For the dogs, it's just another day doing what they love best. But at the sheepdog trials at the Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo, the top dog who herds the best will be crowned with prize money and bragging rights.
Working dog breeds like border collies are born to herd livestock. The majority of the entrants in the trial competition are border collies or blue heelers, said Duane Hofer, chairman of the stock show Sheepdog Trial, one of the most popular events for both children, adults and the pups.
It requires training for the dog to get the skills necessary to herd successfully without biting the animals, which would disqualify them from competition. And for a competition like the sheepdog trials, the dog and trainer must have a close working relationship.
"The dogs know what they want to do, but they just don't know how to do it," Hofer said.
The training for this type of competition is important because it's not just another day out on the ranch putting sheep in a pen, said Hofer. The dog must move three sheep through an obstacle course and into a pen. The dog with the fastest time wins.
"This shows how well a trainer and a dog work together," said Hofer. To make a dog a champion, the trainer and human must have a special relationship. "A dog and a trainer when they work together for a while they kind of read each others’ minds."
The top dog will win $1,400, a belt buckle and a jacket. Second place gets $1,000 and a plaque.
The sheepdog trials will also feature another popular event, Mutton Bustin'. This event is gaining popularity at rodeos across the country.
Children ages 3 to 7 and weighing less than 60 pounds hop on the back of a sheep and try to hang on tight for 6 seconds. Judges will give points on form, and the child with the highest score will win a trophy about as big as themselves.
A total of 20 riders will participate this year just before the final round of the sheepdog trials at 7 p.m.