The Australian Shepherd as a breed originated with the expansion of the American West in the early 1900s and the immigration of various European settlers, many of whom were shepherds by profession. These shepherds brought along their favourite sheep herding dogs. In particular, the Basque shepherd dogs are thought to have been the backbone of the evolving Aussie breed. As cattle ranching grew and sheep herding declined, many ranchers selectively bred for the bigger dogs which are more or less the same as the “”standard”” Aussie we see today. However, others preferred a smaller size dog, sometimes referred to as “”Little Saddle Dogs”” because they could easily sit up alongside a rider on his horse. There are numerous old photographs showing these smaller type dogs.
Two Distinct Types of Australian Shepherds Emerge
As the breed evolved, two distinct types of the Aussie began to be prominent, the larger “”standard”” and the smaller variety which came to be known as the “”Miniature Australian Shepherd”” or Minis. In the 1960s the Miniature Australian Shepherd Club was established to ensure that the small “”Little Saddle Dogs”” would not be lost as a breed. The aim was to ensure a dog with all the wonderful intelligence and characteristic herding traits of the larger Aussies but in a smaller package.
The Miniature Australian Shepherd as a Separate Breed
The cause of the Mini Aussie was pioneered by a Mrs Cordova, a horsewoman with a passion for the smaller dog. She advocated the idea that the Mini should be a separate breed entirely to its larger cousin. This is based on the same concept as the Miniature Schnauzer for example, which is not a size variety of the Standard or Giant Schnauzer, but a separate breed. There was a move to declare the miniature Australian Shepherd a completely separate breed to the so-called “”standard”” Australian Shepherd and renaming it the North American Shepherd.
In 1993 the Australian Shepherd as a breed gained formal recognition with the American Kennel Club (AKC). This resulted in a definitive split at the time as many of the breeders of Mini dogs did not register with the AKC but continued to pursue the interest of declaring the Mini as a separate breed.
Are Miniature Aussies poorly bred?
There are many opponents of the Miniature breeds of Australian Shepherds with claims that they are poorly bred dogs of inferior quality and bad genes. Unfortunately, this idea may have been propagated by unscrupulous breeders who have capitalized on the increasing popularity of Minis by purposefully breeding stunted dogs. However, those who truly love Mini Aussies aim to breed quality dogs – although in a small package. Only when official breed status is attained can DNA profiling become compulsory, which would prove the parentage of each breeding and prevent unscrupulous breeders from intentionally crossing other breeds into the Australian Shepherds to create Mini dogs.
At present though, the popularity of Miniature Aussies is growing and one hopes that the future for this clever little dog is bright. If you decide to get one of these dogs as your own, please make sure you purchase a dog from a reputable breeder.