There were collies aplenty at Dean on Sunday morning for the fourth annual Old Sniff Classic sheepdog trials held at the Dean Recreation Reserve on Sunday October 9.
Despite the bitter wind, the dogs took enthusiastically to their task of trying to herd three recalcitrant sheep through a series of hurdles and gates inside a 15-minute time limit.
Spectators from across the state and as far away as Queensland watched with interest as the trials got underway, but it was the cycling pair of Bob and Claire Rogers who won the prize for furthest travelled, having come from Tucson, Arizona in the United States.
The pair heard about the event as they headed south from Alice Springs and made it a part of their itinerary to attend.
“It took us five weeks,” says Mr Rogers. “We had freezing nights, but it wasn’t that bad.”
Bill Paton from Toowong has been competing in the trials for about 40 years, and he says one of the more curious aspects to the sport is the use of three sheep, rather than another number.
“If you put four sheep out there, they’re easier to work,” says Mr Paton.
“Three is the worst of the lot to work. They still think for themselves a bit. Four and they start to be a mob and run together. Even one sheep is easier to work than these three.”
Mr Paton says collies are the choice for the smaller trials as they are quieter and gentler with the sheep. Larger, more rowdy mobs require the use of kelpies and other crosses.
Strangely, the breed of sheep makes no difference, according to Mr Paton and Brian Maher, the Dean Recreation Reserve committee president and event co-ordinator.
“The reason we have crossbred (sheep) here today is that we’ve got them,” Mr Maher said. “Other places’ll have merinos or whatever. And they’re getting harder to get.”
For 88-year-old former farmer Jick Connell from Yarrawonga, trialling is a relatively new sport.
“I always thought it was a great sport, and I was getting on just a little bit, and I thought I’d better have a go!”
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