Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd are two names that often top the list of intelligent and versatile herding breeds. Both of these remarkable dogs possess exceptional working abilities and make excellent companions. However, despite some similarities, they are distinct breeds with unique characteristics.
In this article, we will explore the differences between the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd, shedding light on their origins, physical attributes, temperaments, training, grooming and exercise needs, and health issues.
Quick Breed Comparison
|Australian Shepherd (Aussie)
|Male: 19 to 22 inches (48 to 56 cm)
Female: 18 to 21 inches (46 to 53 cm)
|Male: 20 to 23 inches (51 to 58 cm)
Female: 18 to 21 inches (46 to 53 cm)
|Male: 30 to 55 lbs (14 to 25 kg)
Female: 30 to 55 lbs (14 to 25 kg)
|Male: 50 to 65 lbs (23 to 29 kg)
Female: 40 to 55 lbs (18 to 25 kg)
|Most Common Coat Colors
|Black and white, red and white, tricolor (black, white, and tan),
blue merle, and red merle
|Back, blue merle, red, or red merle
|Longer, dense, and thick double coat (Rough and Smooth)
|Medium-length double coat,
Straight to Wavy
|At least 1.5 to 2hrs per day
|At least 1 hour per day
|Easy to Train
|Easy to Train
|Intelligent, energetic, athletic, affectionate
|Intelligent, protective, affectionate
|10 to 14 years
|12 to 15 years
|$800 to $1500
|$800 to $1,800
Origins and History: A Tale of Herding Excellence
Originating from different regions and bred for specific purposes, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds have a rich history and have gained popularity for their intelligence, agility, and versatility. Let’s get to know them!
Border Collie: The ultimate herding dog
The Border Collie, often regarded as the ultimate herding dog, traces its origins to the border region between England and Scotland. In the early 19th century, shepherds in the border area needed an intelligent and versatile herding dog capable of handling the challenging terrain and the large flock of sheep.
Through careful breeding, these shepherds developed a working dog that excelled in herding, known for its exceptional intelligence, intense focus, and remarkable work ethic. The breed’s name, “Border Collie,” stems from its close association with the border region.
The Border Collie’s remarkable herding skills attracted attention beyond the border region. In the late 19th century, the breed started gaining recognition and popularity in dog trials and agricultural shows throughout the United Kingdom.
The breed’s skills and versatility expanded its role beyond herding, as it demonstrated proficiency in various dog sports and competitions. Today, the Border Collie remains highly esteemed for its exceptional working abilities and is widely regarded as one of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world.
Australian Shepherd: The versatile working dog
Contrary to its name, the Australian Shepherd did not originate in Australia. Instead, its history is linked to the Basque shepherds who immigrated to the United States in the 19th century. These shepherds brought their herding dogs, which became the foundation for the development of the Australian Shepherd.
The breed’s precise ancestry is somewhat uncertain, but it is believed to be a result of crosses between several European herding breeds, such as the Pyrenean Shepherd, Border Collie, and Collie-type dogs. These dogs were selectively bred by the Basque shepherds to create a versatile herding dog capable of working in the rugged and diverse terrains of the American West.
The Australian Shepherd gained popularity in the Western United States, where it was highly valued for its exceptional herding skills and adaptability. They were extensively used to work cattle and sheep in various ranching operations.
Also read: Toy Australian Shepherd Dog Breed Review
Are There Differences in their Herding Styles?
Yes, there are differences in the herding styles of the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd, although both breeds are highly skilled and versatile herding dogs. Here are some of the key differences in their herding styles:
Approach and Eye
Border Collies are known for their intense “eye” while herding. They use a direct, fixed gaze to control and manipulate livestock. This eye and their crouching posture help them exert strong pressure on the animals and guide them.
On the other hand, Australian Shepherds tend to have a more upright posture and use a looser, more relaxed eye. They may rely more on their movement and quickness to gather and drive the livestock.
Gathering vs. Driving
Border Collies excel at gathering livestock. They can naturally move around and behind the animals to bring them together into a tight group. They often work closer to the livestock and use their eye to maintain control.
Aussies, on the other hand, are skilled at both gathering and driving. They are known for their agility and can move quickly to gather the livestock, but they are also adept at driving the animals forward when needed.
Border Collies are often described as highly focused, intense, and driven when herding. They have a strong desire to please and work tirelessly to accomplish their tasks. They are known for anticipating and responding quickly to livestock movements.
