Breed Comparisons

Border Collie vs. Australian Shepherd: Breed Differences & Similarities

Are you looking to have an energetic dog join your family and cannot decide between a Border Collie or an Australian Shepherd? Both breeds are so similar, so find out what makes each one different from the other.

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Last Updated: February 25, 2023 | 10 min read

Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd Breed Differences

Are you curious about the differences and similarities between the Border Collie vs. the Australian Shepherd? These active breeds look very similar but are quite different dogs. They have similar breeding purposes but come from different lines of dogs.

Both dogs are shepherding dogs, so be prepared to have lots of energy and activities planned to keep your puppy busy! Both dogs are adorable as pups and sure to bring your family a happy family dog. These pups have become popular designer dogs when the breeds are mixed.

If you’re on the hunt for a clever canine but can’t quite decide between the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a look at the differences and similarities between these two super intelligent and adorable dogs.

Breed Comparison

Border Collie

  • Height 18-22 Inches
  • Weight 25-55 Pounds
  • Temperament Smart, Work-Oriented, Energetic
  • Energy Very High
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 12-15 Years
  • Price $700 and Up

Australian Shepherd

  • Height 18-23 Inches
  • Weight 40-65 Pounds
  • Temperament Smart, Work-Oriented, Sociable
  • Energy Very High
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 12-15 Years
  • Price $700 and Up

Key Differences

  1. Border Collies are more intelligent.
  2. Australian Shepherds come in fewer colors, only four. Border Collies can be many colors.
  3. Border Collies are better at herding.
  4. Australian Shepherds are more popular.
  5. Border Collies are slightly smaller. They weigh 25 to 55 pounds, while the Australian Shepherd weighs 40 to 65.
  6. Australian Shepherds are prone to heterochromia.
  7. They come from different places. Border Collies are traced to the Anglo-Scottish border. Australian Shepherds were bred in North America.
  8. Border Collies are needier but more focused. They also require more grooming.

Breed History

To the average eye, these guys look like brother and sister, and as they are both intelligent herding dogs, they could almost be mistaken for the same litter. Despite these similarities, there are some differences that set these guys apart. Not only does their history separate these two breeds, but so does the sea between their continents.

Border Collie

Dog With Herd of Sheep
Border Collies were bred as herding dogs thousands of years ago.

To understand the Border Collie, we need a quick history lesson: the Romans invaded Britain in 43 A.D. Shortly after, the Vikings invaded the Romans. A fairly quick story.

Possibly the shortest history lesson ever, but it is important here because the Border Collie was bred from Roman’s large herding dogs and the Viking’s proceeding herding dog, which we know to be the Icelandic Sheepdog.

Today’s Border Collie is agile and intelligent, bred to herd and work the rocky terrain of Wales and Scotland. Because of the good nature of the Border Collie, they are a popular dog to cross with other dog breeds to make “designer dogs” like the Borador.

Veterinarians have called the Border Collie as the most intelligent dog breed in the world, and if you have ever seen them in action, then it is easy to see why. They are the Einstein of dogs. The American Kennel Club (AKC) has ranked the Border Collie as the 31st  most popular dog in America.

Australian Shepherd

Dog Standing in Front of Herd of Sheep
Aussies were also bred as herding dogs and are thought to be descendants of Border Collies.

The Australian Shepherd dog has a somewhat confusing history, and there is much debate about where he comes from. The most agreed-upon theory is that his ancestors were from the Pyrenees in Spain and the Scottish Highlands, whose shepherds sailed to Australia in search of better land.

The settlers realized they could not farm as they had wished due to central Australia’s arid landscape, and so they sailed to North America, along with other shepherds from Australia. They are often compared to the Australian Cattle dog.

It is believed that it was in North America that Americans created their perfect herding dog using the previously mentioned breeds. It is presumed that as they had just arrived from Australia, they named him the Australian Shepherd. However, he is no more Australian than he is Spanish or Scottish, and really is more American!

Australian Shepherds are also popular with the designer dog crowd, being bred recently with the Labrador to create the Aussiedor breed.

The Australian Shepherd is used to herd sheep and cattle alongside the tough cowboys that created them. However, this cowboy’s comrade is also a popular family dog and has been ranked as the 12th most popular breed by the AKC.


