Overall, border collies are a pretty healthy breed without a lot of predisposed medical conditions. Collie Eye Anomaly or CEA is the most common heritable disease in this breed. About 6% of US border collies are affected by this congenital, simple autosomal recessive disease. The disease can be mild, but in some more severe cases can cause total blindness. The prevalence of this disease is > 60% in some of the other herding breeds such as the Shetland sheepdog and standard collie. For a dog to be affected, it must have inherited one recessive mutated Gene from each parent (have 2 recessive mutated genes). For this to happen, either both parents were carriers of and/or affected by CEA. Obviously, an affected dog should never be bred. But, what if two apparently healthy dogs are bred yet both happen to be CEA carriers? From a statistical perspective, 1/2 of the offspring would be affected by CEA, 1/4 would be carriers and 1/4 would be completely clear. This is why genetic testing is so important to ensure that you get a healthy puppy, unaffected by heritable genetic conditions. The tests are readily available and there is really no excuse to not test dogs that are going to be bred. Don't accept the nice excuse that "the parents are healthy family pets that we decided to breed" for the fact that no health testing has been done. This kind of breeding is reckless, does not help the breed and potentially produces offspring which may have a lifetime of health problems.
But, what about carrier dogs? Due to the potential of genetic bottle-necking associated with removing all carriers from the gene pool, breeding carriers of CEA or other recessive disorders is acceptable as long as the mate is clear and as long as the carrier has something valuable to offer the breed (natural drive, structural correctness, great temperament etc). This will create a statistical litter where 3/4 of the puppies are completely clear and 1/4 are carriers. Remember, carriers are not affected in any way! There are many other heritable health conditions in addition to CEA. If you are considering bringing a border collie into your family, it is in your best interest to make sure the breeder knows the genetic info of both parents. All of our border collies have been full panel DNA tested with transparent results posted on this page.
Border Collies are "traditionally" black and white. However, they actually come in a large variety of colors. Black and White remained the dominant color for many years as shepherds would cull puppies of color. The general thinking was that any dog other than black and white wouldn't "work/herd." As a long-term result from this selective breeding practice, the majority of ABCA border collies remain black and white. On the other hand, a lot of AKC lines are producing dogs of color as a result of selective breeding due to known color genetics.
Both of the previously mentioned breeding practices limit the breed's gene pool to some degree. This subject actually poses a lot of controversy on both sides. With current DNA testing, it's easy to predict matings that will produce puppies of color. In my experience, border collies of color seem to be very popular among those searching for a pet border collie. Color and gender are often the dominating factors for people/families entertaining a border collie as a pet. Unfortunately, there are many breeders just looking to make a $ as opposed to the breeders looking to preserve and improve the breed. Many of these breeders will exclusively breed border collies of color just to charge more to unsuspecting families looking for a specific color puppy.
As I said, there are a lot of very strong opinions on this subject within the small border collie world. So, here is my opinion, and how I address the "color controversy."
#1. All of my dogs DNA tested for heritable health conditions and diseases. I use Embark DNA. At no extra charge, Embark provides color coat DNA breakdown as well. With this information, I can predict what colors a particular breeding has the potential to produce.
#2. I do not plan breeding based on what colors will be produced and I do not charge more for a puppy of color just because it's popular or "rare/unusual" as some advertise.
#3. I disagree with the opinion that border collies of color lack herding drive. I have 2 blue merles and 1 gold border collie, all of which have nice natural herding drive. After all, the breed is technically all about what they can do and not necessarily what they look like.
#4. I do not frown upon anyone looking for a specific color border collie.
#5. I do not frown upon anyone breeding for a specific color, so long as the parents are health tested and have desirable traits that should be preserved in this breed.
#6. I don't believe that excessive, specific breeding for color does our breed any favors as it dramatically reduces the gene pool.
#7. Bottom Line: Here at Manor Farms, our breedings are planned to produce healthy puppies who are unaffected by any known heritable health conditions, who have preserved herding drive, good temperaments and sound conformation. We love all of the colors!