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Border Collie vs. Australian Cattle Dog: Breed Differences & Similarities

Comparing the Blue Heeler vs. the Border Collie for your next furry four-legged friend? Find out how these two herding dogs are similar, but also very different!

Emma Braby Picture

Last Updated: January 25, 2021 | 9 min read

Border Collie vs Blue Heeler Outdoors

Comparing the Border Collie vs. the Blue Heeler for your next farm dog or for a family companion? Australian Cattle Dogs (also called Blue Heelers) and Border Collies are both famous for their friendly demeanors, and hard-working attitudes. But they aren’t always the perfect dog breed for every family.

Border Collies and Blue Heelers are two breeds with an incredible amount of intelligence and energy. Both breeds are herding dogs with high exercise needs. While both breeds do make excellent family pets, those that aren’t properly exercised will become destructive quite quickly.

It’s important to understand what traits each of these breeds has before welcoming one into your home. In the article below, you’ll learn all about these two famous herding breeds. We compare their history, temperament, puppy prices, and more. Let’s jump in and find out which of these pups best suits your lifestyle!

Breed Comparison

Border Collie

  • Height 18-22 Inches
  • Weight 30-55 Pounds
  • Temperament Athletic, Hard-working, Loyal
  • Energy Intense
  • Health Above Average
  • Lifespan 12-15 Years
  • Puppy Prices $1,000 and Up

Blue Heeler

  • Height 17-20 Inches
  • Weight 35-50 Pounds
  • Temperament Protective, Loyal, Cautious
  • Energy High Energy
  • Health Above Average
  • Lifespan 12-16 Years
  • Puppy Prices $1,000 and Up

Breed History

Both dog breeds belong to the herding group. While they were both bred for similar purposes, there are some very distinguishing traits that make them different from one another. Both working dogs originally herded livestock. However, but their origins and genetic histories are quite different.

Border Collie

Curious Dog Looking at Camera
Border Collies have a relatively short but very rich breed history.

The Border Collie is a breed that dates back to the end of the 19th century, with the name appearing in 1915 for the first time. Sheepdogs appeared in the British Isles thousands of years ago with the Roman Empire. The first herding dogs were smaller than today’s Collies.

There is an individual who played a fundamental role in the creation of the breed. A dog named Old Hemp, who lived from 1893 to 1901, had over 200 descendants and contributed to establishing the breed.

Old Hemp had a remarkable working style. He was quiet, calm, and focused on his work. His medium-size, coat, and build were similar to the dogs you can see today. Old Hemp established a new lineage, and if you get a purebred pup, this dog will be one of its ancestors. The name Border Collie appeared later to distinguish this breed from other Collies.

Australian Cattle Dog: AKA Blue Heeler

Australian Cattle Dog in Field Outside
Blue Heelers have been used by ranch and farm owners for many years.

The Blue Heeler or Australian Cattle Dog is the result of Australian ranchers breeding different dogs to create an intelligent and resilient herding dog. The American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed in 1980. It was originally part of the working group but is now part of the herding group.

The Blue Heeler played an important part in the development of the beef industry in Australia. In the 19th century, ranchers needed a hard-working breed that could withstand the Australian climate. They bred sheepdogs from England with Dingoes to create a more resistant breed.

The breed as we know it today is the result of breeding a mix of Collies, Dalmatians, and Dingoes.

Appearance

Brown Dog and Black Dog Outside
While both breeds are similar in size, they are quite different in appearance.

Even though both breeds are medium-sized, there are a few physical differences to consider when comparing the two breeds against one another.

The Border Collie has an athletic build. This medium-sized dog is easy to recognize thanks to its alert expression and expressive ears.

This dog has a fluffy double coat. The topcoat can be straight or wavy, and it usually feels coarse. The undercoat is softer and shorter. The Border Collie typically has black and white markings but can be a variety of different coat colors, including brown and white, and blue merle.

