Australian Shepherd vs Border Collie: Are They The Same Type of Dog?

Last Updated on April 26, 2023

While they may look very similar and have the same herding tendencies, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are actually two entirely different dog breeds.

Each of these two herding dogs has different origins, talents, and temperaments. 

An Australian Shepherd and a Border Collie smiling
The equally lovely Australian Shepherd (left) and Border Collie (right)

If you are a dog lover looking to add one of these pups to your home, then you’ll want to keep reading to figure out which is the best breed for you.

Breed Comparison: A Quick Overview 

A dog’s genetics go a long way in determining its personality. Both these dog breeds have been bred for their strong work ethic and endurance.

These are energetic breeds that aren’t going to just sit around on the couch all day. Both breeds excel in dog sports, have loads of energy, and need plenty of physical and mental stimulation. 

Check out this breed comparison table.

Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd
Features Border Collie Australian Shepherd
Height 18-21 inches tall 18-21 inches tall
Weight 30-55 pounds 40-65 pounds
Coat Colors Many colors,
commonly black and white
Only four colors,
commonly blue merle
Energy High-energy levels High-energy levels
Lifespan 12-15 years 12-15 years
Price $700 and up $700 and up

History of the Border Collie and Australian Shepherd

Both Australian Shepherds and Border Collies were developed as herding breeds, although their exact work varies slightly. 

Contrary to its name, the Australian Shepherd isn’t actually originally from Australia. No one is sure exactly from where the Australian part of their name came.

Some say it’s derived from the Merino Sheep imported into the United States from America.

In contrast, others believe that the name comes from the merle coat, which is characteristic of other dogs from Australia.

A smiling Australian Shepherd in a flower field
Source: @the_aussie_amy / IG

These dogs actually originated in the United States in the 1500s. The Spaniards who settled in the country’s Western region developed these dogs to help them tend their sheep.

These dogs needed to be capable of herding flocks through challenging mountainous terrain.

The original herding dog used by the Spaniards was a lot larger and more wolf-like than the Australian Shepherd. These dogs were bred with a smaller canid, known as the Carea Leonés.

This dog brought the blue merle coat and light-colored eyes to the Australian Shepherd breed. 

However, there’s still some dispute around the exact origins of the Australian Shepherd breed.

Some people believe that they are actually a cross between Shepherd breeds and the Border Collie, which could be why they share many similar traits.

A Border Collie outdoors with a stick in its mouth
A Border Collie playing outdoors

The Border Collie, on the other hand, originated in Britain. Romans traveling to the British Isles brought their large herding dogs with them.

Years later, these dogs were bred with the smaller, more agile Spitz-type dogs of the Viking invaders. These dogs were bred and rebred by farmers to create the ideal working sheepdog.

Old Hemp, who is said to be the forefather of today’s Border Collie, was born in 1893. He sired more than 200 puppies during this lifetime.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between an Australian Shepherd and a Border Collie?

There are several differences in appearance that will set these two dog breeds apart. Although both dogs are slightly longer than they are tall Australian Shepherds are a stockier breed with a wider, softer face.

These dogs also have floppy ears, whereas the Border Collie has pricked or dropped ears.

An Australian Shepherd and a Border Collie lying down
An Aussie Shepherd (left) and a Border Collie (right) lying down prettily

Both dogs have a medium-length coat that is straight or slightly wavy. While Australian Shepherds always have a rough coat, Border Collies come in two varieties: a rough coat and a smooth coat.

Rough-coated dogs usually have a lush, thick, long coat and can have a thick mane, especially with male Aussie Shepherds.

Australian Shepherds are also usually characterized by a docked tail, while Border Collies are left with their bushy, long tails. However, the most apparent difference in appearance is the coat coloring.

Australian Shepherds are known for their gorgeous merle coloring, while Border Collies are typically black and white.

The Irish markings of a Border Collie result in white patches around the neck and legs, a white blaze on the face, and a white tip on the tail.

Black and white, red and white, and tricolor Border Collies are the most common types; however, these dogs also come in brown, red, brindle, sable, lilac, and blue.

On the other hand, Australian Shepherds have only four recognized coat colors, namely black, red, red merle, and blue merle.

The merle coloring of Australian Shepherds typically includes tan points. Although infrequently seen, this coloring can also occur in the Border Collie breed. 

The reverse is also true in that the black and white coloring, with or without tan patches, can also sometimes be seen in the Australian Shepherd breed.

Red and white are also found in both breeds, while both breeds also sometimes produce dogs of one solid color.

The eyes of both breeds can be brown, green, gold, or even blue. Sometimes the eyes are even different colors.

Having different colored eyes is known as heterochromia and is more commonly found in Australian Shepherds than Border Collies. 

Females of both breeds stand between 18 and 21 inches (46 and 53 cm) tall, while males typically reach between 20 and 23 inches (51 and 28 cm).

Border Collies weigh between 30 and 55 pounds (14 and 25 kg), while Australian Shepherds are slightly heavier, weighing between 40 and 65 pounds (18 and 29 kg).

