Differences Between a Border Collie & an Australian Shepherd

Border collies are among the smartest of all canines.
Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

If you're in the market for an energetic working dog, a border collie or Australian shepherd can fill the bill. Although there are differences between the two breeds, they have one important thing in common: These dogs need jobs. Without one -- or the equivalent in physical and mental stimulation -- you could find yourself with a problem pooch.

Smart Canines

Both the border collie and the "Aussie" are very smart, energetic dogs. While the border collie is arguably the most intelligent of all dogs, that's sometimes a mixed blessing. Border collies often possess odd quirks along with an uncommon intensity. They're workaholics. While the Aussie also boasts a strong work ethic and athletic ability, his overall personality tends toward the less complicated, at least in comparison with the border collie. The Australian Shepherd Club of America website states that some Aussies are "sedate," although that's not typical of the breed. "Sedate" and "border collie" are never found in the same sentence as a breed description.

Coat and Colors

Border collies sport either wavy or straight coats, with feathering on the front legs, chest, abdomen and buttocks -- referred to in dogs as the haunches. Any solid color or color combination is acceptable. Aussie coats are also wavy or straight, with light feathering on the front legs and haunches. Aussies might boast a "mane" on the back and sides of the neck. Permissible Aussie colors include a blue, red or black merle pattern, giving the coat a dappled look. Other acceptable colors are solid red and red with white markings. The latter shade might include tan points above the eyes, on the chest, muzzle, abdomen and lower legs. Acceptable white markings include a white collar that doesn't go past the point of the shoulder. White "splashes" --white on the body between the shoulders and tail -- are not allowed.

Canine Size

At maturity, border collies are slightly smaller than Australian shepherds. Full-grown male border collies stand between 19 to 22 inches tall at the shoulder, with females ranging from 18 to 21 inches. Mature male Australian shepherds stand between 20 and 23 inches tall, while the females fall within the same size range as their border collie counterparts.

The Eyes Have It

The Australian Shepherd Club of America website describes the Aussie as a "loose-eyed working dog," compared with the strong eye of the border collie. While the border collie actually controls sheep or other livestock via his intense gaze, the Aussie uses "grip," or nipping at the head or heels of a wayward cow or sheep to move it back into a herd. Although border collies and Aussies work with various types of livestock, traditionally the border collie herds sheep and the Aussie directs cattle.