Quest for Fiber: A New Tradition in Herding Sheep

Quest for Fiber:

A New Tradition in Herding Sheep

 I guess this falls into the “Quest for Fiber” category…I was certainly following behind a bunch of fiber on the hoof today!

Since I arrived in the English Yorkshires two days ago, I have been hoping to see some sheep dogs working on a real farm. I have seen them at sheep dog trials, but never in real life herding a large flock. I got my chance today. I was taking a walk through Wensleydale on a little lane between fences and stone walls. Ahead a lane came in from the right, and racing around the corner was what looked like a reasonable-size flock of sheep.

Flock of sheep on the road

Fortunately they turned up the road away from me. I watched as more and more poured after them.

Flock of sheep

I could hear a tractor in the distance approaching behind them. I was kind of disappointed…no sheep dogs. I waited so I would not interfere with the herding and was rewarded with a dog following behind the tractor. I decided, that since the farmer now had a tractor, the dog must be retired. So sad for him with nothing meaningful to do. Every once in a while, the farmer would yell for the dog to catch up.

Man herding sheep on a tractor

But then, the sheep came to a wide place in the road and as they spread out, the dog went to work. It would have been easy for the sheep to linger and then slip behind the tractor. The dog’s job was to prevent that and he knew exactly what to do. The farmer only occasionally had to give him direction; the dog zig-zagged behind the tractor making sure there were no slackers.

Man herding sheep on a tractor
Man herding sheep on a tractor

Most of the sheep seemed to know when to turn into the new pasture, but some continued on past the gate. The farmer stopped his tractor and sent the dog up around the sheep and soon, they ran back down and into the right gate.

The farmer signaled the dog and he jumped up on the back off the tractor. His job was done—he got a ride home!

Farmer with his sheep dog on the back of the tractor

Here he is in action!


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