The Aussie Shepherd is an eye-catching breed thanks to the many different Australian Shepherd coat colors. In total, this breed boasts 16 stunning coat color variations. Do you know all of them?
Aside from the easily recognizable black tri-color, male and female Aussie Shepherds come in other different shades and combinations. Undoubtedly, this working breed is as stunning as it is smart.
In this guide, we will look at all the coat variations of the Australian Shepherd. We’ll touch on both the recognized and unrecognized colors and discuss some frequently asked questions. Let’s start!
How Many Australian Shepherd Colors Are There?
The Australian Shepherd comes in four AKC-recognized colors and a few unrecognized ones. When mixed and matched during the breeding process, these produce a total of sixteen different colorations.
Here is a list of all the possible Australian Shepherd colors and patterns:
- Black tri
- Black and white
- Solid black
- Black and tan
- Blue merle tri
- Blue merle and white
- Blue merle and tan
- Solid blue merle
- Red tri
- Red and white
- Solid red
- Red and tan
- Red merle tri
- Red merle and white
- Solid red merle
- Red merle and tan
It can be overwhelming to wrap your head around this many color variants. Fortunately, we can make it easier to grasp by classifying these colors into three different kinds — solid, bicolor, and tri-color.
Solid colors include solid black, solid blue merle, solid red, and solid red merle.
Meanwhile, the bicolor variants include black & white, black & tan, blue merle & white, blue merle & tan, red & white, red & tan, red merle & white, and red merle & tan.
Finally, the tri-color variants are black tri, blue merle tri, red tri, and red merle tri.
Watch this video to see two stunning Australian Shepherd coat colors:
16 Australian Shepherd Colors
In this section, all 16 coat color variations of the Australian Shepherd are introduced. Familiarizing yourself with these coat colors will help you choose the Australian Shepherd color you want to ge`4t.
1. Black Tri
The black tri is the most popular coat color of the Australian Shepherd breed. In fact, this color is known to be the most common among the different shades of tri-color Aussies.
Aussies with this coat pattern are predominantly covered in black fur alongside tan and white markings.
Its tan points appear on the middle of the eyebrows, as well as on the cheeks and the lower legs. Meanwhile, it has white markings on its muzzle, chest, and legs. It may also have a white line of fur along the forehead.
Because of their color and markings, black tri Aussies share a resemblance with the Bernese Mountain Dog. As a result, a black tri Australian Shepherd is sometimes considered the leaner version of the Bernese Mountain Dog.
To highlight how common this breed is, an experienced breeder friend of mine who focuses on the production of Australian Shepherds does selective breeding as part of ensuring that he produces only the best quality Aussies from his kennel.
He only produces a maximum of two litters a year, and one of those would usually be dominated with black tricolor Aussies, making his total production about 50% of this color and the rest of the 50% scattered among all the other colors.
2. Black and White
The black and white Australian Shepherd is a dog that sports an elegant-looking black coat with large white markings.
Black and white Aussies are also called “black bi Australian Shepherds” because they are bicolor, with black being the predominant color.
The black and white Aussie has a few white markings on the muzzle and around the eyes, which goes down to the chest. These markings also commonly appear around the lower legs, giving off a sock-like pattern.
Interestingly, black bi Aussies are often mistaken for their distant relative, the Border Collie. This is especially the case with first-time pet owners or people who have yet to become familiar with these breeds.
3. Solid Black
The solid black Australian Shepherd is exactly that — an Aussie Shepherd with an all-black coat. Unlike the tri-color and bicolor Aussies, the solid black Aussie has no coat markings.
Surprisingly, this color of the Australian Shepherd breed is uncommon. In fact, the solid black variant is considered the least popular among the different kinds of black Australian Shepherds.
Occasionally, a solid black Australian Shepherd may exhibit understated white markings. These markings are very small and hard to see. They usually appear on the chest, chin, and paws.
