Over the weekend, hundreds of people gathered at the annual Mendocino County Fair and Apple Show to watch the sheepdog trials. The herding event is a competitive dog sport that began in the 1860s in New Zealand. Highly trained herding dogs move sheep around a field, fences, gates, or enclosures as directed by their handlers. There is a specific type of sheepdog trial unique to the Redwood Empire region of Northern California, developed by ranchers in the 1940s because of the area’s rough terrain.
In Boonville, the sheepdog trials take place in a football field at the county fairgrounds. There are four obstacles on the 100-yard grassy arena: a square pen, two gates side-by-side with a six foot gap between them, and something that looks kind of like a large plywood funnel, where the sheep have to squeeze through a solid chute that’s 18 inches wide. Many dogs fail to get the sheep to enter the funnel and pass single file through the dark chute.
There were eight contestants in the trial. An eliminations trial took place prior to the event, and the top eight got to come to the fair. Donna Beebe won the Mendocino Sheepdog Trials on Sunday.
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