Border Collie Colors: Rarest to Most Common

Written by Katelynn Sobus
Updated: July 3, 2023
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Border Collies are known as the smartest dogs in the world. They pick up new cues quickly, are excellent at herding, and are also incredibly active working dogs. They also have beautiful coats that, despite common misconception, come in a wide variety of colors.

Some of the rarest Border Collie coat colors include white, lilac, blue, gold, slate merle, and brindle. In this article, we’ll rank all of the Border Collie coat colors from rarest to most common. But first, we’ll discuss the AKC-approved coat colors and what it means if a dog doesn’t meet the breed standard.

AKC-Approved Border Collie Colors

The following coat colors are approved by the American Kennel Club (AKC) Border Collie breed standard. If a dog doesn’t have one of these coat colors, they may still be a purebred Border Collie–but they can’t participate in AKC dog shows.

  • Black
  • Blue
  • Blue merle
  • Red
  • Red merle
  • Sable
  • White and black
  • White and blue merle
  • White and red
  • Lilac
  • Saddleback sable
  • Sable merle
  • Gold
  • Brindle
  • White and blue
  • White and red merle
  • White ticked

The breed standard also accepts the following markings:

  • Tan points
  • White markings
  • White markings and tan points
  • White markings and ticked pattern
  • White markings, tan points, and ticked pattern
  • White markings and brindle points
  • White markings, brindle points, and ticked pattern
  • Merle markings

Coat colors not accepted by the breed standard are typically rarer, especially in the United States. This is because breeders typically try to abide by the breed standard for their breed.

Border Collie Coat Colors from Rarest to Most Common

1. White

White Border collie and Tri colour border collie

White Border Collies are the rarest and sometimes have health problems due to lack of pigment.

©O.T Photography/

Most Border Collies have white markings, but pure white coats are rare in this breed. Most Border Collie breeders will actively try not to breed pure white dogs for good reason–they often come with health problems.

This is because they often have two merle genes. Double merle dogs are white in color due to albinism. They typically have light blue eyes and pink skin around their eyes and nose.

They’re usually deaf and sometimes blind as well. Their eyes and skin are sensitive to light, they sunburn easily, and they have a higher risk of developing skin cancer.

Some white Border Collies are perfectly healthy. Typically these dogs do not have double merle genes and do have pigment in their skin, so they aren’t albino but simply have white coats.

2. Lilac

Lilac Border Collie in the park

Border Collies with lilac coats are prone to a skin condition called color dilution alopecia.

©Susan McQuade/

Lilac Border Collies have light brown fur that can appear almost purple in color. Like white Border Collies, they’re rare for health reasons.

Lilac dogs can suffer from a condition known as color dilution alopecia. Symptoms include fur loss, bumpy or scaly skin, skin infections, and itchiness. Color dilution alopecia isn’t a life-threatening condition, and it can be managed by a veterinarian–but it cannot be cured, and there is currently no genetic testing available.

3. Blue

happy border collie puppy running outdoors with a toy ball in mouth

Gray and white coats in Border Collies are referred to as “blue.”


Blue Border Collies are dilute black or gray with a bluish tint. As with lilac and other dilute colors, blue Border Collies are also prone to color dilution alopecia.

4. Brindle

Brindle dogs have lighter base coats with darker stripes on top. These stripes aren’t super distinguishable like a zebra, but they are pretty easy to see up close. 

The most common brindle coloring in Border Collies is a light brown or red base coat with black or dark brown stripes. They often have white markings as well.

5. Slate Merle

merle border collie sitting in field in fall

The slate merle Border Collie has a gray coat with dark spots.

©Medenka Nera/

Slate merle is a lighter form of blue merle. Dogs have light gray coats with darker patches. The blue parts of the coat and skin may develop alopecia, as with other dilute-colored coats.

6. Gold

gold border collie

Gold Border Collies have tannish yellow coats.

©Salyaeva Natalia/

Similar to Golden Retrievers, gold Border Collies have yellow coats. This color is considered a dilute red due to genetics, and these dogs may develop color dilution alopecia.

7. Seal

Seal Border Collies have dark coats with some lighter areas, but not as noticeable as in sable Border Collies.

8. Sable

Autumnal portrait of a sable border collie dog on a meadow between old trees outdoors

Sable means that the fur starts out light at the root and becomes darker at the tip.

