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The First Continental Herding Trial

cp3Rochefort herding.jpg

The photograph above does not illustrate the trial described below, but is from around the same time,1901. Many Bouvier experts see a noted resemblance in the upper dog and believe it to be a Bouvier

The Sheepdog Trials

When all goes well nothing appeared simpler than this trial - a man walks followed by 10 sheep pursued by a dog. But this didn't always go easily and, when all went well one had to admire the composure and the presence of mind of the shepherd, and even more the wisdom, even temper and often the initiative of the dog.

On May 1 and 2, 1892, the Colley Club and the Club of the Belgian Shepherd dog, organized the first working tests of sheepherding dogs. Held at the brand new Market and Slaughterhouse of Cureghem, Brussels, streams cut through the meadows before the grandstand holding the large audience. The judges consisted of Mr. Dangis of Tinlot (Liege), president; Mr. Lousse of Obaix-Buzet; Mr. Pinte of Fexhe le Haut-Clocher (Liege), Mr. Sillekens of Anderlecht; and Mr. Wouters of Lierre. A flock of 200 sheep, crossed merino and native French from Magdeburg, raised in the sheepfold, had been supplied free of charge by Dewolf, rue Joseph Plateau, Brussels.

The young lambs proved more rambunctious and less well behaved than the sheep which had been dog trained. In this test, the dog and shepherd must move the ten sheep from the enclosure along an s-curved road six to eight meters wide, over two bridges and an earthen bank. The sheep enclosure of tight planks was located about 200 meters away and the sheep must be placed through the lattice gate into the enclosure within 10 minutes.

Penalties were applied to the team each time that it let a sheep leave the course, 2 points if two or more leave, 5 points if the dog bit an ear, 10 for biting the front foot or the throat, from 5 to 10 if he barked. Dogs which bit excessively would be disqualified from the competition. Other penalties could be applied at the judges discretion.

Lee Jiles tells us, the only dog mentioned in the article Early 20th Century Interrelationships between the Laekenois, Dutch Shepherd and Bouvier, who also participated in this herding trial, was Voss (Vos de Laeken, or Vos I), listed as #5 in the trial.

The dog named Poest/Poets here was a male, not the same as the female, Poets/ Pouts, owned by Jan-Baptiste Jansen. In this article he is listed as showing an earlier "Basoef", #4, than the one in the foregoing article, while his father, Adrien Jansen trialed Vos.

A contemporary comment from the time was, "When one sees this moving procession, the men do not need to be carrying a crook to indicate their profession. Although of different colors and with various coats, all the dogs indicate well the shepherd dog type. And we say to ourselves - but why on earth haven't all these beautiful animals been shown? They would certainly be awarded prizes! Alas! We must ward off this feeling. We have frequently noticed that animals of the same breed always seem more beautiful in a group than they really are. Does this optical effect come from looking at them with a paternal eye? Do we see only the beautiful side?"

For the trial, lots were drawn to establish the order the dogs would be competing, indicated here. Reading the descriptions, one will be struck by the descriptions of what could easily be Bouvier ancestors.

#17 Faro, of Mr. A. Thibeau of Fexhe-le-Haut-Clocher (Liege), begins. The 10 sheep are released, they crowd one against the other; the shepherd in vain commands his dog to go get them: this dog is hardly worried. After having granted him 10 long minutes, the jury excuses him from the competition, and the sheep -- which it would have been unfair to entrust to the following dog -- are driven to the other end of the course by one man and a second backs him up.

#18 Picard, of Mr. Thibeau of Voroux Goreux (Liege). It is 1:58 p.m. The dog makes a number of circles around his little flock. He appears very ardent, too ardent in proportion to the small number of sheep to drive. A sheep splits off, then two more further on. It happens again and again, resulting in 7 penalty points; he finished the course in 3 minutes.

#3 Voss, of Mr. Ferd. Willems of Forest, is a very calm old red dog. He quickly finished the course, driving the 10 sheep before him.

#9 Louis, of Mr. Guillaume Duchene, Poix (Luxembourg), a dark grey with a wire coat, begins by letting a sheep split off, another escapes and returns on its own. The dog bites it on the haunch. The dog is a little rough and panics its sheep; it lets two more split off on the way; and then a general stampede. One of the sheep is carried to the sheepfold on the back of one of the helpers.

#20 Picard, a 16-year-old shorthaired black, of Mr. Van Camp, rue de Brabant, Schaerbeek. This dog crosses behind his flock at a respectful distance. The handler must be an excellent shepherd. The whole flock goes out of bounds and the dog loses 2 points. Picard must be excellent in the fields: he has an eye on his flock. He still loses 4 points for the sheep having left the road, and brought them in in 3 minutes.