Genetics is the reason why solid black Australian Shepherds do not come by as often as other variants. To put simply, these dogs result from the combination of recessive genes that controls the coat’s black pigment.
4. Black and Tan
Another coat color variant of the Australian Shepherd is black and tan. Black and tan Australian Shepherds belong to the bicolor group or Aussies with coats that mainly display two colors.
Appearance-wise, the black and tan Aussie sports a color comparable to that of a Rottweiler’s coat. This Aussie has large tan markings along the legs, as well as the area surrounding the muzzle, chest, and belly.
In addition, the black and tan Australian Shepherd usually has two copper-colored dots above its eyes.
Black and tan Aussie Shepherds are also called black bi or black and copper by some breeders and fanciers. Hence, you might find these dogs advertised as ‘black and copper’ on some adoption or breeder websites.
5. Blue Merle Tri
The blue merle tri is another tri-colored variant of the Australian Shepherd breed. For starters, the word ‘blue’ describes the shade of the dog, while ‘merle’ refers to the pattern.
Hence, the term ‘blue merle’ refers to a type of color pattern in Aussies, where its three main colors, namely blue, white, and tan, are arranged in a pattern, which gives out a marbled or mottled effect.
Further, a blue merle tri Aussie Shepherd sports large white markings all throughout its body, particularly on its chest and legs. It also has tan markings near the eyes, face, and legs.
Blue merle tri Aussies are tricky to breed. This is because breeding two dogs that carry merle genes have an inherent risk of producing the so-called ‘double-merle.’
6. Blue Merle and White
The blue merle and white Australian Shepherd is another bi-colored variant, displaying a blue merle coat as its base alongside white markings.
This color combination is often confused with the solid blue merle. However, you can identify the blue merle and white Australian Shepherd from the other by looking at the coat pattern and how the white markings appear.
White fur predominantly covers the body of blue merle and white Aussies. In fact, the merle pattern appears only on their face down to the upper legs.
In other words, these dogs appear “whiter” when compared to solid blue merle Aussies.
7. Blue Merle and Tan
Blue merle and tan, sometimes called blue merle bicolor, is a coat color that is less common than others. Bicolor Aussies with this coat color exhibit blue merle with a combination of tan or copper points.
These markings can appear as two dots on the eyebrows. The same shade spreads throughout the cheeks, below the chest, and on the lower legs.
Some blue merle and tan Aussies are often mistaken for blue merle tri Australian Shepherds. This is because the former may show the same colors as the latter.
To tell them apart, the blue merle and tan Australian Shepherd should come in a predominantly blue merle coat with large blotched areas of tan. If white appears on the face and chest, these should only be minimal.
8. Solid Blue Merle
The solid blue merle Australian Shepherd has a fully marbled coat, where layers of light and dark shades cover the entire body. The base color is gray, with a blend of dark spots over it and small patches of white fur.
Although a solid blue merle Aussie is expected to display a totally blue merle coat, understated white markings may appear on the face and the chest.
On another note, the solid blue merle Australian Shepherd is one of the most sought-after dogs, yet not the most common.
This is because the solid blue merle coat has that exotic and alluring appearance, especially if paired with blue eyes. However, they are not that easy to breed.
9. Red Tri
A red tri Australian Shepherd is another tri-colored variant. This dog mainly exhibits a red coat ranging from cinnamon to liver. Regardless of where its color falls on the spectrum, it generally looks red, especially from afar.
As this dog’s name suggests, its red coat comes with traces of tan points. This usually appears on the eyebrows. The same tan markings appear on the cheeks, chest, and even underbelly.
The look is also complemented by white markings, which cover a portion of the muzzle, the chest, and the lower legs.
If you’re particularly into red tri Aussies, finding one can be a challenge. Breeding these dogs is tricky, as both parents must specifically have recessive red-colored genes and no black genes.
10. Red and White
The red and white Aussie is a red bi variation. It should have its coat predominantly red with white markings on the upper muzzle.