©Annabell Gsoedl/

Furs with dark roots and light tips are called sable. Specifically, sable Border Collies are often tan with black fur tips. This pattern may not continue throughout the whole coat, and the dogs do often have white patches as well.

9. Red

Red Border Collies are orange in color. Pure red is very rare, but more often, they have white patches on their chests and faces.

10. Sable Merle

Smiling charming adorable sable red merle and white border collie male outdoors portrait on spring time with park background. Most clever dogs breed in the world - herding border collie

A double rarity, sable merle dogs have merle patterns with sable fur.


Sable merle means that a dog has a merle pattern–light-colored fur with darker patches–alongside sable hairs. Sable fur is lighter at the roots and darker at the tips.

11. Red Merle

A tri coloured red merle border collie stood in bluebell woods, Surrey, UK.

Red merle Border Collies have light tan coats with orange-brown spots.

©Alex Manders/

Border Collies with red merle fur have light coats with dark orange-brown patches.

12. Blue Merle

Blue merle is similar to slate merle but darker in color. These pups have gray coats with black patches.

13. Saddleback Sable

These dogs have sable fur (light with dark tips). They have black markings on their backs like a horse saddle.

14. White Ticked

Border Collie Standing on Edge of Forest in Snow

Border Collies with freckle-like black spots are called white ticked.


White with black ticks, or small spots, these Border Collies aren’t too common!

15. White and Red Merle

Red Merle Border Collie on wreckage

Red merle and white Border Collies have three coat colors.

©Robert Wilm/

Red merle Border Collies with all of the typical white markings are more common than regular red merles.

16. White and Blue Merle

A blue-merle border collie posing in an urban setting

Blue merle and white Border Collies have the typical white markings plus blue merle fur.

©Koen Adriaenssen/

These dogs are blue merle with the typical white markings, as opposed to regular blue merle Border Collies with fewer or no white markings. They’re much more common to see.

17. White and Red

Dog getting vaccination

Border Collies with deep orange-brown coats and white markings are called white and red.


White and red Border Collies have typical white markings alongside “red” or orange-brown fur. They’re fairly common.

18. White and Blue

Border Collie, 1 years old, sitting in front of white background

Blue and white Border Collies have gray and white fur.

©Eric Isselee/

These dogs have the appearance of a black and white Border Collie, but instead of black, their fur is “blue” or gray in color.

19. Black

Close up portrait of a adorable purebred Border Collie dog looking aside raising up one of his front paws isolated over grey wall background with copy space. Funny puppy showing tongue, mouth open.

Black Border Collies have few or no white markings.


Not too different from black and white Border Collies, black pups have less white in their coats. Black Border Collies are rarer than black and white ones but still fairly common.

Rather than all of the typical markings, they only have white on their chests. Pure black Border Collies are incredibly rare.

20. Black and White

border collie

Black and white is the most common coat color in Border Collies.


Last but not least, black and white is the most common Border Collie coat color! This is what most people imagine when they think of a Border Collie: a black and white dog with the typical white markings–on the face, chest, legs, and at the end of the tail.

Are Rare Coat Colors Worth It?

I’ve loved seeing all of these unique dogs, and I hope you have too! But you might be wondering, is it worth it to adopt a Border Collie with a rare coat color?

Puppies with rare coats often cost more to purchase and are sometimes prone to added health problems due to their color. But they don’t have different temperaments and aren’t any more or less lovable than your average Border Collie.

Personally, I don’t find rare coat colors worth it–especially when the coat color impacts a dog’s health. If you want to adopt a dog with a rare coat color, it’s important to research first. Some colors are unethical to breed at all, and others are frequently bred by irresponsible people looking to make a quick buck.

One way to tell if a breeder is reputable is to ask them for the results of the recommended health testing for their breed. If they haven’t performed all of these genetic health tests, they aren’t breeding ethically, and you should find someone else to purchase a puppy from.

Thank you for reading! If you have feedback on this post, please contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Summary of Border Collie Colors: Rarest to Most Common

5 Slate Merle
8 Sable
10Sable Merle
11Red Merle
12Blue Merle
13Saddleback Sable
14White Ticked
15White and Red Merle
16White and Blue Merle
17White and Red
18White and Blue
20Black and White

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Susan McQuade/

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About the Author

Katelynn Sobus is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on pets including dogs, cats, and exotics. She has been writing about pet care for over five years. Katelynn currently lives in Michigan with her seven senior rescue cats.

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