The Mi-Ki

Mi-Ki Breed History

Delightful and enchanting, the Mi-Ki, a relatively new breed, encompasses the best attributes of several ancient toy breeds from Asia and Europe. The breed is represented in conformation, agility, obedience, therapy and service work.

Early Breed Development

The Rev. Maureen van Wormer (aka. Westburg, Mackin), a resident of Milwaukee, WI, created the Mi-Ki over a period of 30 years beginning in 1959 when she acquired two Shih tzu from Jack and Mary Woods. The dogs were imported from York, England, only 2 years after the breed was recognized by Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) and a full 10 years before full recognition by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

In 2011, Van Wormer provided an oral history from memory, published in Mi-Ki Messenger, the International Mi-Ki Registry Club Newsletter (Vol 12, Nov/Dec 2011). Van Wormer‘s original Shih tzu were Playhouse Kalis, an 11 lb blue and white male, and Marjack Bambi, a chocolate and white female who was mated prior to the sale.  Van Wormer kept a girl from Bambi’s litter and bred her and future offspring to Shih tzu and various breed mixes possessing the qualities she wished to incorporate into her new breed. Van Wormer stated the Shih tzu, Tibetan spaniel, Papillon, Japanese chin, Yorkshire terrier, and Maltese were included in various combinations in these early breedings.

Other breeders involved in producing ancestors of the foundation stock included Judy O’Clair, John Ackabarzodi, Stan Beta, Dr. and Mrs. Simmis, Helen Fabish, Jack and Rose Scardino, Dee Dee Westburg, Florence Mackin, and Homer Olsen.  Fewer than 30 dogs and their offspring interbred until 1989 when Tee-Nee In-Chan-Ting Lady was born from a cross with a Shih tzu sire, Wee Papa San, and Lil Red Lady (a Maltese/Tibetan spaniel/Papillon mix). The following year, Tee-Nee In-Chan-Ting Man was produced  from a cross between Shih tzu male Toi Boi and So Chi Gal (a Maltese/Shih tzu/Japanese chin mix). Van Wormer considered this pair to be the finished version of the breed she called “Mi-Ki” after her nickname from childhood, “Mikki”.

In 1991, van Wormer, at the suggestion of Mary Zens, established the Imperial Toy Mi-Ki Club (ITMC) and wrote a breed standard. In August, 1992, Donna Hall, also from Wisconsin, responded to van Wormer’s newspaper ad for Mi-Ki puppies. Hall bought Sugar, a daughter of Tee-Nee In-Chan-Ting Man and Tee-Nee In-Chan-Ting Lady. A month later Hall returned to purchase Tee-Nee Boo Boo, a male from a litter sired by In-Chan-Ting Man. Boo Boo’s dam was Fortune Cookie, a mix of Yorkshire terrier, Maltese, and Shih tzu.  Hall named her kennel Flyer’s Mi-Kis. She established the first Mi-Ki stud book in 1992, with Sugar and Boo as the first two entries.  To emphasize the American origin of the breed, the name of the club was changed to the Greater American Mi-Ki Club (GAMC) in February 1993.

When van Wormer was hospitalized for a time after suffering a stroke on April 2, 1994, Hall and Joann Creviston (La Doo Mi-Kis) agreed to take some of the Tee-Nee dogs. They took four males, one unbred female and three bred females, promising to whelp and sell the litters. After van Wormer’s recovery in  January, 1995, disagreements arose over ownership of the Mi-Kis rescued by Hall and Creviston, dissolving the previously cooperative relationship  between van Wormer and Hall.

Development of Other Mi-Ki Clubs/Registries

Breeder rivalries, conflicting stories about the origin of the Mi-Ki, differences of opinion on breed development, and club politics led to the formation of new clubs and registries.  The new clubs and registries polarized, which led to closed registries, restrictive breeding practices and genetic isolation.

