(OBS: Race-historien er venligst lånt af UKMASC (Miniature American Shepherd Club of United Kingdom (England))
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The Breed History of the Australian Shepherd – America’s Stockdog … and therefore the heritiage and history of the Mini American
The ancient history of the Aussie as a breed is unclear, as is the reason for its misleading name. All we can say for sure is that the breed now called the ‘Aussie’ emerged in America in the late 1800’s, created from the working dogs of American shepherds and stockmen.
With the 1849 California Gold Rush, the population of the US West Coast expanded dramatically. Sheep were required to feed and clothe the expanding population. From eastern America came shepherds, sheep and their lowland, European-style herding dogs; from the south-West came shepherds and sheep with their more rugged, Mexican-style dogs. Sheep also arrived by boat from Australia and other regions, along with shepherds and their own herding breeds.
Nobody knows why the name ‘Australian’ was applied to this new hybrid dog. It’s possible that many of the dogs imported from Australia were blue merle and the adjective ‘Australian’ became associated with any dogs of that coat colour. Certainly the nickname of the early Aussies was the ‘Little Blue Dogs’, a tag which stuck for many years, and blue merle remains one of the classic coat colours of the Aussie.
The various strains of herding dogs which arrived in the American West in the 1800’s and 1900’s were widely interbred, to achieve a style of dog best suited to the job and terrain. Above all these dogs were required to excel at herding stock; which meant that the interbreeding behind Aussies was actually far more focussed than was the case with many modern breeds.
The general characteristics of Aussies, coupled with evidence from historical accounts, suggest that the breed background is predominantly that of the collie/shepherd dogs of the British Isles, with some Spanish/Basque influence. (Even the Australian dogs could be traced back to European ancestors.) The Australian Shepherd is therefore not an Australian breed, it is American, developed in the American West. The selective breeding for many generations focused on aspects of the dog that enabled it to function as an effective stockdog in that region. What emerged from this melting-pot to fit the requirements is a dog that can handle severe weather, has plenty of speed, athleticism, energy, and endurance; and is loyal, intelligent, flexible and independent, whilst remaining obedient.
The miniature Australian Shepherd
The ‘mini Aussie’ is nothing more, and nothing less, than a size variant of the Australian Shepherd. Due to it’s diverse ancestral origins, a wide size range of Aussie has always existed throughout the breed’s history – and small (under 18”) dogs can be clearly seen from historical photographs, records and registries. In fact, many breed experts believe that the original Aussie was a moderately-sized dog, selectively bred larger as sheep ranching declined and cattle ranching increased. Cattle ranchers preferred a larger dog to work the larger stock. Some Aussie owners continue to prefer a smaller sized Aussie, while others prefer the larger.
Aussies came to the wider public attention during the 1950’s and 60’s, showcased by Jay Sisler and his dogs who performed at rodeos throughout the United States. Jay’s dogs also appeared in films and several figure prominently in the pedigrees of the modern Australian Shepherd.
The Aussie is a relative newcomer to purebred registries, only being formally recorded since 1957. The first organisation to register the pedigrees of Aussies was the National Stock Dog Registry (NSDR) which maintained the pedigree registry for the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA, formed in 1957) until ASCA established it’s own recording services in 1971.
During the 1960’s a Californian horse-woman called Doris Cordova, acquired several small working Aussies from the rodeo circuit and began a breeding program to preserve the smaller trait. Although these smaller dogs acquired the ‘Miniature’ label, the word was used purely to refer to their size when compared with the larger examples of the breed. The word ‘miniature’ has never implied a lack of pure-breeding, or any deficiency in form or function.
A number of clubs were formed with the purpose of producing and promoting an Australian Shepherd standing under 18″ at the shoulders 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.
