History of Australian Shepherds

The history of the Miniature Australian Shepherd began in the late 1960’s.  During those years, a horse fancier in Norco, California named Doris Cordova began to notice that a number of Australian Shepherds were considerably smaller in size than others.  She began to acquire these smaller dogs and in 1968, initiated a breeding program.  Her goal was to develop an entirely new breed of small herding dogs, and she worked with a veterinarian to create a breeding plan.  Doris Cordova registered all of her dogs with the NSDR.  From an early time, the ASCA opposed the registration of these smaller Australian Shepherds as they did not conform to what they considered the proper breed standard.  Most agree that Cordova exclusively used purebred Australian Shepherds, but a few have suggested that she made a few crosses with other breeds.  Cordova soon attracted other breeders, although she always remained central to the efforts.  The breeding program was a success and, within 20 years the Miniature Australian Shepherd was breeding true.


Unfortunately, from a very early time, divisiveness among fanciers of Miniature Australian Shepherds and Australian Shepherds in general has created problems.  Almost since Cordova’s breeding program began, the NSDR considered the Miniature Australian Shepherd to be a size variety of the Australian Shepherd, while the ASCA considered it to be a different breed entirely.  A number of different registries were founded that were specifically dedicated to the Miniature Australian Shepherd, each of which took a different position on the relationship of the Miniature Australian Shepherd to the Australian Shepherd.  Further confusion arose as almost every group gave the dog a different official name.  Eventually, two breed clubs rose to prominence: the Miniature Australian Shepherd Club of America (MASCA) and the Miniature American Shepherd Club of the United States of America (MASCUSA), formerly known as the Miniature Australian Shepherd Club of the United States of America and the North American Miniature Australian Shepherd Club of the United States of America.  MASCA has taken the position that the Miniature Australian Shepherd is a variety of Australian Shepherd and MASCUSA has taken the position that the dog is an entirely separate breed.


In the 1990’s and 2000’s, a group of breeders sought to breed even smaller Australian Shepherds.  They deliberately bred the smallest Miniature Australian Shepherds down in size.  Eventually, they had created toy sized Australian Shepherds that they called Toy Australian Shepherds.  Some breeders of Toy Australian Shepherds decided to go even further and developed incredibly tiny dogs.  These dogs became known as Tea Cup Australian Shepherds.  The breeding of Toy and Tea Cup Australian Shepherds is very controversial. Currently, the only registry to recognize toy aussies is ASDR.


For many years, the AKC did not even treat the Miniature Australian Shepherd as a distinct variety, but rather grouped all Australian Shepherds together.  This was to the dissatisfaction of many fanciers.  Australian Shepherd enthusiasts usually are of one of two opinions regarding the Miniature variety: that there is nothing wrong with the miniature dogs but that they are not true Australian Shepherds and should not be shown with their dogs or that the Miniature Australian Shepherd is highly inferior to the larger Australian Shepherd.  Miniature Australian Shepherd fanciers were also displeased.  Many thought that their dogs were a different breed, and those that didn’t were upset that their dogs had comparatively success in the show ring as they did not closely match breed standards.  In the latter half of the 2000’s, this situation began to change. The AKC officially disallowed Miniature Australian Shepherds from being shown alongside Australian Shepherds.  The UKC stopped allowing registrations of Australian Shepherds from registries that also registered Miniature Australian Shepherds.  In 2011, the AKC took the biggest step and officially entered the Miniature Australian Shepherd in the Foundation Stock Service, the first step towards full recognition.  The AKC selected MASCUSA as the parent club, and also gave the breed the official name of Miniature American Shepherd rather than Miniature Australian Shepherd.  Although Miniature American Shepherd is the more accurate name, as both sizes of Australian Shepherd were developed almost entirely in America, it is highly likely that this will only create further confusion.

So, the long and short of it is this. Standard, mini, and toy, all have the same ancestors, but through selective breeding over many generations, we have the mini and toy sizes. Each size has amazing qualities, and we are sure you will be happy with whichever size you get.

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