According to the American Kennel Club, the Australian Shepherd breed has a medium-length, two-layer coat and can be straight or wavy. However, the colours of the Australian Shepherd’s coat can vary dramatically.
Aussie coats have four officially recognized coat colours – Black, Red, Red Merle, and Blue Merles
However, there are many variations within each of these. This is how you end up with the 14 recognized coat colours and a few that aren’t!
- Blue Merles
- Blue Merle Bi-colour
- Tan and Blue Merle
- Blue Merle Tri-colour
- Red Merle
- Red Merle Bi-colour
- Red Merle Tri-colour
- Solid Black
- Black Bi-colour Black
- Black and Tan
- Black Tri-colour
- Solid Red
- Red Bi-colour
- Red Tri-colour
Now, before we go into the colours, we need to define a few terms that you will see mentioned around Australian Shepherd colours.
What is a bi-colour Australian Shepherd?
A bi-coloured Australian Shepherd will be a Red or Black Aussie with sections of white.
Black Aussies can be black and tan rather than black and white (Red Aussies cannot have tan markings) However, these dogs are described as black and tan, not bi-colour, as this term is just used for dogs that are either red or black with white markings.
What is a tri-colour Australian Shepherd?
Tricoloured Aussies are mainly one of the basic colours, namely black, red, blue or red merle.
Each of these will have small to medium amounts of white and copper markings.
What is a Merle Australian Shepherd?
The term “merle” refers to a dog that has a marbled coat, in which lighter and darker tones are layered to produce a beautiful blended pattern.
Merle Aussies have an underlying colour of black or red. However, when a black Australian Shepherd has the merle gene, it’s called a Blue Merle Australian Shepherd instead.
Merle is a dominant gene in Australian Shepherds, so it is more common than solid colours in Australian Shepherds, so you will see it more often than black or red colour coats.
Since Merles are the most common, we will start there.
Blue Merle Australian Shepherd
Merle is the most common pattern gene in Australian Shepherds, so you’ll notice it far more often than solid black or red coats.
Merle Aussies may occur with either black or red gene. A black Australian Shepherd with the merle gene is termed a blue merle Aussie.
The reason for this is that the black spots merge with an array of gray patches to give a blue hue to the coat.
Solid Blue Merle Australian Shepherd
A solid blue merle coat is marbled all over their body, with hues ranging from charcoal to silver, that gives an overall blue tint.
This pattern is uncommon among Australian dogs, but they’re stunning.
Blue Merle Bi-colour Australian Shepherd
A bi-colour blue merle Aussie can mix either tan or white with its marbled base colour.
White mixed with blue merle can be as understated as a single patch on the chest or can extend as far as the dog’s chest, forelegs, and middle.
Blue Merle and Tan Australian Shepherd
Blue Merle Aussies can have tan sections with the mottled base colour. Usually, when there are tan markings, there is also some white. Those with only copper/tan, on the other hand, are extremely unusual.
They typically have tan or copper points on their eyebrows, and sometimes tan beards.
The tan can be as understated as a single patch on the chest or can extend as far as the dog’s chest, forelegs, and midriff.
Blue Merle Tri-colour Australian Shepherd
The Blue Merle Tri Australian Shepherd has the beautiful silver spout coat of a typical blue merle but with added grey/black markings.
The face, legs, chest, and belly of the tri-colour Australian Shepherd will feature white and copper markings.
These markings tend to define brows, cheeks roughs, and legs. However, merle coats can have additional areas of white and tan because of the random nature of merle coats.
Blue Merle Aussie Eye colour
For the most part, blue merle Aussies have pure brown or blue eyes. However, it is a lot more common for their eyes to contain specks of other colours. This effect is called “marbled eyes”.
For example, an Aussie with blue eyes may have brown highlights or brown eyes with flecks of blue.
It is also possible for Blue Merle Australian Shepherds to have one with two different coloured eyes – one blue and the other brown.
Red Merle Australian Shepherds
A red merle Australian Shepherd is born with a merle pattern gene and the red colour gene.
While marbling a black coat results in a hazy blue-gray, marbling a red coat, on the other hand, creates a unique sandstone look.
Solid Red Merle Australian Shepherd
In order to be a solid red merle Aussie, they don’t have to be completely marbled over their entire body.
A few copper and/or white patches are acceptable before it’s regarded as different coat colour.
