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Hopland Sheepdog Trials

[Nov 10, 11]

“Away,” “to me,” and “that’ll do” are all terms that you are likely to hear in the Hopland hills over the weekend of November 10th and 11th as over 50 border collies compete in the 7thannual Hopland Sheepdog Trials- two one-day United States Border Collie Handlers Association (USBCHA) sanctioned Open Trials hosted at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC).

Handlers and their dogs will be traveling from all over the west to compete with their dog in this USBCHA sanctioned event in order to earn points to qualify for the National Sheepdog Finals. Competitions sanctioned by the USBCHA are called Sheep Dog Trials or ‘trials’. Individual dogs qualify to compete in ‘the Finals’ by accumulating points at USBCHA sanctioned trials such as this one throughout the year. The top 150 point earning dogs in North America are invited to test their skills against each other at the Final Championship competition in which only one sheepdog in all of North America earns the title of ‘National Finals Champion’.  That event rotates around the country was held in September of 2018 in Alturas, CA.

Border collies are widely acknowledged as the finest stock dogs in the world. This trial will showcase the highest abilities for which these dogs were bred. A sheepdog trial is designed to test a border collie’s intelligence, training and instinct.  The trial course begins with the dog leaving the handler’s side, casting out around the field (the outrun) to gather a small group of sheep that are approximately 400 yards away.  The dog brings the sheep back (the fetch) to and around the handler and then promptly drives the sheep away from the handler through a series of obstacles (the drive).  When the dog eventually returns the sheep back to the handler, the handler / dog team is required to separate the sheep (the shed) and then pen the sheep (the pen).  The majority of the commands are communicated through various whistle sounds (each sound having a particular meaning).  The dogs are also directed with voice (but never with hand signals).

The trial course and it’s judging remain essentially unchanged from similar competitions held in Great Britain under the sanction of the International Sheep Dog Society. From their ancestral home, border collies have spread to stock raising countries across the globe. Along with them has traveled the competitive sport of sheep dog trialing.

“HREC is one of 9 centers across the state owned by the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources division. Our site covers over 5,300 acres of oak woodland and chaparral that has been a working sheep ranch for over 60 years. Sheepdogs and highly talented shepherds are vital to the successful running of a flock and we are thrilled to offer the chance for local shepherds and their dogs to show us how it is done!” commented Hannah Bird, Community Educator at HREC.

The public are invited to attend as spectators between the hours of 10am-2pm on Saturday November 10th or Sunday November 11th.

Spectator admission is $5 (online registration or checks preferred). HREC asks visitors to leave their pets at home. Non-participating dogs will not be allowed on-site in order to protect the livestock, herding dogs, and the operation of the trial. Hot food and drinks will be available from the Slam Dunk Pizza Truck.

Visit to find out more and purchase your ticket. The Hopland Sheepdog Trials 2018 will be held at the Hopland Research and Extension Center, 4070 University Road, Hopland, CA 95449. For more information contact Hannah Bird, (707) 744-1424, Ext. 105,

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