Northland gained a new national champion after Kaiwaka’s Duncan Gilligan and Dodge won the Handy Dog title at the Tux Yarding Challenge finals held in the South Island recently.
The win was significant for two reasons. Firstly it’s the first win in this competition for a Northlander and secondly, while Duncan is no newcomer to the sport, Dodge is only two-and-a-half years-old and still in his first year trialling.
Though man and dog have honed their skills on 10,000 acres of Oneriri Station, competition work is quite a bit different from the daily farm routine.
“He’s always shown a bit of aptitude,” says Duncan “but went pretty ordinary in his first run at Kaitaia some months ago.”
However the big huntaway proved to be a fast learner performing well at the Kaiwaka trials, then finishing second in the North Island Champs at Taumaranui against a dozen other dogs from various centres.
On to the Nationals at Gore where the top three from both islands were put through their paces working sheep through a drenching race, drafting, loading onto a truck and pushed over hurdles as well as barking on command.
Concentration is high not only between man and dog but also keeping in mind the unpredictabity of sheep.
“One minor hiccup,” says Duncan “but Dodge did the job well and we’re proud of him and the hospitality of the southern people is great.”
His winning score of 98.5 bears this out.
The goal will be to return to defend his title next year but the immediate task will be to adapt to hill trials which shouldn’t be too big a job for a huntaway though Duncan says his mate can head pretty well too which makes him a good allrounder.
Duncan and Dodge are just one more pair joining a long list of Northland triallists who have won National titles over the years.
HANDY DOG: Duncan Gilligan and Dodge, who is in his first year of trialling.