The Mini Australian/American Shepherd
The History of the Australian Shepherd
The breed actually originates from America and not Australia! Why they were called Australian Shepherds is unclear other than at that time in the late 1800s herding dogs arrived into America from all over the world - among the Australian imports were blue merles so maybe all blue merles were tagged Australian!
According to the American Kennel Club the breed probably originated in the Basque region of the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France, but was dubbed the Australian Shepherd because of its association with Basque shepherds who came to the United States from Australia in the 1800's.
This mix of herding dogs that arrived in the American West were widely interbred to eventually achieve a stock dog that was a fantastic herding dog suited to both cattle and sheep. A dog that exhibits speed energy and endurance whilst being loyal, intelligent and obedient.
These dogs were also used at rodeo shows exhibiting great intelligence and versatility. They are now used extensively for search and rescue, assistance and therapy work, excelling at obedience and performance sports such as flyball and agility.
The Australian Shepherd is a comparatively new breed to the UK. The first Australian Shepherd was imported in 1986. Aussies were initially entered on the KC Working and Obedience Trials register (now the KC Activities register) and it was a full decade before they entered the Import Register in 1995. Approval for the interim Breed standard was also gained in 1995 and full KC recognition achieved for the breed in January 2000. Championship Ticket status (CC) was finally achieved in 2006.
The Miniature Australian/American Shepherd
A wide size range of the Australian Shepherd has always existed throughout the breed's history – and small (under 18”) dogs can be clearly seen from historical photographs, records and registries. Many breed experts believe that the original Aussie was a moderately-sized dog, selectively bred larger as sheep ranching declined and cattle ranching increased.
During the 1960s a breeding programme was undertaken to breed the smaller Australian Shepherd to be 18" and under at the withers and these smaller dogs became increasingly popular in the US.
Why change the name?
In 1993 the AKC (American Kennel Club) officially recognised the Australian Shepherd as a breed and the United States Australian Shepherd Association (USASA) was formed.
This AKC recognition of the Aussie in 1993 had a knock-on effect for the mini Aussies. The rules of the primary show organisation frequented by the minis (ARBA) stipulated that in order for a breed to qualify for Group and Best in Show competition, it could not have a name associated with an AKC breed. Because there was now the AKC 'Australian Shepherd', the word 'Australian' could no longer be used by the minis. Thus the idea of the 'North American Shepherd' was launched to describe the mini Aussie.
In 2011 after years of intense and heated debate, the breed club NAMASCUSA gained AKC recognition for the Minis, which effectively required the creation of a new and separate breed called the Miniature American Shepherd. Mini Americans are still Mini Aussies with a new name, and for the foreseeable future they will be able to be bred with each other as the gene pool increases.
Miniature American Shepherds achieve AKC breed status from July 2015- paving the way for the European FCI and the English KC to do likewise! At the moment (2023) the Mini Americans can be registered on the KC Activities Register and continue to have breed registration with the AKC.
They are no less an Australian Shepherd because they are smaller - the same temperament traits, intelligence and working ability are still there from over a hundred years of breeding! They need the same exercise and outlet for their working drive as their bigger cousins - they are strong willed but extremely lovable and affectionate dogs who make great house pets.
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