If you're hankering for a handsome Australian shepherd but want a smaller dog, no problem. These versatile canines come in standard, miniature and toy sizes. No matter the size, these dogs all share the same qualities.
The Australian shepherd didn't originate in Australia. The breed, affectionately known as the Aussie, hails from the Pyrenees Mountains region between France and Spain. According to the American Kennel Club, the dog was referred to as the Australian shepherd because Basque shepherds originally from the Pyrenees area brought these dogs to the United States from Australia in the 19th century. The dog also has been called the California shepherd and the New Mexican shepherd. While the energetic, friendly Aussie excels as a ranch and farm dog, he can live in suburbia if there's a large backyard and he receives lots of exercise. He's really not suited for city living, unless his person can give him the amount of exercise this active breed requires.
Standard Australian Shepherd
Male Australian shepherds mature between 20 to 23 inches tall at the shoulder, with females standing between 18 to 21 inches high. Males weigh between 50 and 65 pounds, while females range between 40 to 55 pounds. Permissible colors include black, red and blue or red merle -- a solid base color with marbling. White markings and tan points are common. White is allowed on the legs, chest, neck, under the muzzle and as part of a facial blaze. Their medium-length coats can be wavy or straight. Australian shepherds sport feathering on the backs of their legs and their "britches," or the area on either side of the tail to the legs.
Miniature Australian Shepherd
At maturity, miniature Australian shepherds range between 15 to 18 inches tall at the shoulder, weighing between 25 to 40 pounds. Males are larger than females. Other than size, the miniature Australian shepherd looks exactly like the standard version. The breed was created by mating standard Aussies maturing on the small size to each other, until the resulting puppies remained true to size and type.
Toy Australian Shepherd
The toy is the smallest version of the Aussie, created by a similar breeding-down process. Toy Australian shepherds stand between 10 and 14 inches tall at the shoulder when full-grown, weighing between 12 and 17 pounds. Although he's small, the toy Aussie possesses all the herding instincts of his larger relatives. Unlike some other small dogs, who are relatively fragile, he's a good choice as a child's companion and gets along with other animals. These little dogs need plenty of stimulation and exercise.
- Dog Breed Information Center: Miniature Australian Shepherd Toy Australian Shepherd
- American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Australian Shepherd
- American Kennel Club: Australian Shepherd Breed Standard
- Miniature Australian Shepherd Club of America: Frequently Asked Questions
- Miniature Australian Shepherd Club of America: Breed Standard
- Toy Australian Shepherd Club of America: About the Breed
- Toy Australian Shepherd Club of America: Breed Standard
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.