Australian Shepherds are friendly, hard-working ranch dogs. With their intelligence, strong work ethic, and overwhelming instinct for herding, it’s no wonder Aussies—as they’re affectionally named—became the cowboy’s best friend.
These energetic and adorable dogs come in four main coat colors, which can be combined to create a further 11 distinct and incredible color-marking combinations—all of which are recognized by the American Kennel Club. Australian Shepherds do come in other colors too, though they would not be officially recognized by the AKC as purebreds.
We’ve grouped our list of 15 color combinations into the four main coat colors (red, red merle, black, and blue merle), and unofficial colorways of color combinations not recognized by the AKC.
Red Coat Colors
Because the red-colored gene is recessive in dogs, red-coated Australian Shepherds are some of the rarest of the breed, with solid red being the rarest. For red coloring to come through, both of a pup’s parents must pass on the recessive red gene.
The difficulty in breeding red Australian Shepherds means that most breeders are put off even trying. That said, when you do find them, red Aussies are some of the most handsome dogs out there!
1. Solid Red
Solid red is the rarest color of official AKC-recognized Australian Shepherds, which only makes them more precious. These beautiful Aussies range from light cinnamon to dark chestnut and every shade in between. The lightest red Aussie appears copper, almost gold under the right light. Intense shades of ruby and cinnamon sit somewhere in between.
Whatever the shade, a red Aussie’s warm color and amber-to-brown eyes are sure to melt your heart!
2. Red Bicolor
Red bicolor Australian Shepherds have a red coat with white markings over their face, chest, and legs. On some red bicolor Aussies, the white markings on their chest can extend around their neck like a collar. The rest of the dog is usually red.
As with the solid red Aussies, the red part of the coat can vary from bright cinnamon to dark liver, contrasting beautifully with their white markings.
Red bicolor Aussies are sometimes called red and white because this is the only color combination they can have. For instance, tan markings do not appear without white ones.
3. Red Tricolor
As with red bicolor, red tricolor Aussies have a red and white coat, but they also have copper or tan markings and highlights over their faces—commonly over their eyes—and legs. Their white markings are most often found on their legs, chests, faces, and sometimes necks.
While most red Aussies have amber-to-brown eyes, some may have blue eyes. In rare cases, red Aussies might have heterochromia—one amber eye, and one blue.
Red Merle Coat Colors
There are three variations of red merle Aussies, including solid red merle, red merle bicolor, and red merle tricolor. These beauties often have unique eyes, too. Red merles have either solid amber or blue eyes, but sometimes, their blue eyes contain brown spots, or if they have brown eyes, they might have blue spots—this is known as marbling or flecking.
4. Solid Red Merle
A solid red merle Aussie is easy to confuse with a red merle bicolor, but there are subtle differences. In a red merle Aussie, their red coat is marbled with white, often resulting in a golden, sandstone effect with lowlights and highlights.
Red merles can have some patches of white, and patches of copper as well as their marbled coat.
5. Red Merle Bicolor
Red bicolor merles are very similar to solid red merles, but with bicolor, white markings can appear across the pup’s face, chest, and legs, too. Some dogs have red spots to go with the white one as well, adding to their general charm.
As with red merle, these Aussies sometimes get marbling in their eyes too.
6. Red Merle Tricolor
Tricolor merle Aussies have beautifully marbled red, white, and tan markings. A white trim covers their face, chest, and legs. Their face is dotted with red, copper, and white markings.
To the untrained eye, the differences in the red merle Aussie variations can be difficult to identify, but in the end, they are all adorable-looking dogs with unforgettable eyes.
Black Coat Colors
There are four variations of black Australian Shepherds. They are solid, bicolor black and white, bicolor black and tan, and tricolor. Of these, solid black, and black and tan are the rarest.
7. Solid Black
Australian Shepherds with solid colors are rarer to find than those with more than one color because the solid color gene is recessive. That said, there are plenty of solid black Aussies out there. If they do have white or tan markings, they’re usually understated.
Solid Black Aussies usually have brown eyes that range from amber to very dark.
8. Black and White Bicolor
Also known as black and white Australian Shepherds, these Aussies closely resemble their distant relatives, the black and white Border Collies, with white markings that cover their faces, chests, and sometimes paws. Occasionally they’ll have white spots over their eyes, too.
As for eye color, most black Aussies have brown eyes that range from hazel to dark brown.
9. Black and Tan Bicolor
After solid black, black and tan bicolor Australian Shepherds are the second rarest of the black-colored group. As with the black and white Aussie, these dogs are predominantly black. They have tan markings over their face, chest, and paws. Their coloring is similar to that of a Rottweiler’s.
10. Black Tricolor
Black tricolor Australian Shepherds are a beautiful mix of predominantly black, with white and tan markings. They often have a white muzzle, with a thin white line traveling up across the center of their forehead, white chest, stomach, and paws. Copper markings appear on their cheeks, as spots above their eyes, and on their lower legs.
Blue Merle Coat Colors
As with red merle, blue merle Aussies have an intricate, marbled coat that’s truly unforgettable. The three varieties include solid blue merle, blue merle bicolor, and blue merle tricolor.
11. Solid Blue Merle
Solid blue merle Aussies are not actually blue. Blue merle refers to a black base coat that’s marbled, often with silver or white, creating a slate-blue, or silver-blue color when seen at a distance. Solid blue merles are not common, so meeting one should be treated as a special treat!
12. Blue Merle Bicolor
Blue Merle bicolor Aussies have either white or tan patches covering their faces, chests, and maybe legs, while the rest of their body is covered in a blue merle coat.
Those with tan, instead of white patches, might also have copper-colored spots over their eyebrows. Blue merles can have brown or blue eyes, sometimes even with marbling.
13. Blue Merle Tricolor
Blue merle tricolor is one of the most popular purebred color combinations, and it’s not difficult to see why. With white muzzles and foreheads, a white chest, copper-colored eye patches, cheeks, and legs, mottled ears, and intricate blue merle across their backs, these dogs are simply stunning.
As if that wasn’t enough, these pups can have marbled eyes of either blue or brown, or maybe even one of each.
Unofficial Coat Colors
Aussies with these coat colors are not recognized by the American Kennel Club, but you may occasionally find these colorways.
White Aussies are usually the result of breeding merle parents. To avoid a white litter, honest breeders will not let two merle Aussies breed. Though they look adorable, white Aussies are unfortunately prone to hearing loss, sight loss, and cancer. Owners need to make sure they get their pups checked by a vet regularly.
Yellow Aussies vary from pale, sandstone colors, to golden. They closely resemble golden retrievers. These Australian Shepherds sometimes have white patches, and they often have a black or brown nose.
There’s a huge range of incredible colors when it comes to Australian Shepherds, with the base colors being red, black, blue merle, and red merle. With merles, their marbling can affect their eyes too. These beautiful dogs were bred for working, so if you’re lucky to adopt one, expect a bundle of energy, and lots of love.
Featured Image Credit: Petra Heike Laicher, Pixabay