The Blue Heeler is also a medium-sized dog, but its build is sturdier and more compact. It’s a resilient dog that can herd cattle over long distances.

The Blue Heeler has a broad skull and strong shoulders. This dog has a short outer coat and a dense undercoat. The coat usually has blue or red spots with black, blue, or tan markings. The Blue Heeler gets its name from its blue color, but the Australian Cattle Dog name is more accurate since some dogs have black or red spots.

Temperament

Two Dogs Playing Outdoors in Fields
Both breeds are very intelligent and bond quickly with their owners.

Both breeds belong to the herding group. They thrive in an environment with plenty of stimulation and social interactions.  They are very loyal and feel that they have a job to do. As a dog owner, it’s up to you to provide your herding dog with games, activities, and challenges that match its temperament.

Border Collies are highly intelligent dogs who learn quickly. They are great family dogs but can be shy with strangers. They’re one of the smartest dog breeds and are also very affectionate. They often invent their own games rather than playing the ones you teach them.

Blue Heelers are extremely energetic dogs who need a job to do. Without proper stimulation and training, these dogs can become bored and destructive. They often outsmart their owners and love learning new games.

They are very loyal animals, but they can be overly protective of their owners when strangers are around.

There are some common traits you will find among all herding dogs, but because these breeds are extremely intelligent, you will also find that each individual has its own personality and temperament. Asking a few questions about the parents can usually tell you a lot about the temperament of a puppy.

Exercise

Two Working Dogs Running Outdoors
Both dog breeds need intense exercise for at least 60 minutes daily.

Because of their activity levels, both breeds have high exercise needs. These dogs aren’t suitable for apartment living and will do better in a house with a large backyard. These two breeds need physical and mental challenges to be healthy and happy. They love spending time outdoors and see exercise as a way of bonding with their owner.

If you own a Border Collie, you should provide 90 minutes of exercise a day. Some individuals need as much as two hours of exercise each day. You can go for a run with your pooch, practice agility training, or teach your pet different games.

A Blue Heeler will need one to two hours of exercise every day. You should take your pup for a walk, play some games, offer a training session, and look for additional activities that would provide the stimulation your dog needs.

Border Collies are less likely to develop behavioral problems if they don’t get the stimulation they need, compared to Blue Heelers, who can become mischievous. However, keep in mind that both breeds need an active lifestyle to thrive.

Even though these two herding dogs need plenty of exercise, activity levels can vary as your dog ages. A senior dog won’t need two hours of exercise a day.

Keep in mind that exercise is a requirement for both breeds. If you’re thinking about adopting a puppy of either breed, make sure you can offer the active lifestyle they need, or you will run into behavioral issues with your new puppy.

Training

Two Intelligent Dogs Sitting Outdoors
Both dog breeds are extremely intelligent and learn new commands quickly.

Both of these two pups are highly intelligent breeds that do well with training. Training is a fundamental activity for bonding with a herding dog, and it provides some of the stimulation they need.

Start training early for puppies and be consistent. Both breeds respond well to training and learn new commands quickly. You will find that both dog breeds usually want to please their owner and will apply themselves.

Borders Collies can focus on their work to the point of obsession. It’s important to find a healthy balance between training, simulation, and obedience for these dogs. An activity like agility training is a great option since it allows them to be active while learning new things.

Blue Heelers are more likely to become bored and develop negative behaviors without proper training and stimulation. They can be a handful as puppies but tend to calm down with age.

Both dogs have the instinct to herd. It’s essential to teach them when it’s appropriate to display this behavior. Both breeds can herd other pets and even children when they get bored.

Herding dogs use nipping and biting to control livestock. You need to focus on these unwanted behaviors when training a puppy of either dog breed.

Socialization is another important aspect of training. Border Collies can be shy, but proper socialization will help them get over it. Socialization is even more important for Blue Heelers who can become overly protective of their owners.

Health

Two Healthy Working Breeds in a Field
Both dog breeds are very healthy and have a lifespan of up to 15 years if properly cared for.