#7 Pierrot, a grey-black with long coarse hair, of Mr. J. Colasse, lnstitut de Gembloux. The dog drives his flock from behind without unduly disturbing it, the shepherd commands well. Arriving in front of a bridge, the sheep jump off the side. A little farther, they all stop. The dog makes a big spurt, the sheep scatter and return to the pen on their own.

#16 Moef, a pale red, without tail, with a woolly coat, of Mr. Verbest-Verdussen, Heyst-op-den-Berg. Moef doesn't work, loses 5 points for having barked, the sheep pass, but don't make much progress. The 10 minutes run out and the dog is excused from the competition.

#11 Paul, of Mr. Ch. Demulder, of Forest, a black dog with short hair, very lively. The sheep go to the water (2 points); they escape at a gallop and stray (2 points); the dog goes to get them. One sheep has gone very far to the top of the bank; it defends itself but Paul doesn't bite. An excellent dog; it's unfortunate that he had to deal with a crazy sheep. The flock passes several more times. Paul is good, but poorly handled; in addition, the judges take into account his having drawn the crazy sheep.

#8 Mol, brindle with short coat, of Mr. Kneepens, chausee de Wavre, Brussels. The sheep stay back, the dog fetches them: very good. Some sheep split off two times. The dog is too strong for this job, he barks; the sheep stray once again, another bark. The dog's work is irregular; the sheep go too fast because they are too pressured, Mol will not be called back [for the final competition on the following day].

#1 Poest, of Mr. J. DeSmedt, Bouchout near Anvers, a young dog with short hair, yellow-red, without tail. The shepherd goes very quickly; his dog is excessively prudent and doesn't make a single unnecessary move. In two minutes the flock is at its destination; but at the moment of passing through the gate, the dog was behind the fence of the shut sheepfold, and the sheep veer left. Two remain outside. The dog fetches them correctly; but such lost time! A very good dog and well handled.

#13 Marquis, a black without a tail, of Mr. Gust. De Mulder, chausse d' Anvers, Molenbeek. The sheep stray (2 points); the dog barks (5 points); they stray again (2 points); more barking (5 points), and the flock is repenned well, after three minutes. Adding up, we find 14 points deducted.

#6 Major, wire coat, pale reddish grey, without tail, of Mr. Ch. Duyk, rue Vesale, Brussels. The sheep cross the furrow. The dog stops on command, and goes to hide himself. Good work, beautiful penning.

#22 X, a black with short coat, of Mr. Van Bakel, Rouge Cloitre, Auderghem. The sheep do not pass through the two stakes at the entrance of the course and the dog loses 2 points, it barks (5 points). The dog is very good and quick. The repenning is accomplished in 2-1/2 minutes.

#4 Basoef, an old brindle dog with short hair, without tail, of Mr. J.-B. Janssen of Laeken. The shepherd having run the whole way, which should be taken as incorrect, repenned his sheep in 1-1/2 minutes. The dog was not very careful.

#5 Voss, a fine old pale yellow dog, handled by an old man, Mr. Adrien Janssen, the father of the previous exhibitor. The dog, very careful, works well off the stock, but always watches; approaches at once on command. It is perfect. There are three rounds of applause from the grandstand. The public demands "La Brabanconne"!

#15 Milord, 4 years, black and grey speckled with long coat, of Mr. Van Bogget, chausee d'Alsemberg 327, Uccle. Milord goes ahead of the sheep which are following well. They stop; Milord fetches them. The shepherd has a very intelligent manner, places his dog in front when the dog wasn't needed, but as soon as the sheep have to be pushed, Milord is in position. It is the right tactic. Perfect.

#12 Menneke, of Mr. Ch. De Mulder, rue du Moulin, Forest. A little brownish-black dog, with smooth hair, not much bigger than a schipperke. The same manner of handling the dog in front and at a distance. It is perfect, and there's no lack of applause from the audience.

The first round is ended. The course will be repeated tomorrow at one o'clock. The judges decided to call back nos. 18, 3, 20, 14, 1, 6, 22, 4, 5, 11, 15 and 12.

The stands begin to fill around two o'clock.

#3 begins at 2:12; he worked well and repenned his sheep in three minutes with 4 point deductions.

#14: He took the same number of minutes and received the same number of deductions; his work was passable.

#20 Picard, the old 16-year-old dog, was too quick. A sheep breaks away, then two split off two times; the dog brings them back, all very animatedly. All the flock scatters in front of the pen. Good work, but Picard had bad luck and had 9 bad points.