This white marking, often called a blaze, usually goes all the way up to its forehead. However, it can also stop at the point near the upper muzzle. A significant portion of its chest and lower legs are also coated in white.
Even though hints of copper or tan may appear, they’re too minimal; hence this dog qualifies to be labeled an Australian Shepherd with a bicolored coat.
On a different note, red bicolor Aussies are not very common. Nonetheless, they have become more popular in recent years.
11. Solid Red
The solid red Australian Shepherd is the rarest among all other variants. This dog displays a coat that is completely red. Its shades may range from light copper to dark ruby, chestnut, auburn, and light cinnamon.
Ideally, this variant shouldn’t have any white markings or tan points. However, in some cases, Aussie dogs with minimal white or tan markings can still be labeled solid red.
If a solid red Aussie happens to have white or tan markings, these markings may appear on the chest or on the feet.
Meanwhile, both parents must have recessive genes to come up with a solid red Australian Shepherd. Its red color is carried by the red gene, and it only manifests in the absence of the black gene.
12. Red and Tan
Red and tan is another bicolor variation of the Australian Shepherd. This dog exhibits a red coat with mostly tan or copper markings, which may appear gradient on the edges since its shade is close to red.
The tan markings appear as two dots on the eyebrows and as patches on the cheeks, chest, lower legs, and feet.
Expect to find small white fur blotches, but they aren’t as plentiful or noticeable as the tan points.
In addition, a red bi combination like this is hard to find. The recessive red genes produce red Aussies, so both parents must carry these genes to produce a red and tan Australian Shepherd.
13. Red Merle Tri
A red merle tri Australian Shepherd dog has marbled layers of red, tan, and white markings. It is covered by a red merle pattern from its ears down to a large part of its back.
When it comes to its white markings, they normally appear around the muzzle up to its forehead in an almost proportionate line. This also reaches down to its broad chest and some parts of the lower legs.
Although not clearly noticeable from a distance, the tan points stand out on the eyelids as two dots. Tan patches on the cheeks are scattered, too, as well as around the front and hind legs.
Its interesting appearance makes the red merle tri Australian Shepherd a real beauty. However, due to its recessive red genes, it’s not as common as other tri-colored Aussies.
14. Red Merle and White
The red merle and white Australian Shepherd is another captivating bicolor variant. To identify one, you have to look for mottled liver patches and cream on the dog’s coat.
These patches are matched by a liver-colored nose, which is also evident in other red-coated Aussie Shepherds.
Due to its merle genes, the red merle and white Aussie carries a mottled pattern. In addition, it also sports pecks of pure white fur on its lower legs, chest, and face.
Sometimes, this bicolor variant bears the same coat colors as the solid red merle. Fortunately, you can tell which one is a red merle and white Aussie by spotting pure white fur on the correct areas.
In addition, the merle gene causes red merle and white Aussies to have either dark, odd-colored, or blue eyes.
15. Solid Red Merle
The solid red merle is another coat variation of Australian Shepherds. One way to identify solid red merle Australian Shepherds is by looking closely at their coat patterns, which is similar to the sandstone effect.
Instead of having large patches of white fur and red merles on separate areas, this dog sports marbled red patches.
Even if white appears on the muzzle, feet, or chest, the red merle pattern is smeared over these parts. These come with several hints of tan and copper blotches, too.
In addition, solid red merles are closely similar to the white and red merle Aussies. In fact, for an untrained eye, these variants may be indistinguishable.
16. Red Merle and Tan
The red merle and tan Aussie Shepherd is among the bicolor variants of the breed. The coat on this dog is a combination of two colors — tan and red merle, which looks like two shades of brown marbled together.
Red merle and tan Aussie Shepherds have markings on their eyebrows, chests, lower legs, and muzzles. These markings are usually lighter in color compared to the rest of their coats.
Also, if you look closely, you’ll notice the mottled patterns near its muzzle, forehead, and ears.
