Border Collie vs. Australian Shepherd: 12 Important Differences

Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are both popular herding dogs. They are very intelligent, energetic, hardworking, and eager to please.

Many people confuse these two breeds because of their appearance alone. Both dogs can be black and white in color. They also have a similar coat length and stand at similar heights!

Yet, to the trained eye, there are many easy-to-spot differences between these two.

Do you know the difference between Border Collies vs Australian Shepherds? At the end of this guide, you will easily be able to pick out one from the other.

Difference and Similarity Table

Border Collie Australian Shepherd
Purpose Sheep herder Livestock herder
Origin United Kingdom
Fall of Roman Empire
American
California Gold Rush
Height 18 to 22 inches 18 to 23 inches
Weight 30 to 45 pounds 40 to 65 pounds
Color Black and white, red and white, sable, solid color, bicolor, tricolor, merle. Red, black, red merle, blue merle, and all colorations with or without tan and white.
Appearance Thin and lightweight Solid and sturdy
Personality Tireless and high strung Food motivated and love to bark
Lifespan 10 to 14 years 10 to 12 years
Price $300 to $1000 $400 to $1500

Border Collies

1. Are Older

Australian Shepherd vs Border Collie
The Border Collie is on the left!

Border collies and their ancestors have been around for thousands of years. Their roots trace back to the fall of the Roman Empire when the Vikings began to invade Britain around 400 AD.

The Romans were known for having heavily-boned and hardy herding dogs, while the Vikings were known for having small spitz-type herding dogs.

Both of these dog breeds were crossed, producing the first Border Collie.

The origin of the Australian Shepherd is not entirely clear. It is likely that their ancestors are either Spanish herding dogs or British sheepdogs.

Spanish herding dogs were brought to the west coast of the United States during the colonial days. British sheepdogs were sent to California during the California Gold Rush as the demand for sheepdogs rose. It was during this time that herding dogs, especially in merle, became more popular and widely known in the US.

Border Collies and Australian Shepherds differ in their country of origin and history:

  • Aussies are American made.
  • Collies were bred near England and Scotland.

Aussies have been around for less than 200 years, while the earliest Border Collies trace back thousands of years.

The Border Collie was officially named by the International Sheepdog Society and inducted into Kennel Club in 1915. The word “Border” comes from its origin in the highlands of England and Scotland. The word “Collie” is Scottish and is used to describe a sheepdog.

Australian Shepherds earned the name “Australian” because they helped Basque shepherds from Australia that were working in the US during the 1880s. It wasn’t until 1993 that they were officially recognized by the Kennel Club.

2. Are Thinner and Smaller

Border Collie vs. Australian Shepherd
The Border Collie (left) is thinner and more lightweight

Border Collies are medium-sized dogs. An adult male can weigh anywhere between 30 to 45 pounds and stands up to 22 inches tall. Adult females can weigh between 30 to 42 pounds and stand up to 21 inches tall.

Aussies are also medium-sized dogs.

They are built solidly and sturdily with a center of gravity that is low. An adult male can weigh anywhere between 50 to 65 pounds, and a female can weigh between 40 to 55 pounds. When fully grown, a male is about 23 inches tall at its withers, and a female is about 21 inches tall.

There is also a Mini Australian Shepherd which is much smaller.

Male size comparison
Weight (lbs) Height (in)
Border Collie 30-45 19-22
Australian Shepherd 50-65 20-23
Female size comparison
Weight (lbs) Height (in)
Border Collie 30-42 18-21
Australian Shepherd 40-55 18-21

Both breeds will be very similar in height. However, they can easily be recognized by their weight and body size.

The Border Collie is thinner and more lightweight.

Australian Shepherds are stockier and have a wider face. To some, it may even look like they have a softer face and a more friendly appearance.

Eye shape can be another way to tell these two breeds apart. The Australian Shepherd has almond-shaped eyes, while the Border Collie has oval-shaped eyes.

3. Have Shorter Tails

Tri-colored Border Collie
Border Collies (pictured) are lean, level, and athletic.

Border Collies have an athletic build with a distinct tuck from the rib cage to the lower abdomen. Their topline is level and slightly muscular. This breed has oval-shaped eyes that can come in any color.

They should have a length-to-height ratio of around 10:9, which is similar for Australian Shepherds.

Aussies are a little longer than they are tall. They are built solidly and have a topline that is straight and strong. Their eyes are almond-shaped and can be blue, brown, amber and any of the above combined.

These dogs also have different ears and tail lengths.

The Australian Shepherd should have ears that are set high on the head and flop forward. This breed’s tail should be straight, docked, or naturally shorter than four inches. If a puppy is born with a full-length tail, they will typically be docked to not exceed four inches.