Two Dogs on a Rock in Front of a Mountain
The Border Collie and Australian Shepherd are often confused with one another.

The Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd look very similar. This might be because the Australian Shepherd was bred from the Collie centuries ago, although this is not officially recorded.

They are both considered medium-sized dogs and almost the same height, give or take one inch. The Australian Shepherd is heavier at an average of 10 pounds.

The colors in which the two breeds are available vary. The Border Collie comes in a wider variety of colors:

  • 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

Whereas the Australian Shepherd is officially recognized in only four colors:

  • Black
  • Blue Merle
  • Red
  • Red Merle

Further to the variety of colors, there are also several different markings that their coat can take on. The Collie has seven different markings, and the Australian Shepherd has only three. The Collie clearly wins in the color contest. However, with all the different color variations on both breeds, more so than your average pooch, you really are spoiled for choice.

The Collie’s coat can come in both short and rough varieties, and his tail is long and plumed. The Australian Shepherd’s coat is usually long and dense with an undercoat and an outer coat to protect him from the elements. The Australian’s tail is usually long; however, he is sometimes naturally born with a bobbed tail.

The Australian Shepherd’s eyes can come in many different colors, and he is likelier to have one eye of each color than the Collie. This is called heterochromia.


Dogs Panting in Grass
Both breeds are highly energetic, brilliant, and friendly.

Both the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd are intelligent workaholics. Their minds rarely rest and must both be stimulated throughout the day. However, high energy can also mean a lot of fun. As long as you have the energy to keep playing, you will never run out of things to do with either of these guys around. Fetch, football, or frisbee, both these guys are the champion of them all.

Both the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd are sociable creatures. The Border Collie, like the Australian Shepherd, can become very attached to their family and are very loving. However, the Border Collie is more likely to be wary of strangers or those with who he is not familiar yet. Generally, the Australian Shepherd is the heart and soul of the party and gets along with everyone immediately.

The Collie is said to have superior herding instincts to that of the Australian Shepherd, and they have been known to attempt herding small children or other pets in the household. So, if you have a young family or other pets, this is something to consider. However, if you stimulate and train them correctly, this is unlikely to happen.

The Australian Shepherd can be slightly more dependable on his humans than the Collie, so the Aussie can suffer from separation anxiety. Anti-anxiety medication, crate training, and soothing music can help to alleviate his anxiety, but ultimately this pooch is more suited to those who can spend a lot of time with him.


Dogs Running Through Agility Courses
The best way for both breeds to burn energy is through physical activities with mental stimulation, like agility courses.

The Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd are high-energy dogs. You may want to consider other breeds if you cannot give these guys time and intense activity. To ensure that neither of the breeds becomes bored, you could train them to herd, but if you don’t happen to live on a farm, you can do other things to entertain them.

Firstly, they both need at least 60 minutes of high-level exercise daily. But it doesn’t stop there. They will need to be stimulated throughout the day, either through sociable tug-of-war games or agility sports such as frisbee or doggy training courses.

If you must leave your pup alone for a few hours, then be sure to leave out a puzzle treat toy because if either of these dogs becomes restless, they will embark on a mission of destruction.


Dogs Outdoors on an Autumn Day
Because both breeds are so bright, they are relatively easy to train.

As the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd are such intelligent pups, they pick up commands quickly and are relatively easy to train. With that being said, these guys are not for the novice owner. As they are so intelligent, they require a lot of effort, so if you do not rise to the challenge, it will not be long until they outsmart you or become bored.

The Border Collie is sometimes known to have a protective streak. They can often be wary of strangers and other animals. Socialization from a young age is important for raising any well-mannered pup, but particularly for pooches who can be over-protective or aggressive.

In order to raise an obedient canine companion, positive reinforcement training is the key. Follow these four simple steps:

  • Choose short words, such as ‘sit,’ ‘come,’ ‘stay,’ etc., for the desired behaviors that you want to teach. Consistency is important, so ensure that everyone who interacts with your pup also uses the exact same command words.
  • As soon as your pooch performs the desired behavior, reward him immediately with a small treat and verbal praise. In the early stages, this means treats should always be handy and initially make a big positive fuss.
  • Gradually reduce the number of treats once your dog begins to learn the command, but continue to praise him every time verbally.
  • Positive reinforcement training should be consistent and maintained to ensure he keeps up the good work.


