Border Collies rose to fame outside of the working dog community largely because of the beauty of Hollywood favorites like Lassie; interestingly, though, the Border Collie is not a dog that is greatly prized for looks, and so the standard for color in the Border Collie is more relaxed in comparison to many other dog breeds.
Traditionally, the Border Collie had but one purpose-to herd livestock in assistance to the owner or handler, the shepherd. Border Collies were run in field trials starting in the 1870's to prove their superior intelligence and ability so that farmers and breeders could observe and choose the best working specimens to produce the best possible working crop of dogs. Logically, breeders selecting for strong working traits cared little about the color of the dog-just that they could perform on the farm, ranch, or range.
Until very recently, Border Collies were not even entered into shows for the purpose of showing "conformation" (based on appearance). Conformation shows were strongly resisted by Border Collie breeders because it was feared that an emphasis on looks would result in breeding pretty dogs with little working ability, thus weakening the breed as a working breed. However, different camps emerged, and after long debate, and against the objections of working Border Collie Clubs, the Border Collie did come to be recognized by a number of kennel clubs, most notably the American Kennel Club, and begin to be entered in showings for conformation.
The Standard For Border Collie Color
Given the Border Collie's working heritage, kennel club standards for the Border Collie took a wide approach to conformation in regards to color. The standard for the Border Collie is generally accepted to be:
All colors are accepted for the Border Collie Border Collies may have solid coloring, or bi- or tri-coloring Merle and sable Border Collies are allowed No color or pattern should be given preference White is not preferable, and white patches should not be dominant on the dog
The preferred eye color of the Border Collie in conformation showing is brown, however, traditionally Border Collie eye color may range from brown to blue; also, Border Collies may have one eye of each color or eyes may be flecked with opposing colors.
Working dog handlers and breeders think little of the standard for color and conformation. Interestingly, though, these people also show some preference, and historically did not like predominantly white or red Border Collies. These superstitions are beginning to break down, thanks in part to a higher number of red Border Collies being born, and thanks in part to white and red dogs proving themselves admirably in working dog trials.
For the working dog or pet, color is of virtually no consequence. Color in no way affects how well a dog will perform or how good a pet a dog will be. For potential Border Collie owners, whatever strikes the eye and heart is a good choice unless that dog is to be a shown in kennel club conformation rings.