Miniature Australian Shepherd vs. Standard Australian Shepherd
To the casual or novice dog
enthusiast, designations of different breeds of dogs can be quite confusing,
especially when it comes to size varieties. Although the American Kennel Club
recognizes only three breeds with the word “Miniature” in their official name,
this doesn’t mean that it recognizes only three miniature breeds.
Some breeds, like the Miniature Pinscher, are not a scaled down version of the Doberman Pinscher, as some would believe. The “Min Pin” and the Doberman are separate breeds that are most likely descended from yet another breed. Other breeds, like the Poodle, have three different size varieties – Standard, Miniature, and Toy – and compete in two different Groups – Non-Sporting, and Toy. They are the exact same dog, judged to the exact same standard, except for its size. If the Miniature Australian Shepherd was recognized by the American Kennel Club, it would fall into the latter category.
The Miniature Australian Shepherd and the Australian Shepherd share a common history until the 1960s, when one breeder decided to concentrate on producing smaller shepherds. Despite the name, Australia doesn’t consider either breed to be native. During the late 1880s, Australia was importing their popular sheep from the Basque region of Spain, along with their well-trained dogs, to keep the flocks in line during travel. At the same time, ranchers in the western United States were importing the Australian sheep, along with these “little blue dogs.” The ranchers then began breeding their sheep dogs with the new breed to form the Australian Shepherd.
It’s interesting to note that some people believe the Australian Shepherd was originally the same size as what is now known as the Miniature breed, and they were bred larger in America to capably control and manage cattle herds. This is easily proven through historical photographs, where the Shepherds of smaller stature regularly appeared. So when Doris Cordova, a horse breeder in Norco, California, gave Cordova’s Spike, a smaller-bred Australian Shepherd, to Bill and Sally Kennedy to create a line of these miniatures, the National Stock Dog Registry became the first governing body to recognize and register the size variety. Still today, Miniatures are still being bred with standards to deepen the gene pool.
But not all organizations are so inclined. The Australian Shepherd Club of America, the parent organization for the breed, refuses to give its blessing to the Miniature Australian Shepherd as a true size variety and refuses it entry into competitions. This is again different from the Poodle Club of America, which houses all three of its size variations under the one umbrella organization. The ASCA even released a statement, which stated, “It is the mission of this club and the mission of its members to preserve the breed rather than change it.” This is quite confusing, as the Miniature and Toy varieties of Poodles were bred down in the same fashion as the Miniatures Australian Shepherds are now except the Poodle varieties were created 300 years ago. From all accounts, the Miniature Australian Shepherds are not being created for something purely cosmetic. These smaller versions are functional for herding smaller stock, such as geese.
Despite this, the national organizations dedicated to the Miniature Australian Shepherd continue their attempts to bring their breed out from the shadow of the standard.