Australian Shepherds are hardworking and energetic but may exhibit a slightly more independent streak. They are known for their problem-solving abilities and may rely on their own judgment when herding.
Border Collies have a strong herding instinct and are often regarded as one of the most naturally talented herding breeds. They have been selectively bred for generations for their herding abilities.
Australian Shepherds also have strong herding instincts but may have been bred for a wider range of tasks, such as guarding and protecting livestock as well.
Australian Shepherds & Border Collies: Do They Look Like the Same?
Both Australian Shepherds and Border Collies have a well-balanced body structure with athletic builds. They possess solid and agile bodies, reflecting their herding origins. However, there are a few noticeable differences between their appearances.
Border Collies tend to have a more refined and slender frame, with a slightly longer body than their height. They have a more moderate angulation in their hindquarters, giving them a graceful and agile appearance.
On the other hand, Australian Shepherds have a more robust build, solid bone structure, and well-developed musculature. They have a more square-shaped body and a slightly stronger rear angulation.
When it comes to eyes, both breeds are known for their intense, intelligent gaze. However, there are some differences in the eye color. Australian Shepherds can have a variety of eye colors, including blue, amber, green, or brown. They can also have heterochromia, where each eye is a different color. On the other hand, Border Collies typically have brown eyes, although they may occasionally have blue eyes or a combination of blue and brown.
Both Border Collies and Australian Shepherds fall into the medium-sized dog category. However, the Border Collie tends to be slightly smaller than the Aussie. On average, a Border Collie stands between 18 to 22 inches (46 to 56 cm) tall at the shoulder and weighs around 30 to 55 pounds (14 to 25 kg).
On the other hand, Australian Shepherds are typically between 18 to 23 inches (46 to 58 cm) in height and weigh between 40 to 65 pounds (18 to 29 kg). It’s worth noting that individual dogs may vary within these ranges.
Coat Colors and Patterns
Both Border Collies and Australian Shepherds exhibit a wide range of coat colors and patterns, adding to their unique appearances. Border Collies are commonly seen in a variety of colors, including black and white, red and white, tricolor (black, white, and tan), blue merle, and red merle. The merle pattern in Border Collies often results in a marbled or mottled appearance characterized by patches of lighter and darker colors.
Similarly, Australian Shepherds also showcase a broad spectrum of coat colors and patterns. They can have a solid color coat in black, blue merle, red, or red merle, often with distinct tan or white markings. The merle pattern is particularly striking in Australian Shepherds, where patches of lighter and darker colors create a marbled effect. Additionally, some Aussies may have a combination of “tricolor” or “bi-color” colors, including black, white, and tan.
Coat Type and Grooming Needs
Australian Shepherds and Border Collies have different coat types but require regular grooming to keep their coats healthy.
Australian Shepherds have a medium-length double coat that is weather-resistant. Their topcoat is straight to slightly wavy, while the undercoat is dense and soft. This combination provides protection from the elements.
These breeds are moderate shedders, with heavier shedding occurring twice a year during seasonal changes. Regular brushing is necessary to prevent matting and to keep their coats healthy and shiny. Additionally, they may require more frequent grooming during shedding seasons to remove loose fur.
On the other hand, Border Collies have a longer, dense, and thick double coat. Their outer coat is straight or slightly wavy, while the undercoat is soft and insulating. They shed moderately throughout the year, with heavier shedding occurring during the changing of seasons. Their coats require regular brushing to prevent matting and to remove loose hair.
Additionally, occasional trimming may be necessary, especially around the ears and paws, to maintain cleanliness and prevent debris from getting trapped.
Temperament and Characteristics of Border Collies and Aussies
Both the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd share several common temperament traits, making them fascinating breeds to have as companions. Known for their high intelligence and work ethic, these dogs are often described as “intelligent workaholics.” They possess sharp minds that are constantly active, requiring regular mental stimulation and engagement.
However, this high energy level also translates into a lot of fun and endless possibilities for activities. Whether it’s playing fetch, football, or frisbee, both breeds excel and can bring joy to any playtime session.
The Border Collie and Australian Shepherd are affectionate and loving towards their families. They form strong bonds with their owners and enjoy spending quality time with them.
However, there are slight differences in their behavior towards strangers. The Border Collie tends to be cautious of unfamiliar individuals, while the Australian Shepherd is typically more outgoing and friendly, accepting new people into their social circle.
One notable distinction between these breeds lies in their herding instincts. Border Collie possesses superior herding abilities compared to the Australian Shepherd. This can manifest in attempts to herd small children or other pets within the household. Families with young children or other animals should be mindful of this behavior.