Van Wormer collected her remaining dogs and worked with supporters to continue her breeding program. She did not keep written records of the early mixed breedings. The pedigrees, registrations and other information for her existing dogs were lost in a fire in 1995. Van Wormer and her supporters established their Mi-Ki stud book and resumed club functions under the original club name, Imperial Toy Mi-Ki Club. Connie Abel, Cindy Jurkiewicz and other members worked with van Wormer until 1999 when they left ITMC to form the International Mi-Ki Registry (IMR), the first registry requiring DNA parentage for all registrations. They also instituted health testing requirements for breeding stock, a positive step for the breed. The club rules remained faithful to van Wormer’s original idea of a long coated breed. They do use the grooming style of a shaved face. In 2003, van Wormer announced that she created the Mi-Ki breed. IMR chose not to recognize the smooth face offspring with demi long coats as Mi-Kis. Van Wormer endorsed IMR and retired from breeding in 2008.

GAMC members aligning with Hall in 1995 formed the Mi-Ki Club of America (MCOA).  Hall enthusiastically promoted the Mi-Ki in rare breed conformation shows, on the web and in print media. Hall also recruited, encouraged and mentored new breeders. Hall’s efforts led to Mi-Ki recognition by States Kennel Club (SKC), where the breed first was presented in a show in Cudahy, WI, on November 14, 1995.  The same year, the Mi-Ki was recognized by the Bermuda Kennel Club (BKC). Hall began the process to pursue AKC-FSS acceptance on May 29, 1997,  She withdrew the application in October, 1999. The International All-Breed Canine Association (IABCA) accepted the MCOA breed standard in 2002.

Mi-Kis were recognized by the National Canine Association (NCA) in the 1990’s. Later, the breed participated in other conformation shows, such as North American Kennel Club (NAKC) Rarities, International Canine Events (ICE), and more recently, United Kennel Club (UKC). The first National Mi-Ki Specialty was held at Purina Farms on November 5, 2005, sponsored by IABCA. All the clubs were invited to exhibit their Mi-Kis at the American Rare Breed Association Mi-Ki Specialty at St Charles, IL, on October 13, 2007. One Mi-Ki was shown as provisional in a 2010 FCI Irish show.

On January 1, 2002, a small number of breeders formed the Continental Mi-Ki Association (CMA), another health conscious registry requiring DNA parentage and health testing.  In 2008, CMA voted to affiliate with IMR to provide greater diversity in the gene pool and combine efforts to participate in the United Kennel Club’s (UKC) breed recognition path, the Canine Development Health and Performance Registry (CDHPR). As of January 1, 2016, the long coat Mi-Ki is recognized by UKC.

In June of 2003, a group of 23 breeders left MCOA and established Mi-Ki Breeders USA (MBUSA), another combined Mi-Ki club and registry.  The club did not require parentage DNA or health testing, although it was suggested.

In 2004, Hall exported two Mi-Kis to Germany (Flyer’s Dr. Doo Little and Flyer’s Coco Chanel) and exhibited them at a UCI-RVD Dog Show. Two years later Dr. Doo Little, exhibited by owner Christine Andres, achieved his Singapur Championship and UCI/RVD Championship. The first appearance of a Mi-Ki in a German dog breed publication included a breed description and a photo of Flyer’s Avalanche (Gabriele Lehari, 2004). The Mi-Ki breed appeared in another German book in 2009 (Eva-Marie Krämer, 2009).

Two MCOA Mi-Kis were exported to Woodland Cottage Kennel on the coast of Spain in 2004.  Kathy Carmen delivered Flyer’s My Little Pinky (call name Tom Thumb) and Jack’s Countess Corky (Cookie) to Monique “Micky” de Ceriez. Hall’s early efforts and record keeping led to increased awareness and appreciation of the breed throughout the United Sates. Presently, Mi-Kis are bred and cherished throughout the USA as well as in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, England, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Poland, Russia, Singapore, and Malaysia.

Founded solely as a registry, the American Mi-Ki Registry Association (AMRA) was created in 2006. AMRA requires DNA for all registered Mi-Kis and documentation for breeders who voluntarily health test breeding stock. AMRA was the first Mi-Ki registry to introduce a program on its website to allow breeders to do pedigree research. In 2017, 15 (fifteen) generations of M-Ki to Mi-Ki breedings have been registered.

