The SA Sheepdog ASSOCIATION (SASDA) recently held the first of its seven annual regional trials near Mooi River, KZN where, according to SASDA vice-president Izak Hattingh, approximately 19 handlers and 47 sheepdogs participated. “In each class, the dog and handler teams must achieve stringent minimum score criteria to be able to progress to a higher class category,” explained. “The Top Dogs category is the highest class that a working sheepdog can attain.” The majority of dogs participating in the regional sheepdog trials are on-farm workers, with the remainder coming from the hobby handlers’ contingent.
The trial work is based on everyday farmwork where the dogs have to individually fetch sheep, drive them to the holding pens, and then back to the veld. Hattingh said that a single well-trained sheepdog could do the work of three or four people. SASDA was started in 1961 to improve the handling and working abilities of sheepdogs in this country. The association currently has between 150 and 200 members. The majority are farmers with working sheepdogs. “The efficiencies, reliability and possibilities of using sheepdogs for flock control have been gaining widespread recognition across South Africa. Interest in using, and working with, sheepdogs is gradually growing,” Hattingh continued.
Despite the KZN Championships being the first trial of the season when both dogs and handlers tend to be a tad rusty in their skills, Hattingh was satisfied with the calibre of the entrants. He expressed particular satisfaction with the promise that the Junior dogs showed, and added that many of these dogs were likely to improve as the season progressed. “These regional trials, culminating in the National Championships to be held in Swellendam later this year, also give sheepdog handlers and breeders the opportunity to judge potential breeding stock that could produce good working offspring in the future,” concluded.
The remaining 2007 SA Sheepdog Trial dates are: 20 and 21 April, Hartebeesberg (Smithfield, Free State); 19 and 20 May, Wits (Muldersdrift, Gauteng); 15 and 16 June, Midlands (Willowmore, Eastern Cape); 30 June and 1 July, Western Province (Caledon, Western Cape); 21 and 22 July, Karoo (Cradock, Cape); 3 and 4 August, Wits (Coligny, North-West Province); 17, 18 and 19 August, National Championships (Swellendam, Western Cape). The KZN event was sponsored by Hill’s Science Plan, Frontline, Foodzone, BKB and Virbac.– Lloyd Phillips Visit www.sasheepdogs.co.za. •