Skeletal deformities or abnormalities appear in all species, including our own, the most common causes being wear & tear or trauma. In the wild, where the maxim ‘survival of the fittest’ rules supreme, such animals rarely survive long dying from hunger or by being culled by pack members who can not tolerate passengers, but for domestic species this adage no longer applies.

There are numerous recognised joint and skeletal abnormalities affecting the canine species only some of which being thought to have a genetic component. Several of these are breed specific, or more correctly confined to breeds with similar conformation traits.

The Kennel Club [KC] in association with the British Veterinary Association [BVA] currently support schemes that it is hoped will help breeders control and manage Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, both debilitating conditions which are believed to have a genetic component and are known to affect many breeds. The results of dogs submitted to the specialist panels set up to assess the necessary x-rays published quarterly in the Kennel Club’s Breed Record Supplement.

As a medium sized breed of comparatively light construction and without exaggeration the Rough Collie is generally considered to be free from most joint or skeletal abnormalities. Of all the known abnormalities to affect the various breeds only Hip Dysplasia is recognised as applying to the Rough Collie. Breeders are therefore encouraged to have breeding stock hip scored under the BVA/KC Hip Dysplasia control scheme before being bred from.


Hip Dysplasia, more usually shortened to its initials HD, affect many breeds and is caused by the malformation of the hip joint. Although it is generally accepted that the condition has a genetic foundation, the mode of inheritance is as much a mystery today as it was when first diagnosed more than forty years ago. It is however generally thought that HD is caused by mutations in more than a single gene, and that environmental factors play a significant part in its development. The original BVA/KC Hip Screening programme was established towards the end of the 1960s and at that time submitted x-rays were graded Pass, Fail or Breeders Letter, this latter grade being apportioned to those animals which were considered to be acceptable to breed from, despite a degree of HD, providing extra care was exercised in choosing a suitable mate.

By the late 1970s the German Shepherd Dog League of Great Britain [GSDLeague], with the active assistance of Dr Malcolm B. Willis, introduced its own screening scheme which many thought so superior to that already established that pressure was brought to bear on our governing body who adopted this revised and extended scheme in 1984. Up until this period it had always been thought that the Rough Collie was free from this condition but around about the time of the KC’s adoption of the extended GSDLeague scheme Hip Dysplasia was diagnosed in the Rough Collie for the first time.

Yearly the BVA issue a list of those breeds which have passed through the scheme to date, together with the total number of each breed, the highest and lowest score, with a range of 0 to 106, plus a mean or average score for that breed. In the twenty five years since Rough Collie breeders have been encouraged to hip score their breeding stock just under 1000 Rough Collies have passed through the scheme and throughout that period the mean or average score has remained fairly constant at approximately 12 which is perfectly acceptable for a breeding animal. If the number of Rough Collies passing through the scheme appears low it should be remembered that it is considerably higher than several other breeds of similar popularity and with a known predisposition to a much higher mean score.

Hip Score Certificates issued under the BVA/KC Hip  Dysplasia Scheme have remained unchanged since the  scheme’s introduction in 1984 — the complete form, after scoring,  is returned to the submitting veterinary practice for forwarding to the owner together with a copy  for practice records. The BVA also retain a copy while the results are forwarded to the Kennel Club for publication.

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