Rough or Smooth Coat Border Collie? Which is Better?

The Border Collie is one of those breeds that everyone knows. Their trademark behavior of stalking and a hard stare come from their herding background, and it’s an instinct that has remained intact, even in our pet Border Collies. But the appearance of the Border Collie can vary hugely. Do you know that there are over twenty different coat colors and two different coat types for the border collie?!

In this guide, we’re going to take a closer look at the two different coat types of the border collie:

  • Smooth Coat and,
  • Rough Coat

We’ll assess which border coat type is easier to take care of and consider which coat is easier to manage in shedding season. We’ll also look at whether that difference in coat impacts a Border collie lifespan, personality, and health.

All border collies have double coats. The purpose of the undercoat is to keep the border collie warm. They originated as working dogs in the chilly Scottish Highlands, and their undercoat was a necessity. The guard coat is over the undercoat, and this contains the different coloring and textures that identify the rough and smooth coat border collie.

Border Collie Coats

Border Collies have a thick double coat. First of all, there’s the undercoat. This is this layer that keeps them warm and dry in their native Highlands while out working the sheep. Then there’s the topcoat, and this is the part that comes in two different types, smooth and rough.

The smooth coat is shorter in length. It lays close to the body and even though the appearance is of being smooth, hence the name, it actually feels coarse to the touch. The rough coat, meanwhile, is medium to long in length, and it feels much softer. Rough-coated dogs also have feathering on their chest, belly, and legs.

Both the smooth coat border collie and the rough coat border collie shed pretty much the same amount. However, because the rough coat of the rough coat border collie is longer, it’s shedding is going to be much more noticeable.

border collies of different coat types
Smooth and rough-coated Border Collies

Why are Some Coats Rough and Some Smooth?

Whether a Border Collie ends up with a smooth or a rough coat comes down to three different genes.

  1. FGF5 gene variants – The expression or non-expression of these gene variants determines border collie hair length – long/short
  2. KRT71 gene variants – Presence/absence of curls
  3. RSPO2 gene variants – Presence/absence of a mustache and eyebrows

While it’s not that important for most pet owners, breeders need to breed a Border Collie with a particular appearance. In that case, they can then send a blood sample or cheek swab to a laboratory. There the lab can check which coat genes their Border Collie carries. Then the breeder will have a much better idea of the coats that the pups might have.

The gene for the smooth coat is dominant and the gene for the rough coat collie is recessive. This means that when two rough-coated border collies are bred together, the litters will be 100% rough. Also, when you bred a rough-coat border collie with a smooth-coat border collie, most of the litters will be rough. As a result, you see many more rough-coated border collies.

Smooth-Coated Border Collies

The coat of the smooth variety is coarse, and there’s usually minimal feathering on the legs and tails.  The undercoat is often relatively thin, while the topcoat can be long and wavy or very short and straight.

Most farmers prefer a smooth-coated Border Collie, and that’s simply because the coat is easier to look after. A rough coat is likely to get all kinds of brambles and debris caught up in it, which can be difficult to spot amongst all that hair. A smooth coat, though, is much easier to maintain, because it becomes very obvious if something gets caught up in their hair.

The smooth coat border collie will generally have smooth, sleek hair. However, there can be variations in how smooth the hair is; sometimes, it can be a bit curly. The undercoat can vary as well, with some smooth border collies having very thick undercoats while others do not. Many families and farmers alike enjoy the smooth coat border collie for how easy it is to maintain their coats.

a smooth coated border collie
A smooth-coated Border Collie

Rough-Coated Border Collies

The rough-coated border collie variety tends to have a coat that’s medium to long in length. There’s also feathering on the dog’s chest, belly, and legs. But even then, there can be huge variation with some rough-coated dogs having very little fringing. That then makes them much more suitable for a working role.

