English and Australian shepherds have a lot in common, and it can even be hard to differentiate them. I know it often takes me a while to tell if I’m seeing one or the other in the park!
But even though they look similar, there’s a ton of minor differences between them. And these differences can really make all the difference when choosing a new companion.
In this article, we’ll go over the characteristics of both of these dog breeds. We’ll walk you through what they look like, what their behavior is like, how to care for them…By the end of the article, you should be able to tell which of these dogs is best for you or which you prefer!
Because yes, this is a deeply personal choice. Between English shepherds and Australian shepherds, there isn’t a dog that’s objectively better than the other.
These are both amazing breeds of dogs that make their owners very happy.
So the question we’re trying to answer here is not: Which is best? but rather Which is best for me? Let’s go!
English shepherd vs Australian shepherd: purpose and history
English shepherds and Australian shepherds have a lot of history in common. In fact, they are close cousins that evolved from the same breeds of dogs. But throughout the centuries, they have served a slightly different purpose for our ancestors…
English Shepherd history
The English Shepherd is a herding dog (that is, a dog used primarily for herding other animals.) And contrary to what many people believe, it doesn’t come from England but rather America.
The first settlers who settled in America from the U.K. brought border collies, Scotch collies, and other types of collies from the Old World and bred them into a new type of dog: the English Shepherd.
This pet was perfect for them: it had endless energy to herd animals over huge farms and estates, it protected and alerted against visitors, and of course, it was a great companion!
Australian Shepherd history
The Australian Shepherd also originated in the United States (we’re starting to see a trend here!) and doesn’t actually have very much to do with Australia.
The Australian Shepherd is closest related to the Border Collie, and we think that this breed comes from different types of Collies like Basque Collies, as well as Pyrenean Shepherds and German Herding dogs.
Like the English Shepherd, the Australian Shepherd served the purpose of American settlers perfectly: it helped them herd sheep, it was very easy to train, and it provided much-needed companionship in the middle of the countryside.
Unlike the English Shepherd, however, it was probably used as a herding dog more than as a watch dog.
How to Distinguish English Shepherds and Australian Shepherds
It can be a bit difficult to tell these two breeds of dogs apart, at least if you’re not very familiar with them. Here’s what their main differences are:
One of the first things that you can notice is that English Shepherds always have a tail whereas some Australian Shepherds are born without one.
Another difference is in their colors: Australian shepherds can have a merle coat or be tri-colored but English shepherds don’t have a merle coat and are not usually more than two different colors. So if you see a shepherd with an unusual coat pattern, it’s probably an Aussie!
In terms of the touch and feel of their coat, the two are also a little bit different. Australian Shepherds tend to have a denser, fluffier coat, while an English Shepherd’s will be a little bit thinner.
This can also give the appearance that Australian Shepherds are rounder than their English counterparts.
English Shepherd vs Australian Shepherd: which is bigger?
Both English Shepherds and Australian Shepherds are considered medium-sized dogs. However, Australians are the slightly bigger ones.
On average, a male Australian Shepherd will weigh between 50 to 65 pounds, and a female 40 to 55 pounds.
English Shepherds are a little bit lighter, with males who tend to weigh between 45 to 60 pounds and females between 40 to 50 pounds.
In both species, the female is considerably smaller and lighter than the male.
For example, while male English shepherds are around 20 inches high, females are only about 18. For the Australian Shepherd, males are slightly taller at 21 inches high, and females at 19.5.
In terms of size, we think the difference between English Shepherds and Australian Shepherds is pretty minimal, so that’s not what we would base our choices on.
What colors can Australian and English Shepherds be?
What’s a lot more interesting to compare between English and Australian shepherds is their color.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, Australian shepherds are a little bit more versatile than English shepherds in terms of color.
For example, you’ll find Australian shepherds that are solid black or red. These are the most common solid colors. Black and red Australian shepherds can also have white on their chest, face, or legs (bi-color).
And some even have three colors! For example, an Australian shepherd may be black, with white trim and copper markings on its coat.
Australian shepherds can also have a merle color, which is a very distinctive fur pattern. The most common merle patterns are blue merle (grey and black spots) and red merle (cream and red spots).
On the other hand, English Shepherds tend to come in just two colors. The most common ones are black and tan, sable and white, black and white, and tan and white.
