This account of the first continental herding trial, which was held in May 1892 in Belgium, is in the Book, L'Historique du Berger Belge (History of the Belgian Sheepdog), by Georges Van Ceulebroeck, 1983, Concord/Imprimerie de Charleroi, Presles, Belgium.
The Sheepdog Trials
The tests of working sheepherding dogs, organized by the Collie Club and the Club of the Belgian shepherd dog, took place on the 1st and 2nd of May, 1892, on the premises of the market and slaughterhouse of Cureghem, Brussels. The land, wide meadows cut by streams and banks, had been well prepared for the event. A grandstand sheltered a large audience; at the center were the judges: 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.
These lambs, much more difficult to drive than the sheep accustomed to dogs, were found enclosed by tens in a series of small pens situated toward the far end of the meadow and looking out on a triangular space defined by a plow furrow and in which a small pen was emptied for each dog. The shepherd stood at the exit of this funnel, on the road, between two stakes.
He sent his dog to get the small flock, which must accompany him on the six- to eight-meter-wide road marked by the furrows, passing in an S-curve over 2 bridges and an earthen bank, to come to the gate of a latticework enclosure leading to a sheepfold of tightly joined planks. This course of about 200 meters had to be completed in less then 10 minutes.
When all goes well, nothing appears more simple than this walk of a man followed by 10 sheep pursued by a dog.
But this doesn'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. If, in going to find his little flock, the dog does not use the greatest caution, if he frightens his sheep, it's all over.
It had been agreed to assign a penalty to the dog each time that it lets 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. For the remainder (irregularities in the way of going, eccentric gait, etc.), the judges would decide.
All is ready. The shepherds advance, their dogs on leash; they cross the plain and go to hide behind the fence concealing the penned sheep. It is the right moment to take a photo.
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?
Always, it is that individuals in a group of very similar animals become more difficult to examine in detail and that finally one does not find one single type to be proposed as an ideal.
The dogs compete in the order indicated by drawing lots.
#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.
#2 N., of Mr. Fr. Nelis, Contich, did not compete.
#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 9-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 porly 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, 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.
#10 Bless, a grey with long coarse coat, of Mr. Willem Delaet, Dilbeek. The sheep stray, Bless goes to get them, making a large curve; he circles them yet three more times. A sheep tumbles into a brook, two men extract it covered with slime, the other sheep mingle with the public around the grandstand. The dog does not appear worried about it; the dog is removed.
#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.
#19 Mure, black dog, of Mr. Van Geel, Brussels. The sheep run toward the town, the dog pursues them but does not bring them back; one of them is lost. Naturally, this dog will not be called back [for the next day's competition].
#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.
#25 X, a large black and white dog with woolly coat, of Mr. Alph. Lacasse of Ochain. It lets the sheep stray two times, barks two times. This dog, rather grippy and excessively lively, is a little young and by far much too fiery for 10 sheep. He would be excellent for driving a flock of 200-300 head every day.
#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"!
#11 Paul, black with long soft coat, with an admirable beauty in action. He has the elegance of the collie. He knows how to inspire confidence in his sheep. He comes too far in front; the shepherd commands him to get back. Very good.
#24 Nette, very small black and white bitch, of Mr. Jacques Kneepkens, chausee de Louvain, Schaerbeek. From the beginning, the little bitch works too close and frightens her sheep; they take off too quickly; the dog comes too near and in front. Some sheep split off -- once, twice; the dog barks, three times. Useless to continue counting up the point deductions.
#15 Milord, 4 years, black and grey speckled [probably blue merle] 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.
Second Day The stands begin to fill toward 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-yead-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 travelling 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 Voss 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 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.
The tests of the second day 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 judges have included, and to make a diversion, that as it was only 3-1/2 hours [for all the runs to be completed], the jury has invited the shepherd Van Bogget with his Milord to get the 110 sheep beyond the sheepfold -- not in competition, of course. It takes several men to take out the flock. A steward suggests having the dog enter. Unanimous protests from the judges. What! Never, but never, does one let a dog enter a pen of sheep. Milord gave us 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.
It remains to see nos. 12 against 15 for the first and second prizes; nos. 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.
A subsequent section in L'Historique du Berger Belge contains additional comments on the above trial, included in an account of activities of the Belgian Sheepdog Club:
The club, in cooperation with the Colley Club, has organized a great exposition on the premises of the new slaugherhouse of Curaghem. More than that, to the two clubs united falls by right the honor of having organized the first trials of sheepdogs on the continent. The dogs driving the flocks were judged by specialists coming from all parts of the country. The contestants were all professional shepherds. The president hopes that at the next trials the public will see equally the dogs of amateurs. If their success has been very great, the financial results have been far from satisfactory. The extraordinary expenses made 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.
The judges of the club have functioned once again to the arrangements of the Schipperke Club. The new trials, whose program is under consideration, are to be organized at Spa, under the patronage of the Royal St. Hubert Society [Belgian Kennel Club].
In a following section, the author of the book comments: "It appears to me interesting to publish two articles that discuss the driving of sheep by sheepdogs, inasmuch as this activity has disappeared nowadays, or nearly," and under the heading, "Sheepdog trials (1)", more of the old account is reprinted:
The trials of sheepdogs are soon going to be generalized on the continent. Brussels has set a good example. Lyon will follow suit next July, the Phylax society will not remain inactive in Germany. The work of dogs will vary according to the customs of each country, but the principles will remain the same. It will be interesting then to investigate in what different ways this useful and inoffensive sport is practiced in England . . . [Then follows a description of British trials, with three "Mountain" sheep being worked over the familiar ISDS type of course]. Under the next heading, "Sheepdog Trials (2):
We were saying not long ago that after Brussels the first trials of shepherd dogs on the continent will take place in Bordeaux, under the patronage of the Society of courses of Bonneterre. We have learned to our great regret that, for particular reasons, the competition committee had decided to put back to the next year their international canine exposition, and consequently their trials of shepherd dogs.
The probabilities are therefore that after the trials of Brussels will follow those of Spa next August.
Meanwhile we continue to investigate the different manners of working the dogs. That which follows is drawn from "Stock Keeper" by Geo. F. B., Somerset near Derby [then follow comments on British trialling taken from "Stock Keeper", which include the comment that the only sheep suitable for trials are the "wild" sheep of Wales and Scotland, and it is noted with regard to sheep that the Scottish and Welsh sheep are much more manageable than "ours"(that is, English) of long wool; a dog must be rougher and more enterprising with these, the ewes and the lambs above all demand to be pushed.]
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