AN Ettrick shepherd and his dog will make sheepdog trials history in September if they can pull off a hat-trick at this year’s world championships. It has never been done before.
Bobby Dalziel is one of three Borderers named in the Scotland team to take part in the fourth World Sheepdog Trials which will be staged at Lowther Estate, near Penrith in Cumbria, from September 15 to 18.
In what will be the ultimate test for working sheepdogs and their handlers, a total of 240 handlers and their dogs from 23 nations around the globe will compete.
Bobby and his dog, Joe, will be joined by fellow Borderers Bill Elliot from Kelso with his dog, Rod, and Julie Hill, of Heriot, with Kim.
In addition to the 240 qualified dogs, there are 102 alternate dogs entered. Qualifying rounds will take place on three separate fields on the first two days of the trials, with the top seven from each field on the opening days going forward to the semi-final on the Saturday.
The top 16 of these qualify for the final on the Sunday, from which a world champion will emerge.
Bobby is no stranger to big-time trials, having already been international supreme champion three times and Scottish champion five times in a 36-year career.
He and his close-knit, yet small, team of dogs, work the Scottish braes almost every day of their lives. In the near four decades since, Bobby has carved himself an enviable record on the trial field and earned himself a reputation as a masterful handler, exacting competitor, and modest mentor.
His dogs are legendary around the globe. Wisp and Dryden Joe are two whose names roll off the tongue when people are talking about ‘great’ dogs.
Another gifted dog, and the one Bobby will run at the 2011 World Sheep Dog Trials, is seven-year-old Joe. At the age of two, Joe won the supreme championship, making him one of the youngest dogs to have ever won this prestigious event.
Three years later, he won the Scottish National Championship. No dog in the history of the World Trials has ever won a national championship, a supreme championship and a world championship. Joe has a chance at this.
Nothing would be more thrilling for enthusiasts, especially in the Borders, to see a genuine Ettrick shepherd and his dog win this rare hat-trick.
Bobby is currently competing in Sweden and was unavailable for comment as we went to press, but world trials president Tim Longton says Bobby will definitely start as one of the favourites come September.
“Bobby’s a legend in the world of sheepdog trials,” he told TheSouthern. “If he and Joe win at the championships it will be a very significant occasion – they will make history.”
Fellow Scotland team member Bill Elliot, who qualified for the world championships six years ago and is a former Scotland champion, says the level of competition at the world championship is intense.
“You have the best in the world, so it’s pretty tough,” he said. “Bobby should have a good chance though, as he’s got a lot of experience at this level and it would be quite something if he and his dog win.
“We’ll all be doing our best and hoping for a good run on the day.”
Bill also pointed out that this year’s Scottish National Sheepdog Trial will be staged at Ruecastle, near Jedburgh, from August 4-6 and will take the form of a country fair, with a variety of attractions for families.