Australian Shepherd Color Variations: A Complete List

Welcome to an in-depth exploration of the Australian Shepherd’s color variations. As a veteran breeder with a deep knowledge of Australian Shepherd genetics, it is my privilege to provide an authoritative guide through the extensive varieties of color variations found in this distinguished breed. Known formally as Australian Shepherds, and colloquially as ‘Aussies,’ these dogs are celebrated not only for their remarkable intelligence and adaptability but also for their impressive and varied coat pigmentation.

In this comprehensive article, you’ll discover a detailed examination of the myriad colors that distinguish each Australian Shepherd as distinct. From the bold, unicolor coats to the complex merle patterns, every shade and combination is a manifestation of the breed’s rich genetic diversity.

Solid Colors

Solid colors in Australian Shepherds present a uniform and striking appearance. These colors are often sought after for their classic and elegant look. Solid colors in Aussies are relatively rare compared to other patterns, making them unique.

Solid Black

Solid Black Australian Shepherd standing in side profile isolate don white background
A deep and lustrous black coat, often with a shiny appearance. Solid black Australian Shepherds are known for their striking, bold look

The “Solid Black” Australian Shepherd is a color variation characterized by a completely black coat without the typical white or copper markings found in other Australian Shepherd color patterns. This variation is relatively rare compared to the more common merle or tri-color patterns in the breed.

In terms of desirability, solid black Australian Shepherds are often sought after for their unique and striking appearance. However, they may not be as commonly found in show rings as other color variations, given that the breed standard often emphasizes the more traditional color patterns like blue or red merle. Despite this, solid black Australian Shepherds possess all the breed’s desirable traits, such as intelligence, agility, and a friendly nature, making them excellent companions or working dogs.

Solid Red

Side profile of a well-groomed, red and brown Australian Shepherd standing against a white background
This variation features a warm, earthy red hue. Solid red Aussies are admired for their vibrant and rich coat color.

The Solid Red color variation is recessive, meaning a puppy needs to inherit two recessive red coat color genes to display this hue. The red coat can range from liver to light copper, but it must be uniformly red to be classified as solid red.

The rarity of the Solid Red Australian Shepherd is primarily due to genetic selection. Since the dominant coat color in Australian Shepherds is black and white, and the merle pattern is more common due to its dominant gene, solid red is less likely to occur. This rarity makes the solid red Australian Shepherd a unique and sought-after color variation, though it is not actively pursued by most breeders and often occurs by chance rather than intentional breeding.

Bi Colors

Bi-colored Australian Shepherds have two distinct colors, offering a visually appealing contrast. These combinations are popular for their balanced and symmetrical appearance.

Black and Tan

A black and tan Australian Shepherd dog standing in a three-quarter profile view, with black, white, and tan fur, on a soft white background
Features a primarily black coat with tan markings, usually on the legs, chest, and face. This classic look is both striking and traditional.

The “Black and Tan” Australian Shepherd is a color variation where the primary coat color is black, accompanied by tan markings typically found on the eyebrows, cheeks, chest, legs, and under the tail. This color pattern is similar to that seen in other breeds like the Doberman or Rottweiler, where the tan markings distinctly accentuate the black base color.

In terms of desirability, the Black and Tan Australian Shepherd is appreciated for its classic and striking appearance. While not as common as the merle or tri-color patterns, it holds a unique appeal for those who prefer a more traditional look in their dogs. The rarity of this color pattern can vary, but it is generally not the most common color seen in the breed.

Black and White

Monochrome image of a Black and White Australian Shepherd with distinct black and white fur, standing in profile against a plain white background.
A predominantly black coat with white markings, often on the face, chest, and legs. This coloration is known for its sharp contrast and elegance.

The “Black and White” Australian Shepherd, also known as the Black Bicolor, is a color variation where the primary coat color is black, accompanied by white markings. These markings are typically found on the chest, face, legs, and sometimes the neck and belly. This color pattern is one of the standard color variations in the breed, though it is less common than the merle patterns.

In terms of desirability, the Black and White Australian Shepherd is appreciated for its classic and striking appearance. The contrast between the black and white fur gives these dogs a distinctive and elegant look. While not as flashy as the merle varieties, Black and White Australian Shepherds are sought after by those who prefer a more traditional coloration in their dogs.

Red and White

Fluffy Australian Shepherd dog with red and white fur, looking to the side in a profile stance, against a clean white background
Features a red base with white markings. This variation is admired for its softer contrast and appealing look.

The “Red and White” Australian Shepherd, also known as the Red Bicolor, is a color variation where the primary coat color is red, accompanied by white markings. These markings are typically found on the chest, face, legs, and sometimes the neck and belly. This color pattern is one of the standard color variations in the breed, though it is less common than the merle patterns.

In terms of desirability, the Red and White Australian Shepherd is appreciated for its warm and inviting appearance. The contrast between the red and white fur gives these dogs a distinctive and attractive look. While not as flashy as the merle varieties, Red and White Australian Shepherds are sought after by those who prefer a more traditional coloration in their dogs.

Tri-Color Varieties

Tri-color Australian Shepherds have a combination of three colors, adding depth and complexity to their appearance. These varieties are highly valued for their intricate and detailed coat patterns.

