Judging the sable merle Collie
The Collie Standard recognizes four colors: "Sable and White," "Tri-Color," "Blue Merle" and "White." Sable Merles appear sable but may exhibit varying degrees of the merling pattern.
Quality, rather than color or pattern, is of foremost importance in judging the Collie. The Standard's emphasis on overall balance, head properties and expression is clear and should always take precedence over color.
Ideally, the Sable Merle should have dark eyes, matched in color. If the eyes are not dark and matched in color, the Sable Merle should be penalized (not excused or disqualified) to the degree that the expression is affected.
The Standard states, "Expression is one of the most important points in considering the relative value of Collies" and "The Collie cannot be judged properly until its expression has been carefully evaluated." It further states "Eye faults are heavily penalized."
Sable merle Collies result from the breeding of a sable to an individual carrying the merle gene. Some sable merles show almost no sign of merling while others very obviously exhibit the merling pattern. However, the identification of a dog’s genotype has to do with breeding, not showing, and hence should not concern judges whose job is to evaluate a dog’s phenotype.
Sable merle Collies are healthy. The merle gene, inherited from one parent, does not cause any health problems. However, doubling on the merle gene in any breeding can result in deaf and/or blind offspring. Since sable merles are not always obvious as they mature they should be registered as sable merles with the AKC so they can be bred properly.
Sable merle Collies have been around for a very long time. A really influential sire of the 1930’s, Ch. Hertzville Headstone, was a sable merle. Today there are over 200 AKC sable merle champions. Among them are several CCA National winners, including one Best of Breed winner.
Sable merle Collies have made important contributions to the gene pool. There are atleast three sable merle Register of Merit sires and the all time top-producing dam in breed history is a sable merle.
Education of judges regarding sable merles is important and needs to be clear and concise. We don’t want color to be a distraction from judging the total dog. It is not the judge’s job to determine the genetic make up of an entry. If a dog exhibits a merling pattern that the judge feels detracts from the general appearance then it should be faulted accordingly, remembering that quality, not color, always comes first. Always keep in mind the Collie Standard’s emphasis on expression. It states: “ An expression that shows sullenness or which is suggestive of any other breed is entirely foreign”, “Expression is one of the most important points in considering the relative value of Collies”, and “Eye faults are heavily penalized”. If a sable merle has blue in its eye that the judge feels detracts from the expression, then it should be faulted to the degree that the expression is affected.
Use the following link to download the 78-page document in PDF format (2.2MB) representing the Collie Club of America Standard Review Committee's findings on the sable merle:
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history of the Collie
To understand how this
breed has developed, it is important to recognize the
work it was intended to do. While this work centered on
the care and management of livestock, largely sheep, the
early owners and developers of
these dogs were not well-to-do fanciers but practical,
hard working, thrifty individuals. A dog had to earn its
keep, possibly playing several roles in its daily work.
The Collie presents
an impressive, proud picture of true balance, each part
being in harmonious proportion to every other part and
to the whole.
The head properties
are of great importance. When considered in proportion
to the size of the dog the head is inclined to lightness
and never appears massive. A heavy-headed dog lacks the
necessary bright, alert, full-of-sense look that contributes
so greatly to expression. Both in front and profile view
the head bears a general resemblance to a well-blunted
lean wedge, being smooth and clean in outline and nicely
balanced in proportion.
Expression is one of
the most important points in considering the relative
value of Collies.
The neck is firm, clean,
muscular, sinewy and heavily frilled. It is fairly long,
carried upright with a slight arch at the nape and imparts
a proud, upstanding appearance showing off the frill.
To develop a clear
mental picture of correct Collie type an in-depth study
of the Standard, attendance at breedspecific seminars,
and observation of judging in quality entries [such as
the National Specialty] definitely provide a sound beginning.
Interaction with qualified, articulate mentors will bring
you closer to establishing a clear mental image of ideal
type and an appreciation of the virtues that are treasured
by those breeders with long experience
in our breed.
How do we as breeders
define what makes a good Collie judge? What is it that
we would like you to focus on when you are invited to
judge our breed?
Mentors are very important in your development as a judge. Our list of Collie breed mentors is organized by state. Locate a breed mentor near you.
Go to the list >>