Border Collies should have ears that are carried upright or semi-upright. This breed’s tail should be full length and carried low.

4. Were Bred To Herd Sheep

Border Collie Herding
Border Collie Herding

The Border Collie was bred for herding sheep. They excel as livestock herders because of their stamina, intelligence, and strength. To help move livestock, they use their speed and eyes. When using their eyes, they will stare down sheep to intimidate them into moving.

They also find themselves working as police dogs, narcotics dogs, and bomb detection dogs. Many are also trained as service and guide dogs for the blind, due to their intelligence.

The Australian Shepherd was bred for livestock herding. They make excellent farm and ranch dogs because they are hardy, tough, enduring, and versatile.

Aussies are used to move herds of cattle and flocks of sheep to different grazing grounds or into chutes. They excel at moving both large and slow-moving herds. Besides working as a herder, they can be found as competitors in obedience trials.

5. Live Longer

Border Collie and Australian Shepherd

A Border Collie can live 10 to 14 years on average. In comparison, the Australian Shepherd typically lives between 10 to 12 years.

Border Collies live a couple of years longer than Australian Shepherds. While it is not known why they live longer, it may be due to the fact that they are slightly smaller. Smaller dogs age more slowly so they live longer.

Both of these herding dogs have similar lifespans and share a handful of health issues:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Retinal Degeneration
  • Cataracts
  • Epilepsy
  • Collie Eye Anomaly
  • Cancer
  • Multiple Drug Sensitivity

Australian Shepherds may also be predisposed to elbow dysplasia. Border Collies may also suffer from: thyroid issues, liver problems and overheating.

Border Collie Australian Shepherd
Hip Dysplasia
Bone Disorders
Epilepsy
Thyroid Problems
Separation Anxiety
Cancer
Multi Drug Sensitivity
Overheating
Heart Disease
Liver Problems
Cataracts
Collie Eye Anomaly
Retinal Degeneration
Elbow Dysplasia

If you are concerned about adopting a dog that may be predisposed to any of these conditions, it will be important to do your research and find a reputable breeder. There are health registries kept by the United States Australian Shepherd Association.

Australian Shepherds

6. Love To Voice Their Opinion & Bark

Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherd

Despite having similar appearances, these two breeds differ in their personality and behavior.

Border Collies are tireless, high strung, and prone to stalking other animals in the household. The stalking is due to their herding nature. They will spend hours watching another animal’s movement and react to them to keep them contained.

Australian Shepherds are very food motivated and love to voice their opinion. This means that they are prone to barking a lot and may not be well-suited for apartment life. They have a good nature but can be shy or reserved when meeting someone new.

7. Herd Using Their Bodies

Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd (pictured) has both herding and guarding instincts.

Australian Shepherds are “loose eye” herders. This means that they do not use their eyes to influence the movement of livestock. Instead, they use upright movements, barking, and their body to move livestock.

If you were to watch both breeds herding, you would be able to spot an Australian Shepherd because it will be using its body as a barrier to herd. It will also be more vocal than a Border Collie as they use their bark to help with livestock movement.

On the other hand, you will notice that the Border Collie is constantly staring down and locking eyes with the animals it is herding. They are “strong eye” herders so they use direct eye contact to help move animals.

Border Collies will be quieter and bark less.

Collies maintain a distance from the herd; they are unique in their ability to work without commands and being out of sight. The Australian Shepherd is up close and personal with livestock. Both are excellent herders, they just do it in different ways.

8. Are More Expensive

Two Australian Shepherds Herding
Two Australian Shepherds Herding

The price of Border Collies and Australian Shepherds is similar, but Aussies will likely cost more:

  • Collies can cost between $300 to $1,000.
  • Aussies can cost between $400 to $1,500.

The average price for an Australian Shepherd is about $950 vs $650 for a Border Collie.

Coat color will affect pricing. This means that tri-colored and merle dogs are typically more expensive than solid colored.

The Australian Shepherd is more popular and in higher demand. It is ranked 12th in the American Kennel Club’s 2020 dog breed ranking. The Border Collie is #32. The higher ranking is reflected in its slightly higher price. This is true for most breeds and it is one of the reasons why Golden Retrievers cost more than $2,000.

Similarities

9. Coat Color

Tri-colored Australian Shepherd
A tri-colored Aussie can be black, white, and tan.

Border collies are most commonly recognized as being black and white dogs. The black coat color gene is dominant, making it the standard for this breed.

It is fairly rare to find a purebred Collie that is one solid color. But, they can come in a handful of additional colors: red and white, blue and white, black, blue merle, red merle, sable, bicolor, blue tricolor, and black tricolor.

