The Shetland Sheepdog, or Sheltie as it is usually known, evolved on the bleak little islands off the north coast of Scotland known as the Shetland Islands. Here everything developed in proportion to the landscape -- diminutive. The Shetland pony looks like a miniature Shire horse, and the cattle and sheep are also much smaller than their relatives elsewhere. Therefore, it was necessary that the herding dogs also be small. So a miniature race of working collies evolved from the Scotch Border Collies, the Yakkie Dog, the King Charles Spaniel and the Pomeranian.
Living conditions on this little island were very harsh and the shepherd needed a dog that was intelligent, courageous, hardy, loyal, obedient and gentle with an all-weather coat since he had to work in rain and snow and varying extremes of temperature. To meet these requirements the Sheltie emerged.
The original Shetland Collie or Toonie Dog was not supposed to exceed 12 inches nor 14 pounds according to the Shetland Stud book set up in 1908. As the Shelties were bred in Scotland and England, the collie breeders objected to the name and it was changed to the Shetland Sheepdog and so remains today. Shelties were first registered in the United States in 1911 but there was no real interest in the breed until 1924 when Catherine Coleman Moore began Sheltieland Kennels by importing an English female, Kilvarock Lassie. All of the founding stock for American Shelties trace to English dogs. The American Shetland Sheepdog Club was founded in 1929 at the Westminster Kennel Club Show with our present standard adopted in 1959. The American Kennel Club presently recognizes the breed in the Herding Group.
Breeding Shelties on other than the Shetland Islands seemed to cause an increase in size, apparently due to the climate and also due to crosses in the early 1900's to small rough coated Collies to improve coat and head type. The Kennel Club (English) recognized the breed in 1909 and in 1910 the first standard was written and raised the size to 15 inches. The breed was, at times, classified as a toy dog. Today, Shetland Sheepdog breeders object just as strenuously to the still used "Toy Collie" as Collie breeders once did to "Shetland Collie."