In another innovative move, AMRA announced on October 4, 2009, that DNA samples from over 100 Mi-Kis from diverse foundation Mi-Ki lines were collected and analyzed by Mars Veterinary, resulting in the Wisdom Panel Mi-Ki breed profile. The Wisdom Panel profile distinguishes the Mi-Ki as a unique and distinct breed. The extensive DNA analyses of 321 genetic markers also identified additional breed influences in the Mi-Ki background from Pekingese, Pomeranian,and other Asian toy breeds.

Historical evidence, 10,000 year old fossils, and DNA analyses indicate that all six of the breeds reported by van Wormer to be in the Mi-Ki, plus the additional breeds identified by Mars Veterinary are related to the same ancient ancestor, the Kitchen Midden Dog, a small soft coated hunting dog that lived in the Gobi Desert, south of Tibet. Today we see many of the traits exhibited by those breeds in our modern day Mi-Kis, for example: small size, short face, short muzzle, underbite, long coat and plumb tail like the Shih tzu and Pekingese. Catlike behavior, spinning around, for attention, a low trill, and relatively quiet nature have been attributed to the Japanese chin. Long hare like feet represent the Tibetan spaniel and Tibetan terrier. A kinked tail, occasionally seen in Mi-Kis, is characteristic of the Lhasa apso.

The conclusions drawn from the Wisdom Panel research added to our knowledge of the history of the Mi-Ki. The ability to identify purebred Mi-Kis through DNA, coupled with the understanding of the health risks of a limited gene pool, prompted new cooperation between registries.

The American Mi-Ki Club (AMC), founded in 2007 by a group of breeders seeking to promote and protect the Mi-Ki breed, were joined in October, 2015, by additional breeders from the four active Mi-Ki clubs to work in concert to better the future of the Mi-Ki breed. The breed standard was updated to combine and represent the Mi-Ki clubs participating in AMC and to preserve the health of our breed. The revised breed standard was approved by AMC members on February 18, 2017. AMC encourages breeders  to participate in seminars, specialty shows, photo contests, play dates and pet expos. The spirited competition and shared camaraderie in the show ring has been enjoyed over the past 30 years of club affiliations.

Origin of the Smooth Face Mi-Ki

When did the smooth face trait appear in our breed? While van Wormer specifically expressed that she wanted to create long haired, non-shedding toy dog, she mated her Shih tzu to various mixed breeds, including Maltese, Shih tzu, Yorkshire terrier, Papillon, Japanese chin and Tibetan spaniel crosses. The last three breeds lack furnishings (facial hair and longer feathering on legs and body). All Mi-Kis are long coat dogs. The furnishings trait is expressed as a dominant gene in the long coat variety of Mi-Kis. Smooth face Mi-Kis have two copies of the recessive form of that trait, with one copy donated from each parent. Each parent of a smooth face Mi-Ki has at least one copy of the recessive trait.

Including three smooth face breeds in the development of the Mi-Ki insured the appearance of the (recessive) smooth face Mi-Ki variety.  As it happens, In-Chan-Ting Man, the very first male pronounced as a true Mi-Ki by van Wormer, carried the smooth face gene and indeed sired smooth face puppies.

Early pedigrees show that Sugar was from Tee-Nee In-Chan-Ting Man and Tee-Nee In-Chan-Ting Lady.  Boo Boo was from Tee-Nee In-Chan-Ting Man and Tee-Nee Fortune Cookie. Two puppies out of four from the first litter on September 9, 1992, produced from mating Sugar back to In-Chan-Ting Man, were smooth face Mi-Kis lacking furnishings: Flyer’s My Little Darling and Flyer’s Obsession.

A litter from Sugar and Boo Boo produced a long coat daughter, Flyer’s Gee Whizz, who was mated to long coat Flyer’s Sir Lance-sa-Lot (the son of Obsession and In-Chan-Ting Little Pixie). One puppy in their litter was a smooth face male, Alma Ridge Paddington’s Boomer. This proves that both Gee Whizz and Sir Lance-sa-Lot carried the smooth face trait. Lance-sa-Lot also sired a smooth face female (Alma Ridge Ruffles) when bred to Crimson Rose’s Milky Way. (Tee-Nee) Flyer’s Teddy Bear, a full sister to Sugar, also sired smooth face offspring.