Australian Shepherds are known for their wide variety of coat colors too.

The most common coat colors are black, red, red merle, and blue merle. All of these colors can also include tan and/or white markings, making a dog tri-colored.

Australian Shepherds that are blue or blue merle will have black colored pigmentation around their eyes, lips, and nose. Red or red merle Aussies will have liver colored pigmentation around their eyes, lips, and nose. You will recognize them by their red merle or blue merle coats.

Collies are famous for having black and white coats. This does not hold true for all dogs within these two breeds, but it is a good starting point.

Both breeds share red merle, blue merle, black and white, and tri-color varieties.

The Border Collie is unique because it can also come in sable, blue, lilac, and brindle. If you see a pup that is one of those colors, and it fits the description of a Collie, there is a high likelihood that it is one!

10. Not Suitable for Families

Border Collie Sitting
Border Collie Sitting

Border Collies will be eager to please you and want to show off their intelligence from day one. This breed is clever, energetic, and protective.

Due to having a high herding drive, this breed is best suited for active farming families. A couple of negative traits of this breed are that they can be wary around strangers, nip at people’s heels, and chase cars.

Australian Shepherds want to be your best friend! They are easy-going, active, intelligent, and protective dogs. They love to stay busy and have a job to do.

When they do not have a job to do, they can be destructive. This negative behavior can be trained out of them if addressed at a young age. They are also protective of their families, but they are not known for being overly aggressive to other dogs or humans.

Both dogs were bred to be herding dogs.

They are best suited for families that live active lifestyles or families that live on farms. Both of these breeds may not be the best around families with young children due to their herding instinct.

If you simply want an Australian Shepherd or Border Collie for companionship, you may want to consider another breed. They will need outlets to express their endless amounts of energy.

Both dogs are very energetic. They both need an average of 40 minutes of exercise a day. While both dogs are energetic, the Border Collie has an endurance level that is unmatched by any other breed. Its trademark is its endurance.

11. Coat Type

Border Collie
Collie Dog

The Australian Shepherd has a medium-length double coat that is straight to slightly wavy. This double coat helps repel water and dirt while regulating body temperature. Both are important for an active herding dog!

They will shed all year long, but they are prone to heavy shedding during the spring and fall. They typically have a full mane and feathering on the backside of their legs and belly. This feathering is wispy hairs that grow a bit longer than the rest of the coat.

The Border Collie also has a medium-length double coat, will shed all year long, and has feathering on their legs and belly.

Even though Australian Shepherds and Border Collies have medium-length coats, the texture and fullness of their coats are different.

Australian Shepherds will have a coat that is fuller and more luscious. In other words, they will look more “teddy-bear like” than the Border Collie. Also, they have straight to wavy hair, while Collies may have sleek to coarse hair.

12. Grooming

If you are looking for a hardworking breed that requires minimal grooming, neither of these dogs would be a good match. Instead, look at the Texas Heeler.

Australian Shepherds and Border Collies require a moderate level of grooming to prevent matting. Neither dog breed is easier to take care of in relation to grooming.

Aussies need daily brushing and bathing every couple of weeks. Some owners choose to take them to a professional groomer every 6 weeks or so. Depending on how thick the dog’s coat is, the groomer may use thinning shears to help reduce the bulk.

Border Collies have similar grooming demands.

Daily brushing will be important to prevent their coat from forming matts. Baths can be done occasionally, depending on how often it gets dirty.

Both breeds have medium-length double coats, so grooming is not a great factor to help compare the Border Collie vs. Australian Shepherd.

Wrapping It Up

Australian Shepherds and Border Collies are used on farms and ranches for herding. But, they herd in very different ways. Australian Shepherds herd using the “loose eye” strategy. Border Collies herd using the “strong eye” strategy.

The Australian Shepherd and Border Collie are two completely different dog breeds. Many people confuse them based on their appearance alone.

If you are still struggling to tell the difference between, then take a quick recap below!

Border Collies have been around for thousands of years, but Aussies have only existed since the mid-1800s.

The Australian Shepherd weighs more and has a fuller and more luscious coat. Many think that they look more “teddy-bear-like”. They will have hair that is straight to wavy in texture. Border Collies will have hair that is sleek to course in texture.

Border Collies will have upright ears and a full-length tail with prominent feathering. Australian Shepherds have naturally short or docked tails and floppy ears.

On average, Collies cost slightly less than Australian Shepherds.

Both breeds are predisposed to a handful of similar health issues, but Border Collies live a few years longer on average.

These two breeds are unique and distinct herding dogs. Which is your favorite? Let us know below.

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