assumptions wrong, but there’s a good chance shepherds chose to breed blue-eyed border collies with each other in the hopes of getting blue-eyed puppies.
This is as likely an explanation as any as to why blue eyes are so common in the breed.
Why Do Border Collies Have Blue Eyes?
To understand why Border Collies have blue eyes, it is important to know why animals and people are born with blue eyes in the first place.
Technically speaking, everyone starts out with blue eyes. The only thing that changes eye color for people and animals is the amount of pigment (or melanin) in the iris. Little to no pigment results in blue eyes, a little melanin produces green eyes, and lots of melanin results in brown or hazel eyes.
The only way for a dog to have blue eyes, therefore, is for them to lack pigment, or the cells that produce them.
A Border Collie can have blue eyes for a variety of reasons, including:
1. The Merle Gene
Merle in dog genetics refers to a gene that prevents the production of pigment by some of an animal’s cells. If your dog has a semi-pink nose or patches of white fur, there’s a good chance it is a carrier of the gene. Merle coats are also responsible for dog heterochromia, where one eye is a different color from the other or a single eye is split into two or more colors.
2. Pigmentation Defects
Pigmentation problems aren’t only caused by the Merle gene. Any other condition that prevents specific cells of a Border Collie’s body from producing melanin can also result in blue-eyed canines.
C-series dogs, also known as albinos, suffer from a generalized lack of pigment all over their bodies. Not only will they not have patches on their fur, but instead they’ll be completely white, their noses will be pink, and their eyes either entirely blue or silvery-white.
It’s also important to note that just because a Border Collie puppy has blue eyes doesn’t mean it will still have them as an adult. Lots of dogs are born with blue eyes and only develop their true color at around 10 to 12 weeks old.
Are Blue Eyes In A Dog Bad?
Blue-eyed dogs aren’t typically seen as disease prone or unusual, although Merle-carrying Collies do have a greater risk of developing blindness or deafness.
My Border Collie’s Eyes Suddenly Turned Blue, Is Something Wrong?
If your Border Collie is over three months old and used to have brown eyes that are now turning greyish blue, there may be a reason for concern. An eye disease known as interstitial keratitis could be responsible. Interstitial keratitis is caused by inflammation of the cornea resulting in a blueish film covering your dog’s eyes. Cataracts and glaucomas could also be responsible.
If you suspect your Collie may be suffering from any of these diseases, take them to the vet immediately.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Border Collie Just For Its Blue Eyes
It may be tempting to buy a beautiful Merle-coated, blue-eyed Border Collie simply for its appearance. However, this is strongly advised against not only due to the possibility of disease in Merle-coated Collies but also due to the general specifications of the breed, including:
- Border Collies are working dogs. This means they need constant mental and physical stimulation to stay happy. They aren’t suited for being lapdogs or kept inside all day.
- Although Border Collies are a lot of fun, they also have loads of energy. They need to be taken out for exercise every single day and their time outdoors can’t just include walks. Games, training, and some sort of herding opportunity are vital to a Border Collie’s happiness.
- Border Collies are extremely intelligent and will test your boundaries if not trained properly. For that reason, they’re not often recommended as a first dog.
- Border Collies can be reckless when it comes to herding bicycles, cyclists, cars, or even random crowds outside. Always keep a close eye on them, especially near a road.
Can Border Collies Have Different Eye Colors?
Yes! Two different colored eyes or one eye with two different colors in it is called heterochromia, and the condition is quite common among Border Collies.
Most of the time heterochromia in dogs is hereditary but it may also appear over time as their eyes lose color.
Types of Heterochromia:
- Complete: This is when their eyes are mismatched, most commonly one will be brown and one blue.
- Sectoral: This is when the colors in one eye differ, usually when a part of the eye is blue and the rest is brown.
- Central: One of the rarest and most beautiful forms of heterochromia, it presents as blue rings or spikes from the pupil outward into the rest of the iris that remains brown.
Why Do Border Collies Lose Eye Pigment?
All dogs are born with bluish or amber eyes. Around 10-12 weeks old their actual eye color develops.
Aging can cause a dog’s eyes to change color if they develop nuclear sclerosis, cataracts, or glaucomas.
If you notice your adult dog’s eye color changing, take them to the vet. In most cases it won’t be serious, but if cataracts are developing, they may need treatment to prevent losing their vision.
Other Dog Breeds With Blue Eyes
If you absolutely must have a blue-eyed dog but are looking for a lower maintenance option compared to Border Collies, you may want to take a look at this list of dogs other than Border Collies that can have blue eyes.
- Siberian Husky: Huskies are probably the most famous blue-eyed dogs around. They may not be lower maintenance than Border Collies but they often don’t require as much brain exercise and you can entertain them by throwing a ball or two.
- Weimaraner: Weimaraners are intelligent dogs that aren’t as obsessed with getting exercise as Border Collies. Their short coat also makes them much lower maintenance.
- Dachshund: Blue-eyed dachshunds are not only adorable, they’re super low maintenance and make excellent pets.
- Welsh Corgi: A Welsh Corgi is the King, or Queen, of all lapdogs. As such they are only demanding in the amount of attention they desire, not caring much for exercise or hours of playing.
Border Collies can have beautiful, bright blue eyes and striking Merle coats that make them attractive pets. However, it’s never a good idea to buy a Collie just because of its looks. They’re high-maintenance, high-energy dogs that need loads of attention and care.
However, if you’re willing to devote a good part of your day to your pet, then a Border Collie could make a wonderful, blue-eyed addition to your family.