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Australian Shepherd vs. Koolie

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Aussie vs Koolie

The Australian Shepherd and the Koolie are two different breeds of herding dogs. The Australian Shepherd, despite its name, originated in the U.S. while the Koolie originated in Australia. Both breeds possess a natural instinct to circle widely around livestock and bring them back to their owner. The Koolie was bred from imported Collies and as such shares ancestry with the Australian Shepherd.

Unlike the Australian Shepherd, the Koolie is not an AKC-recognized breed. However, it is accepted and recognized by the American Herding Breed Association as a breed of herding dog. 
Aussies are one of the most popular breeds in North America while Koolies are much sought-after in rural Australia. According to a report, interest in the Koolie is now being shown in the U.S., Canada, and Germany.

Both breeds not only herd livestock but also excel at many dog sports including dog agility, dock diving, obedience, rally, tracking, disc, and flyball. Furthermore, with the demand for farming dogs no longer being what it was, both the Aussie and the Koolie have proven their worth in many other fields including, therapy work, search and rescue work, disability and emotional support service, as well as ultimate family pets.


Aussie vs Koolie

The Aussie and the Koolie are both classified as medium-sized dogs, although Aussies are somewhat larger than Koolies. Aussies typically stand between 18 and 23 inches and weigh between 35 and 70 pounds, with males being slightly larger than females. On the other hand, Koolies usually measure between 17 and 20 inches in height and between 30 and 55 pounds in weight. Like male Aussies, male Koolies are slightly larger than their female counterparts. The Aussie and the Koolie are both typically slightly longer than tall.

The Australian Shepherd has a solid, muscular body and almond-shaped eyes that can be brown, blue, or amber. Heterochromia (two different colored eyes) is also common in Australian Shepherds. Further, Aussies can be born with long or naturally bobbed (short) tails. Unlike the Aussie, the Koolie has a lean body and is not usually born with a bobbed tail.

The Australian Shepherd has a moderately long and wavy double coat that offers different looks including Black, Red Merle, Red bicolor, Red tricolor, Black bicolor, Black tricolor, Blue Merle, and Red. However, all-black and all-red Australian Shepherds are seldom seen.

Australian Shepherd (left) vs. Koolie (right)

On the other hand, Koolies, for the most part, are seen with short coats and are most often seen in the merle coat pattern. They are sometimes seen with moderately long and wavy coats like Aussies. Merle Koolies with moderately long coats are often mistaken for Australian Shepherds. As both breeds share Collie ancestry, they resemble each other, though Koolies' pricked ears usually give them away. In fact, according to the Koolie Club of Australia, DNA testing has proven that Aussies and Koolies are related, but not as closely as Aussies and English Shepherds, who were found to be first cousins.


In terms of temperament, the Australian Shepherd is described as active, smart, adaptive, playful, loyal, affectionate, and sweet-natured. Similarly, the Koolie is known to be intelligent, temperate, patient, dedicated, fun-loving, diligent, friendly, loyal, dominant, active, and adaptive. Both breeds possess strong herding instincts and it is common for them to attempt to herd children or other pets when kept as family dogs.

Very active breeds, the Aussie and the Koolie are both known to become destructive if they don't receive adequate exercise and mental stimulation - as is typically the case with almost all shepherd dog breeds. The Aussie is not considered more energetic or intelligent than the Koolie, and vice versa.

Koolies tend to be more friendly with strangers and less defensive than Australian Shepherds. In addition, they have an independent mindset as opposed to Australian Shepherds, who are often nicknamed 'Velcro dogs' because of their tendency to stick beside their owner. Unlike Australian Shepherds, Koolies possess an average prey drive, meaning they don't have a high impulse to chase and catch small animals.

The Aussie and the Koolie are both easy to train and always eager to please. Both breeds are happiest when they are given a job to do.

Shedding Level

Koolies, regardless of the length of the coat, tend to shed fur though not as much compared to Australian Shepherds. Generally, Koolies are known as average shedders as opposed to Australian Shepherds, who are considered serious shedders. For the Australian Shepherd, weekly brushing sessions are required, though more work will be required during shedding season. Koolies, on the other hand, require occasional brushing and bathing when necessary.

Health and Life Expectancy

Although Australian Shepherds are generally healthy dogs, you should be aware of the following potential health concerns: Hip dysplasia, epilepsy, and eye problems. Whether you purchase an Australian Shepherd from a breeder or adopt one from a shelter, the AKC recommends that you have your dog tested for Ophthalmologist Evaluation, Elbow Evaluation, as well as Hip Evaluation.

On the other hand, Koolies are widely recognized as a healthy and hardy breed and rarely suffer from any adverse health conditions. However, due to the merle gene, Koolies are prone to some health issues including deafness and blindness. In sum, Koolies are healthier and therefore tend to live longer than Australian Shepherds.

The median longevity of Australian Shepherds is about 13 years whereas Koolies can live up to 17 years old, on average.


Australian Shepherds share the same level of intelligence and energy, as well as the same work ethic with Koolies. Aussies tend to be more clingy dogs than Koolies. However, Koolies are generally considered more friendly than Aussies. Plus, in terms of grooming, Koolies are considered low-maintenance dogs, unlike Aussies. 

Further, Koolies are healthier and live longer than Australian Shepherds. In terms of physical and mental stimulation needs, both the Aussie and Koolie are considered high-maintenance. Both breeds require a great deal of exercise daily to stay healthy and happy. If you do not intend to use them as herding dogs, that is.


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