The rough coat border collie has hair that can come in a range of lengths. Sometimes the hair on the belly and under the legs will be pretty long, and in other instances, it will be quite short. Like the smooth coat, the rough coat border collies with shorter hair may be sought after by farmers who find them easier to maintain.

a rough coated border collie
A rough-coated Border Collie. Notice the feathering on the chest

Bearded Border Collies

You might be familiar with the stunning Bearded Collie (not the same as the border collie, see picture below) and its long flowing coat. The Working Line Bearded Collies are well known for their more independent style of working.

a bearded collie
A bearded collie. Image source

The farmers who developed the Border Collie were much more interested in the herding ability of their dogs. As a result, farmers would occasionally crossbreed the border collie and the bearded collie to get the traits they needed.

So, if the farmer felt that their dogs needed a little more of an independent style, they might cross their Border Collie with a Working Line Bearded Collie. The first crosses of the dogs would often result in half the litter looking very Beardie-like and half being more similar to the Border collie.

Over the generations, the breeders then mate these pups back to a Border Collie. Now, the long coat and Beardie temperament start to disappear. However, now and then, Mother Nature comes along and reminds the breeder of their dog’s heritage, and a Border Collie with a distinct beard is born. Therefore, it is not too unusual for a border collie to also sport a beard too.

a bearded border collie
A Border Collie cross Bearded Collie. Notice its little beard.

Curly Coated Border Collies

In between the smooth and rough-coated dogs comes those with a curly coat. This type of hair goes from being a gentle wave all the way through to a tight curl. Sometimes the curls can be right across the dog’s body, and sometimes it can just be on their back or scruff of their neck.

The curly-coated border collie pups are usually born with smooth and straight hair. Then, as they lose their puppy fluff and the adult coat grows in, the hair begins to get longer, and the curls start to develop.

It might look like the curly coat would be much more challenging to manage than a straight one. However, the curls seem to stop mats appearing as quickly. That then means that it’s actually easier to keep the coat in excellent condition.

You can find border collies with medium-length curly hair. These unique creatures typically will start out looking like a long-haired rough border collie, and then as they get older, the curls appear. Curly hair border collie owners report having less difficulty with matting than longer hair rough coats.

a curly coated border collie
A curly-coated border collie. Source Instagram: @randifidje

Can A Border Collie Have Both a Smooth and a Rough Coat?

Yes, a border collie can have both a smooth and a rough coat. You can get Border Collies that have a mixture of the two different coat types. Mixed coat border collies might have lots of feathering around their ears and tail but then have none at all on other parts of their body.

However, looks can sometimes be deceptive because there are the Borders that look like a smooth coat, but on closer look, it’s a rough coat that’s even all over their body. 

This is why reputable breeders border collie breeders often go down the route of genetic testing. This then means that they can be absolutely sure of their dog’s coat type before breeding.

Does the Smooth-Coated Border Collie Shed?

Oh yes! Despite having shorter hair, the smooth-coated border collies shed just as much as the rough-coated dogs. No matter the coat type, border collies will shed lightly throughout the year. Then during the shedding seasons, usually at the start of winter and summer, you’ll see a big increase in the amount of hair tumbling across the floor.

This is when you will need to commit to daily grooming to try and prevent too much hair from being all over your clothes and furniture.

If you brush your smooth coat border collie once or twice a week, you should be able to prevent a lot of shedding around your house.

Grooming the Smooth-Coated Border Collie

Despite the same shedding levels, the smooth-coated types are much easier to look after. Matting is less likely in the smooth-coated border collie, and the smooth coat doesn’t collect the dirt and burrs as the rough coat does.

A quick groom with a pin brush two to three times a week is likely to be enough to keep their coat in perfect condition.

There’s no need to bathe a smooth-coated dog on a regular basis; too many baths can remove the protective oils from their coat. However, if they need a wash down, they will dry off much more quickly than a rough-coated dog.

With the rough-coated dog, it can seem as if they have dried out, but when you reach into the undercoat, it’s still damp. That means it’s essential to make sure that they have the chance to be somewhere warm to fully dry off after getting wet.

The smooth-coated border collies are not challenging to take care of. The smooth coat does shed, but it should make a significant difference if you can brush it once or twice a week. If your smooth coat border collie does not get caked with mud or begin to smell bad, they will not need a bath more than once every few months.

bushing border collie puppy
Grooming a border collie

Grooming The Rough-Coated Dog

Grooming is much more time-consuming with the rough-coated dog. It’s really important that not only comb through the lighter topcoat but also that thick undercoat. When that doesn’t happen, the dogs quickly become matted. This can then be painful as the coat tightens and pulls on the skin.

