Australian Shepherd vs Border Collie

Australian Shepherd vs Border Collie

Australian Shepherd and Border Collies are two rather popular and adorable breeds. However, how much do you know about these dogs? Are you aware of just how similar they can be? Or, what differences lie between these breeds?

If you are eager to compare and contrast Australian Shepherds and Border Collies, then keep reading. Here, you can find out how they match up against one another:

The Origins and Classification

First, let’s take a look at the history of these two breeds.

Now, the name “Australian Shepherd” is rather misleading. It is presumed that the earliest version of this breed was brought to the United States by the Basque people from the Pyrenees of the northeastern Spain/southwestern France. Thus, the breed was technically developed in the Western United States.

So, how did Australia find its way into the breed’s name? Most people assume that this has to do with the fact that many Australian shepherds in the US used these dogs. Australian Shepherds were bred to be livestock herders and farmworkers.

There is a fair bit of speculation about how Border Collies came to be as well. It is presumed that the dogs’ earliest ancestors were brought by the Romans when they invaded Britain. There, it is quite like that the dogs were crossbred with herding Spitz-type dogs of the Vikings who also invaded Britain.

The modern-day Border Collie is a product of shepherds who needed dogs for the pastoral lands between the border of England and Scotland. For the longest time, these dogs were simply known as collies or sheepdogs.

Both Australian Shepherds and Border Collies fall into the categories of herding dogs. This, of course, is due to their long history of herding livestock. Many of these dogs continue to retain many of this herding mentality.


Considering the similar origin stories of these dogs, it is interesting to see what popular pets they make. At the moment, the Australian Shepherd edges out the Border Collie. According to the statistics, it is ranked the 17th most popular breed.

Of course, the Border Collie is a pretty popular pooch as well. It is the 35th most popular breed. This discrepancy may have something to do with the fact that Border Collies are still largely considered to be working dogs. Due to this, it isn’t unusual to find them engaged in farms or other areas where their natural skills can be put to good use.

Physical Traits and Appearance

Now, let’s take a look at the similarities and differences in the physical appearance of these breeds.


The average Border Collie male can be between 19 to 22 inches, while the females may be between 18 and 21 inches. These dogs can weigh anywhere from 30 to 55lbs.

The Australian Shepherd males are a bit bigger than Border Collies in terms of height. They can measure between 20 and 23 inches. The females, on the other hand, are similar to their Border Collie counterparts.

Australian Shepherds can outweigh Border Collies by quite a bit, however. Males can weigh between 50 and 65lbs. Females are heavier as well at around 40 to 55lbs.

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Border Collies have a rather distinct wedge-shaped head. In many instances, the dogs’ heads will appear slightly smaller than that of their body. Australian Shepherds, however, have heads that are more in proportion with their bodies. They also tend to have bobbed heads.

Many Border Collies and Australian Shepherds have a white patch of fur down their face, separating either side.


There can be plenty of variation when it comes to the coats of Border Collies. For one thing, they can be separated into two distinct groups – those with a rough coat and those with a smooth coat. The dogs with a rough coat tend to have medium-length to long hair. Those with smooth coats have short hair. Both groups have double coats.

As for the coat color, there is a dazzling array to choose from. These include:

  • Brown
  • Red and white
  • Red and blue merle
  • Tricolor

There is one commonality among Australian Shepherd and Border Collie coats – the double layers. Apart from this, though, the texture and length can be rather different. Australian Shepherds tend to have medium-length coats with a medium texture. It can be straight or wavy.

The marbled coats of these dogs are quite distinctive. These coats can be of the following shades:

  • Black
  • Grey
  • White
  • Caramel

Eye Color

Interestingly enough, both these dogs are prone to heterochromia. This is where each eye is different from one another. This is particularly common with the Australian Shepherd.

Border Collies are known for their eyes – or rather their gaze. This is because they have perfected the art of staring livestock down and getting them to move in their chosen direction. However, their eye color is something to behold as well.

They are mostly dark brown, but they can be a lighter brown as well, sometimes heading towards amber or yellowish. A few of these dogs may have blue eyes.

Many of the Australian Shepherds, however, end up with pale blue eyes. Nevertheless, this breed is just as likely to have brown, hazel, amber, or green eyes.

Personality Traits

When it comes to personality, these two breeds have quite a bit in common. This has probably to do with the fact that they have been more or less bred for the same purpose.

Border Collies are arguably one of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world. Don’t worry, though, because Australian Shepherds aren’t too far behind in this respect. They are known for their intelligence as well.

This means that both of these breeds can be trained rather well. They are smart enough to learn and figure out how to do a wide variety of tasks. This, however, can have a downside. Don’t be surprised if these dogs began outthinking their owners!

So, how are they with families?

Both breeds enjoy the company of humans and love having people around. It is a good idea to only get these dogs if at least one person is at home all day. Otherwise, they may just begin to miss their humans.

While they are loving and loyal towards their human families, this warmth doesn’t extend to strangers. You will find that these dogs are wary of people that they don’t know. Border Collies may tend towards shyness whereas the Australian Shepherd can become rather protective of their family.

