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Border Collie vs. Australian Shepherd: Breed Differences & Similarities

Emma Braby

Last Updated: April 24, 2020 | 11 min read

Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd Breed Differences

Curious what the differences and similarities are between the border collie vs the australian shepherd?  These active breeds look very similar, but they are actually 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 actually  have become a popular designer dog when the breeds are mixed together.

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

Breed Comparison Chart

Border Collie
Australian Shepherd
19 – 22 inches (M)
18 – 21 inches (F)
20 – 23 inches (M)
18 – 21 inches (F)
30 – 55 pounds (M)
27 – 50 pounds (F)
50 – 65 pounds (M)
40 – 55 pounds (F)
Smart, Work-oriented,
Smart, Work-oriented, Sociable
Very Energetic
Very Energetic
2 – 3 times a week
Weekly Brushing
12-15 years
12-15 years


To the average eye these guys look like brother and sister, very similar in appearance except for the coloring, 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

To understand the Border Collie we need a quick history lesson: the Romans invaded Britain in 43 A.D., then shortly after the Vikings invaded the Romans. The end! Possibly the shortest history lesson ever but it is important here because the Border Collie was bred from the Roman’s large herding dogs and the Vikings proceeding herding dog, which we know to be the Icelandic Sheepdog.

The Border Collie as we know him today is an agile and intelligent dog, 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.

The Border Collie has been ranked by Veterinarians 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 Border Collie has been ranked by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as the 35th  most popular dog in America.

Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd dog has a somewhat confusing history and there is much debate as to where he comes from. The most agreed upon theory is that his ancestors were from the Pyrenees in Spain and the Scottish Highlands, whose shepherd’s sailed to Australia in search of a better land. However, they 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 17th most popular breed by the AKC.

Appearance Comparison

The Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd look very similar. This is maybe due to the fact that the Australian Shepherd was bred from the Collie, although this is not recorded officially.

They are both considered to be a medium sized dog and are almost the same height give or take one inch. The Australian Shepherd is heavier at an average of 10 pounds; to put that into perspective it is approximately the weight of a twin pack of Pop (4 liters).

The colors in which the two breeds are available varies. 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 which their coat can take on; the Collie has seven different markings and the Australian Shepherd has only three. The Collie clearly wins on the color contest, however with all the different color variations on both breeds, more so than your average pooch, you really are spoilt 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 outercoat to protect him from the elements. The Australians tail is usually long, however he is sometimes naturally born with a bobbed tail.

The Australian Shepherd eyes can come in many different colors and he is more likely to have one eye of each color compared to the Collie, this is called heterochromia.

Temperament Comparison

Both the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd are intelligent workaholics, their minds rarely rest and must both be stimulated throughout the day. If either of these breeds become bored, you will surely know about it. 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 who he is not familiar with yet. Generally, the Australian Shepherd is the heart and soul of the party and gets along with everyone immediately.

Both of these breeds are also very sociable and very much enjoy being a part of the family/pack. However, 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 do have a young family or other pets then this is something to consider. However, if you stimulate them and train them correctly then this is unlikely to happen.

The Australian Shepherd can be slightly more dependable on his masters than the Collie, and as such the Aussie can suffer with separation anxiety. Anti-anxiety medication, as well as 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.

Energy Comparison

The Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd are high energy dogs! If you cannot give these guys time and intense activity, then these dogs unfortunately are not for you. To ensure that neither of the breeds become bored you could train them to herd, but if you don’t happen to live on a farm then there are other things that you can do to keep them entertained.

Firstly, they both need at least 60 minutes of high-level exercise a day. 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 assault 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 become restless, they will embark on mission destroy!

Training Comparison

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 to be worked a lot, so if you do not rise to the challenge then it will not be long until they outsmart you or become bored.

As the Border Collie is sometimes known for having a protective streak, they can often be wary of strangers and other animals. Therefore, socialization from a young age with humans of all ages and animals of all sizes, both inside and outside of the family unit, is key to ensuring that Collies don’t become over-protective or aggressive. Socialization is important to raise any well-mannered pup, but particularly important for pooches who can be over-protective.

In order to raise an obedient canine companion positive reinforcement training is the key. Follow these 4 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 treat 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 verbally praise him every time.
  • Positive reinforcement training should be consistent and maintained to ensure he keeps up the good work.

Health and Nutrition Comparison

Both the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd 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 they are both prone to Elbow and Hip dysplasia in later 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 issues to be aware of that affects both breeds is Multi-Drug Sensitivity, put simply 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 Collie’s are said to be born with Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome, this is where white blood cells are not released correctly from his bone marrow, which in turn prevents his immune system from fighting diseases. Most Collie’s develop symptoms of this at around 7 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, then this is a sure sign that something is not right.

Both 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, they would much rather work for a reward such as a ball, therefore neither of these guys are likely to develop obesity compared to other breeds.

Grooming Needs Comparison

As both the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherds are active dogs who love nothing more than to run around a field, they are likely to get dirty. Both breeds will require a bath once a month to keep them clean and in top condition. Ensure that you don’t bathe them more often than this though, as this will damage their coat’s natural oils and can also make their skin very dry and itchy. In between washes you can use doggy wipes or doggy dry shampoo to keep them smelling fresh.

Another thing to keep watch for in regard to both breeds are ticks. As it is likely that these guys are going to spend many hours a week running around fields and forests, they will be likely to attract ticks and other nasty critters. Ticks attach themselves to dogs and feed off their blood, and sometimes the ticks will be carriers of Lyme Disease and this 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 yourself, 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 ensure that it is kept healthy and glossy, and to prevent knots from forming. The Australian Shepherd has longer hair, but as it is smoother he doesn’t require as much attention, a weekly brush will be enough to keep this pooch looking good. Nail trimming, tooth brushing and bathing are required just the same as any other dog.

Price Comparison

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 the female. 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, and so they created a mini version, however, this little dude is known as a Miniature American Shepherd. Some people still like to call him the Miniature Australian Shepherd, but only the Miniature American Shepherd can be registered with the AKC. Ultimately, however, they are the same dog. They are up to 31 inches in height, 31 pounds in weight, and cost on average $900, so 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, much more, if they were on a dating website both these guys would round up all the ladies for sure!

These guys are similar in appearance, almost the same height, long hair with their 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 they both need at least 60 minutes of high-level activity per day, that isn’t just an hour walk, that’s at least an hours’ worth of running, agility courses, fetch etc. If you can’t offer these guys this consistently then neither of them are 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 and so he requires a bit more grooming than the Aussie. The Collie is more wary of strangers whereas the Aussie is more welcoming, but with this comes the Aussies tendency to suffer with separation anxiety slightly more. They are both trainable and pick up commands extremely quickly. Both need socializing from a young age, particularly with younger children or other household pets and the Collie will potentially 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. Double brains and double cuteness? Check it out for yourself on Pingis’s Instagram.

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!

Leave a Comment


Marvin Wilke

July 26, 2020 at 6:18 pm

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.

Kelly Wilson

July 27, 2020 at 2:53 pm

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


August 30, 2020 at 3:10 pm

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.

Kelly Wilson

August 31, 2020 at 2:05 pm

Thanks for the comment Rick! Yes, Border Collies have lots of energy! Sounds like a great pup!


September 12, 2020 at 4:13 am

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.

Kelly Wilson

September 13, 2020 at 5:52 pm

Thanks for stopping by to comment Jennifer! Glad you've had good experiences with both breeds!

Lori Gonzalez

October 11, 2020 at 7:12 am

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!!

Kelly Wilson

October 14, 2020 at 11:56 pm

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.