October 30th, 2013


Mostly for pundrigion

OK so the other day I mentioned in passing that the different terrain and sizes of farms and numbers of sheep had affected the way we handle them here in NZ, which has in turn affected the way we identify them, and also the types of dog we use to work them. And someone asked for enlargement on that topic.

I am not sure she knows what a can of worms she's opened.

Basically, sheep and sheepdogs are my first love (after horses) and I'm a bit of a geek about them. I spent a fair chunk of time in my 20s and early 30s mucking about on farms with sheepdogs, and at one point I had a team of 6 dogs. I say 'team' loosely and I'm pretty sure that some of the folks I worked for would refer to them more as a rabble. However, it's true that for a while my livelihood depended almost entirely on the vagaries of sheepdogs. Oddly enough, this makes you keenly interested in them. I take pleasure in sharing that interest. So, here you go:

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So to summarise, the large mobs and distances involved have led to sheep being brought in as rarely as possible. Thus they are quite wild and much more easily handled in yards. This has led to a different system of marking ownership, and also to a completely different type of working dog to deal with the conditions.

And because no post about sheepdogs is complete without it, here is a picture of my wee dog First:

She was a NZ heading dog, the only one in my team I couldn't bear to part with when I moved to town. She was my best mate for 12 years and quite enjoyed the life of a town dog, but as far as sheepdogs go she did all right at that too. I've seen her take on rams four times her size and come off better. Because she was hardcore. Because NZ sheepdogs are. They have to be.