Temperament and Personality 

The temperament of these two breeds can differ quite a lot. As herding dogs, both Aussie Shepherds and Border Collies are busy breeds who love learning, playing, and being active.

They are quick to pick up on movement and motion, making them a bit nervous and highly strung.

An Australian Shepherd and a Border Collie running with toys
An Aussie Shepherd (left) and a Border Collie (right) chasing after toys

Are Australian Shepherds calmer than Border Collies?

While both these breeds have boundless energy, Border Collies, in particular, don’t know when to stop. These dogs will keep going and going.

These dogs thus need to live in a home with active individuals who will take their dogs on long adventures and spend hours teaching them new tricks.

Australian Shepherds may be slightly calmer, but they love to bark. These dogs tend to bark at everything, whether excited, suspicious or just having fun.

If you can’t handle a barking pet or live in a small community where your neighbors might complain of noise, then the Australian Shepherd is not the right dog for you.

As Border Collies don’t bark quite as much as Australian Shepherds they don’t make quite as good watchdogs. Aussie Shepherds will not only alert you to attackers but will stand up to protect their families. 

Border Collie vs. Australian Shepherd: Which breed is the perfect family dog?

Neither one of these dog breeds is particularly great with children. Although these breeds can be integrated into families with children, they require work, supervision, and endless patience.

If not properly trained and socialized, these dogs will nip at the heels of children, chase other pets, or bark incessantly.

Australian Shepherds particularly love food. They are known to be food stealers.

Thus, you need to watch this breed around babies and children as they will be quick to nibble up any dropped morsel or even take the food out of your kid’s hand.

Border Collies, on the other hand, herd using eye contact. The stalking pose is typical of this breed, and you need to watch these dogs to ensure they don’t try and stalk kids or smaller pets.

Excessive stalking behavior can quickly get out of hand with this breed if you don’t train them correctly.

Which breed is easier to train, the Border Collie or the Australian Shepherd?

Leashed Border Collie and Australian Shepherd dogs sitting
Leashed Border Collie (left) and Aussie Shepherd (right) dogs ready for training

The biggest breed registry in America, the American Kennel Club (AKC), features both the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd with strict breed standards for both.

Dogs that are bred according to these standards to take place in shows are of show lines and are typically heavier with a thicker coat.

These show line dogs usually don’t have the strong herding instincts of working line breeds as they have not been selected for this purpose.

Thus, these dogs tend to be less intense and easier to handle and train and would be the best dogs for beginner or first-time pet owners.

Both breeds need to be properly socialized. These dogs can be suspicious of strangers, and thus they need to be exposed to people and other dogs from a young age.

Due to the Australian Shepherd’s love of food, he can be easier to train. And while offering food as a reward for good behavior to this dog, part of your obedience training will involve teaching your dog self-control around food. 

That said, the Border Collie is ranked as one of the smartest dogs in the world – which can be both a good and a bad thing as they sometimes know how to outwit their owners!

Which Dog Breed Has Higher Maintenance?

Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are both quite high-maintenance breeds. They love to exercise, shed profusely, get dirty, and can eat you out of house and home. You need to be on your toes to look after these dogs.

In addition, both breeds are ill-suited to apartment life because of their need for vast open spaces.

A Border Collie being groomed and an Australian Shepherd looking up
A Border Collie (left) and an Aussie Shepherd (right) sporting their wonderful coats

Which dog is more energetic?

As both of these breeds have high energy levels, they need daily exercise, particularly in the case of the Border Collie.

Both breeds will need at least 60 minutes of exercise daily with plenty of additional playtimes thrown in and won’t care if it’s sunny or rainy outside! 

As working dogs, these breeds love to be given a job to do, and participating in dog sports is something they will thrive on. 

Both breeds will happily chase a ball for hours each day, but puzzle games and agility challenges are a great way to exercise the body and the mind of these intelligent breeds.

Tug of war and frisbee are also great games dog owners can play with these breeds. 

If you plan to leave them alone for any length of time, leave them with a puzzle treat toy they can occupy themselves with if you don’t want your home destroyed.

Which dog sheds more?

As dogs that love to play and run around outside, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds can get dirty quickly.

While you don’t want to bathe these dogs too often, as doing so can damage their coat’s natural oils, a monthly wash will probably be necessary. 

A dry doggie shampoo or a quick wipe down will keep them clean in between washes without making their skin dry and itchy.

You also need to regularly check these dogs for ticks and fleas as these dogs spend a lot of time running around in fields and forests.

Be sure to thoroughly inspect around the throat and tail areas and inside the ears where the fur can be a little thicker.

The rough coats of both breeds will need to be brushed two to three times a week to prevent any knots from forming.

Both dogs are pretty excessive shedders, so you’ll need to also vacuum your house regularly.

For both dogs, trimming or stripping the fur is not ordinarily necessary.

