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Published February 07, 2014, 11:58 AM

Black Hills sheep show leads in dog trials, shearing

Sheep-related shows are becoming more important at the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo in Rapid City, S.D. Events this year included working dog trials, sheep shearing, “mutton-bustin’” riding events for kids and wool spinning.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Sheep-related shows are becoming more important at the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo in Rapid City, S.D. Events this year included working dog trials, sheep shearing, “mutton-bustin’” riding events for kids and wool spinning.

This year’s North American Sheep Dog trials event at the show attracted 26 handlers with 55 dogs, says Duane Hofer, who has helped with the event for several years and has chaired it for four. A few dropped out because of the cold.

The dogs must run three sheep through a course within 4.5 minutes to qualify for prizes. There are timed arena trials and field trials where the dogs gather sheep.

In the working dog “arena competition,” the dog is set to retrieve three sheep and runs them through a figure eight, through a chute on the right, and finally to a pen on the left. Among other things, dogs can be disqualified for nipping the sheep. The 16 fastest times in the preliminaries go into the semi-finals. The 10 dogs with the fastest cumulative scores from the first two rounds go into the finals.

“The fastest dog in the finals wins the event,” Hofer says, noting there were $5,300 in prize money, plus trophy buckles and plaques.

Dennis R. Edwards of Sundance, Wyo., was a hobbyist, running three dogs in this year’s trials — Craig, Nip and Roy.

“If the dog is listening and (fully trained) and taking the commands properly, your sheep are the biggest problem,” says Edwards who had won the event before. “A good dog gains confidence of the sheep, yet they can boss the sheep.”

The National Sheep Shearing Contest brought in 39 contestants, which was fewer than last year, but a good number considering the sub-zero temperatures, officials say.

Cold weather impact

Peter Orwick, executive director of the American Sheep Industry Association based in Englewood, Colo., says the Rapid City sheep-related events have developed into some of the premier events of their type in the nation.

“It is one of the largest half-dozen concentrations of sheep anywhere in the United States,” Orwick says, with lamb operations and feeding operations.

Western South Dakota is a perfect place for sheep events. Belle Fourche is the largest shipping point for fine wool anywhere in America. Some of the best wool in America comes from eastern Wyoming, eastern Montana and western South Dakota. The wool type is sought after, primarily for military fabrics. American servicemen and women all wear American wool, much of it processed in the eastern states.

The most current estimate of sheep lost in the region in the Oct. 4 blizzard is 3,000 to 4,000 — far less numbers than beef. He says the sheep’s wool probably protected them.

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