Owners need to pay special attention to the areas around the ears, under their armpits, and the base of the tail. That’s because these are all areas that can quickly become a problem without regular grooming.

You might be wondering if it would be easier to trim your rough-coated Border Collie? However, a groomer would not recommend that you trim the coat of a rough-coated border collie. That’s because the hair of a rough-coated border collie doesn’t grow back in the same way after a trim. As a result, a border collie without its full coat can be left cold in the winter and lacking protection from the sun during the summer months.

The rough-coated border collie is more difficult to groom than the smooth-coated. First, it is not a job that you can skip. If your dog is not brushed frequently, the long hair of the guard coat may become entangled with the undercoat and create mats. These mats are uncomfortable with your dog and can pull on their skin. 

How do I trim my Border Collie?

While trimming the coat is not recommended, if there are obvious knots or mats they can be cut out. That’s because it that would be painful for your Border Collie to have those groomed out. Key areas for these are behind the ears and between their toes. Using round-ended scissors will help to ensure that you don’t accidentally nick your dog’s skin.

If your Border Collie is a wriggler and it’s difficult to get to the mats, then getting help from a professional groomer is a good idea. They’ll quickly get the coat sorted, making it easier for you to maintain it from then on.  

Do Rough-Coated or Smooth-Coated Border Collies Live Longer?

This is one thing that you don’t need to worry about if you’re undecided between a rough or smooth-coated Border Collie. That’s because there’s no difference in longevity between the rough-coated and the smooth-coated border collies.

Border Collies have an average lifespan of around 12 years, though some have reached an impressive 17 years of age!  

Does a Different Coat Mean a Different Personality?

You might now be curious as to whether the different coat types impact the Border Collies personality. Overall, we’re pleased to report that the Border Collie is the same intelligent and highly driven dog no matter what kind of coat they have.

smooth coated border collie playing fetch
A smooth-coated high energy Border Collie

But, that said, you should consider whether the pups come from show lines or working lines before committing to one joining your family. Border Collie Breeders aim to produce puppies that meet a standard set by organizations such as the American Kennel Club (AKC) or the Border Collie Society of America (BCSA).

AKC border collie puppies come from show lines and these puppies are better suited as homes pets. So while AKC breeders try to maintain a herding instinct in their border collies, they won’t want the herding instinct to be excessive for their border collies to be difficult to live with.

BCSA border collie puppies come from working lines, and these puppies have a lot of herding instincts in them. They are bred for farmers, and the farmers’ interest, meanwhile, is in the dog’s working ability. That means that their dogs’ coats may not meet the AKC standard. However, these dogs have the stamina and focus to work the livestock all day, every day.  

Which is healthier, the Smooth-Coated or Rough-Coated Collie?

This is an easy question to answer because there is no difference in the health of a Border Collie whether they have a smooth or rough coat.

The only time that coat can come into the health equation is when we look at dogs with a blue merle coat. The merle pattern gives irregular, dark-colored patches, smudges, or streaks over a lighter shade of the base coat color. Border Collies can have a merle coat that’s in a range of different color combinations, including blue, red, and sable.

a merle coated border collie puppy
A merle coated Border Collie puppy

The gene that’s responsible for the merle coloring suppresses the pigment cells. This then causes them to change the color and pattern of the dog’s coat. But it also has other effects:

  1. Changes the skin pigment, particularly on their nose and the pads.
  2. It also changes the color of the eyes, which can mean that either one or both eyes are blue.
  3. Suppression of the pigment cells in the cochlear, part of the inner ear, leading to deafness.

The Double Merle Border Collie

When both parents of a litter of pups are merles, then they will be what’s called ‘double merle.’ Sadly, these dogs are very likely to experience both eye problems and deafness.

Single-merle dogs are less likely to have these issues. However, it’s essential that the breeder carries out DNA testing to ensure that they never breed two single-merle dogs and cause health problems for their pups.