Regular nail clipping is essential with all pets, especially if your dog doesn’t tend to wear his down on hard surfaces naturally. Clipping of the nails should be done around once a month.

You should also try and brush your dog’s teeth at least once a week to prevent the build-up of plaque, which can lead to tooth decay. 

Nutritional needs

Both of these breeds have similar needs when it comes to feeding. Both Aussie Shepherd dogs and Border Collies will eat around 2.5 cups of dry dog food each day.

These dogs need food of high quality with increased protein and calorie levels that can cater to the active needs of these dogs.

As mentioned, Australian Shepherds have a particular penchant for food, so you want to keep a keen eye on these dogs around your pantry to ensure they don’t indulge in human nutrition, which could make them particularly sick.

Average Lifespan

Close-up images of an Australian Shepherd and a Border Collie
An Aussie Shepherd (left) and a Border Collie (right) flaunting their charming smiles

Border Collies have a typical lifespan of between 12 and 15 years, while Australian Shepherds similarly have a life expectancy of around 15 years of age.

Both Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are prone to developing hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. These diseases, which affect their joints, can also lead to arthritis as your dog ages. 

Both these breeds have also been known to suffer from Multi-Drug Sensitivity or MDS. This can lead to prescribed medication essentially poisoning your dog.

Ticks that are left unchecked and engorge themselves on your dog can also cause Lyme disease.

These breeds are also prone to developing eye health issues such as Progressive Renal Atrophy, Cataracts, and Collie Eye Anomaly, although the latter is more common in Australian Shepherds.

Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome is also common in Border Collies, with 10% of puppies born with this disease.

This syndrome affects the white blood cells and inhibits the body’s ability to fight infections with a weakened immune system. 

Most dogs who develop symptoms of this disease begin to show signs around seven months of age, leading to a very early death. That said, DNA tests can rule out this syndrome in your puppy.

Be sure to ask your breeder for health certificates before making a purchase.

Epilepsy is another illness to watch out for in the Border Collie breed, and unfortunately, there are no tests that can warn you of this in your pup.

Looking at the history of the parent dogs is the best thing you can do to avoid buying a dog with epilepsy.

On the positive side, due to their high energy levels, these dogs aren’t prone to developing obesity.

Puppy Cost and Price

A Border Collie puppy and an Australian Shepherd puppy
The adorable Border Collie (left) and Aussie Shepherd (right) puppies

To buy a purebred puppy of either of these breeds, you are looking at the cost of around $700.

You can expect to pay more than this for particularly desirable traits, such as different colored eyes or a merle coat. Show quality dogs will also set you back quite a lot more.

American farmers have also created a miniature version of the Australian Shepherd, known as the Miniature American Shepherd. These puppies cost about $900.

Miniature American Shepherd sitting in the woods
Miniature American Shepherd

Instead of buying a puppy from a breeder, you may want to consider adopting a dog from a shelter.

These breeds, particularly Border Collies, are often found at rescue centers as owners realize they can’t keep up with the high energy levels of these dogs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

An Australian Shepherd and a Border Collie together smiling
An Aussie Shepherd (left) and a Border Collie (right) duo

Which is more popular?

Border Collies are a much more common breed than the Australian Shepherd. Border Collies are ranked as the 35th most popular dog in America by the AKC.

These dogs are also sometimes crossed with other popular dog breeds to create hybrids or Border Collie mix breeds, such as the Borador, part Border Collie, and part Labrador.

Borador mix dog sitting on the autumn leaves
A smiling black Borador dog

Some breeders even cross the Australian Shepherd and the Border Collie with the Australian Cattle Dog to create a Texas Heeler, a hard-working farm dog.

Meet the Australian Shepherd Blue Heeler mix
A young Texas Heeler

Do Aussies and Border Collies get along?

Whether Border Collies and Australian Shepherds will get along comes down to the personality of each dog.

As mentioned, both breeds need to be adequately socialized to reign in the nervous energy, but if introduced to each other calmly in the right environment, then there is no reason why these breeds can’t get along. 

Keep in mind when introducing new dogs that if one is younger, then their energy levels might not match up, which can cause some difficulties.

Which is Better, a Border Collie or an Australian Shepherd?

A Border Collie and an Australian Shepherd outdoors
The cheerful Border Collie (left) and Aussie Shepherd (right) dogs

If you’re not ready for the tireless energy of these working breeds, then neither of these intelligent dogs would be the right choice for you.

But if you’re up for the challenge that’s caring for one of these active breeds brings, then both Border Collies and Australian Shepherds can bring endless hours of entertainment to your lives!

While neither breed is an excellent choice in homes with young kids, with proper socialization and training and plenty of patience, both breeds can make an excellent addition to your home and a decent family pet.

Just be sure you have the vacuum and brush at the ready to keep their merle or black and white coats looking shiny and beautiful.

Do you have an Australian Shepherd or Border Collie at home? We’d love to hear more about your furry family member! Feel free to share your puppy tales in the comments below. 

Further reading: Comparing popular dog breeds

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