These mottled patterns are telltale signs that the dog is a red merle and tan Australian Shepherd. This trait is what distinguishes it from other similar-looking color variants.
Australian Shepherd Markings
The Australian Shepherd dog has three types of markings recognized by the American Kennel Club. This breed may exhibit particularly white markings or tan points or have both.
Read further to discover all about these different markings on an Australian Shepherd’s coat.
White markings are common to the Australian Shepherd breed. A white patch, known as a collar, may wrap across its chest. This collar can either be fully or partially wrapped but should not go past the withers.
When it comes to the area of the face, the white markings shouldn’t take up a lot of space. The muzzle may show white markings. Moreover, it can have a white blaze run up at the center of the head, usually between its eyes.
These white markings also show on the forelegs and hind legs, preferably not exceeding the hock joint. A white horizontal extension on both forelegs is also displayed, measuring up to four inches.
The shades of an Australian Shepherd’s tan points may range from sandy to deep copper.
These markings vary since some Aussies may display tan points overlapped by merle spotting while others may show it crisply like a Doberman or a Rottweiler. The image above is an example of crisp tan points.
Other Australian Shepherds born to have tan points may have them scattered on certain parts of their faces and body, too.
On some occasions, the tan markings may spread like patches around the eyes and cheeks, appearing almost like a copper mask.
If there are fewer tan points, an Australian Shepherd that has no tan markings on the face may rather display them on its lower legs or under the tail.
White Markings and Tan Points
White and tan markings appear on tri-colored Australian Shepherds. They typically have two tan points on their eyebrows, tan patches on the cheeks, and understated tan hues below the chest, underparts, and legs.
Meanwhile, white markings appear as a blaze on their faces between their eyes. Some have it thin, while for some, the blaze looks broad.
The white fur runs down on the muzzle and its underparts to the chest like a collar. The legs also show white markings, and this may dominate the forelegs more than the hind legs.
Unrecognized Australian Shepherd Colors
While there are officially recognized Australian Shepherd colors, there are also unrecognized ones. Aussie Shepherds that sport unrecognized coat colors are not qualified to participate in AKC-hosted events.
They are also not considered purebred by many fanciers. Nonetheless, they are still excellent companions and unique-looking dogs.
The following are some of the unrecognized Australian Shepherd colors:
A sable Australian Shepherd is described to have a coat where the shafts are tipped in either black or red. Usually, the tips are black for black-nosed Aussies and red for liver-nosed Aussies.
Sometimes, sable Australian Shepherds with red coats are hard to identify since there is less contrast regarding the coat colors they have. They may have red coats with slightly dark tips or a base of red fur with light edges.
To better identify a sable Australian Shepherd, take a closer look at its guard hairs and observe the color on the base up to the tip. The Aussie might be sable if the tips are consistently in different shades than the roots.
A yellow Australian Shepherd has a yellow coat and lacks tan trims, but there are white patches in several parts of its body.
Yellow is inherited to be recessive at the E-locus, prohibiting the tan points from manifesting.
Two yellow Australian Shepherds can produce a yellow Australian Shepherd puppy. But it can also yield the same results if both Australian Shepherd parents carry a yellow recessive gene.
Over the years, yellow Aussies have been controversial dogs. It is, in fact, disallowed in the Aussie breed standards as yellow can mask the merle gene.
In other words, breeding yellow Aussies heightens the risk of producing double-merle dogs, which may carry hearing or vision problems.
A yellow sable Australian Shepherd is a combination of the sable and the yellow Australian Shepherd. Its yellow coat is generally light on the base but darker near the tip.
Meanwhile, the large white areas on its coat are usually not affected by the sable gene. Hence, there are no marbling patterns in these areas.
The shade of a Yellow Sable Aussie ranges from light yellow, which is comparable to a yellow Labrador Retriever, to golden, similar to that of the Golden Retriever.
On rare occasions, its yellow coat may also be as dark as the Irish Setter’s mahogany red coat color.
