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Welsh Sheepdog Trials

New Committee will seek to improve South Wales Style, says Roy Saunders

Farmer and Stockbreeder, May, 1951
Scraperboard illustrations by Roy Saunders

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Nothing escapes
With the formation of the South Wales Sheepdog Association, it appears that sheepdog trialists in the Principality are making an effort to rid themselves of the puzzle of the South Wales way of working.
An executive committee has been set up to consider a number of points for the improvement of trials.

It is interesting at this stage to contemplate what sort of changes the Association will try to bring about and what the effect will be at future international trials.

South Wales can boast of few more than a dozen first class handlers who can stand comparison with any similar group in Britain, but there is no lack of enthusiasm. All trials are well supported by eager competitors, the last entrant sometimes making his run by the light of car headlights.

The most widely felt grievance among competitors is the limited opportunity of running their dogs in the National style, as a result of which the dogs get little experience in public competition.

The pen

Only in the big trials is the National style used, where driving, cross driving, shedding, penning and singling can be attempted under trial conditions.

At the smaller meetings one still finds throughout the length and breadth of South

 Wales, the same old pointless hit or miss performance of the so-called South Wales style, where the sheep have the first and last word.

How invidious is the situation of seeing men, with dogs which have reached the supreme championship stage at the International, fail ingloriously to manoeuvre three impossible mountain sheep through the Maltese Cross lanes two feet apart, and giving up long before their time had expired.

How often does one hear them say the same words; “spoiling good dogs.” Mr. D. W. Daniels, the supreme winner of the International in 1949, is one of the quickest to sum up his sheep and bring them away from the cross and ask if anyone knows of a National style trial in the district.

Mr. Sidney Moorhouse, in his recent book, The British Sheepdog, tells how the Maltese Cross is rapidly disappearing in North of England competitions

The pen
Enormous prices are often given for pedigree Border Collies, a dividend has to be shown, and the few competitions held in August week with Scottish and English champions competing, would never do it.

So they fall to the temptations of having a run in places where the old style is maintained.

But, every time, the specialised skill of the dogs is jeopardised.
Everyone realises it, yet year after year the same silly circus is organised and the hurdles brought out and hammered into the old pattern.

To give as an excuse, the explanation that the field is not big enough is nonsense, as one of the finest small trials held in South Wales is that run on National style at Aberamman, near Aberdare, on a rugby football ground.


The National Style.

What a pleasure it is on visiting two trials in one day to leave a South Wales style trial and watch another run under National Style rules.

How different are the faces of the spectators as they watch the tense driving, the graceful fencing poses at the shedding, the satisfactory penning as the gate is slammed, the exciting singling of the marked ewe and the grand climax where the dog, by sheer power of its eye alone, turns the sheep away from its fellows.

The South Wales Sheepdog Association is only in its infancy, but it is growing strongly, and if it can induce some of the smaller Glamorgan, Breconshire and Monmouthshire Societies to abandon the old style and try out the National British style, a landmark will have been reached in the History of Welsh trials.

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