HUNTSVILLE — It may look like fun and games, but these dogs are working hard at the annual Kelley Creek Farm National Sheepdog Trial.
“The event actually mimics work on the farm,” explains Patsy Dickens of the three-day competition that begins Friday, July 6, and continues through Sunday, July 8.
Sheepdog trials originated in the late 1800s in Scotland over friendly rivalries sheep farmers had with one another that, “My dog can go farther and collect more sheep than your dog,” Dickens says.
The timed events at a trial — gathering sheep from the pasture, putting sheep in a pen or separating sheep from the herd — are all based on tasks working border collies perform, the owner of Kelley Creek Farm says.
The Huntsville event is sanctioned by the United States Border Collie Handlers Association; the 30-plus handlers who compete will earn points to progress to the 2012 national trial.
The Kelley Creek competition includes everything from a nursery category, for dogs under 2 years of age, to an open class for professional dogs and handlers.
The trial typically draws 75 to 150 people per day and is focused on dogs and handlers, Dickens says, rather than featuring other festival-type activities.
“The draw for this event is it’s quiet, relaxing, picturesque, a beautiful setting,” Dickens says. And she says people are always amazed at the intensity and focus of the border collies, who are bred purely for their instinct and working ability.
The dogs move the sheep through eye contact rather than with their bodies. The handlers direct and control the dogs with voice and whistle commands.
Visitors may bring their own picnics and lawn chairs; food will also be sold on-site at 465 N. 9000 East. Nonagressive, leashed dogs are welcome to attend.
For more information, call 415-577-5655 or visit www.kelleycreekfarm.com.