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In either case, socialization is of the utmost importance to remove these traits at a young age.

Health and Genetic Illnesses

So, how do these dogs fare health-wise? For the most part, they are pretty healthy. However, they may be prone to certain genetic disorders. Both Australian Shepherds and Border Collies may develop a disorder known as Collie Eye Anomaly.

Since they are medium-sized dogs, hip dysplasia is a possibility as well.

Some of the health issues to be aware of with Border Collies are:

  • Seizures
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Osteochondritis dissecans
  • Lens luxation
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Patent ductus arteriosus

As for Australian Shepherds some of the problems you may encounter:

  • Cataracts
  • Persistent pupillary membrane
  • Multiple Drug sensitivity
  • Epilepsy
  • Colobomas

These dogs have a similar life expectancy. Australian Shepherds are expected to live to be around 12 to 15 years old. Border Collies may live around 13 to 15 years.

Exercise Needs

Although these dogs may have been living with families for a long time, this hasn’t dulled their herding and working ways. As such, these dogs need an immense amount of exercise. What’s more, a walk a day will not do.

Border Collies and Australian Shepherds need vigorous exercise. They also need to keep their minds agile as well. This is why they should be taken to dog parks so that they can run off-leash. It is also a good idea to play fetch or Frisbee with them so that they are making the most of their agility skills.

Don’t be surprised if even this isn’t enough of a workout for these breeds. In many instances, they have to be enrolled in agility or various training programs. They are happiest when they are constantly learning and completing various tasks.

If these dogs don’t get the exercise that they need, you shouldn’t be surprised if they get bored. When boredom sets in, they can become destructive or disagreeable.

Appropriate Living Spaces

Due to their coats, these dogs may do well in relatively cool climates. They may not be as comfortable in warm weather or where the climate is hot all year round.

These aren’t dogs that do well in close and confined spaces such as apartments. They need to be in larger houses, preferably with plenty of yard space. While they can be kept in cities, you need to make sure that you live within walking distance of a dog park. Not to mention, their daily needs must be met as well.

While these dogs do love the outdoors, you can’t leave them outside by themselves for extended periods. Border Collies can be escape artists, ensuring that they will try to leave your backyard at any chance that they get.

Furthermore, both of these breeds love being with their humans. So, given the chance, they will prefer to be inside where you are.


As mentioned, both these breeds have a double coat. They also have a shedding season once a year. Due to this, they do need to be groomed regularly. Border Collies, though, do need to be groomed a little more often. You should brush them 3 to 4 times a week, with a pin brush.

Australian Shepherds don’t require nearly as much upkeep. For the most part, brushing them once a week should help to keep the shedding under control. It is a good idea to use a slicker brush for this purpose.

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Brushing them helps to keep them rather clean. So, you don’t need to bathe them too often. Stick to the times when you find that their coat is getting dirty. As such, you may only need to wash these breeds several times a year.


As stated before, both these breeds are intelligent and thus, trainable. However, you shouldn’t expect their training to be easy. These dogs can be rather single-minded in their efforts. As such, it is important to get started when they are young.

These dogs aren’t suited for novice owners. It is a good idea to have prior training experience when dealing with them. This is because you need to take the lead and make sure they are following your commands.

On average, though, most owners will find that it is easier to train Australian Shepherds. This is one of the reasons that they tend to be the preferred pet. However, with some additional help, Border Collies can become rather amenable towards training as well.

Regardless of how tricky the training can get, you should only ever use positive reinforcement. This will help to instill good habits and do away with the bad ones while still maintaining a good relationship with your dog.

Social Function

Did you know that both Australian Shepherds and Border Collies can be trained as guide dogs? Nevertheless, Border Collies do far better in this respect. In addition to having excellent problem-solving skills, they can be trained to follow orders a little better. Australian Shepherds tend to follow their preferences in certain circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about these breeds:

Which is Better Border Collie or Australian Shepherd?

One breed isn’t better than the other. If you value intelligence, ability to perform tasks, and a working dog, then a Border Collie is an excellent option for you. However, these dogs do tend to be difficult to keep in homes. Australian Shepherds, on the other hand, tend to make better pets.

Are Australian Shepherds and Border Collies Good Family Dogs?

Australian Shepherds do tend to be the preferred breed here. This is because they don’t require nearly as much time and effort as Border Collies. Nevertheless, both these breeds are loving and loyal, making them great for families. They do better among older children as they do tend to herd younger ones.

Do Border Collies and Australian Shepherds Bark a Lot?

On average, Australian Shepherds will bark more than Border Collies. They make excellent watchdogs and will warn their owners of anything unusual. While Border Collies aren’t nearly as vocal, they will raise the alarm when necessary.

Are Border Collies and Australian Shepherds Protective?

Both breeds aren’t too fond of strangers. With Australian Shepherds, this does manifest as protectiveness towards their humans. So, they may be slightly aggressive towards strangers. Border Collies are more likely to be shy in the presence of strangers.

So, these are the similarities and differences between the Australian Shepherd and Border Collie. As you can see, it is quite interesting to see what separates and brings these breeds together.

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