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Australian Shepherd Colors: 7 Stunning Variations with Pictures

Written by: Ejay Camposano
A college graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering, Ejay has a diverse background that combines technical expertise with a passion for pets and is now one of the content writers at IHD. Read more
| Published on May 10, 2024

Australian Shepherds, affectionately known as Aussies, are a breed renowned not only for their intelligence and versatility but also for their strikingly beautiful coat colors. Originally bred for herding livestock, their agility and trainability have made them a favorite among ranchers and dog sport enthusiasts alike. The breed’s eye-catching coat comes in a variety of colors and patterns that are not just visually appealing but also quite unique to the breed. From the classic blue merle to the rare dilute colors, each variation carries with it a specific genetic background that contributes to the breed’s diversity. This article will explore seven stunning coat color variations of the Australian Shepherd, illustrating the range of colors and the breed’s dynamic visual appeal.

1. Blue Merle

Blue Merle is one of the most iconic colors of the Australian Shepherd. This pattern features a marbling of gray, black, and white in the coat, with the possibility of tan points on the face, legs, and chest. The blue merle Australian Shepherd often has striking blue eyes or heterochromia—two different colored eyes—adding to their enchanting appearance. Each blue merle Aussie is unique, with no two patterns being exactly alike. This color is not only beautiful but also highly sought after in the show ring for its eye-catching aesthetics.

2. Red Merle

Red Merle Australian Shepherds have a coat that combines shades of red, cream, and white, creating a mesmerizing and vibrant look. Like their blue merle counterparts, red merles can also display a range of patterns and may have lighter or darker patches. Their eye color can vary widely from blue to amber or even green, often with marbling or flecks. Red merles are particularly stunning in the sunlight, as their coats can appear almost luminous.

3. Black

Black Australian Shepherds are solid in color but may have white markings on the chest, face, and legs, and sometimes copper or tan points. Despite the simplicity of the color, a black Aussie carries a striking presence due to its glossy coat and powerful physique. The depth of the black coat can vary, from a deep jet black to a softer black mingled with lighter hairs, typically seen in the undercoat.

4. Red


Red, or liver, Australian Shepherds are a rich, solid color that can range from a light cinnamon to a dark liver hue. They may also sport white markings and tan points, similar to their black counterparts. Red Aussies carry a warm, earthy tone that makes them stand out. The red coloration is less common than black but is equally striking and capable of performing just as well in working and show environments.

5. Black Tri

The black tri Australian Shepherd is a color combination of black, white, and tan. This tri-color pattern is one of the most common among Australian Shepherds. The black covers most of the body while white is usually seen on the chest, face, legs, and sometimes the neck. Tan markings are typically found on the cheeks, above the eyes, and on the legs. The precise placement of the tan can vary significantly from one dog to another, making each black tri-Aussie distinctive.

6. Red Tri

Red tri Australian Shepherds have a base of red, complemented by white and tan markings. This variation mirrors the pattern seen in black tris but with red replacing the black. Red tris are admired for their stunning contrast and depth of color, with the red providing a vivid backdrop for the white and tan markings. The red tri coloration can range from a bright, fiery red to a darker, more subdued shade.

7. Blue

While not as common, blue Australian Shepherds have a diluted black coat that appears as a dark charcoal or smoky gray. This color can sometimes be mistaken for a lighter black but has a distinct silvery tone. Often, blue Aussies will also have white markings and may have tan points, similar to the black and red tri-color patterns.

In conclusion, the Australian Shepherd is a breed that not only impresses with its intelligence and agility but also captivates with its diverse range of coat colors. Each color variation brings its own unique beauty to the breed, making the Aussie not just a versatile working dog but also a stunning companion. Whether herding on a ranch or competing in agility, their colors make them stand out in any crowd, embodying both function and form in their vibrant coats.

1. What is the most common color of Australian Shepherds?

The most common color of Australian Shepherds is the black tri. This coloration features a predominantly black coat with white markings typically on the face, chest, legs, and belly, accompanied by tan points on the cheeks, over the eyes, and on the legs. The black tri Australian Shepherd is popular due to its striking contrast and distinctive appearance, which adheres closely to the breed’s standard in show rings. This color combination provides a classic look that is both bold and beautiful, making it highly favored among Aussie enthusiasts.

