Border Collies and Sheepherding

If you’re looking for a fun free family activity this weekend within a couple hours drive of CU, discover sheepherding. It's a great spectator sport! The Land of Lincoln Border Collie Association is holding a Sheep Dog Trial at Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe, Illinois.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, my husband and I are members of this club, as we own border collies that compete in this sport.)

Can’t travel?  Stock owners have long partnered with their herding dogs in their daily work, using their dogs’ natural talents and instincts. Competitive sheepherding is a quirky dog sport that’s developed to test dogs’ skills and abilities. There are a number of different herding breeds—German Shepherd Dogs, Australian Shepherds, Old English Sheepdogs, to  name a few—but the premiere, most obsessed herding breed is the Border Collie. The Urbana Free Library owns several films featuring Border Collies and the work they do. Here are some to get you started.

Away To Me follows three international sheepherding champions (from South Africa, Canada and the U.S.) competing in the Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Championship, one of the premier sheepdog trials in the world, held annually outside Park City, Utah. This documentary is an excellent overview of the sport. One of the special features is the run of the winning dog & handler team, with voiceovers explaining the different parts of the competition, and how the dog is scored.


Sweetgrass, a visually stunning pastoral documentary, features cowboy shepherds and their flocks, wending their ways through Montana mountains to their summer pastures.


And, just for fun, who can forget the valiant pig in Babe, who loves his flock and just wants to be a sheep-pig. In the grand finale, he herds his sheep better than the competing border collies, and wins the competition. (Sheepherding folks will tell you Babe’s technique could use some work, but heck, he got the job done!)


Find these films, plus tons of other dog-related books and movies, at The Urbana Free Library.

Need help? Contact the librarians at 217-367-4405, or email

mary wt