Differences Between Border Collie and Australian Shepherd : Complete Guide

When we think of sheepdogs, the image of a border collie leading a flock of sheep, or an Australian shepherd controlling a whole herd of cattle, automatically comes to mind.

 However, knowing how to identify these breeds can sometimes be a complicated task, due to their many similarities.

Likewise, if you are considering adopting one of these two dogs and you are still not sure which one to choose, in this article we will show you the differences between the border collie and the Australian shepherd. 

Read on and choose the one that best suits your needs and lifestyle!

History of the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd

The origin of the border collie dates back to the 5th and 1st centuries before Christ when the Celtic tribes brought the dogs that acted as ancestors of this breed to the British Isles.

Even then, he was employed as a herding dog, a task that he continues to perform due to his intelligence and incredible working abilities.

Over the years, the breed adapted and standardized until it reached the current border collie, which was officially recognized by canine organizations in the 20th century.

Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd

The origin of the Australian shepherd, meanwhile, is uncertain and there are several theories that collect it. However, and despite its name, what they all agree on is that it was in the United States where it was developed, in the 19th century, when a group of Basque emigrants went to America with the intention of trying their luck at raising their cattle. herding sheep and brought their sheepdogs with them, having previously spent some time in Australia.

The Australian Shepherd is believed to be the result of crossbreeding between the Border Collie and other herding-type dogs, this being one of the main differences between the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd, that one is descended from the other

Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd

Physical Characteristics of the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd

Although both dogs have very similar physical features, such as long fur, they also have different characteristics that allow us to differentiate the border collie from the Australian shepherd.

 A clear example of this is the range of colors accepted for each of the breeds, with the border collie having a greater range of combinations than the Australian shepherd. Next, we detail the colors of each race:

Border Collie Accepted Colors

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes 17 standard Border Collie colors which are:

  • black
  • blue
  • blue merle
  • brindle
  • gold
  • lilac
  • red
  • red merle
  •  sable
  • sable merle
  • saddleback sable
  • white and black
  • white and blue
  • white and blue merle
  • white and red
  • white and red merle
  • white ticked

Although these are the most common colors of the border collie, the truth is that all shades are admitted, as long as white does not prevail.

Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd Accepted Colors

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes 4 standard Australian Shepherd colors which are:

  • Black
  • Blue Merle
  • Red
  • Red Merle

As with the previous breed, the white color should not predominate.

In addition to hair color, in terms of physical appearance, another difference between the border collie and the Australian shepherd is the type of coats that both breeds have.

The coat of the border collie is much denser and harder than that of the Australian shepherd, the latter being softer.

Likewise, the Australian Shepherd has slightly shorter head hair than the Border Collie. On the other hand, the Border Collie’s ears can be erect or semi-erect, while in the Australian Shepherd, erect ears are considered a serious fault.

In general, the Australian shepherd tends to be prone to heterochromia, that is, to be born with different colored eyes or to show two different colors in the same eye, while this characteristic is rarely observed in the border collie.

Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd

Border Collie and Australian Shepherd Size

Although both dogs are medium in size, the Australian Shepherd is slightly heavier and taller than the Border Collie.

An average adult border collie weighs around 50 pounds and measures between 18 and 20 inches at the withers, while an Australian Shepherd can weigh between 62 and 75 pounds and measure between 18 and 22 inches. In both breeds, the female is usually smaller than the male

Border collie and Australian shepherd character

Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd

If what you want is to train your dog to protect your home and alert you to any intruder, the Australian Shepherd is perfect for guarding. Due to his innate abilities, he will not hesitate to protect his human family, as well as watch over the home in his absence.

The border collie, on the other hand, is a less vigilant dog, which, if well educated, can also learn to alert its humans, but it does not tend to do so naturally as the Australian shepherd can.

On the other hand, although both breeds of dogs are considered herding dogs, they have been developed to fulfill different purposes within the field of livestock, a fact that is also reflected in their temperaments and characters.

Thus, while the border collie is a shy and energetic dog, ideal for guiding sheep from a distance, the Australian shepherd is prepared both to control sheep and to guide cows, buffalo, geese, and any type of livestock.

Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd

Despite the above, not all are differences between the border collie and the Australian shepherd, since both dogs are affectionate, faithful, loyal, attentive, and active. This means that both breeds need to get a good dose of daily exercise, as well as activities that keep their minds engaged. In general, they do not usually adapt to small flats or apartments precisely because of their active nature.

If we respect the character of each dog and cover all their needs, the border collie can live up to 17 years, while the life expectancy of the Australian shepherd is over 15 years, this being another difference between the two.

Border Collie and Australian Shepherd Care

The basic care of food, exercise, hygiene, vaccination, and deworming are the same for both dogs, here the difference between the border collie and the Australian shepherd lies in the care of the coat.

While the Australian Shepherd is maintained with two weekly brushings and baths when really necessary, the Border Collie requires a more intense routine, ideally brushing its coat every day or every other day to make it shiny and silky.

Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd

This is so due to the difference in the layers that we mentioned earlier. As the hair of the border collie is rougher, it needs more care than the Australian shepherd to prevent it from becoming even harder.

On the other hand, although both dogs need to exercise daily and practice games and varied activities to stay well mentally stimulated, this fact is even more accentuated in the border collie and we will see why later.

Border collie and Australian shepherd training

The border collie is considered the most intelligent dog in the world according to Stanley Coren, training it is relatively easy through the appropriate techniques.

In this way, many repetitions are not necessary to make this dog internalize an order or learn to carry out herding tasks. The Australian Shepherd, for its part, requires a little more time, although it does not usually present difficulties during its education.

In both cases, the most recommended dog training techniques are those that are carried out through positive reinforcement , since they manage to keep dogs motivated and obtain better results.

Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd

Especially in the border collie, due to its active nature and great intelligence, opting for punishment (whether we are talking about positive punishment or negative reinforcement) generates behavioral problems and health consequences, such as stress, anxiety, disobedience, destruction or aggressiveness in the most serious cases.

Likewise, and as we pointed out in the previous section, it is necessary to constantly teach the Border Collie new tricks and commands to prevent it from getting bored and keep its mind always active.


  • Amanda Wheatley

    Passionate about animals, Amanda draws her expertise from her training as an educator, pet behaviorist as well as her extensive experience with animal owners. A specialist in dog and cat behavior, Amanda continues to learn about our four-legged companions by studying veterinary reference books but also university research sites (UCD, Utrecht, Cambridge, Cornell, etc..) Why Trust ShelterAPet? At ShelterAPet, our collective is composed of writers, veterinarians, and seasoned animal trainers with a deep passion for pets. Our team of esteemed professionals delves into extensive research to deliver trustworthy insights on a broad spectrum of pet-related subjects. We anchor our evaluations on direct customer experiences, meticulous testing, and comprehensive scrutiny. Our commitment is to uphold transparency and integrity for our cherished community of pet aficionados and prospective pet parents.