As with all Aussies at the time, Doris Cordova’s smaller dogs were registered with the National Stock Dog Registry (NSDR). The NSDR was the original parent registry for Aussies and the first registered Miniature Australian Shepherd was the 15” blue merle dog, Cordovas Spike.
|A ‘Face Race’ Pyrenean Sheepdog from
the famous Loubajac kennel in France
the first registered mini Aussie
Mini Aussies became increasigly popular across their native USA. Meanwhile in 1977 ASCA adopted a breed standard, stating that the desired height for Aussies should be 20–23” for males and 18–21” for females; and for the next decade under a variety of registries and umbrella organisations, both size varieties of Aussie were shown alongside each other in the show-ring.
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. The decision to gain recognition from the AKC was controversial in the Aussie fraternity, as it has been with many working breeds. Many breeders felt that the AKC show-ring environment placed too much emphasis on breed conformity and not enough on performance, so ASCA itself declined to join the AKC and remains to this day, a separate organisation.
Miniature American Shepherds and the registries
The AKC recognition of the Aussie in 1993 had a major 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. Now in use by the AKC ‘Australian Shepherd’, the word ‘Australian’ could no longer be used by the minis. Thus the concept 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. Although at the moment Mini Americans are still – in effect – small Aussies with a new brand name, within a few generations the AKC Miniature American Shepherd, operating within it’s own gene pool, will become a separate and distinct breed.
Mini Aussies and Mini Americans in the UK
Aussies in general are 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.
In 2013 the decision was taken by UKMASC to register our small Aussies as the newly recognised breed of Miniature American Shepherd Dogs. This change of title will in time allow our amazing dogs to compete on a level playing field with any other ‘breed’ and not be consigned to the KC Activities Register and ‘Alternative’ World class venues, simply because they are shorter than their compatriots.
To register our smaller Aussies as any thing other than Aussies has been a very difficult decision. It’s about as politcally incorrect as referring to anybody who doesn’t reach a nominal 5’5″ in height, as being something other than a human being … but we must be pragmatic in accepting that logic, truth and hard evidence don’t always triumph. In our hearst and by their pedigrees, our dogs will always be small Aussies. Nowadays, they just have a different name.
Email to ASDR – this confirms the true race-history:
Hi, I’m Sandy Travis founder of the “Travis Dogs” and I would like to tell you the history of these dogs. In 1962, I was almost 16 yrs. old and I bought a Australian Shepherd puppy from a friend of mine at the Torrance …Rodeo. I knew this puppy’s parents and was anxious to get her to someday breed to my Aussie male. I soon realized this wasn’t going to happen as she “Puppy” only grew to
be approx. 11″. In 1968, I found a small Aussie male and I bred Puppy to him.
The whole litter stayed small, 9″ to 13″. Realizing their popularity, I talked with a Vet and he advised me to “inbreed, line breed and cull”, so I did and overall I was very happy with the small size and conformation. Although I never asked if “Puppy’s” parents were registered, nor did I ask if the male I bred her to was registered, at that time in my life it wasn’t important to me to have a registered dog, but I did care that they were in fact Australian Shepherds.
The general public that would see these little dogs immediately called themMiniature Aussies or Aussie puppies. It wasn’t until years later that the Mini Clubs were formed that the two sizes were introduced, the Toy and the Miniature.
Under those guide lines, almost all of my dogs were Toys. I knew Bob and Doris Cordova through Quarter Horse Shows and they fell in love with my little dogs.
In 1978 they bought a puppy from me and named him Cordovas Spike and he received his Australian Shepherd papers with NSDR and than later got the Miniature added to his papers. (we all were very proud of the Miniature on the papers) Later with the addition of the Toy/Mini sizes, the dogs papers would state one or the
other depending on the size of the dog. Although Spike qualified as a Toy, his papers were never changed. Spike was beautiful with a lot of refinement to fit his small size of approx. 13″. So you see, the Toy was the first to be bred to the Standard to get the Mini. I must tell everyone how thankful I am to Doris and how important it was to her to have registered Australian Shepherds no
matter what size they were.
Hope I have enlightened you somewhat on the true history of the “Travis Dogs”
There you have it, directly from Sandy Travis, no secondhand information. These dogs were always supposed to be size varities, not a separate breed, so let’s work to keep them that way