There aren’t any significant differences when comparing the two breeds in terms of health. Both breeds can develop minor health issues, but these medium-sized dogs tend to be more resilient than other breeds and rarely develop serious health issues.

You can avoid serious health problems by choosing a breeder who screens parents for common health issues among these breeds.

Border Collies can develop health problems like seizures, hip dysplasia, heart defect, progressive retinal atrophy, and other eye problems. This breed is more likely to develop obsessive behavior compared to other dogs.

Among Blue Heelers, hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and deafness are the most common health issues.

Nutrition

Two Working Dog Breeds Eating Dog Food
Both dog breeds will need age-appropriate premium dry dog food formulated for active breeds.

Border Collies are an energetic breed. They need more protein and fat than other dogs if they have an active lifestyle. Choose quality food with protein sources that are easy to digest, like lamb or salmon. Look for healthy sources of carbs, like oatmeal or peas. A food with wheat or soy as its main source of carbs can lead to weight gain.

Border Collies typically need two meals a day. Keep in mind that the Border Collie diet should match their age and activity level. They will need more fat and proteins if they’re active, but a dog who exercises less will have more energy they can’t use and might become restless if their diet is too rich in proteins.

Blue Heelers have similar nutritional needs. Some owners opt for a raw food diet with ingredients like cooked brown rice, raw meat, raw fruits, and raw vegetables. But unless you have a dog who is very active and works all day, a regular kibble diet is a good option.

Consider introducing supplements into the diet of either dog breed. Both dogs can benefit from crushed eggshells, which are rich in calcium. A glucosamine supplement can be a good option for a dog who is at risk for hip dysplasia.

Grooming

Working Dogs Getting Bathed
Both of these pups are relatively low maintenance when it comes to grooming.

Even though both dog breeds shed, neither dog is considered high maintenance when it comes to grooming.

Border Collies have a long outer coat that can get dirty or tangled. You should brush their coat two or three times a week to get rid of dead hair and reduce shedding. These dogs blow their coat twice a year with the season change and require daily brushing when it happens. They require bathing once every two months or so.

Blue Heelers have minimal grooming needs. These dogs have a short outer coat that is resistant to dirt and water. They require brushing once or twice a week and will blow their coats twice a year, which means more brushing.

Nail trimming is important for both breeds. You should trim your herding dog’s nails at least once a month. The good news is that these two breeds don’t need trims to maintain their coat.

Puppy Prices

Two Small Puppies Outdoors on Wooden Deck
Puppies of both breeds will typically run about $1,000 and up, with championship lines being more expensive.

You should expect to spend $1,000 or more for a Border Collie puppy. Note that it’s a popular breed for agility training and shows. Some breeders use champions for breeding puppies, which means you can find higher prices based on a dog’s lineage.

If you want a puppy with AKC papers and parents with show qualities, expect to spend anywhere from $1,000 and up. You’ll pay upwards of $3,000 for a puppy from a championship line.

Prices can vary a lot for a Blue Heeler puppy. Any puppies priced under $1,000 should be thoroughly researched. Typically these are dogs that come from backyard breeders, and they may not be fully papered by the AKC or health checked.

Reputable breeders typically charge $1,000 to $1,200 for a purebred Blue Heeler puppy with AKC paperwork. Spending more is worth it since reputable breeders will screen parents for health issues like deafness or hip dysplasia.

Final Thoughts

Border Collies and Blue Heelers are similar medium-sized dogs with an athletic and resilient disposition. These loyal herding dogs are extremely intelligent. Both breeds are ideal for owners who are ready to provide plenty of attention, exercise, and socialization.

The main downside that appears when comparing the two breeds is that Border Collies can be shy and herd animals or children when bored. Blue Heelers can be overly protective and mischievous when there isn’t enough stimulation.

These two breeds make great family dogs because they have minimal grooming needs, few serious health problems, and a long lifespan. Provided you can satisfy their energy requirements, either breed can make a perfect canine companion.

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