However, with proper training and stimulation, these herding tendencies can be redirected and minimized, ensuring a harmonious environment for all.
Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are highly active and intelligent dog breeds requiring regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental well-being. However, there are some differences in their exercise needs based on their breed characteristics.
- Energy Levels: Border Collies are often considered among the most energetic dog breeds. They have tremendous energy and stamina, essential for their original purpose as working dogs on farms. Australian Shepherds are also active but may not match the same intensity as Border Collies.
- Exercise Intensity: Border Collies thrive on intense physical exercise and mental stimulation. They excel in activities that challenge their agility, speed, and problem-solving abilities. Australian Shepherds also require regular exercise but may be more adaptable to different activities, including hiking, running, and playing fetch.
- Mental Stimulation: Both breeds are highly intelligent and require mental stimulation along with physical exercise. Border Collies, in particular, have an exceptional drive for learning and problem-solving tasks. They enjoy tasks such as obedience training, interactive puzzle toys, and games that challenge their intellect. Australian Shepherds also benefit from mental stimulation, but they may not have the same level of intensity as Border Collies.
- Work Ethic: Border Collies have an intense work ethic and thrive when given a job to do. They are known for their herding abilities and excel in activities such as agility trials, flyball, and obedience competitions. Australian Shepherds also have a strong work ethic and can be trained for various tasks, including herding, search and rescue, and even serving as therapy dogs.
- Exercise Duration: Due to their higher energy levels, Border Collies typically require longer and more frequent exercise sessions compared to Australian Shepherds. They benefit from multiple daily exercise sessions, each lasting at least 1.5hr to 2hrs. Australian Shepherds also require regular exercise but only need at least 1hr per day.
- Adaptability: Both breeds are adaptable to different living environments, but Border Collies may struggle more in sedentary or apartment living situations due to their high energy levels. They are better suited for homes with access to open spaces or active families who can provide ample opportunities for exercise and mental stimulation. Australian Shepherds are also active dogs but may adjust better to varying living conditions as long as they receive their exercise requirements.
Training and Education: Which Smart Pup is Right for You?
Australian Shepherds and Border Collies are renowned for their exceptional trainability. Both breeds possess high intelligence, a strong work ethic, and a desire to please their owners, making them quick learners and adaptable companions. Their natural herding instincts and eagerness to work make training a rewarding and enjoyable experience for both dog and handler.
Australian Shepherds are known for their versatility and excel in various dog sports and activities. They are highly trainable and thrive when given a job to do. Their intelligence and problem-solving ability enable them to understand commands and tasks quickly.
Consistency and positive reinforcement methods work best with Australian Shepherds, as they respond well to praise, treats, and play as motivators. They have a remarkable capacity for learning and can master advanced commands and complex tricks with patience and consistent training.
Border Collies are exceptional learners, often regarded as the most intelligent dog breed. They possess a remarkable ability to understand and interpret human cues, making them highly trainable for various activities. Their strong herding instincts and intense focus contribute to their trainability, allowing them to excel in obedience, agility, and herding trials.
These dogs thrive on mental stimulation, and training sessions that challenge their problem-solving skills and give them a sense of purpose are ideal. Positive reinforcement techniques like clicker training and reward-based methods are particularly effective with Border Collies.
Both Australian Shepherds and Border Collies require consistent and firm guidance from their owners. Early socialization and obedience training are crucial for both breeds to ensure they develop into well-rounded and obedient dogs. It is important to keep training sessions engaging, varied, and mentally stimulating to prevent boredom and maintain their focus.
With proper training techniques, these intelligent and eager-to-please breeds can reach impressive levels of obedience and perform complex tasks with enthusiasm and precision.
Common Health Issues and Lifespan
The Border Collie and Australian Shepherd are generally healthy breeds with few major health concerns. However, some common health issues can affect both breeds.
One such issue is hip dysplasia, a hereditary condition that affects the hip joints and can lead to discomfort and mobility problems. Border Collies and Australian Shepherds can also be prone to certain eye disorders, such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and collie eye anomaly (CEA). Regular eye examinations by a veterinarian are important for early detection and treatment of these conditions.
The life expectancy of Border Collies is typically around 12 to 15 years, while Aussies tend to have a slightly shorter lifespan of around 10 to 14 years. It’s important to note that these are just averages, and individual dogs may live longer or shorter lives depending on various factors such as genetics, diet, exercise, and overall healthcare.