Since none of the In-Chan-Ting Lady offspring lacked furnishings, the trait had to be carried by In-Chan-Ting Man, who was both sire and grandsire of My Little Darling and Obsession and Great Grandsire of Boomer. Since In-Chan-Ting Man was out of Toi Boi (Shih tzu) and So Chi Gal (Maltese/Tibetan spaniel/Papillon mix), it is not surprising that he inherited one copy of the recessive furnishings trait.

The long coat and smooth face Mi-Kis are identical for all traits other than furnishings. Over time, some breeders chose to remove the smooth face variety from their programs and focus on the long coat type. Other breeders embraced the smooth face variety and intentionally bred to produce them. Unlike UKC, AMC and several other registries recognize both long coats and smooth face varieties. Small population size and extensive inbreeding used to establish type in the early development of the Mi-Ki resulted in a limited gene pool.  To eliminate or to limit breeding of quality smooth face Mi-Kis will reduce the gene pool even further and potentially increase the incidence of breed related inherited diseases.

Smooth face Mi-Kis make up 19% of the Mi-Kis registered by AMRA, slightly less than the predicted 25% of the puppies when two smooth carriers are mated. Analysis of over 150 DNA samples submitted to Wisdom Panel and Optimal Selection during 2008 – 2016 show that 42% of Mi-Kis carry the smooth face trait. This is reasonable, since 50% of all Mi-Kis would be expected to be carriers of the trait if no selection is made to avoid the smooth face variety.

DNA samples of IMR and CMA registered Mi-Kis are included in the data-base. However, those clubs have submitted fewer samples than other registries. In addition, IMR and CMA specifically select against breeding Mi-Kis lacking facial hair and full furnishings.

Long coat Mi-Kis that have shorter coats, less feathering on the legs and shorter than optimal facial hair often are called “tweeners”. There is a myth that breeding a long coat to a smooth face Mi-Ki produces “tweeners”, which is not true. If this were the case, then 42% of all Mi-Kis would be “tweeners”. It is agreed that full coats develop at different rates on different dogs. There are other factors other than the furnishings gene that can influence coat, such as nutrition, allergies, and possibly environmental or unidentified modifier genes. Mi-Kis with the “tweener” look can be either homozygous (two copies) or heterozygous (one copy) for the furnishings gene.

In Conclusion

There is one thing on which every breeder in the Mi-Ki community can agree. No matter the club or organization, no matter the favored coat variety… Mi-Kis are unique. Totally captivating, intuitive and charming, accommodating and cheerful, the Mi-Ki is a breed that once experienced, is not forgotten. Mi-kis are the Sweethearts of the Toy Breeds.


DOGS 101, Animal Planet, October 12, 2011.

Dog Fancy, “Rare Gem” by Susan Cheny, Oct 2011, pp 68-71.

Dogster Magazine, “Meet the Mi-Ki: his Small Dog Breed Makes a Big Impression” by Lynn Hayner, Oct/Nov 2016, pp. 54-55.

Dogs The Ultimate Dictionary of over 1,000 Dog Breeds. 2008. Desmond Morris, Trafalgar Square, Chicago, 752 pp.

Dogs The Ultimate Dictionary of over 1,000 Dog Breeds. 2008. Desmond Morris, Trafalgar Square, Chicago, 752 pp.

Der Große Kosmos Hundefüher (The Big Cosmos Dog Guides). 2009. Eva-Marie Krämer, 400pp. watch?v=fnvqZucFiTQ

Mar 2, 2008. “Maureen and Ideal Mi-Ki”- uploaded by fayelandmikis

Mi-Ki Messenger. 2011. International; Mi-Ki Registry, Inc. Club Newsletter (12:11/12).

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Ulmers GroBes Lexikon der Hunderassen (Ulmers Big Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds). 2004. Gabriele Lehari, 240pp.

United Kennel Club, Mi-Ki, January 1, 2016

Vilà C, et al. 1997. “Multiple and Ancient Origins of the Domestic Dog”, Science. Jun 13:276 (5319): 1687-9.