I always have to laugh when Collie fanciers and Sheltie fanciers alike react offendedly when people innocently ask if the two breeds are just different size versions of the same breed. While the fact is that the Sheltie is not, in actuality, a bred-down-in-size Collie, it is nonetheless true that the Collie was used more than any other breed in establishing what we now know as the Shetland Sheepdog. Truth be told, the Sheltie is more accurately defined as a small version of his Collie ancestors than are many breeds which embrace the miniature version moniker.
The prejudice against the idea that the Sheltie is a miniaturized Collie began not so much as a disdain for the breed, but as in so many things, it was a matter of elitism. The British Collie show fancy of the day wanted no confusion relating to a relationship between their blue blooded show dogs and any dog being presented by the people from a small island they regarded as home to mere commoners. In short, it was a simple matter of human bigotry. The Collie, the Bearded Collie, and the Border Collie all carried the same name without much concern or discussion among the respective fancies of the day. Yet the Shetland Collie was greeted with such a fuss and stew that the Kennel Club quickly came to it’s feet and demanded the name be changed before the year was out. Thus the breed name was changed to Shetland Sheepdog. Along with the name change came the staunch determination by fanciers of each that the two breeds were completely separate and even unrelated — a determination which, despite it’s inaccuracy, remains strongly entrenched even today.
In spite of all of this display of words, it is quite clear in every country where the two breeds are embraced that Collie fanciers, for the most part, also love Shelties, and Sheltie fanciers, for the most part, also love Collies. Not only is this evident in the fact that numbers of people either own, breed or show both Collies and Shelties, but it is clearly displayed in the look of the dogs themselves. In Britain, for example, both Collies and Shelties have come to be bred to appear quite different from their American counterparts in each breed respectively. Yet the British Collie and British Sheltie share an appearance so similar — And the American Collie and American Sheltie likewise share an appearance so similar — any unknowing observer would be more inclined to think the British Sheltie derived from the British Collie, and the American Sheltie derived from the American Collie rather than each breed sharing a separate and international ancestry. As far as the Collies in Britain being related to those in the U.S., or the Shelties in Britain being related to the Shelties in the U.S., this is far less evident in the dogs themselves than in their pedigree records!
While old prejudices may die hard in word or determination, it is nothing short of amusing to note that the dogs are still very much being fashioned after each other by the standard of their respective countries. True also is that for the most part, a Collie fancier holds a place in his heart for the darling little Sheltie just as the Sheltie fancier holds a place in his own heart for the statuesque Collie. So next time you hear the words “miniature Collie” voiced by an admirer of either breed, resist the temptation to bristle and remember that even at the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which is televised throughout the world, the Shetland Sheepdog is still introduced by this definition.