Red Merle Bi-colour Australian Shepherd
As with all Australian Shepherds termed as bi-colour, the other colour is white, so these are red merle, and white.
Sometimes, the base colour of the red merle may be very pale and look similar to white. This can make it rather difficult to tell a red merle tricolour from a bi-colour red merle.
Red Merle Tri-colour Australian Shepherd
For a red merle tri Aussie, red merles make up the majority of the coat. These have a base of red, ranging from light cinnamon to a dark-liver colour with areas of light orange-brown thru silver base colour.
This is accompanied by white markings on the face, chest, legs, and belly. They also often have copper highlights, usually on the face and legs only.
Red Merle Eye colour
Blue eyes with brown speckling are the most frequent eye colour for red merles, followed by brown with blue speckling.
Most red-merles have marbled eyes with flecks of colour in the pupils that provide them a deep, intense stare.
They can also have one eye of each colour.
Black Australian Shepherds
An Australian Shepherd with the black coat genes will be predominantly black.
The black coat gene is dominant, so only one parent needs Black Fur for the Australian Shepherd pup to have a black coat.
However, other colours and patterns can appear and we will look at these here.
Solid Black Australian Shepherd
Solid black Aussies are relatively rare as most will have enough other colours to be bi-colour or tri-colour.
American Kennel Club Standards state that a solid black Australian Shepherd should not have any traces of other colours.
There is a relatively high demand for solid-toned black Aussie Shepherds, so they are actively bred.
Black & White Bi-coloured Australian Shepherds
As mentioned elsewhere, black bi-coloured Aussies are black with white markings.
Most of the time, you’ll see the white marking on just the face, chest, belly, and legs. They can also be seen on the tail tip and foot, as well as white stripes.
Black and white Australian Shepherds are common. Black bi-coloured Aussies with white stripes are among the commonest coats worn by Mini Aussies.
Black & Tan Australian Shepherds
The black and tan Aussies have similar markings to the black bi-coloured above, however, the white is replaced by tan.
These black and tan dogs mostly have a black coat with copper/tan highlights around the face, chest, and legs. They can resemble German Shepherd in terms of colour combination and distribution of marked areas
This is the second rarest colouration of black Australian Shepherds.
Black Tri Australian Shepherd (Black, White & Tan)
Black tri Australian Shepherds are one of the more common colour combinations. The majority of their coat is black, with white and tan markings.
The white markings on a black tri Australian Shepherd are most common on its muzzle, chest, belly, legs, and paws, while the tan marks are most prominent on its eyes, cheeks, and legs.
In addition, copper/tan highlights may be seen on both the face and legs. Every black Aussie will have different areas coloured. That’s what makes them so unique.
Since black is the dominant colour, their eyes are still light to dark brown.
Black Australian Shepherd Eye colours
Brown eyes are the most frequent in Australian shepherds, ranging from light to dark.
Just occasionally, however, you’ll encounter a black Aussie with golden-flecked hazel eyes.
Red Australian Shepherds
Red Australian Shepherds are less common than black. The gene which causes red fur is recessive, which means it only expresses itself when the dominant black gene isn’t there.
Due to the gene being recessive, red fur on Aussies is much rarer than black fur.
The red Australian Shepherd’s coats can come in a variety of hues of red. Cinnamon, the palest, is almost gold in a certain light, while liver, is the darkest hue.
They can be auburn, chestnut, ruby, and other shades of red in between, often with copper points and markings.
Wherever it falls on the spectrum, it will look distinctly “red”.
Solid Red Australian Shepherd
Because the red gene is recessive, solid red is the rarest Australian Shepherd colour as they are hard to breed.
In fact, with the red gene being recessive, and solid-coloured Aussies being the rarest, solid red Aussies are the rarest of them all.
Red & White Bi-colour Australian Shepherd
Red bi-colour refers to a red Australian Shepherd with white markings, similar to black bi-colour.
Red and white bi-colour Australian Shepherds, have a red base coat, with white on the chest, legs, face, and occasionally on the backs of their necks. They’ll be completely red from the forelegs to behind.
All red bi-colour Aussies are red and white. Tan markings cannot develop without any white present, whether it be solid or merle.
Often, you’ll find red Australian Shepherds with a hint of copper or tan. They may still be classified as Red and White dogs due to the minimal tan colouring.
Although they don’t look like typical Aussies, this combination has been rising in popularity lately.