2. Are Merle Australian Shepherds more prone to health problems?

Merle Australian Shepherds, which include blue merle and red merle, can be more prone to certain health issues due to the genetic complexity associated with the merle coloration. The primary concern is auditory and visual impairments, including increased risk for deafness and blindness, particularly in double-merle offspring (resulting from breeding two merle-colored parents). Prospective owners should ensure that breeding practices are responsible, avoiding the pairing of two merle Aussies to minimize health risks related to their distinctive coat pattern.

3. Can Australian Shepherds be solid colored?

Yes, Australian Shepherds can be solid colored, although it is less common than the more typical multi-colored patterns. Solid-colored Aussies can appear in black or red without the usual white and tan markings. These solid colors are fully recognized within the breed standards, though they may not be as visually striking as their multi-colored counterparts. Solid-colored Australian Shepherds still possess all the breed-specific traits and capabilities, just with a less complex coat color.

4. What is a blue Australian Shepherd?

A blue Australian Shepherd does not refer to a true blue color but rather to a diluted black coat that appears as a dark charcoal or smoky gray. This color is sometimes referred to as slate and is the result of a dilution gene affecting the black pigment. Blue Australian Shepherds may have white markings and tan points similar to the tri-color patterns. Despite their name, blue Aussies are actually just a lighter, diluted version of black but still display the breed’s typical energy and versatility.

5. What does the term “red merle” mean for Australian Shepherds?

Red merle in Australian Shepherds refers to a color pattern where a reddish base color is marbled or mixed with lighter patches of cream or white. This beautiful and complex pattern is due to the Merle gene, which randomly dilutes patches of color, creating a mottled or dappled effect. Red merle Aussies often have stunning blue or hazel eyes and may carry this color in varying shades from light cinnamon to dark liver. Like all merles, red merles are popular for their eye-catching appearance but must be bred carefully to prevent genetic health issues.

6. How do you identify a blue merle, Australian Shepherd?

A blue merle Australian Shepherd is identified by its unique coat pattern, which features a mix of gray, black, and white, giving the coat a bluish cast. This merle pattern creates a mottled effect that can also include various shades of gray interspersed with black. Blue merle Aussies often have blue or partially blue eyes, which further enhances their striking appearance. Each blue merle Aussie is unique, with no two coats being exactly alike due to the random distribution of the merle gene.

7. What are the grooming needs for different Australian Shepherd colors?

The grooming needs for Australian Shepherds are generally consistent across all colors and include regular brushing to prevent matting and reduce shedding. Australian Shepherds have a double coat with a weather-resistant outer coat and a soft undercoat that varies in thickness with the seasons. They should be brushed several times a week, more often during their bi-annual shedding seasons. The color of the coat does not impact the type of grooming required, although lighter-colored coats may show dirt more easily and require more frequent baths.

8. Is there a color preference for Australian Shepherds in dog shows?

In dog shows, Australian Shepherds are judged based on the breed standard, which includes color as one component. However, there is no specific color preference as long as the dog conforms to the accepted color patterns detailed in the breed standard. Judges look for good overall appearance, conformation, and movement rather than color alone. That said, certain patterns like the richly contrasted tri-colors or striking merles might catch a judge’s eye due to their aesthetic appeal.

9. Can Australian Shepherds have pink noses?

Australian Shepherds typically have black or liver-colored noses, depending on their coat color. A pink nose is not standard and can be a sign of a genetic trait known as the “lethal white” syndrome, associated with double merles, where there is a lack of pigment. However, some Aussies may have lighter or partially pink noses due to less pigment, which is not necessarily a health concern unless accompanied by other symptoms of albinism or poor pigmentation.

10. Are white Australian Shepherds rare?

White is not a standard color for Australian Shepherds and is highly discouraged in breed standards because it can be linked with severe health issues like deafness and blindness, especially if the dog is predominantly white or “lethal white” (double merle). White patches are acceptable to some extent, typically on the chest, legs, and collar area, but a mostly white Australian Shepherd is very rare and likely the result of improper breeding practices involving merle-to-merle mating.