Many of the agricultural based competitions on Stampede Park that happen during Stampede time have evolved from actual farm-related tasks. For example, the Heavy Horse Pull, World Championship Blacksmiths’ Competition, and many of the events at the Stampede Rodeo are based on everyday chores that working farm hands have had to perform.
Generally, they just start off as friendly competitions. One guy says to another guy “Hey, I can do that faster and better than you can!” while the other guy says “Oh yeah? Prove it!” and all of a sudden the two start going at it.
Every once in a while, those “friendly competitions” start to get a little more popular to watch by others (“Hey, come down and see me kick this guy’s butt!”), a little bit more organized (“Hey, come down on this date at this place and see this guy kick that other guy’s butt!”), and sooner or later, these friendly competitions start to become regular public events.
One such farm-related task is Sheep Shearing, which has turned into a popular competition worldwide. The Calgary Stampede puts on its own competition every year, and you can catch the North American Sheep Shearing Challenge between July 9 and 11 in the Victoria Pavilion.
The sport of Sheep Shearing is generally a timed event where the concept is simple: Shear your sheep in the fastest amount of time. However, a competitor is also judged on the quality of the shear (for example, is it clean, did they miss any spots, etc), and they get penalized harshly if they harm the sheep or interfere with other competitors.
This year features the second year of the new format of the North American Sheep Shearing Challenge at the Stampede. Shearers from around the world face off two at a time, trying to beat each other and the clock. The competitors must trim four sheep in less than six minutes and everyone is competing for a share in over $4,000 in prize money.
It’s a very interesting competition to watch, especially when the sheep start being problematic. Because sheep shearing is an arduous task, typically the competitors are fit and well trained. However, just like when you take your young children to get a haircut but they refuse to stay still for the barber or hair stylist, issues can arise. Depending on how uncooperative the sheep are, you can sometimes catch glimpses of some very humorous situations.
If you’re trying to plan your Stampede in advance, and you find yourself in the Agriculture Building (for example, checking out Horse Haven or making your way to Draft Horse Town), or if you’re just looking for something different to see this year, check out the North American Sheep Shearing Challenge taking place in the Victoria Pavilion between July 9 and 11.