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The issues of The Ludgate Monthly for the six months of May through October of 1899 were combined into a publication called The Ludgate, Vol. III (New Series) published by F. V. White & Co. Pages 58-61 were retyped and appear below.

A photograph of Champion Ormskirk Charlie standing alone appeared on page 59. A second picture was of R. S. Piggin and Ormskirk Charlie penning sheep. A third picture at the end of the article (page 61) appears at the end of this page. The importance of this article was the detailed description of White Bob's run at a sheep-dog competition. Unfortunately, no records have yet surfaced indicating White Bob winning a specific trial with a time of 9-1/2 minutes. Therefore, where the trial took place would be speculation though it might well have been one of the annual Llangollen or Wirral trials.

Note: No diagram of the trial course appeared in the article.

Sheep-dog Trials, and How They are Conducted

by Anglo-Manxman. Illustrated by Photographs

Since the introduction of Sheep-dog Trials in Wales and England, this highly interesting and instructive sport is becoming yearly more popular. The principal meeting is at Llangollen, of which Her Majesty the Queen is gracious patroness, and who expressed great gratification with the work performed, and complimented the shepherds on the possession of such sagacious collies, on her visit there in 1889. Another most popular meet is Parkgate, Wirral, promoted by Mr. Philip Soorn, a well-known exhibitor and breeder of collies, and who also introduced a collie show with the trials, which is visited yearly by thousands of the British public anxious to observe the wonderful sagacity and intelligence of this most popular breed of dogs—rightly designated the king of the canine race.

On a fine day it would indeed be difficult to find a more interesting sight than the highly trained shepherd's dog, or collie, working the little flock of three of the wildest sheep over the course in a most wonderful manner. The friendliness and jovial good humour of the owners of dogs towards each other is a marked contrast to the jealousies so often present at sporting meetings; added to which the fresh air, healthy surroundings, and gay throngs, add to make a thorough day's enjoyment.

It has been argued by many that the present type of show collie is unfitted for work, but anyone who has seen the well-known Ormskirk Charlie, a son of the famous collie Christopher, who sold for  ₤1,000, working, would readily be convinced of the error entertained on this point. This dog, a winner at almost every trial, is indeed a marvel, and displays such wonderful intelligence that is almost human; his owner has also many other high-bred dogs exceedingly clever at trials.

The arrangements for a trial are very simple and the cost is not very great. In open classes there are generally five prizes, the first being about ₤10 down to ₤1. The trials are usually held on a hillside or large field, extending in one direction about three-quarters of a mile by about half a mile in breadth. The dogs drive the sheep about 1,200 yards. The sheep are the wildest that can be got, usually the small Welsh breed or black or grey-faced Scotch sheep. Each dog has to drive three different sheep, two being from one farm or flock, and the third from another; the same three are never worked twice. This makes the task all the more difficult, the sheep not knowing each other, and when one breaks away it requires considerable skill to get it to its companions again. The course indicated below will better explain.

The shepherd or person working the dog stands at the post (A), from which he is not allowed to move more than six yards; at a given signal three sheep are liberated from the pen (B); the shepherd then sends his dog to the sheep, which are to be driven in the direction indicated by the arrows and between the hurdles; if any of the sheep go outside the hurdles the dog must bring them back and take them the proper course, to the triangular pen of three hurdles (C), which has an opening of twenty-two inches, or just wide enough to allow one sheep to enter at a time; he has then to pen them; the time allowed being thirteen minutes from the time the three sheep are first liberated. The worker of the dog is allowed to assist, without, however, touching the sheep when the dog has brought them up to the pen (C). The shepherd works the dog almost entirely by whistling or motions; often the sheep separate at the commencement, the dog has then to collect them together and start with his charge at the proper place. Another difficulty often arises, when one of the three sheep will not move as fast as the others, and perhaps if hard pushed will give up and lie down, in which case it is almost impossible for the dog to make it rise; and if a dog bites or injures a sheep he is disqualified. The competitor may be successful in driving his three sheep up to the pen at the end of the trial; he has then a most difficult task, and the upmost patience and skill is then required, as only one sheep can enter at a time; the other two will often go each side of the pen. It is then the dog's sagacity is shown; he will crawl on his belly like a cat, and quietly drive them inch by inch until he gets them in the opening and the three jostled into the pens.

