Visit to the National Sheepdog Finals in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Part I.

This video has some good footage of dogs working sheep.

On Thursday my wife and I visited the National Sheepdog Finals, being held on a ranch in the astonishing Klamath Basin, outside the town of Merrill, near Oregon’s border with California. As we drove Stateline Road to the ranch, we passed tens of thousands of birds of all sorts, ducks passing overhead in huge flocks, thousands of small water fowl dotting the surface of the marshy waters all around us, toronado-shaped swarms of insects lit up in the sun, swirling in pillars by the side of the road as we passed.  The marsh grasses ranged from browns and greens to yellows and whites. The basin was teeming with life.

Runaway Ranch is situated in a beautiful spot, at the base of some long, low-slung hills.  The two Event fields were separated by a large stubble field that served as parking lot and campground for RVs; in one corner were tents housing vendors of arts and crafts associated with the world of sheepdogs in general and Border collies in particular.  (There were definitely some shrines to Border collies!) One event field was devoted to the “nursery” trials, the other to the main field trials.  The nursery field is used for the trialing of younger, less experienced dogs (three or under).  It is a scaled-down version of the main field. The weather was good, mostly clear and in the low 80s; the sun was intense, desert-style. By the end of the day, we both felt overexposed.

Everywhere we saw Border collies of all sizes, shapes and colors. In kennels in the back of trucks and RVs. Lounging under vehicles out of the sun (one truck had 5 dogs lying under it).  Sleeping under lawn chairs. Notice a theme? They too wanted out of the sun.  And of course, we saw dogs walking with their handlers. Actually, I didn’t see many that were walking with their handlers, and I also didn’t see any that were herding their handlers from behind. Instead, I saw Border collies leading their handlers about, thus proving that in this respect they are like the rest of their kind.  Oh, yes, and there were the dogs on the field. I’ll come to them.

This was clearly an inside crowd. We were truly the idle spectators. I pointed out to my wife that of the hundred or two hundred people there, we were, as far as I could tell, the only ones wearing shorts. The only ones, in other words, who weren’t sporting the farm/ranching look. But even if we had been wearing jeans, the lack of proper belt buckles would have given us away instantly. Interestingly, we learned that almost no one competing in the trials actually made their living farming or ranching, though of course the sport basically requires knowing someone who does.  Where else are you going to get the sheep? It’s one thing to have acreage and dogs, quite another to be in the business of managing sheep. But more about the sheep later.

Folks were very friendly. From what we heard, and overheard, just about all the talk was about the sheep (mostly complaints but, like I said, more about the sheep later), the dogs (only heard good things), and the fields (mixed reviews).

Part II, featuring the dogs, the sheep, and the events, is here. (Here are links to Parts III, IV.)

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One Response to Visit to the National Sheepdog Finals in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Part I.

  1. Pingback: Visit to the National Sheepdog Finals, Part II | Idle Speculations

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