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Sheep dog trials Women sweep BHSS

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Published on Feb. 29, 2020

Wyoming women and their dogs nearly swept the competition at the North American Sheepdog Trials, held Feb. 6 in conjunction with the Black Hills Stock Show (BHSS) in Rapid City, S.D. Four of the top five placers hailed from the Cowboy State. All top five placing teams were women.

            All-American Sheep Day had something for everyone. Sheep were sheared, herded by dogs, ridden by children and the topic of several educational seminars throughout the day during the nine-day stock show. All sheep events were held in the James Kjerstad Center at the fairgrounds in Rapid City.

              Proceedings for the sheepdog trials began at 11 a.m. with the preliminary round. Forty-five dogs were entered in this round. Of these, the top 16 dogs advanced to the semi-finals. Then the top 10 of that round went on to the finals. Each handler was allowed three dogs per round.

             Rules required each dog work three sheep around a predetermined pattern. This included a figure eight between the handler and a barrel at the far end of the arena. Then the sheep were driven by the dog across a bridge obstacle. Finally, they were herded into a small pen with a gate. 

            Time started when the chute gate closed behind the sheep or the handler sent the dog, whichever happened first. Time stopped when all sheep were penned and the gate was closed.

             Contestants were subject to disqualification for failing to follow the pattern with any or all sheep, leaving the handler’s box before the sheep completed the figure eight, or for touching sheep at any time. 

            At the judge’s discretion, dogs could be disqualified for biting sheep or pulling wool. If the run went over the allotted time of four minutes and 30 seconds, the pair received a no time.

             Handlers communicated with their dogs in several ways. Some used hand gestures with or without a verbal command, others used only verbal cues and still others whistled to their dogs.

             Cash prizes were paid to the top five dogs and handlers in the preliminary round and the top three in the semi-finals. In the finals round, the top five were awarded cash, and the grand champion won a belt buckle in addition to two bags of premium dog food. 

            Each dog in the semi-finals received a bag of food as well. A buckle was also awarded for the fastest run over the course of the day, which belonged to Laura Hicks of Allen, S.D. and her dog, Ty, with a time of 2:12.

              Regarding the day’s events, Event Coordinator for the Black Hills Stock Show Rebecca Bader said, “I feel they are popular because we’re in an area that has a profound history of raising sheep. Sheep don’t necessarily get the attention other livestock do, and the Black Hills Stock Show works with our partners to educate people on how a sheep operation works.”

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