Saturday, February 2, 2013


Last year, I went to a fiber festival that included herding trials.  The event was held at Montpelier Station.  Montpelier is the historic home of James and Dolly Madison.  The country is beautiful out that way.  I was hoping to meet up with a friend from Maine but we were never able to connect.  I did, however, get to see and meet lots of Border Collies and watch them herd sheep.  These dogs were amazing.  They waited patiently next to their handlers while waiting for the sheep to be let loose in small groups of three or four.  

They make their outrun to the sheep.  Once the sheep become aware of the dog's presence behind them, it's a term called "lifting" the sheep.  The dog then fetches the sheep, driving them toward the handler.  Sometimes they are asked to "drive" the sheep, pushing them upfield away from the handler and through a different set of gates.  The dog has to crossdrive the sheep through a second set of gates and then fetch them back to the handler so they can be penned.  

The dogs don't actually chase the sheep in the pen but gets them as close to the opening of the pen as possible without scattering them so the handler can get them into the pen.  They normally use a crook or staff of some kind to guide the sheep in.  And of course, it's difficult because the sheep, who are prey animals, are doing everything they can to avoid the danger.  

Watching the dogs work was mesmerizing.  I could have stayed all day and never got tired of watching them herd.  They love it too.  Their focus and concentration is on those sheep and doing what they do best.  Here are some photos of these amazing and intelligent dogs.

Fetching the sheep

Sweet young girl waiting her turn

Crossdriving the sheep

Driving the sheep

Penning the sheep

Pure concentration while waiting their turn.  The only other dog that was not a border collie was the sweet bearded collie named James.

James, 11 years old, waiting with his handler.

I can easily see how addicting this could become.  Working with your dog while doing what he was bred and loves to do.  Simple words for such a satisfying and fulfilling activity.


Dog Trot Farm said...

Good evening Genny, I agree, Border Collies are so interesting to watch. They are such hard working and intelligent dogs. Over the years we have had rough coated (Lassie) Collies. Collies make such nice family dogs, as they love children and will herd them. Author Jon Katz has published wonderful books about his Border Collies, I think you might find them interesting and heart warming.
The snow is on it's way to Maine, hope you are well, greetings Julie.

Genny said...

Hi Julie! I'm so glad you're feeling better. I love dogs and have often thought about the breed I'd like to have once I retire. The collies rank way up there with my most wanted. Thanks for stopping by!