Diluted Red Tri
A dilute red tri Australian Shepherd is basically a colored Aussie, but the dilution gene intervenes and washes out the original hue and gives the dog a light red shade.
The diluting effect happens only in areas where they are supposed to be red or liver. The markings, especially the tan points, are not influenced by the dilution gene.
This type of coat is possible when the puppy receives red color genes along with the dilution gene.
White Aussies are mostly produced by mating two red or blue merles together, resulting in a so-called double-merle Australian Shepherd.
This pattern from both parents results in an Australian Shepherd puppy with a lot of white in its coat or can even be completely white.
However, this type of matching is highly discouraged because most double-merle Australian Shepherds are either born blind or deaf or, in the worst case, both.
It’s also possible to have an Australian Shepherd dog that’s mostly white but isn’t double merle. This kind of Aussie Shepherd likely does not have the health issues mentioned.
Brindle is one of the alleles found on the K locus. When this manifests, the Australian Shepherd dog will have a coat that has a tiger-like pattern.
Brindle Australian Shepherds can have a yellow undercoat with black or liver stripes.
The dilution gene may also affect any brindle Aussie. That said, depending on its color, the dilution gene may make it appear a few shades lighter.
Australian Shepherd Coat Color Genetics
Understanding the genetics of Aussie coats can be challenging at first. Fortunately, this section will explain two things: the coat color and the coat pattern.
In terms of genetics, all the colors of an Australian Shepherd dog start from two pigments: red and black.
Between black and red, black is the dominant gene, and red is considered recessive. Any presence of the black gene can produce black puppies. That said, combining black and red results in black while red is masked.
To come up with red Australian Shepherds, two Australian Shepherd dogs carrying the recessive red genes must be bred together.
As for the coat pattern of the Australian Shepherd dog, this can either be merle or solid.
From a genetic viewpoint, a blue merle Aussie is a black dog affected by the merle gene. Meanwhile, the red merle Aussie is a red dog carrying the merle gene.
For a red merle Australian Shepherd to be born, it requires two recessive red genes from the parents and one or two dominant merle genes.
The blue merle Aussie would also need at least one copy of a dominant black gene and one or two dominant merle genes.
Merle-to-merle breeding is not recommended since there is a high chance that the puppies may be born blind or deaf. Hence, a merle to solid Australian Shepherd dog breeding is a better option.
Do Australian Shepherd Colors Affect Behavior and Health?
Currently, there are no studies indicating that Australian Shepherd colors affect behavior.
A test has been done in certain dog breeds, and it has yielded a negative result, showing no relationship between coat color and temperament in dogs.
That said, you can expect Australian Shepherds, regardless of coat color, to be very eager to please their owners, affectionate, and friendly to dogs. All these are reinforced through proper upbringing, socialization, and training.
Australian Shepherds can even be excellent search and rescue dogs, too.
It’s a different case when it comes to health, however. Although Australian Shepherds of any color are generally healthy dogs, white Australian Shepherds may cause a major concern.
This coat color produced from two merle Australian Shepherds predisposes them to vision and hearing problems. They may also exhibit odd behaviors due to these complications.
They can show signs of anxiety or feel uncomfortable in new environments due to the lack of their sight and hearing senses.
Owners who aren’t aware that their white Australian Shepherds are severely affected by these conditions may think their pets are stubborn and disobedient during training.
The real score, however, is that their dogs cannot hear their commands or see the objects used during training.
Do Australian Shepherd Puppies Change Colors as They Grow?
Australian Shepherd puppies change colors as they grow. While they may be born with light coats, these will appear darker as they age.
Such a case may be different for some, depending on what color they’ve been born with.
Merle Australian Shepherds usually look like different merle dogs compared to how they were as puppies. Most of them are born with light coats, and the merle areas develop into darker shades later in their lives.
Only some of the red and blue merle Australian Shepherds darken, however, but progressive darkening in Aussies with this coat pattern is common.