Although English shepherds can’t have a merle coat, they sometimes have some spots or speckles that show up on the white part of their coat. This is known as “ticking”.
How much do English and Australian Shepherds shed, and how much do you need to groom them?
If you’re about to adopt a new dog, you’re probably wondering how much they shed, and how much you’ll need to take care of their coat. That’s a very good question! In this case, choosing one dog over the other could mean having to spend a lot more time on grooming.
English and Australian Shepherds have different textures and styles when it comes to their coat.
And English Shepherd’s coat is silky and a bit thinner than that of an Australian Shepherd. It’s also a lot easier to groom, and they don’t need quite as much care.
On the other hand, Australian Shepherds have a feathered coat that’s a bit harder to take care of.
It tends to be longer and denser, which means it can get dirty more quickly, and it will take longer to wash and try—definitely something to keep in mind!
In terms of shedding, both breeds of dogs are about equal. You can expect to see them shed quite a bit, but nothing terrible. Their shedding levels are comparable to that of most Collies for example.
English Shepherd vs. Australian Shepherd: Cost
When it comes to costs, it can be quite hard to say which breed of dog is the more expensive. That’s because it really depends on where you get them from, and what part of the world you live in.
Australian Shepherds tend to be more popular than English Shepherds, and they’re easier to find. This can make them a bit cheaper than an English Shepherd.
On the other hand, English Shepherds are a lot more uncommon breed, so you may have to travel a long time to be able to buy one. That’s something to take into consideration.
However, something that may change your mind on costs is the fact that English Shepherds tend to eat a bit less!
Although both dogs have the same high levels of energy, English Shepherds are a bit leaner and they don’t need to eat quite as much as Aussie. So this may counterbalance at least part of their increased cost.
English Shepherd vs Australian Shepherd: Temperament
Temperament should definitely be one of the first things that you look at when choosing a new dog to adopt. After all, neither color nor size matter quite as much as the personality of your new companion!
One thing to mention first is that both English and Australian Shepherds are extremely active dogs. They love to be outdoors, they can play for hours, and they’re definitely a good type of dog to have for those who live on farms or in the countryside.
However, their energy can manifest in slightly different ways. For example, the English Shepherd is a working dog through and through. They are highly responsible, very good at following rules, and use their energy to maintain order.
Although Aussies can make great farm dogs, they’re also a lot more playful. They’re great with children and old people because they are affectionate, funny, and enjoy a lot of playtime.
While Aussies are best with children and old people, English shepherds tend to be better with other animals. So if you have other dogs, cats, or other animals, an English Shepherd is more likely to get along with them well.
English Shepherds make great guard dogs as they are naturally responsible and have a strong instinct for protection. Aussies can also make good guard dogs, but they will need a little bit more training.
In terms of aggressiveness, both dogs are safe to have around other people and children. They aren’t prone to biting or fighting, and they tend to be calm and peaceful.
This makes them good dogs to have if you have a large family, or frequently have people over at your house.
At the end of the day though, the way that you train both of these dog breeds is what will really influence their temperament. They’re both smart and versatile enough to be educated to perform different tasks and different functions.
But be careful, these dogs are not necessarily ideal for the first-time owner! Both can be hostile to strangers, and you’ll really need to raise them well to counterbalance that tendency.
They can also be quite stubborn, which makes them harder to train. So our advice would be to get these dogs only if you already have some background in dog training.
English Shepherd vs Australian Shepherd: Which one lives the longest?
When it comes to choosing a new dog, looking at potential health problems is crucially important. It’s not necessarily what you want to do the most but believe me, you’ll thank yourself for looking into the health profile of a breed beforehand.
English Shepherds are slightly more prone to health issues than their Australian counterparts.
In particular, they have very sensitive eyes that are prone to infections and other disorders. Australian Shepherds are slightly healthier, but it really depends on the individual as well.
And even though English Shepherds may be more prone to health conditions, they don’t have a shorter life expectancy than the Australian Shepherds. In fact, both breeds can expect to live around the same amount of time: 12 to 15 years.
We hope we’ve helped you understand some of the most important differences between English Shepherds and Australian Shepherds!
Although these two breeds look a lot alike, their temperament and appearance should be different enough to help you make a decision.