October 9, 2010

Sweet Jeebus on a dinosaur [with Finals vids and Dewi Tweed goodness]

Because actual scientists are just big old snobs. jesus horses by wullagaru for threadless.

For decade after weary decade there have been chuckleheads claiming that working border collies aren't all that, and who needs a real stockdog nowadays, anyway, and oh — remember to buy a pup from my non-working kennel! It's such an unoriginal, predictable sort of background noise that by now most people with working stockdogs simply tune it out.

Retrieverman is the latest to troll these waters, with a post entitled, of all things, Intellectual honesty on the effects of trials and shows. [H/T: For the Pit Bulls.] The one bit of intellectual honesty you'll find in his post is this admission: "I know next to nothing about actual herding trials."

And I'll be darned if he doesn't proceed to write paragraph after paragraph demonstrating just how little he knows about working stockdogs and actual herding trials. Seriously, I can't wait for his "Don't know much about geology" post.

A few points. First: nice to know that the press coverage of the USBCHA Finals has made an impact. Working border collies are amazing dogs, and it can't be repeated often enough that the border collie's brains and biddability and athleticism are a direct result of rigorous selection for stockwork, as opposed to rigorous selection for a pronounced stop.

Point Two: if you think the following comment by BC Board moderator Eileen Stein is "the funniest bullshit [you've] ever seen," you might be as ignorant of working stockdogs as Retriever Man:
[Border collies] are like Alaskan Huskies in that they are bred to a working standard rather than an appearance standard, and they are a breed rather than a type in that they have been bred to that working standard long enough that they almost always meet that working standard better than any other kind of dog.
Alaskan Huskies don't have a registry and border collies do -- that's the only significant difference.
I think the part he missed is that working sheepdogs and racing huskies are bred for different purposes, but who the hell knows. And not that racing husky people concern themselves with bloodlines or anything like that.

Point Three: there is nothing esoteric about a USBCHA sheepdog trial. Any stockdog remotely deserving of the description should be able to gather stock, drive the stock to specific areas, and help sort and pen the stock. This isn't rocket science: I've seen Lhasa Apsos manage it in a small corral with tame sheep — which, I should emphasize, doesn't mean that Lhasa Apsos represent the gold standard of stock work, however proud of their efforts you may be. A really good stockdog will be able to accomplish those tasks in wide-open, unfamiliar terrain, in an efficient manner, with unfamiliar stock. That's what a USBCHA sheepdog trial tests, and if that's hard to understand, I'm Lady Gaga.

Finally, if you'd like to see some of the best stockdogs in North America demonstrating their prowess in September's 2010 National Sheepdog Finals [and I would dearly love to watch some of those runs again], head over to the Finals Web Cast page and sign up for their pay-per-view. As Heather Nadelman reports, "You can skip around in the video and watch it in chunks at your leisure — the clock only ticks against your purchased hours if you're logged into the player." At 400-some yards the Belle Grove trial field was smallish [to this westerner], but the sheep were plenty challenging and the best work was awesome. Yes, I'm looking at you, Riggs and Patrick Shanahan :~)))


This isn't from our Finals, but what a nice vid it is: Richard Millichap's most awesome Dewi Tweed gathers sheep in the Welsh mountains. Enjoy! [For those interested in the border collie's "genetic bottleneck," Kinloch has a link to Tweed's pedigree, with the inbreeding coefficient numbers listed for his ISDS parents and grandparents.]