Travels and Trials with Sheepdogs

Port Fairy was recently the venue of the Commonwealth Sheepdog Trials. People travelled long distances from all States of Australia to this little seaside town in sw Victoria to enter their dogs in working dogs’ trials. They obviously find the little seaside town in sw Victoria a pleasant venue for their very serious business. And pleasant indeed it is with mild climate, shady trees around the oval, pleasant area for their caravans IMGP1419and for the dogs waiting their turns by the river,IMGP1438

and the sea nearby for rest and relaxation.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A good spot also to find the thousand or more sheep to participate in the trials on a rotational basis. IMGP1439

Travelling on the roads with several dogs and a caravan in tow requires special organization.

This would be a typical set up. IMGP1436

Not just working dogs,  people sometimes bring pups and pet dogs as well. IMGP1423

Watching a dog drive three sheep around, over and through the different barriers before reaching the pen is very absorbing.  sheepdog trialThe grace and skill of the dogs is extraordinary. Dog herding sheepMost are the especially successful border collies and each has its own personality, some quite roguish. The state champion of WA, Grassvalley Moss, who had flown here, allowed himself to be momentarily distracted by a bitch and was thrown right off course.

The trainers, dog owners and dress smartly, women scarcely distinguishable from the men. IMGP1440 The busy sheep minders wear fluorescent jackets. fl jacketIt takes four or five of them flapping their arms to get the three sheep back into the enclosure,  a kelpie 2 job performed effortlessly by one kelpie assigned to the task.

The dog trials are the serious part of the programme it seems. In the lunch break there is more entertainment. Here ducks have  been herded by one clever dog. In other years the ducks were dressed in little bonnets and jackets. IMGP1409 And one day the trainer dressed in comical costume as her dog performed tricks.IMGP1421

Owners and trainers of course need to be fed and visitors to the trials, such as ourselves, are more than happy to fit eating delicious food into the gentle routine of watching the trials. IMGP1442

Local volunteers prepare the meals. The Moyne Gazette had a photo of these smiling volunteers from Koroit, as well as a photo of Bring ’em Darcy from Queensland  dressed up to kill.IMGP1435

All proceeds from the meals and the gate takings go to Moyne Health Services, this year specifically supporting Peter’s Project, a local project to support cancer sufferers and their families.

Nothing sophisticated about the meals or the entertainment in general but there is an air of rural authenticity quite different from the air of sophistication this little town sometimes likes to pretend to. And it certainly seems that the Commonwealth Sheepdog trials give far more than they take. I look forward to more quiet pleasure from them after the hectic holiday season of 2015.

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4 Responses to Travels and Trials with Sheepdogs

  1. Suzanne says:

    It does sound relaxing and it’s good to know such simple pleasures still attract crowds in these days of hype and buzz.

    • danceon2012 says:

      Not really crowds; most of the audience would be participants in the trials, although some locals do come to watch.Sunday was quite a family day with several parents and children enjoying the proceedings.

  2. David O'Brien says:

    sorry Janice just a small correction Bring em home Darcy is from Brunswick Melbourne

  3. danceon2012 says:

    David O’Brien –the dog with the bowtie is “Darcey” owned and trained by Fr Peter Kerin from Brunswick he is dressed for his part in the ‘Dog and duck show’ performed at lunchtime during the Commonwealth Sheepdog trials in Port Fairy

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