Border Collies Heed Commands At BCSA National Trial

Border Collies Heed Commands Hero

With fixed, steely stares, Border Collies athletically maneuvered ducks and sheep to earn points toward titles at the Border Collie Society of America (BCSA) National Specialty Herding Trial held at Purina Farms in Gray Summit, Missouri. The early September sun crept over the horizon as the cool morning gave way to a hot, humid afternoon, which didn't seem to hinder the energetic and disciplined breed that controlled the livestock with endless moxie.

Over three days, 438 Border Collies from 23 states, nearly 200 more entries than last year, some as young as 9 months old, were judged on how well they worked stock under a handler’s commands. “Herding trials are an intensely competitive sport in which the handler and dog must be in sync,” says herding trial judge Jan Wesen of Bow, Washington. “This team sport judges how a dog obeys the handler’s commands to control the livestock through the course. Of the 41 breeds eligible to compete in herding trials, Border Collies make it look the easiest.”

The BCSA herding trial challenged the dog-handler teams as they moved ducks and sheep in started, intermediate and advanced classes on the fenced A course and the open B course. With only 10 minutes allowed, handlers shouted commands or used hand signals, depending on the class, to initiate the dogs’ work gathering the stock into a group and the lift, or movement, toward the fetch, or handler. Along the way, each course had obstacles — gates, chutes and pens — that had to be performed in a specific order and manner.

“Herding taps into the primal drive of a Border Collie. They are born to work, but knowing how to properly harness their drive and off switch requires a dedicated handler and total cooperation from both sides,” says BCSA herding trial secretary Lisa Pruka of Rockton, Illinois. On day two of the trial, Pruka handled her 8-year-old black tricolor male, Czechmate Charismatic CD RN HSAds HSBd HIAds NAJ, to finish the HIAd (Herding Intermediate Course A Ducks) title.

“There is no perfect run,” says Purina Farms site coordinator Diane Bettis, a 10-year veteran of herding trials. “There are many components involved in doing well in this sport. Competing is a humbling experience that truly tests you and your dog’s ability and relationship. But, that’s the fun part and why we do it.” 

Located about one hour from St. Louis in Gray Summit, Missouri, Purina Farms is home to the Purina Event Center and outdoor fields used for herding, lure coursing, earthdog trials, and outdoor dog shows.  For information, please contact Kaite Flamm, Purina Farms Senior Manager of Programming, at 888-688-PETS (888-688-7387) or by email at