Bits 'n Bobs Author Blog
Our first stop this day was at Leault Farms for a sheep herding demonstration. We also chatted with the shepherd, Neil Ross, about the farm, his job, and his world view.
There were 5 puppies he was already training, accustoming them to his voice and to follow him as he worked. Each dog is trained to the same verbal commands, but each responds to his/her own individual whistle commands. The results are amazing to watch.
With the dogs milling about his feet, Mr. Ross sent one to get the sheep. If you'll look in the first photo, you won't see the woolly creatures. They were over a small hill, out of sight. As he chatted with us, the dog raced away to do his job. Only the one command 'get the sheep' was given.
A few minutes later, the dog and sheep came toward us. All of the other dogs were alert, but remained close, ears tuned for their own command.
At one point, Mr. Ross had one of the dogs gather the sheep and weave them in and out among the prone border collies, rather like a ski slalom. He also demonstrated the complete trust and bonding as his blind dog herded the sheep to his commands.
Mr. Ross then singled out a sheep and (after showing us his shepherd's crook made from a sheep horn and a length of hazel wood), demonstrated how to hand-sheer a sheep. The sheep didn't seem to mind, and even peered out from behind Mr. Ross' knee to see what we were doing.
Here are a few final photos and notes below about Leault Farm.
Leault Farm takes its name from the Gaelic "Leth Allt" (pronounced Lay-alt) which means "dividing burn".
Leault Farm is part of Dunachton Estate, Kincraig, Scotland and is 11,000 acres in size.
There are about 2500 sheep and 22 beef cows on the estate.
At the fall gathers, it will take 9 men and 35 dogs 9 days to bring the sheep in from the mountains where they've grazed all summer. It's about a 12 mile round trip.
The Ross family have been shepherds on Dunachton Estate since 1962.
Neil Ross was born at home on Leault Farm and began competing in sheepdog trials at the age of 8.
Neil became the shepherd on Dunachton Estate in 2001 after his father retired.
The puppies pictured would each set your wallet back by about 1000 Scottish pounds, though the fully-trained adults will fetch 3000 pounds or more each.
9/20/2016 07:20:03 pm
Great article, beautiful pictures.
9/22/2016 01:06:35 pm
I once read an article that during sheep dog trials, if the handler goofed up on his signals, the dog would be so disgusted he wouldn't look at his master on the way home. What characters these dogs are--and so very serious about what it is they do. I loved, loved, reading this--and loved your pictures, too. So beautiful.
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