#6 Major, the old traveling dog with coarse coat and without a tail. The sheep are hurried, the shepherd is obliged to stop them several times with his cane; one of them splits off, escapes, and in going to get it at a distance of 100 metres the dog performs a beautiful feat. He stays always on the side, his driving is extra close at the sheepfold, but from it he has no fewer than 7 points deducted.

#4 Basoef is handled by a very shrewd shepherd, too shrewd, for yesterday he had run all the way, but the dog didn't have any faults. Today all the sheep go out of bounds; further on, one splits off. At the moment of repenning, the dog goes to hide along the fence, the flock halts, two sheep want to break away, but the old dog is alert. Basoef listens well, he worked well. The sheep are repenned in 4 minutes.

#5 The old dog Vos with his old master. The dog, whose work had been perfect the day before, goes in front, makes big turns on command and doesn't receive any deductions, but the old shepherd did not succeed in containing his own eagerness and ran three times. Now, before resuming the competition, it had been agreed to give-2 penalties each time that a shepherd did not remain at a walk. It is not permitted to run except when the flock passes by a path between two crops. In that case one must not allow the sheep the time to seize anything during the passage.

#22 The black dog with short hair which yesterday had 7 points, 5 of which were for barking, doesn't make many mistakes this time. He repens the sheep very well in 3 minutes.

#15 Milord, whose work had been perfect yesterday, again worked perfectly today. He holds himself in front and completed the course in 4-1/2 minutes.

#12 Menneke, the small black dog, is obedient and handled well. He doesn't make a single mistake. Besides, the good shepherds have the best dogs. Menneke is curious: for fear of frightening the sheep when they were driven out of the park, he begins by hiding himself behind the fence and looking through the cracks to see if he's needed.

#1 Poets [spelled "Poest" above], the yellow-red dog with short hair, who lost 4 points yesterday, works without a single fault today. He is calm and gentle.

#11 Paul, the beautiful black, has but one very small fault to his liabilities -- he has let a single sheep stray. This dog doesn't appear to work enough.

Reports from the second day felt it lacked variety, and that is understandable: one saw only the better dogs doing their job correctly. There aren't any more of those general stampedes that make the public laugh; no more sheep half-lamed, no baths, no barking, no hot tempers.
The second-day program included a demonstration, inviting the shepherd Van Bogget with his Milord to get the 110 sheep beyond the sheepfold -- not in competition, of course. Several men took out the flock. Reports state Milord gave a good show: "this animal so gentle, so careful with 10 sheep, transformed itself, grew lively, working from the head to the tail of the flock without too much biting. It was truly admirable".

The trial takes only 3-1/2 hours for all the runs to be completed. Run-offs are needed for the first and second prizes between 12 against 15, and 11 and 1 for the fourth and fifth prizes.

#12 Menneke is very careful, he doesn't make a mistake. All of the large flock passes by, the dog recovers them very well and continues well to the end. The only reproach to his work, is that he works a little too much towards the head only.

If the jury had counted up the points mechanically, Menneke would have captured them, but "all liberty is left to the judges to form their evaluation and make their decision."

Now, they find Milord by far superior to the little black dog.

#1 Poets doesn't make a mistake.

#11 Paul lets the sheep pass outside of the stakes; further on, they leave the course again.

The Jury deliberates. Two judges vote for Milord, two for Menneke, the fifth abstains. Asked to give a decision, he votes for Milord. Results: 1st-Milord; 2nd-Menneke; 3rd-Voss; 4th-Poets; 5th-Paul; 6th-Basoef.

The other contestants called back for the second day, nos. 3. 6, 14, 20 and 22, receive a diploma. Prizes of 100, 80, 60, 40, 20 F. and a certificate.

This interesting club note regarding the Trial sounds only too familiar to those accustomed to attending meetings: "The extraordinary expenses incurred on this occasion can be avoided in the future thanks to the experience gained. Moreover, we have seen from the accounts of the treasurer that the total deficit doesn't rise above 203 francs, which scarcely jeopardizes the existence of the club."

More information regarding first Continental Herding Trial, held in May 1892 in Belgium, can be found in the book, L'Historique du Berger Belge (History of the Belgian Sheepdog), by Georges Van Ceulebroeck, 1983, Concord/Imprimerie de Charleroi, Presles, Belgium. Thanks to Lee Jiles for guidance.

lambdogs contrast.JPG

This photo of unknown origin or date represents a varied line-up of herding candidates and one to be herded. Any information regarding this photo would be appreciated!

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