Border Collie Vs. Australian Shepherd: An In-Depth Comparison

Border Collie Vs. Australian Shepherd: An In-Depth Comparison

So, you’re thinking of getting a new puppy for your family and wondering about the main differences between the Border Collie Vs. Australian Shepherd? They might appear similar, except for their coat coloring, but they grew up thousands of miles apart and are totally different dogs.

However, many years ago, breeders created both dogs to excel at herding duties; both dogs have the energy to burn and are independent thinkers. Collies have a reputation for being the most intelligent dog on the planet, but the Aussie isn’t far behind in the intelligence department.

Both the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd are beautiful dogs and are incredibly adorable as pups and under certain conditions, which we’ll discuss later, make wonderful family pets.

Suppose you’ve narrowed your choice down to a Border Collie or the Australian Shepherd. This article will discuss the difference between a Border Collie and an Australian Shepherd, based on appearance, size and weight, temperament and personality, and their suitability as family dogs.

History Of The Border Collie And Australian Shepherd

Border Collie History

You can trace the Border Collie’s descendants all the way back to Roman Britain. Romans brought dogs with them when they came to the British Isles, and these dogs were taken all over the country by their Roman owners.

Nothing lasts forever, and when the Roman empire crumbled, most of the Romans returned to their homeland. In time the Vikings thought it would be a good idea to invade, and so they did, bringing with them many of their Spitz-type dogs. The Viking dogs mated with the old Roman dogs, and the result was a medium-sized long-haired breed perfectly suited for living and working in Britain’s climate. The dogs were excellent herders and needed to be swift and agile to cope with the rugged landscape.

Border Collie history

Fast forward to September 1893 and the birth of a dog called Old Hemp. The dog’s owner Adam Telfer was so impressed by the dog’s herding capabilities he put Old Hemp to stud. History tells us the dog sired as many as 200 pups and is widely believed to be the foundation dog for the Border Collie. Between 1906 and 1951, every dog of the twenty-nine champions of the International Farmers’ Championship was from Old Hemp’s lineage.

The name Border Collie was first used in 1915 by James Reid, the International Sheepdog Society secretary. It’s not known exactly why he chose the name Border Collie, but it’s thought the word border was an area between England and Scotland, and Collie is an Anglo-Saxon word for black. By the 1890s, the dogs were being imported into the United States and other countries, even though they were still not known as the Border Collie.

Australian Shepherd History

The history of the Australian Shepherd is a little vaguer. First of all, this is an American and not an Australian breed, irrespective of the dog’s name. During the late 1800s, there was a lot of movement from Europeans moving to America to grab land for themselves and their families. Naturally, they brought their dogs to herd the livestock on their new lands. The settlers came from all over Europe and even from the other side of the world, Australia.

Australian Shepherd history

People claim the ancestors of the Aussie came from Spain (the Basque region) or Germany. However, the herding dogs of the Basque Region didn’t look anything like the Aussie. It’s felt that the dogs from Spain first went to Australia where they bred with local dogs and then were taken to America. Another dog taken to Australia around the same time was the German Tiger. Locally he became known as the German Koolie and the Australian Koolie. This dog looks far more like the Aussie than the Spanish dog.

Whatever the dog’s specific background, once in America, they became firm favorites of sheep farms and were highly sought after because of their fantastic herding abilities. The Australian Shepherd was recognized in 1957 on the creation of the Australian Shepherd Club of America. The National Stock Dog Registry was seen as the official breed registry until 1970, when the ASCA took over the duties.

Border Collie Vs. Australian Shepherd Characteristic Comparison

The Border Collie and Australian Shepherd share some similarities. Although this is not part of the Aussie’s documented history, it’s possible dogs coming from Australia were bred with Border Collies that were already in America; it’s an interesting possibility. Let’s take a look at the physical difference between Border Collie and Australian Shepherd.

Both of these dogs are medium-sized; the Border Collie weighs up to 35 pounds and grows to 22 inches at the shoulder. Border Collie females tend to be slightly smaller than males. The Australian Shepherd is the heavier of the two dogs and can weigh up to 65 pounds, with very little height difference. Once again, female Aussies are a little smaller.

