An important task for anyone involved in raising livestock is herding. Most times, the herding of livestock is performed with the assistance of other animals. In the case of sheep, it’s usually performed by border collies, although it’s not unusual for other breeds of dogs to be used. Border collies are typically chosen for their energetic temperaments and their intelligence.
Last time on Stampede Spotlight, I told you about how something as simple as sheep shearing could turn into a popular competition worldwide. Sheep herding has turned into a popular competition as well, and the Calgary Stampede runs its own competition every year, known for being one of the richest competitions around with over $16,000 in cash and prizes available to be won this year.
It’s “woof, woof” meets “baa, baa” as stock dog meets sheep stock in a battle of wills during the World Stock Dog Championship happening on July 11 and 12 at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
If you’re a dog lover, then this is the event for you. If you’re a cat lover (or just hate dogs), you can always cheer for the sheep. If you’re an animal lover in general, I guarantee that you’ll enjoy this event. Even if you have no preference either way, this event is still fun to watch.
The gist of the competition is that a flock of three sheep need to be herded into a pen within a certain time limit, but only after traversing a preset obstacle course first. The dog responsible for herding the livestock (known as the stock dog) is the only thing that can interact with the sheep. The dog’s handler must stay confined within a specified area far away from the dog and sheep, and can only communicate with the dog via whistles and other verbal commands.
This is another one of my favourite events during Stampede to watch as it’s very easy to follow, appeals to all ages, and when both the dog and the sheep (and sometimes, the handler as well) have attitude issues, it makes for some interesting scenarios.
Mishaps can happen all the time, as sometimes the sheep won’t do anything the dog wants them to, so you get to watch as the little dog runs circles around the flock trying to get them where they need to go. Once in a while, the sheep get so intimidated that if you look really close, you can see them wet themselves. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get to witness a staring contest between the dog and sheep as their egos clash.
Sometimes, it’s fun to watch the dog as it ignores its master and tries to showboat for the audience (these dogs are very intelligent, after all), but it’s most fun for everyone when a dog and handler manage to successfully wrangle the sheep into the pen.
I highly recommend that you check this event out. It’s very easy to follow, and very easy to get caught up in. You’ll have a blast, trust me. If you’re trying to plan your Stampede in advance, make sure to check out the World Stock Dog Championship at the Pengrowth Saddledome on July 11 and 12.