We will visit the trials now, and just as we arrive No. 7 is called, Mr. Barcroft's "Bob." The sturdy Lancashire farmer, who spends most of his time with his sheep on Scout Moor, takes his place at the post, removes his coat and awaits the signal; up goes the white flash, and immediately three sheep are liberated a quarter of a mile away. "Bob," a white and black old English bobtail, pricks his ears and awaits his orders. "Getaway boy!" Off he rushes, and soon finds his sheep, who look wildly round, giving one the impression they would rush off in different directions. Bob steadies down, looks around for orders; a slow prolonged whistle, and on he goes; the wether sheep stamps his foot and the ewes press closer to him; as the dog comes up they try to separate, but Bob is too quick, and is at their side in an instant; getting them together again, he looks round to see his master waving his arms; off he goes again, driving his little flock through the first hurdles; here he has to drive them through a gap over a wide dry ditch or watercourse. A sharp whistle and Bob keeps at his task until they are through, when unexpectedly one bolts right into the ditch, from whence it refuses to budge; a hand up and a whistle, and Bob drops like a stone. The other two sheep suddenly stop, look round, and quietly start grazing. A prolonged whistle and Bob quietly crawls on his belly until he gets on the brink of the ditch facing the sheep, who, alarmed by his sudden appearance, jumps up and joins its companions. A loud cheer from the spectators shows their appreciation of this excellent piece of work. Again the sheep are got together, and brought through the second hurdles. Bob now hurries them on, but as he comes to the next obstacle off rushes one of the sheep outside the hurdle. That whistle again, and Bob drops as though shot; two shrill whistles, and he is up again making a wide circuit to head the stray one, and soon brings him back and through the hurdles, where he sees his two companions; on they come by signal and whistle, the remainder of the course is successfully accomplished, and the turn is made for the final pen; a cheery "Fetch 'em up!" causes him to hurry, and as soon as they pass the shepherd he moves from his post, and is now at liberty to help the dog. Jonathan knows his work—picks up his coat and stick and places them on one side of the triangular pen and stands the other; Bob has to bring the sheep between the two, a seemingly easy task. The sheep still have a wild look, and despite Jonathan rush wildly past him. Bob at a signal lies crouched upon the grass, giving the trio a moment to settle down, when, up again, he is soon behind them, bringing them up to the entrance of the pen; one enters, when a cheer from the spectators startle them, and off the remaining two go again, running round the pen, eventually the one inside dashing out and joining them. Gradually Bob collects them and brings his charges up again, when they do another circus performance around the hurdles. Bob at last gets them together opposite the entrance, and drops on his belly three or four yards away. "Shoo, shoo!" says Jonathan, and Bob crawls like a cat foot by foot towards them; gently they move, step by step, until one enters the pen; three feet more and Bob jostles the other two into the pen, and is on his feet in a moment to prevent their exit. Jonathan waves his hat, and a prolonged cheer from the crowd testifies their appreciation of the clever work. So concludes the trial, the clever Lancashire dog has won in nine and a half minutes and is awarded first prize.

Such is a description of an ordinary trial. Although the time allowed each dog is thirteen minutes, the shortest time in which the sheep is penned is not a criterion of the best work; the time occupied in collecting his sheep, keeping them together, and bringing them through the obstacles all have to count; and where a dog bites his sheep or barks to any extent he may be disqualified at once.

Another innovation has lately been introduced at some trials. The shepherd marks three sheep, which are driven among a flock of about a hundred or more, the dog has then to find the marked sheep and bring them from among the others, which he does, showing wonderful sagacity and intelligence in doing so.

In training collies, the young dogs are generally taught by accompanying old dogs. Months of patient toil is required to fit them to compete at trials successfully; young dogs are very wild and apt to overrun the sheep, in which case the shepherd often has to devise a means to hold him in check, which he does by tying up one of his front paws with his pocket handkerchief around the dog's neck, thus leaving the dog only three legs to run on, and it is surprising how soon the dog understands its meaning.

A well-trained collie is invaluable to a farmer or flockmaster, doing the work which would require several extra men to do, and in mountain districts it would almost be impossible to do without him. At a signal from the shepherd this sagacious animal, replete with energy, vigilance and activity, will collect his flock of hundreds and bring them to any place required of him. Inured to all weather, fatigue and hunger, he may be truly emblematical of content; and the fortunate owner of such an animal possesses the most faithful companion in existence. As Byron says—

The poor dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend;
Whose honest heart is still his master's own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone.

A picture of six dogs appeared at the bottom of page 61. It was entitled "Group of Working Collies."


Manchester Article

The Family



Trialing To 1900

Trialing after 1900

White Bob



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