Sheep are part of the herding dog’s life. Ornery Sheep were on display at the 2023 Sheep Herding Trials in the Wood River Valley of Idaho last weekend.
The Trailing of the Sheep Festival draws 25,000+ people each year. It is considered by many organizations and publications (National Geographic, USA Today, Forbes, Travel Channel, MSN) to be one of the 10 best fall festivals in the United States. The 2023 Festival, held in early October was its 37th. A link to the festival’s website is located [here].
My favorite event is the Sheep Herding Trial. Dogs and their handlers travel from all over North America to compete in the event. The sheep are locals. They spend the summer in the Pioneer mountains of Idaho. The sheep are members of the Peavey family and Flat Top Ranch. John and Diane Peavey founded the The Trailing of the Sheep Festival. A link to the Flat Top Ranch’s Facebook page is located [here].
I cannot prove it, but I almost certain the sheep train all summer for this event using the Peavey’s extensive Playbook. For 2023, the sheep were as ornery as ever. During the middle of the afternoon on Saturday’s trials two straight sets of sheep (4) stopped the herding dog “cold” at the start of the run. Each time the dog and handler effectively threw up their hands, and paws recording 0 Points and a No Start.
For more on the Trials a link is located [here].
*** Jeff’s Thoughts and Other Worthless Trivia ***
Linda and I have attended the Trailing of the Sheep since its inception 37 years ago. The Trailing of the Sheep Festival, and the fall-time weather in the the Wood and Salmon River valley’s keep us in Idaho.
The Border Collie is the principle herding dog of sheep. The Great Pyrenees is the principle guard dog of sheep. It should be noted, the best Weekly newspaper (recognized for many years running) in the United States is the Idaho Mountain Express of Ketchum Idaho. What a luxury for local readers. A story about the Great Pyrenees in the IME, is located [here].
The material change in population in the Wood River Valley and its related home development (and its implication) is best demonstrated by the location and size of the course for the dog trials. The courses at Cutters and Quigley canyon were 600+ yards long and surrounded by sage brush, hillsides, and mountains that were un blemished. The course appeared to be pristine, with all other aspects of operations hidden from view from the patrons.
The current course (on state land) is located on Buttercup Road just south of the Valley Club. The course – at 400 yards is okay. The Festival does a solid job putting on the event.
However, to me at least, the event feels cramped and similar to any other outing for the masses engineered in the 21st century. With the crowd on top of each other, vendors out the ying-yang, trailers, dumpsters, toilets, and a nearby country club in full view, the majesty of the event is gone. It used to feel natural, located and put on by a unique and small mountain community. In short – special. For good or bad, right or wrong, this no loner feels the case.