Minnesota State Fair stock dog trials: Lass vs. lamb

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Lass enjoys her working class status and wouldn’t have it any other way. A purebred, tri-color, smooth coat border collie, she was at the Minnesota State Fair stock dog trials August 28 to show the judge she knew how to round up sheep and put them in their place.

But one of the sheep, a lamb, was having nothing to do with Lass. The audience enjoyed watching the lamb outmaneuver her. But Lass wasn’t in this alone. Her owner, Claudia Mahon of Hudson, Wisconsin, was part of the competition. It was Mahon’s job to direct Lass by voice. “Lie down,” she commanded. Lass dropped to the dirt floor of the Coliseum arena waiting in anticipation.

The object of the stock dog trial competition is to handle sheep quietly, easily and confidently, always having control and directing movement of the sheep without injury of any sort. In fact, if a dog bites a sheep in a severe manner, the dog is disqualified and removed.

Superintendent JoAnna Yund said some Trial competitions use cattle or ducks. This is Yund’s 14th year as superintendent of the stock dog trials, and it’s her job to bring in the sheep and ducks for competition. She also finds the competition judge. She even writes the rules. Although Yund operates a stock dog training camp in Chisago City and owns several herding dogs, she can’t enter the competition due to overseeing the event.

“It’s regular people from around the state who enter,” said Yund. “This year we have competitors from Colorado and Wisconsin. Most of the dogs entered are Border Collies.” Other breeds at this year’s Trial were Shetland Sheepdog, Austrialian Shepherd and Kelpie, Belgian Tervuren, Rottweiler, even a Pembroke Corgi.

Stock dogs are an invaluable resource to many farmers to help move livestock. The owner and dog are partners working together. This partnership was evident at the State Fair’s stock dog competition. There are three classes: Rookie, Novice Ranch, and Pro Ranch. Lass was in the last category and needed to complete her trial in 10 minutes. The running away lamb was cutting into her time.

Mahon’s aide was a stockman’s cane. She skillfully used the cane while she commanded Lass by voice. The sheep are released into the arena and the dog performs a number of tasks. It ends when the sheep are all in the pen and the gate closes. Lass’ final points did not earn her a prize. But she did earn the audience’s admiration, which thoroughly enjoyed watching Lass vs. lamb.

Dog and sheep give each other the eye before entering the Stock Dog Trial competition at the Minnesota State Fair’s Coliseum.

(Above) Lass attempts to round up the sheep.

(Above) Stock Dogs are a resource to farmers to help move livestock.

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