The Australian Shepherd: The history of the North American / Miniature Australian Shepherd actually begins with the history of the Australian Shepherd. Though most facts are shrouded in time, the most commonly held belief on the origins of the Aussie begins in the late 1800’s when western ranchers were importing sheep from Australia. During this period the most popular sheep were being imported into Australia from the Basque regions of Spain. When the herds were shipped, their shepherds were sent with them to manage and care for the flocks on the journey. As the Australian’s reputation for quality sheep grew, the demand for their sheep grew also and American ranchers began importing them. The livestock were shipped to the Americas, again accompanied by the Basque shepherds and their herding dogs. Ranchers of the American west were reportedly very impressed with the working ability of these “little blue dogs” and began interbreeding them with their own shepherd dogs. The result was the Australian Shepherd.
In 1976, a single Breed Standard for the Australian Shepherd was adopted and in 1980 the two major breed clubs consolidated to become the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA). Unrecognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) at that time, the ASCA not only provided a registry for the Aussie, but held conformation, obedience, agility, and working trials. Although the AKC now recognizes the Australian Shepherd, ASCA continues to provide these activities to the Australian Shepherd and is currently the largest single breed registry in the United States.
The Miniature Australian Shepherd was developed directly from the Australian Shepherd. Throughout the history of the Aussie, small (under 18″) dogs can be seen in historical photographs. Many believe that the original Aussie was selectively bred larger as sheep ranching decreased and cattle ranching increased. Cattle ranchers preferred a larger dog to work the larger stock. Some Aussie owners have continued to prefer the smaller sized Aussie while others prefer the larger.
In 1968 a horse woman in Norco, California, began a breeding program specifically to produce very small Australian Shepherds. Her name was Doris Cordova, and the most well known dog from her kennel is Cordova’s Spike. Spike was placed with Bill and Sally Kennedy, also of Norco, California, to continue to develop a line of miniature Aussies under the B/S kennel name. Another horseman, Chas Lasater of Valhalla Kennels soon joined the ranks of mini breeders.
Cordova, Lasater and the Kennedy have together attempted to form the first parent club for the miniatures. Although the club never quite got off the ground, their stated purpose for developing the miniatures was to produce an Australian Shepherd under 17″ who had the heart, intelligence and drive to work stock, and yet be small enough to travel easily to stock shows and be a “house” dog.
Cordova’s dogs were registered through the National Stock Dog Registry (NSDR) and eventually NSDR came to be the first registry to recognize and register the mini as a size variety of the Australian Shepherd.
Originally recognized in (1989 – 1990) they were shown with the RBKC of Southern California (Rare Breed Kennel Club) as Miniature Australian Shepherds. The miniature gained in popularity and the owners and breeders missed the cohesive nature of a parent club dedicated to the miniature, so in 1990, the Miniature Australian Shepherd Club of the USA (MASCUSA) was formed. Kathy Croswhite (Munson), Jeanine Perron, Florence Toombs, Susan Sinclair and Richard VanBurkleo served as the first Board of Directors, and one of MASCUSA’s most notable early achievements during that time, was to gain recognition of the miniature by the American Rare Breeds Assoc. (ARBA) to provide a Nationally recognized conformation show venue.
Now with the recognition of the American Rare Breed Association (ARBA) the Miniature Australian Shepherds showed alongside the Australian Shepherd until 1993, when the AKC officially recognized the Australian Shepherd. The American Rare Breed Association’s policy at that time was not to allow any breed of dog to show with them (except in exhibition) that had the same name as an AKC affiliated breed and suggested that we change our name. Amid mixed reactions MASCUSA opted to change the name of our dogs from Miniature Australian Shepherd to North American Shepherd, for the sole purpose of keeping ARBA as one of our main show venues. At the same time, the club amended its name to North American Miniature Australian Club, USA, while also retaining the name Miniature Australian Club, USA as an a.k.a. The breed flourished over the next five years and grew under this name both in the US and Canada.
In the beginning of 1998, ARBA changed their breed name policy and through much consideration and discussion on the part of our club members and the Board of Directors of NASCUSA, formerly MASCUSA, Miniature Australian Shepherd was incorporated back into the name of our dogs, thus becoming the North American “Miniature Australian Shepherd”.
Today, breeders of the Miniature Australian Shepherd continue to strive to produce Aussies of a smaller stature. Preservation of the herding instinct as well as the intelligence and athleticism of the mini is a priority in breeding programs, as well as continuing the reputation for health and easy companionship that the mini enjoys.
Miniatures are quickly gaining in popularity among Agility, Fly ball and Disc competition enthusiasts as their attributes of small size and amazing athletic ability makes them very competitive and easy to travel with. In the suburbs and cities, families wanting a big dog are attracted to the “big dog” qualities of the miniature Australian Shepherd, in a smaller package.