New Zealand has emerged victorious in the battle of the sheepdogs, edging out the Australians in the historic Trans-Tasman Test Series.
The NZ team regained the coveted Wayleggo Cup in the hotly contested Purina Pro Plan Trans-Tasman sheep dog trial test series hosted by the Ashburton A&P Association at the weekend.
The event had NZ’s four most talented sheepdogs and handlers taking on their Australian counterparts, vying for supremacy in the two-test series, the Kiwis tallying 642 points across the two days to take out a convincing win, 84 points ahead of the Aussies.
Each team was made up of four competitors and their heading dogs, along with one judge from each country.
Kiwis have now won 22 of the 36 matches since the competition’s inception in 1985.
NZ Sheep Dog Trial Association president Pat Coogan said the annual sheep dog trials are always keenly contested, and only the best of the best heading dogs get to compete for NZ against Australia.
“It’s been a fabulous few days in a wonderful atmosphere. It’s always great hosting the Aussies and we always get such good support,” Coogan said.
Showcasing the sport at the highest level, the competition is conducted over a special course developed with its own rules specifically for the competition.
“It’s a mix of both NZ and Australian rules, making this a unique event.
“It was hard fought, so obviously great to get the win in the end. But, more than anything, it’s been about the sport. “We’ve all enjoyed the skills masterclass that both dogs and competitors have given us from both sides of the Tasman.”
Coogan said it is pleasing to note that the sport is growing in NZ.
“We are getting a lot more younger people, a lot more women, and they are very good; very, very competitive.”
The NZ team this year had three new faces – Brian Dickison with Jake from Southland; Leo Jecentho and Tess, Waikato, and Ian Stevenson and Zac, Canterbury.
Stalwart contender Neil Evans and Tess from Canterbury headed the Kiwis with Coogan the team manager and NZ representative judge.
The 2023 Australian team was captained by Stefan Cross and Echo Park Lady from South Australia with team members Pip Flower and Flowers Fang, New South Wales; Peter Oxley and Rivlin Caesar, NSW; Tom Joyce and Oakdowns Sammy, South Australia, with team manager and judge Michael Grant, the immediate past president of the Australian Sheepdog Workers Association.
“Thanks go to Ashburton for hosting the event in such an efficient and professional manner. Bring on next year,” Coogan said.
The 2024 test will be hosted in Geelong, Australia, in early September.
The NZ team to defend the prestigious Wayleggo Cup in Australia will be selected following the NZ sheep dog championships to be held in Taranaki in May next year.
With sheep and beef farming a backbone of NZ’s economy and lifestyle, sheep dogs play a crucial role, with more than 180,000 working dogs across the country.
Key event sponsor Nestlé Purina head of marketing NZ Mark White said it was great to see the Kiwis come away with the win in the Purina Pro Plan Test Series.
Dog trialling has a rich history in New Zealand, and Tux has been the principal sponsor for over 55 years.
“In 2019 we introduced Kiwi farmers to our Pro Plan performance range, and it’s a natural fit for the brand to lend its name to this prestigious international test competition.”
Last year, leading animal health solutions company Elanco NZ jumped on board to also support the Trans-Tasman test team.
Elanco Pet Health sales and marketing manager Richard Wilson said Elanco products protect the health of both livestock and working dogs in NZ.
“Our relationship with the NZ sheep dog trials association and our support for the Trans-Tasman test team is a perfect fit. We are delighted with the victory,” Wilson said.