When comparing the health of Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, it’s worth mentioning that both breeds can exhibit variations in their health profiles. Border Collies, for instance, may have a higher prevalence of certain genetic disorders such as epilepsy and hearing problems.
On the other hand, Australian Shepherds may be more prone to developing allergies and certain types of cancer. Responsible breeding practices and regular veterinary care can help mitigate the risks associated with these conditions, ensuring that both breeds can lead long, healthy lives.
Border Collie vs Aussie Puppy Cost
When considering the price comparison between Border Collie puppies and Australian Shepherd (Aussie) puppies, it’s essential to note that the cost can vary based on several factors, such as the breeder’s reputation, location, lineage, and the puppy’s characteristics. However, some general trends can be observed when comparing the prices of these two popular dog breeds.
Border Collies are highly sought after by individuals and families who require a working or highly active companion. Due to their popularity and the demand for well-bred Border Collie puppies, they tend to have higher price tags than other breeds.
On average, you can expect to pay between $800 to $1,500 for a Border Collie puppy from a reputable breeder. However, exceptional pedigrees or champion bloodlines can increase the price, sometimes reaching $2,500 or more.
Australian Shepherds come in different coat colors and patterns, which can influence their price. The cost of an Australian Shepherd puppy can range from around $800 to $1,800, depending on various factors like breeder reputation, lineage, and geographic location. Show-quality Aussies or those with exceptional pedigrees may command higher prices, potentially exceeding $2,500.
It’s important to remember that the initial purchase price of a puppy is just one aspect of the overall cost of owning a dog. Ongoing expenses such as food, veterinary care, grooming, training, and accessories should also be considered when budgeting for a new pet.
Adopting a pup from a shelter or rescue organization is another option, as it can be more affordable and provides a loving home to a needy dog.
Regardless of the breed, responsible breeders should provide health clearances for the parents, offer proper socialization and care for the puppies, and be available to answer any questions you may have.
It’s crucial to do thorough research, visit the breeder in person if possible, and ensure they adhere to ethical breeding practices before making a decision.
Should I Get a Border Collie or an Australian Shepherd?
The comparison between Border Collies and Australian Shepherds reveals two remarkable breeds with distinct characteristics. Both breeds are highly intelligent, energetic and excel in various activities such as herding, agility, and obedience. However, when it comes to determining which breed is suitable for you, it ultimately depends on your individual preferences, lifestyle, and needs.
If you are an active individual or a family that enjoys spending much time outdoors, both breeds can be a good fit. They thrive in environments where they receive regular mental and physical stimulation. However, if you’re looking for a dog that excels in herding and requires a strong work drive, the Border Collie might be the better choice. Their intense focus, remarkable problem-solving skills, and natural herding instincts make them superb working dogs.
On the other hand, if you are searching for a versatile companion with a slightly more laid-back nature, the Australian Shepherd could be the breed for you. They are known for their versatility in various dog sports and their ability to adapt to different activities. Aussies are highly trainable, possess a strong desire to please, and are generally known for their affectionate and loyal nature.
If you’re feeling uncertain about deciding between an Aussie and a Border Collie, why not take into consideration their blend – the Border Aussie? This breed is a mix of Border Collie and Australian Shepherd
Ultimately, it is crucial to consider the time, effort, and commitment required to meet the needs of either breed. Border Collies and Australian Shepherds thrive with regular mental and physical stimulation, consistent training, and socialization. Additionally, it is essential to ensure that you can provide a suitable environment for the breed you choose, including adequate space and opportunities for exercise.
Before deciding, it is highly recommended to interact with both breeds, meet responsible breeders or owners, and learn more about their specific characteristics and requirements. This will help you determine which breed aligns best with your lifestyle, preferences, and ability to meet their needs.
Remember, choosing a dog is a long-term commitment, and finding the right breed that suits your lifestyle and fulfills your expectations is crucial for a happy and harmonious relationship with your four-legged companion.
Have you had any personal experiences with Border Collies or Australian Shepherds? If so, what traits or characteristics stood out to you the most? Let us know in the comments!
Cess is a seasoned dog enthusiast and expert in the field of canine care. With over 5 years of experience in the Pet Industry, she is a go-to resource for dog owners seeking expert guidance.
As the Head of Content Writing at Border Collie Health, Cess shares her extensive knowledge through informative articles and practical tips. Beyond her professional role, she actively volunteers at local shelters and enjoys participating in dog-related events.