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The Stare - Border Collie At Work
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© Christine Till
Watching a working Border Collie manage stock is for many a spiritual experience, and for others a thing of wonder. This smart, intense workaholic lives for order and values employment above all else.
Their instinct to drive sheep back to their master has been helping man manage his livestock for hundreds of years. Bred for working in hill country in Scotland, Border Collies are used to gather flocks of sheep that often are scattered far from each other on hilly, rocky terrain, miles away from the shepherd. These dogs can cover as much as 100 miles in a day and get up the next morning doing it again. They are able to outrun a 200-pound ewe down the side of a mountain, get ahead of her, and turn her back, and they can gently guide a new mother and her lambs back to the barn.
The Border Collie controls the sheep with what is known as "eye". While the dog's stare and focus is a major factor in his control of his livestock, it is only a part of the overall body language of the "eye": Head down, shoulders hunched, tail carried low, each foot is placed with careful attention. Each step is quiet, and careful, eyes always 'locked' on the sheep. The Border Collie's "eye" can stop livestock in its tracks, or force it to move away as the dog approaches and balances the stock between it and the shepherd.
There is a saying: "You can't have a good flock without a good shepherd; And you can't have a good shepherd without a good dog."
September 18th, 2012
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