Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Sheep Dog Championships

Photo montage of Sheepdog Championship events at Soldier Hollow

If you click on the link below, you will be able to view full sized versions of these photos. After following the link , click on the top right-hand photo of the photo set, then you can view each photo in sequence. I have added captions to most of the pictures, which if viewed in sequence, will give you a good idea of what goes on at sheepdog championship trials. (Just click on the thumbnail photo labeled "next" on the right-hand side of the page for the next picture in sequence. Click here to view the photos..

We first became interested in sheepdog competitons when we saw the movie Babe. The move takes place in New Zealand, whre I'm told that sheep far outnumber people many times over. In the movie, babe, a young pig, ends up being raised by a family of Border Collies, and grows up thinking he is a sheep dog too! Eventually Farmer Hogett, sees real sheepdog talent in his little pig, and finds a way to let the pig survivie Christmas Dinner (instead of being Christmas dinner.) . Eventually Farmer Hogett enters Babe in a sheep dog competiton, which he wins, of course.! Our kids loved the movie, (and so did we for that matter) and the idea of sheepdog competitons seemed facinating.

We didn't think much more about sheepdog championships untill about a year ago, when we heard a news report describing Sheep Dog Championships being held at Soldier Hollow, about 50 miles or so from our home. Ever since then, I thought it would be a nice family activity to go to the sheep dog championships the following year. A few weeks ago, we began hearing radio commericals advertising this year's sheepdog championships at Soldier Hollow over the Labor Day Weekend. So yesterday, we decided to go see it for ourselves!

We arrived at about noon, and watched the two or three contestants. Each dog and handler have 25 minutes to complete the requirements of the course. Fortunately, another viewer who was next to us explained what was going on to us. See the photo set for more details. This week, there is another sheepdog competition in Meeker, Colorado. Check out their web site. It gives great information on the rules and various manouvres and events required of the sheepdogs.

The sheepdog championships were also accompanied by food booths, which was convenient for lunch time. Most of the booths offered some kind of entree with lamb meat. (I tried the lamb burrtito from a local mexican restaurant.) It was quite good. Actually I had eaten lamb (we used to call it mutton) when I was young.

Also they had a Scottish festival there as well, with Scottish strong-man type games, and a Scottish pentathalon, and Scottish foods too -- including Hagis -- which I DID NOT try. We have some Scottish ancestry, so this was something else that we looked forward to as well. In the background, we got to hear a bagpipe band playing from time to time as well. I learned that you really don't have to be too close to a bagpipe band to hear them well. (More about that in my next post!)

The sheepdog championships also featured a "Fiber Festival". Now don't get me wrong, this fiber festival had nothing to do with "regularity" nor metamucil. Niether did it have anything to do with eating more roughage. Rathe, it had to do with wool and wool products from sheep (and even some other wool bearing animals, such as llamas and el packas.) There was a collection of vendor booths with all different kinds of yarn, looms and spiining wheels. They had spinning demonstrations, and a lot of fun articles made from wool. Dawn Ann and Amy especially liked looking at the vendor booths.

The championships also featured several sheep camps. When Shepherds stay out on the range with their flocks, they live in a "sheep camp". Sheep camps have been in existence for well over 100 years. In fact, they might possibly have been the first motor homes. (Except the motor, in this case was a team of horses.) Nowadays they are towed to the camp location by truck.

My grandfather was a sheep rancher in the 1930's and 1940's. His sheep camp looked very much like a covered wagon.

In the late 1940's my grandfather switched from sheep to cattle for his ranching operations. However the sheep camp remained. For many years, hired hands working at the ranch would sleep in the now stationary sheep camp. Later on, Grandpa purchased a "Bunk House" for workers, and the sheep camp fell into dis-use.

After we had lunch, and toured vendor booths, we went back to the grandstand and watched a few more dogs compete. By this time, the wind had picked up quite a bit, and the dogs were having a hard time hearing the whistles from the handlers. One dog took off to get the first batch of sheep from the hill. He was supposed to go on an outlying path so the sheep would not be disturbed, until he got into position behind them. Unfortunately, he took off, and went way, way, out. He missed the sheep althogether , and kept going up the mountainside. After numerous attempts, the handler lost contact with the dog (probably because of the wind) and the dog was disqualified with a "no score". Other dogs seemed to struggle more in the later runs than earlier in the day as well. We watched two or three more dogs (about 1 1/2 hours time) and decided it was time to start heading for home.

We had originally intended going through Midway, up over the mountains via Guardsman Pass. That route would have landed us at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon (were the Brighton and Solitude ski resorts are located). We would have then gone down the canyon, and on home from there.

However, fate had another plan for us on that day -- which will be the subject of my next post, which will be called "Good Samaritans".

If you would like to learn more about sheepdog competitions, here are some media accounts Soldier Hollow Sheep Championship Event:

This is an introductory article with some good background information Prior to the Event.

Here is a short article on Border Collies.

Here are some photos of the dog, Pippa this year's champion at soldier holllow (Pippa was also the champion last year too!)

1 comment:

flysmom said...

thanks for the kind words on my blog David. It's been a rough go but my daughter is worth all the effort and hard work I'm choosing to go through.

Great blog btw!! I'll link you up too!!