Although a controversial subject in some circles, I’d like to answer the question “What is the difference in a Miniature Australian Shepherd and a Miniature American Shepherd?” in my own words.
Originally, Australian Shepherds were bred as working dogs and used by immigrant shepherds in the northwest US. Ranchers were looking for their best dogs with strong herding instinct and drive so what we now see as Australian Shepherds most likely looked very different in the early 1800’s, even from place to place. Utility, not appearance, was the goal for those shepherds and their dogs. Over time, the breed became more standardized and was accepted by American Kennel Club as a distinct dog breed in 1991. AKC currently lists their breed standard for an Australian Shepherd at 18″-23″ at the shoulders (withers). I find it interesting that I have a picture of my grandparents along with my father and his two brothers in a family group standing with their farm dog that looks very similar to a red tri Aussie taken in the late 1930’s in Kentucky.
Between the “then” and “now”, a few motivated breeders whose kennel names are found in the majority of the Mini Aussie foundation bloodlines, started to breed small to small to get a more compact dog. In the late 1980’s, my father brought me a little red merle female registered Australian Shepherd to “keep” until she was old enough to work his Black Angus cattle. Patch, as we called her, stood about 16″ and weighed 28 pounds as an adult. She was undoubtedly an Aussie, but in today’s measurements would be called a Mini. I can imagine that with time her progeny could have been reduced much further in height over a few generations. By the way, that pup that I was to babysit and give some basic obedience shared my house for the next 16 1/2 years and didn’t muddy her feet in the barn lot. Instead, she was our house dog and protector, herding any stray boyfriends back to their cars with a nip on the behind!
Since AKC limited their standard size to the Aussie, those smaller dogs took on a life of their own and folks started to call them Mini Aussies. As people do, a division line in the sand was drawn and the die hard Aussie folks took a serious dislike to the smaller versions. National Stock Dog Registry who had previously registered working Border Collies before they were accepted by AKC (another story), Australian Shepherds and also the old breed of English Shepherds begin to register and keep records for pedigrees on the Mini Aussie and listed their size as between 14-18″. At that point and even now, you find AKC registered Australian Shepherds in the bloodlines of the Minis.
Now back to the question, what is the difference between a Mini Aussie and a Mini Ameri? Again, this is my words, and please no flaming! There is not one iota of difference except the verbage. North American Miniature Australian Shepherd Club of USA (NAMASCUSA) became the home club for the Mini Aussie and sought recognition by AKC for them to be an accepted breed for conformation showing in that venue. Over a period of time and with much debate and deliberation, AKC allowed the Mini Aussie to join the ranks as AKC Foundation Stock Service (new developing breed) with some caveats. The Australian Shepherd folks still had their line in the sand and wouldn’t back down on the Mini being an offshoot of their breed standard, so to be accepted, the NAMASCUSA Mini Aussie folks agreed to change the name and a few revisions to the breed standard wording including the size range 13″-18″. A vote of the members chose Miniature American Shepherd as the official breed name. Within the next year, the Mini Ameri will have passed the “trial by fire” as FSS and be added to the AKC ranks with full rights and privileges.
As humans do, once again, another line was drawn in the sand. There are many Mini Aussie breeders who are determined to keep the name “Mini Aussie” and others who think the benefits of being AKC recognized was worth a name change. During this transition time, any Mini Aussie that is registered with National Stock Dog Registry can also be registered with AKC FSS as a Mini Ameri, thus having dual names and dual registration. Those that drew the line against AKC have mostly moved their registrations to American Stock Dog Registry (ASDR).
At this point and probably forever, the two will continually cross pedigrees. For example, in the case of my dogs, the pedigrees include dogs registered as AKC Standard Aussies, ones registered NSDR as Mini Aussies and some of the younger ones also ASDR as Mini Aussies. Because the general public doesn’t know or care about all the background, I still for the most part call my dogs Mini Aussies. When I talk to other breeders, I more likely use the Miniature American Shepherd name. What is the difference? In my house, one day a Mini Aussie..sign a registration form and the next day a Mini Ameri! The dog is the same, the pedigree is the same, the snuggles are the same….so no difference!