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Purebred Miniature American Shepherds: The Back Story

A photo of four Miniature American Shepherds with their owners.


Purebred Miniature American Shepherds: The Back Story

Pictured above: Rebranded by size, the purebred Miniature American Shepherd is holding its own in show rings, performance events and in the eyes of an ever-growing fan base.

AKC approved the split of the Australian Shepherd by phenotype into two breeds in May of 2011, now known as the Australian Shepherd and the Miniature American Shepherd. The phenotype being size.

In May of 2011, the American Kennel Club also approved MASCUSA as the parent breed club to represent the purebred Miniature American Shepherd.

The model that was used to split the Australian Shepherd breed was the Norfolk and Norwich Terrier. The phenotype that split these Terriers into two breeds was their ear set. Initially, AKC recognized these two breeds as one breed, the Norwich Terrier, until 1979, when division by ear carriage became official. The drop ears are now recognized as the Norfolk, while the prick ears remain Norwich in AKC.

Prior to AKC recognition, the purebred Miniature American Shepherds were known as Miniature Australian Shepherds, North American Shepherds or Mini Aussies. MASCUSA, the AKC parent breed club, has been around since 1990 with the sole purpose to promote and advance the Australian Shepherds smaller than the preferred height of 18 inches.

MASCUSA was originally formed in 1990 and incorporated in 1993. Per Article II of our first bylaws, MASCUSA’s objectives and purpose was to aid and encourage the breeding and raising of purebred Miniature Australian Shepherds as a small mirror-image of the Australian Shepherd dog, more specifically defined in our breed standard.

Official AKC History of the Miniature American Shepherd

The purebred Miniature American Shepherd was developed in California during the late 1960s with the breeding of small, unregistered dogs that were thought to be Australian Shepherds. These dogs were bred with a goal of maintaining their small size, active character and intelligence.

The breed was first registered with the National Stock Dog Registry in 1980 and was originally called the Miniature Australian Shepherd. By the early 1990s, they had attained nationwide popularity. Several clubs promoted these small dogs, as they were registered and shown with various rare-breed organizations. The first parent breed club and registry, MASCUSA, was formed in 1990 and incorporated in 1993. The breed entered the AKC Foundation Stock Service as the Miniature American Shepherd in May 2011. The Miniature American Shepherd Club of the USA (MASCUSA) is the designated national parent club of the American Kennel Club.

The breed has been used for herding smaller stock such as sheep and goats, although they have the heart to tackle larger stock as well. Their small size was looked upon with favor, as they could more easily double as a household pet. They became especially popular with equestrians traveling to horse shows, as their intelligence, loyalty, and size made them an excellent travel companion. In this way their popularity spread across the country. Today, the Miniature American Shepherd is established across the US and internationally. It is a breed with a unique identity–an eye catching, versatile little Herding dog, equally at home on a ranch or in the city.

The Miniature American Shepherd is a Herding dog and has been designated to the Herding Group in the American Kennel Club. (courtesy of

Breed Standards & Breed Division Agreements

Breed Standards are vital in order to define breeds. MASCUSA has a breed standard that was voted and approved by its membership, it is in line with our long history and objectives and has been approved by the Board of Directors of American Kennel Club.

Breed Division Agreement. Although the Australian Shepherd has a preferred size, the Miniature American Shepherd was split off of the Australian Shepherd with very specific requirements. One of which was the allowance of Australian Shepherds to move from the Australian Shepherd stud book over to the Miniature American Shepherds stud book for a period of time. The Breed Division Agreement was very clear to have a disqualification in the breed standard for Miniature American Shepherds over 17 inches tall at the shoulder for females and over 18 inches tall at the
shoulder for males.

Australian Shepherd Size

The Australian Shepherd’s breed standard, including size, can be viewed at

“Size: The preferred height for males is 20-23 inches, females 18-21 inches. Quality is not to be sacrificed in favor of size.”

Miniature American Shepherd Size

The Miniature Australian Shepherd’s breed standard can be viewed at

“Size: Height for dogs is 14 inches up to and including 18 inches at the top of the withers. Height for bitches is 13 inches up to and including 17 inches at the top of withers. Disqualification: under 14 inches and over 18 inches for dogs; under 13 inches and over 17 inches for bitches. The minimum heights set forth in this breed standard shall not apply to dogs or bitches under six months of age.”

Upholding the Standard

The responsibility to uphold the Breed Standard as well as agreements in Breed Division first rests on the breeders. Breeders should know the breed standard and history of the breed and understand the disqualifications of the breed they advance in the sport of dogs. Dogs with disqualifications should not be in the breed ring, but may at the discretion of the breeder, continue to be used in breeding programs.

The last line of defense to uphold the breed standard falls on the judge if exhibitors are too afraid to call for a wicket. Judges must not consider dogs over or under the breed standard sizes as they would then violate a member voted Breed standard, and in our case a Breed Division Agreement. MASCUSA’s breed standard is clearly stated, defined and measurable with no room for interpretation regarding size.