How do I Trim my Border Collie?

Generally, it isn’t recommended you trim back all of your border collies hair. This is because when you give dogs with an undercoat a haircut, the hair of the undercoat may grow back at a different rate than the guard coat creating a patchy coat that does not do its job. It is ok to cut out mats or knots in the hair. Do so carefully so as not to catch your dog’s skin in the process.

Do Rough Coat or Smooth Coat Border Collies Live Longer?

Rough coat and smooth coat border collies have the same life expectancy. This is because they are the same breed and, as a result, have no difference in lifespan. However, a better indicator of your dog’s potential lifespan is their parents’ health. If your pup’s parents lived a long life without any of the common border collie diseases, then your dog may be lucky enough to do so as well, no matter what kind of coat he has.

Does a Different Coat Mean a Different Personality?

Smooth and rough coat border collies do not differ in personality. Regardless of coat type, any border collie is likely to develop certain personality traits as well as any other. Border collie personality types can range from energetic and curious to laidback and watchful, and the type of coat they have will not indicate what type they will be.

Which is Healthier: Smooth Coat or Rough Coated Border Collies?

Border collies are predisposed to some health issues, including hip dysplasia, epilepsy, and a range of eye conditions. These will not show up differently depending on coat type. Rough or smooth coat it is the parents’ health that will make it more or less likely a border collie will develop one of these issues endemic to the breed.

What are the Important Differences Between Rough and Smooth Border Collie?

There are differences between the smooth and rough border collie, and all of them have to do with appearance. The beautiful and intelligent border collie is typically depicted with a black and white coat of medium length with fringing around the face. This border collie is the rough coat. Rough coat border collies will have longer hair around their face, bellies, and armpits. Their tail will have longer fringing hair as well. The smooth coat border collie will have short hair. Both will have a soft undercoat that will vary in thickness.

Are there Size Differences Between a Smooth Coat and Rough Coat Border Collie?

There are no size differences between the smooth and rough coat border collies. They are all border collies, and dogs of both coat types can come from the same litter. The rough coat border collie may look bigger, especially if they have a thick undercoat. Their fur will hide their sleek natural shape and make them look puffed up and larger.

Which is More Expensive: a Smooth Coat or Rough Coated Border Collie?

There is no price difference between the smooth and rough-coated border collie. Border collies can cost as little as $600 and as expensive as $4000, depending on their lineage. Depending on the parents, each litter could have a combination of coat styles and colors, and it is more likely that the cost difference in a litter may be found in gender differences rather than coat type. Females are often more expensive because of their breeding potential.

Which is More Popular, the Smooth Coat or Rough Coated Border Collies?

If you are a farmer looking for a working dog, you likely prefer the smooth coat border collie. If you are looking to have a border collie for a show dog, the rough coat may be preferred. As a family dog, the smooth coat may be more popular as it is easier to take care of and won’t bring mud and debris into the house.  

Do Smooth or Rough Coated Border Collies Bark a Lot?

A border collie with either type of coat may bark as the border collie is known as a barking breed. The border collie is very visually stimulated and may bark at many stimulating visuals like bikes, cars, birds, or the mailman. They bark to communicate, and because they are so intelligent, they have plenty to tell us. They type of coat will not tell you if your border collie will bark too much, but if he is, a trainer may be able to provide some assistance.

So, Which One is Better, a Smooth Coat or a Rough Coat?

If you have the time and energy to give a border collie, the answer to this question is neither or both. Border Collies are loyal, intelligent, energetic dogs that are wonderful pets. The type of coat they have will not change that. When choosing a border collie puppy, you could consider the coat when thinking about how much time you can give to grooming and cleaning up muddy dog bellies and feet. No matter the coat type, the border collie can be a fantastic companion.

Having a Border Collie join your family is a huge commitment. With their high energy and ever-active brains, these intense dogs need an active owner who meets their needs each and every day.

But, when it comes to whether a smooth coat or a rough-coated dog is better, we love the amazing Border Collie no matter what they look like! While we can all have preferences for a rough or smooth coat or even ones that are curly-coated, it’s the Border Collie’s unique personality that we bond so strongly with.