Black Tricolor (Black, Tan, White)

Majestic tricolor Australian Shepherd dog with black, tan, and white fur looking off into the distance, against a white background
A black base coat with tan and white markings. This variety is known for its striking and defined color contrasts.

The Tricolor Australian Shepherd, specifically the Black, Tan, and White variety, is one of the most recognized and iconic color patterns in this breed. This variation features a primarily black coat, complemented by tan (copper) markings typically found on the eyebrows, cheeks, and legs, and white markings on the chest, face, legs, and sometimes the belly and neck. The distinct contrast between the black, tan, and white colors gives these dogs a striking and attractive appearance.

In terms of desirability, the Black, Tan, and White Australian Shepherd is highly sought after for its classic herding dog look. This color pattern is not unusual in the breed and is one of the standard color variations recognized in Australian Shepherds. It is especially popular among those who appreciate the traditional herding dog appearance.

Red Tricolor (Red, Tan, White)

A red tricolor Australian Shepherd dog standing in profile with a gentle gaze, highlighted against a bright white background.
A red base coat with tan and white markings. This softer tri-color combination is admired for its harmonious and warm appearance.

The Red Tricolor Australian Shepherd, also known as the Red Tri, is a distinct and visually appealing color variation of the breed. This variation features a red (ranging from light cinnamon to a dark liver color) primary coat, complemented by tan (copper) markings typically found on the eyebrows, cheeks, and legs, and white markings on the chest, face, legs, and sometimes the belly and neck. The combination of red, tan, and white gives these dogs a warm and attractive appearance.

In terms of desirability, the Red Tricolor Australian Shepherd is highly sought after for its unique and rich coloration. While not as common as the blue merle or black tricolor, the red tricolor is a recognized and standard color variation within the breed. It is especially popular among those who appreciate the Australian Shepherd’s versatility and are looking for a dog with a distinctive coat.

The Red Tricolor Australian Shepherd, with its eye-catching coat and amiable nature, makes a wonderful companion for families and individuals alike.

Merle Varieties

Merle Australian Shepherds have a marbled coat pattern with patches of diluted color. These varieties are particularly popular for their unique and eye-catching appearance.

Blue Merle

Beautiful blue merle Australian shepherd standing at a side profile on a white background
A marbled coat of black and gray, often with blue or silver tones. Blue Merle’s are prized for their striking and unique look.

The Blue Merle Australian Shepherd is a particularly striking color variation of the breed, characterized by a unique marbled coat pattern. This coat typically features a mix of grey, white, black, and sometimes tan or red. Each Blue Merle Australian Shepherd has a distinct pattern, making every individual dog unique. Commonly, they have a white bib and muzzle, with colored patches around one or both eyes. Their eye color can vary between blue, amber, or brown, and it’s not uncommon for them to have heterochromia (different colored eyes).

In terms of desirability, the Blue Merle Australian Shepherd is highly sought after for its beautiful and distinctive appearance. While not rare in the breed, the Blue Merle coloration is often more popular than other color variations due to its unique and eye-catching look.

For someone new to the breed and considering getting an Australian Shepherd, it’s important to note that while the Blue Merle coloration is visually appealing, it does not affect the dog’s personality or health. Australian Shepherds are known for their intelligence, energy, and loyalty, regardless of their coat color. They are well-suited to active lifestyles and excel in various dog sports and activities. The Blue Merle Australian Shepherd, with its striking coat and amiable nature, makes a wonderful companion for families and individuals alike. However, potential owners should be aware of the breed’s exercise and mental stimulation needs, as well as the potential for specific health conditions linked to the merle gene, such as congenital deafness.

Red Merle

Red Merle Australian shepherd on a white background looking up at it's owner
Features a marbled coat of red and cream or light orange. Red Merle’s are admired for their softer, yet equally striking, coloration.

The Red Merle Australian Shepherd is a captivating color variation characterized by a marbled coat pattern predominantly in shades of red, often mixed with white and copper markings. Their coat can range from a deep, rich red to a lighter cinnamon hue, and it’s typically adorned with distinctive white markings on the face, chest, legs, and underbelly. The copper accents often appear as points above the eyes and on the legs, adding to the breed’s unique and striking appearance.

The desirability for Red Merle Australian Shepherds is high due to their eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing appearance. Their rich red coat and intricate markings make them a popular choice among Australian Shepherd enthusiasts and dog lovers alike. This coloration is particularly sought after for its unique and beautiful look.

Which Color Variation is Right for You?

When choosing an Australian Shepherd as your companion, it’s crucial to remember that coat color should be a low-ranking factor in your decision-making process. While the various coat variations are undeniably beautiful and eye-catching, they should not be the primary criteria for selecting your Aussie.

Instead, prioritize factors that have a more significant impact on the dog’s suitability for your lifestyle and needs.

Factors like temperament, energy level, exercise requirements, and compatibility with your daily routines should be higher on your list of considerations.

Australian Shepherds are renowned for their intelligence, loyalty, and agility, and these traits, along with their overall health and well-being, should take precedence when making your choice. A dog’s personality and behavior will contribute significantly to your long-lasting bond, making it far more valuable than coat color alone.