Australian Shepherd Red Tri (Red Tan & White)
On top of their base red coats, red tricolours can have white on their paws, fronts, and faces, with copper highlights most likely to occur on the face and legs.
Although uncommon, it’s not unusual to see one with copper highlights on the chest as well.
Red Australian Shepherd Eye colours
Amber is the most frequent eye colour for all three forms of red Aussies, which complements their coats beautifully.
Blue eyes are present in a few red Aussies and some even have one eye that is amber and the other blue. This is called heterochromia.
History of Australian Shepherd colours
Today, the most popular preference and common Aussie is the blue merle specifically and tri-colours generally.
However, this is a relatively new happening. An Australian Shepherd’s genes are capable of producing all types and colour and pattern combinations.
In the 1970s the AKC accepted the Australian Shepherd as a recognized breed, including the recognized colours of the Australian Shepherds.
However, these recessive genes are still in the Aussie’s gene pool.
So you can still find pure-bred Aussies with brindle, sable, piebald, in addition to yellow and dilute coats or some combination of these.
While these make great pets, they are not recognized by the AKC, so you cannot show dogs with these coats.
As a result, breeders only bred for colours and patterns that are officially recognized. So these days, it is relatively difficult to find a non-standard Aussie.
Tri-colour Australian Shepherds
Aussie Shepherds come in a wide array of different colours, but the tri-colours are very popular.
Are tricolour Australian Shepherds recognized by the Kennel Club?
Tri-coloured Australia Shepherds are officially recognized as Purebred Aussies.
To reach show standard, the skin colours around the body must be dominated by any shade other than white.
Any red and white rash on the sides of the elbow or rear of the leg or between the knees and the tail shall be disqualified.
The eyes must contain an adequate amount of pigment
What are the 4 Tricolour Varieties Australian Shepherd?
The four tricolour Aussies are (from most to least common)
- Blue merle
- Red merle
Are tri-colour Australian Shepherds rare?
As mentioned above, the rarity of a tricolour Australian Shepherd depends on the variation of tricolours an Aussie has.
Blue Merle tri-colour and Black tri-colour coats are the most widely worn and accepted coat colours.
Blue and red merle tricolour are more exotic-looking and more difficult to breed to show standard.
In fact, the Red tri Australian Shepherd is considered by some to be the rarest coat in Australian Shepherds.
Are Australian Shepherds tri-colour more expensive than other varieties?
Tri-colour Aussies are very sought after and the cost of a tri-colour Aussie can go into the $1000s, depending on factors including the rareness of the variation and the breeder’s reputation.
If you are not looking for a show-quality Aussie, you can save your hard-earned money and you should be able to find a pedigree Aussie for well under $1000.
Australian Shepherd dogs are popular, but they are energetic and can be hard work for owners. This means you can sometimes find them at the local rescue center.
Unrecognized Australian Shepherd colours
There are many recessive genes that can pop up and colour an Aussies coat, even on pure-bred Aussies.
Brown Australian Shepherds can vary between an Earth tone through to dark chocolate brown shades.
Brindle Australian shepherds feature Black stripes on brown or red fur. This gives the Australian Shepherd a Tiger-like appearance.
A White Australian shepherd has, unsurprisingly, a white coat, but with darker pigmentation on the nose and eyes.
If the nose is pink and the eyes are blue the white Australian Shepherd probably has albinism genetics, a big red flag for the dog health.
Sable Australian Shepherds have black points on lighter-coloured fur including red, brown-coloured, brown feathers, and tan strands.
This is a relatively rare marking in Australia’s Shepherd as it can only occur in dogs where there is a red gene expressing itself.
When the trait appears in red and white they can give a tricolour image from afar.
The most common disqualifying trait is a diluted coat. Dogs with a dilute gene lose their pigments and appear to look “washed out”.
Yellow Australian Shepherd
Yellow Aussies have a similar look to that of a golden retriever. It is a rare, recessive gene so both parents need to have the gene. The yellow gene does not change the tan pigmentation but does alter the orange gene.
The Australian Shepherd breed has many different variations of coat colour and pattern.
If you are looking for specific colours of Australian Shepherds, it is important to do your research to make sure you are getting a dog with the coat you expect.
Remember that some colours, like the tri-colour, are more sought after and can be more expensive.
Do your research and find the right breeder who has the dog’s coat you are looking for