How I Chose a Border Collie as a Working Dog Breed, Part 5: Talents and Intelligence

Reader Contribution by Mary Powell and Barnyard Weed Warriors
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Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 in this series.

Border Collies have more than 500 years of breeding behind them and, while the exact origin of the breed is unknown, for the most part, you can start at the border of England, Scotland and Wales.

All modern Border Collies trace back to one dog named Old Hemp, who was born in the early 1890s. You can find the history of the breed on various sites across the internet, and I will list a couple at the end. To understand the dog, you need to understand the breed and the nature of herding livestock.

A Working Dog Breed with Many Talents

Border Collies can herd any livestock that you train them to herd. Some people use the dogs to herd sheep, goats and cattle, but they also can herd ducks, geese, and even pheasants. I have used my old dog, Miss Allie, to help move pheasants at a game bird hatchery. It takes time to teach the dogs but it is time well spent.

Some folks even use the dogs to keep geese off of airport runways. Yes! Strange as it sounds, people are hired to use their dogs to keep the geese away. Are you beginning to understand the Border Collie’s abilities? They’re wide-ranging, to be sure!

Border Collies are bred to go out and bring the herd to you. The commands Away to me! and Go by! sends the dog out one direction or the other, and they run out and gather to you. An amazing site to see and even more amazing, as the dog can make decisions on the run about how to deal with a wayward animal, without commands. YouTube has so many videos of Border Collies working — you can spend an entire afternoon watching videos and being more amazed as you watch.

Most Intelligent Dog Breed Can Be Injury-Prone

There is no doubt that Border Collies are highly intelligent, often called the most intelligent dog breed. With that intelligence is a propensity to become bored and with that boredom, the ability to create their own entertainment: digging holes, chewing things up, and escaping home to find a herd to work.

Border Collies often have bad accidents — being hit by a vehicle or injured by livestock. But don’t think these dogs aren’t tough. They are, but when they get hurt, they tend to do it up right. Jinx, my speed demon who loves to jump into my arms and jump over fences, had a rash of injuries as a pup. At nine months, she was kicked in the head by a horse and knocked unconscious. Three months later, she was in need of stitches from cutting her left hind leg on wire.

A few months later, she hurt her shoulder. Her sister, Joy, was kicked by a horse, dislocated her jaw, and fractured the joint in her jaw. She, too, had to have stitches a few months later due to a wire cut. Fly, Joy’s daughter, at 3 ½ months was herding a goat back to the herd and at full speed ran into a pipe sticking out of the ground.

Border Collies are accident-prone but the injuries are usually due to a work-related accident. They are magnificent athletes that keep going, even after an injury.

It is said that one Border Collie is worth two to three cowboys, when it comes to herding cattle. They can maneuver in brush that a cowboy on horse can’t. They work for food and love and they can read your mind, entertain you, and certainly tear your heart up when their time runs short and you need to make an end-of-life decision.

Are Border Collies a useful tool for a farm, ranch, or homestead?  If you have livestock, they are the best hired hand you can have. They figure out your routine, who belongs where, and if something is wrong, they are the first to know.

When I started my weed and brush control business with my goats, the dogs not only took on a herding job, they also took care of predator control as well. In short, they also became guardian dogs to my herd. They learn quickly and are very helpful animals to have and to love.

Mary Powell is a goat rental business owner and agricultural educator with more than 27 years’ experience working on ranches, farms and feedyards. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Kansas State University with an emphasis in Livestock Production Management. Follow Mary and her many misadventures with the goats on Facebook at Barnyard Weed Warriors and Ash Grove Goat Ranch or on her website.  If you have questions for her about her goats or Border Collies, email Mary at

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