Hailing from the Shetland Islands off northeast Scotland, the Shetland Sheepdog or Shetland Collie, as it was formerly known, was developed in the 1700s and falls within the Kennel Club's 'pastoral' breed group, being primarily bred as a flock guardian on the small island hills. Recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1911, the true ancestry of the breed is uncertain, with some suggesting a relation to the Nordic breeds, and others theorising a connection to the Rough and Border Collies, with contributing King Charles Spaniel blood. Another theory suggests that Border Collies were introduced to the Shetland Islands, only to breed with the now extinct Greenland Yakki. A truly versatile, working dog, the Shetland Sheepdog of today is commonly observed in herding, tracking, guarding, agility, and competitive obedience.
Bearing a striking resemblance to the Rough Collie in everything but size, the Shetland Sheepdog is proportioned and elegant in both structure and appearance. With moderate-length legs, a tapering muzzle, brown eyes unless the dog is of a merle variety and then the eyes will be blue, and a profuse double coat. The coat is typically rough on top, and soft in texture underneath. Common colours include blue merle and sable, ranging from golden to mahogany. Further characteristic of the breed is the ears, which should bend or tip in line with the breed standard. Compatible with children as well as other house pets, although its natural inclination to herd or round up smaller animals needs management from an early age.
An outstanding companion, the Shetland Sheepdog makes the ideal breed choice for families or a dedicated sole owner, providing they understand the dog's need for regular exercise and enrichment. Intelligent and versatile, the Sheltie can be applied to a variety of tasks, whilst being easy to house and obedience train. Affectionate and mannered, the Sheltie should never be timid or aggressive, but devoted to its master. A healthy Shetland Sheepdog weighs an average of 6.5-12.5 kg depending on its gender, with a life expectancy of 12-15 years. It is not uncommon for the breed to outlive this expectancy when shown appropriate care.
Typically healthy and long-lived, the Shetland Sheepdog is prone to few hereditary diseases, and breed-specific ailments are limited. Inherited eye disorders are prevalent in the breed, however. Similarly, the Sheltie is known to suffer with skin allergies, arthritis and orthopedic complaints, with incidences of bladder cancer being seen. Some herding breeds carry a gene that makes them unsuited to receiving certain types of medication, and testing for this gene is essential before any drugs are administered. The Sheltie is also susceptible to easy weight gain so feeding human foods is not encouraged for this reason.