Australian Shepherd vs Border Collie: 5 Key Differences Explained

Written by Heather Ross
Updated: April 20, 2023
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Key Points:

  • While both breeds descended from the European collie, the Australian Shepherd also has ancestors from German or Spanish sheepdogs. Aussies are and American breed while border collies are native to the Anglo-Scottish border.
  • The brown-eyes border collie is black and white with finer hair and a smaller build than the Aussie, who can have patches of varying colors and even blue or bi-colored eyes.
  • Both highly intelligent dogs make dependable watch dogs and are very conscientious due to their herding instincts. The border collie is bred to round up animals; the Aussie is a “drove” who keeps the herd together and moving forward.
Australian shepherd in agility tunnel
Australian shepherds are social, clever, and energetic

© Orlova

Have you ever wondered about the Australian Shepherd vs the Border Collie? Both of these breeds are working dogs that were originally used for herding farm animals. If you saw them together, you would likely think they were the same dog, and you wouldn’t exactly be wrong.

Being related to each other, Australian Shepherds and Border Collies look similar and are both very intelligent, trainable, playful, social, and high-energy pets. With that being said, what encourages people to choose one breed over the other? It turns out they have different countries of origin, resulting in some differences in appearance, personality, skills, herding style, and other aspects that are best to compare side-by-side.

It’s Australian Shepherd vs Border Collie — Let’s check out the best ways to tell these two herding dog breeds apart!

Comparing Australian Shepherd vs Border Collie

Border Collie with Kong toy
Border collies are demanding, playful, smart, and athletic


Australian ShepherdBorder Collie
Country of originCalifornia, USAnglo-Scottish border
Category & tasksWorking – Herding livestock, dog actingWorking – Herding livestock, tricks & agility sports
AncestrySheepdogs from Spain or Germany, collies, German ShepherdsLandrace collies from the British Isles
Tail & eyesBobtail; blue, hazel brown, black, combinationsBobtail: brown, blue, bi-colored, marbled
Coat types & lengthBlack, blue merle, red or red merle, double medium-length thick/long or short/thinSeveral; double-layered long or medium-length rough or short/smooth
Temperament & personalitySocial, clever, energeticDemanding, playful, smart, athletic
Child & stranger-friendlinessHerds small children; outgoingProtective, herds small children; wary
Social with other dogsFriendlyAssertive
Separation anxietyCommonCommon
Yappiness & barkingVocalVocal
Intelligence & trainabilityAbove averageExtremely high
Energy levelHighHigh
Lifespan9-12-15 years10-17 years
Health issuesHip dysplasia, cataracts, hearing problems, epilepsy, kidney disease, CEA, MDSHip dysplasia, eye & hearing problems, dental problems, OCD, epilepsy, musculoskeletal disorders, POA, hypothyroidism
Price to own$400-$2,000$200-$1,000

Australian Shepherd vs Border Collie: Origins

border collie
The intelligence of the border collies makes it one of the most popular types of farm dogs.


Australian Shepherds and Border Collies are two popular breeds of herding dogs known for their intelligence, agility, and high energy levels. While these two breeds may look similar at first glance, they have distinct origins that have shaped their unique characteristics.

Despite their name, Australian Shepherds did not actually originate in Australia. They were first bred in the United States in the mid-19th century to work on ranches in the American West. Their ancestors were likely dogs brought over from Australia and other parts of Europe, including Spain, where they were used to herd sheep.

Border Collies, on the other hand, do have their origins in the border regions of England and Scotland. They were bred specifically for herding sheep in the harsh, mountainous terrain of the region.

The 5 Key Differences Between Australian Shepherd vs Border Collie:

Australian shepherds are not from Australia!


1. Country of Origin & Ancestry:

Believe it or not, the Aussie is not even from Australia. It is unclear where their name came from, but there are two theories. The Australian Shepherd may have herded Merino sheep, which were bred originally in Australia before being imported to the United States. This connection to the sheep may have donned them the name. Another theory is that the Aussie has the same color markings (the blue merle pattern) as other dogs from Australia.

Both breeds have their origins in European collies, but Australian Shepherds also have sheepdog ancestors from Spain or Germany and share genetics with German Shepherds. Border Collies are descended from landrace collies in the British Isles. Australian Shepherds are an American breed that appeared in California, United States, and Border Collies on the Anglo-Scottish border.

2. Appearance:

The coats and colors of these breeds can be very similar. However, the Border Collie has more coat color types. It is thinner and more lightweight than the Australian Shepherd, which is heavier by about 15 lbs and has a wider face. Generally, the Australian Shepherd’s coat is multi-colored rather than mostly black and white, like the Border Collie. Both can have brown eyes, but the Australian Shepherd can also have blue, bi-colored, or marbled eyes.

3. Sociability & Tasks:

Australian Shepherds aren’t extremely dedicated to tasks like Border Collies, which tends towards OCD. Border Collies are also needier, seem to suffer more from separation anxiety, are more protective towards children and owners, and are wary of strangers and assertive when meeting other dogs. They do best with several older children or other adults to keep them company and play with them per their demanding nature.

Besides being herding dogs, both breeds also make great watchdogs. The Australian Shepherd is a popular choice for dog actors and the Border Collie excels in tricks and agility sports.

4. Herding Style:

Looking at each breed will show you the differences in their herding style. When an Australian Shepherd is working, it focuses on being a driving dog (or drover), communicates by movement with the occasional bark, and flanks behind or alongside livestock to move them. The Border Collie is a gathering dog for the herd and communicates with eye contact, using a direct stare called “the eye” and a silent slinking movement to intimidate livestock and move them.

5. Price to Own:

Both breeds of puppies will cost about the same from a rescue or shelter. The average cost to own from a breeder is a range with the amount depending on the age and other factors of the dog, and both breeds have an overlap in price ranges from $600-800. Australian Shepherds tend to be more expensive, though, with an average cost of $950 as opposed to $650 for a Border Collie.

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About the Author

Heather Ross is a secondary English teacher and mother of 2 humans, 2 tuxedo cats, and a golden doodle. In between taking the kids to soccer practice and grading papers, she enjoys reading and writing about all the animals!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Which is better Australian Shepherd or Border Collie?

It depends on what you’re looking for in a herding dog or family pet. In a comparison of popularity rank, the Australian Shepherd wins.

What is the difference between a Border Collie and an Aussie?

Build, coat and eye colors, personality, herding style, and price to own.

Are Aussies and Border Collies related?

Yes. Both share collies in their ancestry.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.