Dogs at the Vet
Both breeds are generally quite healthy dogs, and there are no major concerns or health problems to be aware of above the average pup.

As with a lot of dogs, both breeds are prone to elbow and hip dysplasia later in life, which is where the affected joints are abnormally formed and can cause painful arthritis. They are also susceptible to eye problems such as Progressive Renal Atrophy, Cataracts, and Collie Eye Anomaly (which is actually more prevalent in the Aussies than the Collies).

Another health issue that affects both breeds is Multi-Drug Sensitivity. Simply put, this is where the gene that transports certain prescribed drugs out of or away from the brain is faulty, and the toxicity of the drugs poisons them. When you visit the veterinarian, be sure to remind them that they are sufferers of MDS just to be on the safe side.

Roughly 10% of Border Collies are said to be born with Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome. This is where white blood cells are not released correctly from the bone marrow, which in turn prevents the immune system from fighting diseases. Most Collies develop symptoms of this at around seven months of age and can die shortly after. A DNA swab can identify if they are suffering from this syndrome at an early age.

Ensure that before you purchase any pup, you ask the breeder for the parent’s health certificates, particularly regarding the health issues above, as this is the best way to identify any health issues in your pup. If the breeder cannot or will not provide them, this is a sure sign that something is wrong.


Dogs Posing Next to Dog Bowls
Since both breeds are highly active dogs, high-calorie kibble is recommended.

The Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd are similar in regard to nutrition. They will both eat approximately 2.5 cups a day of good quality, high-calorie food. If they are very active, then they may need slightly more than this, or less if they aren’t as active.

Both the Collie and the Aussie aren’t particularly food orientated, and they would much rather work for a reward such as a ball. Therefore, neither of these guys is likely to develop obesity compared to other breeds.


Lounging Dogs on a Dirt Path
The Border Collie has a slightly rougher coat than the Aussie, which demands more of your attention.

Both the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherds are active dogs, so they are likely to get dirty. Both breeds will require a monthly bath to keep them clean and in top condition. More frequent bathing will damage their coat’s natural oils, which can make their skin very dry and itchy. You can use doggy wipes or doggy dry shampoo between washes to keep them smelling fresh.

Since it is likely these guys will spend many hours a week running around fields and forests, they are prone to attract ticks and other nasty critters. Ticks attach themselves to dogs and feed off their blood. They can also carry Lyme Disease, which can be dangerous to dogs. Ticks will look like warts on your dog, so if you find any and you’re not sure how to remove them, visit your veterinarian, and they can show you how.

In regard to grooming, the Collie requires slightly more attention as he has a rougher coat than the Aussie. His coat will require brushing two or three times a week to keep it healthy and glossy and prevent knots from forming.

The Australian Shepherd has longer hair, but it is smoother, so he doesn’t require as much attention. A weekly brush will be enough to keep this pooch looking good.

The Aussie sheds about as much as a Border Collie, with just a different feel to their coat. Nail trimming, tooth brushing, and bathing are required just the same as any other dog.

Puppy Price

Puppies Running Outside
You can expect to pay more for either breed with more desirable traits.

The Border Collie, on average, costs around $700, as does the Australian Shepherd. You can expect to pay more for desirable traits or colors, such as the Merle coat color or different colored eyes. Male dogs tend to cost more if you want a working dog, as they tend to be slightly faster than females. Of course, if they are show quality, then you can expect to pay much more than the average.

If you prefer the look of the Australian Shepherd, but you are concerned about his size, fear not! Since the creation of the Aussie, American farmers also wanted a smaller version of him, so they created a mini version at 31 inches tall and weighing 30 pounds.

This little dude is known as a Miniature American Shepherd. Sometimes he is still called a Miniature Australian Shepherd, but only the Miniature American Shepherd can be registered with the AKC. Ultimately, they are the same dog. They cost, on average, $900, which is more expensive than their counterpart.

Final Thoughts

The Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd have got it all going for them; brains, beauty, strength, stamina, and much more. If they were on a dating website, both of these guys would surely round up all the ladies.

These guys are similar in appearance, almost the same height, and have long hair with many wild color options. They have a similar facial appearance, possibly because the Aussie was bred from the Collie.

