How the Border Collie Does That

We’ve all seen it. The eye a Border Collie gives sheep when he or she is working them. The breed is famous for that “eye,” but there is one other thing (two, actually, when you count their wicked smarts) for which the Border is known, and that is the low-crouch-to-the-ground position.

This “stalking” motion really gets the attention of sheep because it mimics predatory movement, but not every herding breed can do this for a simple reason: If a Border Collie is built correctly, there is more space between the tops of his shoulder blades than in other breeds.

Border Collie, structure, crouch

We are grateful to Sonja Donaldson for granting us permission to share this marvelous photo of CH Cordillera Count the Aces NA NAJ HXAsd HXB. “Ace” was bred by Sonja and is co-owned with Neil Heinrich. Photo by Karen Moureaux

Let’s review. A dog’s scapula, or shoulder blade, doesn’t articulate with any bones at its top, but is attached by four muscles to the spinal column at a number of places. At the most forward and lowest part of the scapula is a shallow socket, and this area is called the “point of the shoulder.” The highest point of the shoulder blade is the withers, and the space between them in a correctly built dog is usually about the width of a human finger. In a Border Collie, however, that space is more like two finger widths, and it is this that allows a Border Collie to crouch and lower his head while he moves.

It is a marvel to behold in action. See for yourself:

Image: Border Collie at the top owned by Orkukennel. Shared with the kind consent of Linaimages, Animal Photography/Iceland

8 thoughts on “How the Border Collie Does That”

  1. I think *mimic* is not the best term because the behavior IS predatory. The sequence is truncated in that after chase and grab the border collie does not follow through to kill. Border collue puos display a stalk behavior by three weeks of age.

  2. Not all Border collies work with a low crouch. The ones with a lot of eye do, but the looser eyed ones work more upright although they all work with their heads down level with their backs when on close contact with their stock.
    Susane, long time Border collie handler and breeder of working only BCs.

  3. My boy Levi is half bc and half aussie – genotypically. But phenotypically he is 100% bc and he has it all…the crouch, the “eye ” and the smarts. He is faithful and loves me, but goodness forbid I should try to interfere with whatever “mission” he may be on….he has only eyes for his job. Lol!! No one would think he’s anything but bc and I usually don’t complicate the conversation. Even our vets think he pure bc.
    He came from an unintentional breeding on a sheep-ranch between the owners blue-merle female aussie and a shepherds male bc. They let me have him for $100. I’m the luckiest girl in the world!! I wouldn’t trade him for anything.

    • Jeff, you really should have a vet check it out….we’d love to have an answer for you, but your question calls for a hands-on exam.

  4. My Border Collie always crouches and eyes other dogs when he walks towards them and I have to say ‘it’s ok he’s not aggressive just being a border collie’. He then straightens up and wags away. Always the same. He’s my third BC and they’ve all done it.

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