Another significant change appears in solid red and red merle Aussies if they love basking under the sun. The ultraviolet rays bleach their coats, turning them somewhat yellowish.
Take note of Australian Shepherd puppies with white trims, too. Although they may have tiny white spots on the back, they will eventually lose them as they grow older.
What Color Will My Aussie Puppy Be?
Your Australian Shepherd puppy’s color can be predicted by looking through its parents and their coat color genetics.
Mating together a red and black Australian Shepherd will result in a black (red factored) puppy. Meanwhile, breeding two black Australian Shepherds will result in a mostly black litter.
Knowing whether an Aussie is red-factored or not can be done by conducting a DNA test.
A red and black (red factored) Aussie will result in a 50-50% chance of giving birth to black or red puppies.
On the other hand, two black Aussies that are red factored have a 75% chance to produce puppies that are black and 25% for red pups. Around 25% of black Australian Shepherds can be red-factored, too.
As for the merle Australian Shepherds, a merle mated with a solid Australian Shepherd dog results in a 50% chance of giving birth to solid puppies and 50% for merle pups.
If two blue or red merles are bred, there will be a 25% chance that the puppies will have the double-merle gene. Around 75% chance goes to Australian puppies turning into the red or blue merle Australian Shepherds.
Lastly, two solid-colored Australian Shepherd dogs will always result in solid-colored puppies.
Australian Shepherd Nose and Eye Colors
The Australian Shepherd is predisposed to have dark brown or blue eyes, amber, or any variation. Sometimes, you can even come across one with two different eye colors.
The solid red and red merle Australian Shepherd dog typically has eye rims that are red or liver, and it’s the same case for their noses.
As for those with blue merle coats, as well as the black Australian Shepherds, their eye rims and noses are black.
If the Australian Shepherd’s coat is merle, pink patches on the nose may show.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Solid Red Australian Shepherds Rare?
Solid red Aussies are rare. This is explained by the red gene being recessive. Both parents should carry the red coat color gene to produce solid red Australian Shepherds.
With white and black as two dominant color genes in the Australian Shepherd breed, having a solid red Aussie is a less likely occurrence. This is why there aren’t a lot of puppies born with this coat color.
What Is a Mismarked Aussie?
A mismarked Aussie refers to Australian Shepherds that have excessive white markings. The breed standards recommend that this breed have a limited amount of white markings for good reasons.
Moreover, having too much white on their coats is suggestive that they may have the double-merle gene.
What Is the Difference Between a Red Merle and a Blue Merle?
The difference between red merle Australian Shepherds and blue merles is their original coat colors. The red merle Aussie is born red or liver with diluted areas that turn white and beige.
In the case of the blue merle Australian Shepherd, its primary color is black, with diluted areas turning themselves into a white to gray coat.
What Is the Rarest Color of Australian Shepherd?
While solid black Aussies are rare, solid red Aussies are the rarest of all the colors known to the breed. To produce a solid red pup, it takes both parents to have the recessive red coat color genes.
Due to their rarity, these dogs can be very expensive. You may be lucky to find a solid red Aussie being sold for only $700 to $1,500, but other breeders usually ask for more.
What Is the Most Common Australian Shepherd Color?
Certainly, the black tri-coat color is the most common shade for the Australian Shepherd breed.
Blue merle Aussies are also popular due to their remarkable coat pattern, especially in dog shows and certain AKC events.
You’re granted a wide spectrum of coat colors if you’re heavily drawn toward the Australian Shepherd dog breed.
Although its basic colors are black, red, blue merle, and red merle, many variations form out of these. There are unofficial colors you can witness out of this breed, too, and they’re as beautiful as the recognized ones.
Have you chosen what Australian Shepherd color to go for? Make sure your home is ready for this new addition. Regardless of the Australian Shepherd’s coat color, they are all equally beautiful.
Feel free to share which Australian Shepherd color you like the most by leaving a comment below!