The Border Collies, Sheep Dog Trial Terms & Trials
Taken from the 40th annual commemorative program.
The working sheep dog undoubtedly antedates written history by many hundreds of years, for we know that both sheep and dogs were domesticated over 10,000 years ago. A perceptive man would have soon discovered he could control flocks or herds much more easily with a trained dog than he could possibly do by himself on foot.
Thus, in every pastoral country of the world, dogs were bred that were adept at herding livestock. Time, however, has proven that the most superior strain of stock dog originated in the British Isles. Whether this was because of fate, training or the isolation of just the right genetic material, will never be known. But, we do know that the dogs you will see herding sheep today are the direct descendants of the original stock dogs.
At first they were simply called “colly dogs”, since the Gaelic for sheep was “colly.” When they were recognized as a breed in the 1800’s they were known as “Working Collies.” By the early 1900’s, when the sheep industry flourished in the border counties between England and Scotland, they were accorded their present day name — Border Collies.
As a breed, the preferred color of Border Collies is black and white, although occasionally combinations with tan will be seen. They may be rough-coated or smooth and range in weight from 30-80 pounds. Thus, they are not outwardly as uniform as those breeds of dogs in which appearance is considered most important. They have been selected for their working ability alone, without regard to what might be termed “fancy points.”
It has been suggested that the working qualities of these small black and white collies were honed in the Highlands, when the plunder of neighboring flocks was not uncommon. Apparently, the most successful purloiners of sheep, found that a well-trained dog was indispensable. Astealthy approach was not only more remunerative, but less exhausting and damaging to their physical well-being. Thus, dogs were trained to work sheep without barking, a trait is still sought after to this day.
Undoubtedly, tests or trials of sheep dogs were engaged in by shepherds from the earliest times. Yet, the first formal sheep trials were not held until 1973, in Bala, Wales. Since that time, trials and their rules have altered, but their objects, which are the betterment of breeding, work and treatment of the sheep dog have not changed.
The International Open Sheep Dog Trial is an objective test of the dog’s ability to control a flock of sheep by herding them over the course diagrammed below. Each dog is assigned five or more fresh sheep and allowed 12 minutes to complete the course. He will be scored on the number of sheep he successfully puts through each obstacle. The shepherd may only direct the work of his dog by voice, whistle or hand signals. A dog may be penalized or disqualified for: going off course; excessive running or biting of the sheep.
Reprinted from Colonial Highland Gathering Program, June 9, 1979
Sheep Dog Trials
While today’s presentation is a demonstration of the capabilities of shepherd and sheep dogs, the Colonial Highland Gathering has in the past presented World Championship Sheep Dog Trials, a contest involving teams of shepherds and dogs from around the world competing for top honors.
The first World Championship Trial was held in 1973 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Sheep Dog Trial held in Wales. Teams representing the U.S., Canada, Britain and South Africa participated. Great Britain took the top prize awarded to Raymond MacPherson and his dog, Nap. Honored guests that year included Hon. &Mrs. Charles L. Booth, M.V.O., Her Britannic Majesty’s Consul General, Hon. J.S.F. Botha, Ambassador, Embassy of South Africa, Mr. &Mrs. J.E. Kepper, First Secretary, Canadian Embassy, Dr. Paul DeLay, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and Archibald McDiarmid, Esq., President, International Sheep Dog Society, Gourock, Scotland.
A second World Championship was held in 1976 as part of the U.S. Bicentennial celebration.
The 1973 program included the following article by Gathering steward, John H. Shropshire.
An artist has depicted a scene from the first formal sheep dog trials ever held. Close examination of the drawing reveals that very little about dog trials has changed in the last 100 years. The sheep have stuck, the dog is having problems getting them to move and the shepherd waves his crook in desperation — thinking thoughts that would ill behoove a shepherd.
But this is trials and has been for 100 years, sheep, dog and man in an orchestration of sound and motion that defies des-cription. To lean, and ask a dog to move in that direction from a half mile away — and be surprised when it does not happen and assume it only right when it does — is a testament to the shepherd’s faith in his dog.
A faith that shepherds sought to justify in regular trial competition where success was the criteria of excellence. Thus, trials became a performance test and a most valuable tool to be used in identifying superior working sheep dogs.
By the early 1900’s the Working-Collie as he was being called, had responded to the performance test and excelled all breeds in his ability to herd sheep or other livestock. His kind were in demand in every pastoral country in the world.
As a result, the rules of trials have changed and will continue to change, but the basic objective remains the same: to improve the work-ing ability of the Border Collie, as he is now known, throughout the world.
It is hoped that this, the first World Championship Sheep Dog Trial will contribute to that same objective, and that it will commemorate that first formal trial 100 years ago and be a fitting tribute to all people everywhere whose efforts make sheep dog trials possible.
Sheep Dog Trial Terms
by O. Vine Cannis
AWAY - AWAY’t’me - ka’WA’t’me - come-AWAY - getAWAY - AWAYback: all meaning for the dog to move to his right, going around he sheep in that direction. The South Africans say: “Go right!”
BY - goBY - comeBY’t’me -getBY: all meaning for the dog to move to his left, going around the sheep in that direction. The South Africans say:“Go left!”
CAST:the act of sending the dog out, hopefully to catch a flock of sheep.
CROOK: a long cane carried by shepherds to lean on while their dog look for the sheep he has been cast to fetch.
DOWN - DOON - getDOON - DOWN-dammit’DOWN: usually given at the top of the voice, in desperation, means lay down, even while at a dead run.
DRIVE: to move the sheep away from the shepherd, over a prescribed route; unhappily, this sometimes occurs after the outrun.
FETCH: to bring the sheep to the shepherd.
GATHER: combined term for outrun, lift and fetch.
GATES: see “panels”.
GET OFF - GET BACK OUT: move back from the sheep, you’re too darn close; more often than not, given too late.
HERE TO ME - HERE’t’ME: come here, often used when dog ignores all other commands; amazingly, the dog usually complies.
LIFT: at the end of the outrun, the act of starting the sheep on the fetch.
OUTRUN: the path the dog takes to the sheep being cast.
PANELS: see “Gates”.
PEN: what the sheep are supposed to be put into (not run around) after finishing the drive, also the act of putting the sheep there by the dog.
STAY: just what it sounds like, don’t go any place.
STEADY ON: follow the same course you’re on, at the same speed; given with confidence and an air of victory.
TAKE YOUR TIME - TAKE’yer’TIME - TAKE’TIME: quit rushing, calm down also: settle down, which shouldn’t be used as it sounds like “sit” and “down”.
THAT WILL DO - THAT’LL’DO: quit whatever you’re doing, cancel all previous instructions, often followed by more confusing commands.
Commands are usually followed by the dog’s name and occasionally assorted adjectives.
Reprinted from Colonial Highland Gathering Program, June 1, 1974