They have the same energy levels and need at least 60 minutes of high-level activity daily. If you can’t offer this consistently, then neither of them is for you. They are both sociable and loving creatures who will shower you and your family with love and affection.

They do differ in weight, with the Aussie being, on average, 10 pounds heavier, and the Border Collie has a rougher coat, so he requires a bit more grooming than the Aussie. The Collie is warier of strangers, whereas the Aussie is more welcoming, but with this comes the Aussies tendency to suffer from separation anxiety slightly more.

They are both trainable and pick up commands extremely quickly. Both need to socialize from a young age, particularly with younger children or other household pets, and a Collie may try to herd them.

If you still can’t decide between the two breeds, then you could always look for a Border Collie crossed with an Australian Shepherd. With double brains and double cuteness, you will not be disappointed.

Either way, because both of these breeds are incredibly intelligent and so much fun, whichever breed you decide to choose, you’ll be sure to gain an entertaining and lovable addition to the family ranch!

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  1. I have owned 4 Aussies over the years. keep gowing back to the breed even though have lost 3 to cancer at 9 years. heart breaking. this one is 14 1/2 years and has some health issues but she doesn’t seem to pay nuch attention to it. Watch the blood lines is my advice! LOVE this breed.

  2. We have had several Aussies in the past which we loved and adored and then we got our BC Aussie mix (Iris) a couple of years ago. She is so intelligent and was very easy to train. She is a bit more mellow than other BC’s I have ran across, more than likely the Aussie side of her, but is very wary of strangers, the BC side. I highly encourage anyone that has the means to spend a lot of time with their pet to get this combination of breeds. My wife is retired and I work from home the majority of the week so we were able to devote the time needed to prevent Iris from “self employing” and damaging items she shouldn’t have. Iris loves her toys and our cat lets her herd him around to keep occupied. Walking off leash and around distractions is no problem since she is always wanting to please and do what she is told.
    We adopted a Golden Mountain Doodle (Yogi) about six months ago and Iris has been very instrumental with training Yogi. He watches what she does and of course follows her lead. Great experience.
    I can’t say more to promote the BC Aussie mix because they are so great.

  3. I’m still not sure what our Ruby is, although one site said they thought she was an ‘ee red’, but that really means nothing to me. We adopted her in Spain after she & her brother & sister were found in a plastic bag in the bin! A Spanish farmer wanted to buy her for 700€ when she was about 5 mths old. My partner said ‘Should we sell?’ I told him a million Euros wouldn’t be enough! (What was he thinking?🤣)

    She is the most loving of dogs, a real Mummy’s girl in the house, but Daddy’s when out. Her mother’s our non-collie, but gets jealous if we stroke her & pushes her away. But Lucy isn’t so daft either! If she wants the bed Ruby is on she comes for a stroke, then Ruby gets up to get her stroke, job is done, Lucy has the bed!

    Ruby is definitely motivated by food though, unlike Lucy. She weighs 18kgs, & even 4 months of lite food didn’t change her weight! Until we had Ruby I had no idea Collies came in Red! Ages 9 yrs old now & I dread the day she passes.

  4. Hi. We just adopted a Border Aussie about 10 days ago. I know both dogs have similar hair types and I was told each would need their own kind of brush. How do we figure out what type of brush to use on him? He’s just barely 8 weeks old now. His mother had started becoming aggressive with his brothers and sisters we were told. So we got him just before he turned 7 weeks old. I know his fur will change texture will change as he gets older. How will I know what to use on him?

    1. Hi Jessi! I think you’ll be fine starting off with a pin brush. Early on, your pup’s coat is probably going to be less shaggy. We didn’t start using an undercoat rake with our long-coated dog until he was around 1 year old. Good luck with your new addition!

  5. Wonderful article. This is very useful for a soon to be a first-time dog dad. The Aussie Shepherd and the Border Collie are 1-2 on my list with the Golden Retriever a close 3rd.

    I am leaning towards the Aussie more but any other suggestions for breeds is welcome. I may not have owned a dog but have lots of experience with them. A friend has an Aussie Shepherd and we love it too.

    1. Glad you found it helpful Vivek! All three breeds are great picks. The Golden might be a little easier for a first-time dog owner, but it’s hard to go wrong with any of the three. Good luck!

