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Surviving the test of time

Focus on the Land presents part two in a regular series of columns on the history of dog trialling in this district and across the country, brought to you by dog trialling stalwart, Brett Loffler.

“The first New Zealand sheepdog trial was held in Wanaka in 1867, which predates what is considered the world’s first at Bala in North Wales in 1873.

The first trial to include huntaway events was at Black Forest Station near Lake Benmore in 1870.

Almost all sheepdogs imported into New Zealand between 1910 and 1930 have a border collie dog known as Old Hemp in their pedigree. Old Hemp’s genes provided the foundation for sheepdogs in New Zealand.

He was bred in Northumberland, England and passed on a lot of outstanding traits.

Dog trialling is controlled by the New Zealand Sheep Dog Trial Association, made up of affiliated member clubs throughout New Zealand. Competition meetings start in late summer and culminate in regional and national finals in May and June. Show ring, handy dog and special heading dog events are held throughout the year.

New Zealand trials have kept their original character as a test of practical shepherding.

Through television and public exposure, dog trialling has become a competitive sport of great interest.

The “heading” dog originated from the border collie, is bred to head or cast around sheep, eyeball them to close quarters, hold them together and bring them back to the handler.

They are mainly black and white or tri-coloured (with tan) strong or plain-eyed when stalking stock.

They are discouraged from barking on sheep but handy to bark on cattle.

The “huntaway” is a New Zealand development. Original imported strains were all heading dogs.

Early New Zealand shepherds needed noisy dogs to flush sheep from cover in rough country.

They watched, trained and bred a dog that would bark on command.

I believe a harrier hound and labrador were crossed into the breed.

Today’s huntaways are big, strongly-built dogs used for everything — heading, huntaway and backing sheep in the yards.

They are bred for a loud, deep bark and are usually black or black and tan.

They are smooth or long-coated. There are some beardy types as well.

Story of the week —

In the late 70s the bar was set up at the Whangara Dog Trials, with a long extension cord to a power point.

The bar had an open-out counter.

At opening time the barman climbed in and Fred Yates was the first patron.

He approached the bar and leaned both elbows on the counter.

Somehow the bar was not earthed.

Being alive it stuck Fred to the bar, making him jitter and quiver.

It was only a rugby tackle from Mike Cotton that saved Fred’s life."

- More in weeks to come.

Brett Loffler and Cruize