A Sheepdog trial (or simply dog trial) is a competitive
dog sport in which
herding dog breeds move
around a field, fences, gates, or enclosures as directed by their
handlers. Such events are particularly associated with hill farming
sheep range widely on largely unfenced land. These trials are
popular in the
New Zealand and other farming nations.
Some venues allow only
dogs of known herding
compete; others allow any dog that has been trained to herd.
Sheep dog trials of some sort or another have probably occurred at
agricultural fairs and shows for centuries. The present form is thought to have
developed originally in the "Borders" area between
from which the
Border Collie also comes. However, the sport's organising bodies regard the
first recorded sheepdog trials as those held in
The sport was no doubt devised by
keen to impress their friends with the skills of their
A well-trained dog can fetch a high price, as can its puppies, and can perform
amazing feats of stockmanship.
There are several events, but the key element is the control of three to six
sheep by one or two highly trained dogs under the control of a single shepherd.
Both time and obedience play a part, as competitors are penalised if a sheep
strays from the prescribed course.
One event consists of having the dog send three sheep up a steep hill through
three or more gates. The shepherd must stand at the bottom of the hill and
direct the dog by whistling. The huntaway dog barks loudly to push the
sheep ahead up the hill.
Another popular event involves having the dog split six sheep into two groups
of three and conducting each group in turn to small pens through a defined
course by heading dogs. The group not being led is guarded by one of the two
dogs, an eye-dog (from its ability to keep the sheep still by head movement
alone). This is more difficult than it sounds, as the sheep invariably try to
Sheepdogs are interesting enough to watch that they have been featured on
television and in film. In New Zealand, The Dog Show was a popular
television show until the late 1980s, screening just before the weekend news. In
the United Kingdom between 1975 and 1999, the
One Man and His Dog, which had a large urban audience. The movie
about a pig who wants
to herd sheep, was based on
Dick King-Smith's book
Sheep Pig, about sheepdog trials in northern
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| Musical Canine Freestyle
| Sheepdog Trial
| Weight Pulling
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