  6. Our Border Collie is a joy to behold and to be with. Even as a puppy it didn’t take long to train us, and now 2 she has us beguiled. As we’re retired we get to spend a lot of time with her. We always worry about her outside as she loves to hunt anything including rats birds geckos and snakes. We do worry about the snake about half are venomous as living in Thailand hands you this problem. We have a 7-year-old mixed breed and he tries to keep her outta trouble.

    She’s a bit bossy and tries to limit his house activities to the kitchen while she sleeps in our room. He adores her and she loves him. We can’t let her run through the countryside as she loves our neighbors’ chickens to kill. My wife teaches her all sorts of tricks and our older dog watches and learns from her.

    I take them in the car often to go to various places. If we go out without them a treat is all it takes when we return, generally barbeque (pork saute). She is the most loving dog, friendly to those she knows well, but doesn’t suffer strangers at all and wears a muzzle at the vets, and has gone after strangers to our home.

  7. Victoria Daugherty

    We adopted Hank as a COVID pup and we have been with him the whole time. Worried about the time when I work away from home in the future. Also, Hank loves to bark at cars and when he has gotten loose has run all the way up to a highway behind our house. This happens even when we were calling him back.

    I have heard that electric fences do not work (we have 5 acres), so we have him on a 150-foot leash run when we play fetch with him. He has not been neutered as of yet, the vet suggested waiting until 18 months? Any insights or comments would be helpful. We are very active with him, walking, playing, cuddling, socializing. Thanks!

    1. Hey Victoria! First off, congrats on your new pup! You should consider crate training if you haven’t done so, just for a few hours at a time. This will help your pup get adjusted when you take time away. We adopted a 3rd dog here during COVID, and crate training is a lifesaver.

      If a dog wants something, an electric fence won’t help in my opinion. I’ve seen our neighbor dog blast through theirs during a chase. Regarding neutering, the vet is usually your best resource there. We will spay the rescue pup we just adopted at 12 months, right after her first heat. Anything sooner and her growth plates can be impacted.

      It sounds like you are doing the right things. You should also practice redirecting the behavior. We’ve been doing that with our dogs who can be territorial. We have a high-value treat in hand anytime the neighbors are out. Then, we use that treat to continually redirect their attention to us. Hope this helps and good luck!

  8. I got Freedom a Border-Aussie 3 years ago. What a great dog! I found out his Dad, the Aussie, had sired another litter so I got Rebel, Freedom’s half-sister. They have different Black and white Border Collie Moms. Rebel is 4 months and I can already tell that she is more BC acting than Freedom who is more Aussie acting. Getting a second dog was a big help so Freedom has some to keep him busy all day.

  9. Our family has been blessed to have both types of dogs too. (Our Aussie was mixed with beagle we were told.) He lived to be 16 years old! He was diagnosed with Addison’s disease when he was about 4 years old. We thought we were going to lose him but we found a good vet who was able to figure out the problem and put him on meds.

    We are hoping to find another Aussie or Border Collie right now. I am wondering if the rule applies about female/female applies with these types of dogs or are we better off adopting a male dog since our Border Collie is female. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Lori, thanks for stopping by to comment. When it comes to adding another dog, usually intersex isn’t the best idea, regardless of breed. But it really all comes down to the personality of the dog. If you do proper intros first and all dogs seem to be getting along, I think you’d be safe as long as the introductions were on neutral ground and both dogs seemed to get along well. Keep in mind that if one is younger, then their energy levels may not balance, adding another layer of complexity.

  10. We have been blessed to have both breeds. Our Border is 14 years old and is helping us train our 8 month old Aussie. Your description is accurate for both breeds. Both are wonderful family dogs.

  11. I have a border collie mix with flat coat retriever. A lot of the traits that you mention such as anxiety my dog has. One of the ways we deal with it is if we have to go out and can’t take him us is we leave Amazon boxes out for him to tear up. Other than that he is the best dog I’ve ever had and very smart.

  12. A great and very true description of the Australian Shepherd. We have been blessed with three over the last 25 years. The only things I would add is that they also have a long lifespan (the first two were 17 and 15). They are also very energetic into their teen years. Also highly advisable to have a substantial outdoor space where they can run loose as they are generally not happy being on the lead all of the time.

    1. Thanks for the comment Marvin, and sounds like you had some pups with a long life span! We are jealous!

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