Border Collie

The Aussie sports a double coat with two distinct layers; the outer coat will grow to a medium length and has an average texture; it’s not harsh or exceptionally soft and can be straight or wavy. Around the neck, the coat is longer and forms a ruff. The dog’s undercoat is dense and soft. How thick the undercoat is will depend on the climate where he lives; in colder areas of the States, an Aussie typically will have a denser coat.

Australian Shepherd

In comparison, the Border Collie has two coat varieties, rough-coated and smooth-coated. The rough-coated Border Collie has an average-length coat that carries feathering on the legs, stomach, and chest. Rough-coated Collies also have a dense undercoat, their coats can grow very thick, and grooming can be a bit of a task.

The smooth-haired Collie has a short, no feathering coat and is coarse to the touch. The dog might have a thick undercoat, but it might not, depending on the climate where he lives. People don’t see the smooth-coated Border Collie as frequently as the rough-coated.

1. Border Collie And Australian Shepherd Coat Colors Comparison

Border Collie Coat Colors

When one thinks of a Border Collie the images that spring to mind are a longish-haired black and white dog, but, surprisingly, the Border Collie has several color variations, patterns, and markings. There are tricolors from the primary colors of white, brown, black, and red. There are also blue and red merle coats, so there are some striking and lovely color combinations.

Border Collie coat color

Australian Shepherd Coat Colors

The Aussie coat has four primary colors; red merle, black and liver brown (red), and blue merle.

Australian Shepherd coat color

The blue merle Aussie tend to look like they have light to dark gray coats with splashes of black. The red merle dog’s coats are pale red with brown splashes. Any of these combinations can also have white markings running through the coat. These types of markings can extend to the eyes, cheeks, and legs.

2. Border Collie Vs. Australian Shepherd Intelligence

Both the Australian Shepherd and Border Collie are highly rated when it comes to intelligence; neither dog is a dunce. But as far as intelligence tests go, the Border Collie claims the number one spot with the Aussie at number 42.

Australian Shepherd training

In the tests, they found a Border Collie was capable of learning a new command after just five repetitions. Once they know a specific command, they could obey 95% of the time on the first attempt.

The Australian Shepherd learns a new command between 25 and 40 repetitions. However, they only have a 50% success rate carrying out the command on the first attempt. Still not too shabby.

3. Border Collie Vs. Australian Shepherd Personality

Australian Shepherds are renowned for their guard dog capabilities; they will raise the roof when strangers approach your home. If you live on a ranch or in an exposed area and need a guard dog as well as a family pet, then an Aussie would make an ideal choice.

Border Collies are more watchdog than a guard dog. That’s not to say they aren’t alert because they are. Being cautious and watchful is part of the job description of a herding dog. But they do tend to warn you of approaching strangers by loud barking; it’s the protection side they might lack. Both dog breeds are warm and affectionate family pets. They are incredibly loyal dogs to their families.

Border Collie temperament

Border Collies have a more wary personality around strangers than the Aussie. Both dogs are energetic, but the Collie might win that competition. While both herding dogs, they have a different system. The Border works from a distance, keeping his eye on the flock and moving them by his body positions. They can typically control larger herds than Aussies. Australian Shepherds herd cattle by getting up close and nipping and snapping at the cattle’s heels.

Australian Shepherd temperament

Neither of these two dogs is suitable for apartment living. The Aussie and the Collie both need vigorous exercise and brain work every day. If you’re an outdoor, active person, these dogs will suit you. A walk around the neighborhood on a leash will drive both dogs crazy.

Training the Aussie might be the more difficult; of course, it’s difficult to say because so many factors impact a dog’s personality, but it’s generally accepted that Aussies are not a good choice for first-time owners. Whereas the Collie is not as stubborn, and training tends to go more smoothly. Naturally, both dogs require calm, consistent, and patient handling; neither dog will respond to harsh or unkind treatment.


Hopefully, this Border Collie Vs. Australian Shepherd has given you plenty to think about and possibly made it easier for you to choose one or the other.

If you’re still undecided, you might think about purchasing a hybrid of the two – an Aussie Border Collie mix. I don’t think you’ll get twice the looks and twice the brains, but you’ll get a fantastic dog, that’s for sure.