Sheep handlers from all over the world will soon be in Cooperstown for the 18th annual Leatherstocking Sheepdog Trials.
The event is a competitive dog sport in which a dog moves sheep around a field, through gates, and into enclosures as directed by their handler. The handler instructs the dog with a whistle or with voice commands.
According to the event website, leatherstockingsheepdogtrials.com, “It is generally agreed, that the first trial occurred in 1873 in Wales. A few Welsh shepherds gathered to show how well their dogs could carry out the herding tasks expected of them on a daily basis. Gathering, fetching, driving, penning and splitting off one or more sheep were part of this initial, informal contest.”
The website goes on to say, the working dog herding trials around the world have changed little since that first competition.
“Each phase of the trial reflects those tasks that they must do together daily. The difference between a daily chore and a trial is the degree of precision demanded and the time frame required to complete the tasks. These constraints add stress and pressure to both the dog and the handler. For this reason, excellent farm dogs may not do well in the high pressure situation on the trial field,” according to the site.
This year’s competition will take place in a field off Beaver Meadow Road from Aug. 16 through 18. Signs are put up each year to help people find the trials. County Route 11C by the Red Carpet Inn just South of Cooperstown is currently closed. Visit http://www.leatherstockingsheepdogtrials.com/gpage.html for alternate routes.
Competition generally starts around 8 a.m. each day and ends when the last dog has run. Admission charges will be good for the whole weekend (save the program for proof of payment). The cost is $5 a person, and children younger than 12 are admitted free.