Posted by: brigid benson | May 15, 2012

North Wales: sheepdog sale

Language lesson

A favourite spring day out is the sale of Working and Young Sheepdogs in the mountains of North Wales. The event begins at 10am prompt, with around 50 dogs listed in the catalogue which always make good reading. Descriptions of the dogs, entered by their owners, are fascinating.

‘rides on a quad’

‘Good farm dog, English commands’

‘will make a topping farm dog’

‘Plenty of sensible power and a nice feel for sheep, good outrun and drive, excellent shed and turnback.’

‘can be seen on you-tube’

‘Voice and whistle commands’

Blue eyed girl

Along with the working dogs and young dogs in the show field, pups are available for sale from the car boots of muddy vehicles parked up in rows. I find almost all of  the these endearing and nervous balls of fluff hard to resist. The blue eyed girl was adorable but I left her behind.

Sale time on a glorious late spring morning in the Welsh mountains

Willpower is essential; there are whole litters for sale!

From a field in North Wales, some of these pups are off on an awfully big adventure

The little bitch is separated from her bigger brothers

For sale and on display in the boot of a farmer’s 4×4

The event is very much a social occasion, attended largely by men, who take time away from flocks and  lambs at the farm to catch up on news and a bit of gossip – who bought which parcel of land, who’s got their eyes on which dogs in the sale and who has splashed out on a brand new tractor…

Catching up with the latest news

The atmosphere is friendly, and the proceedings run smoothly thanks to a team of auctioneers operating from the back of a van. Most of the sale is in English though many of the locals chat with each other  in Welsh.  Dogs entered for sale have a five minute opportunity to demonstrate their ability with a small group of sheep before bidding begins. The value of the dogs is measured in guineas, not pounds – a guinea is one pound and five pence. I found it hard to follow who was bidding; the buyers are a canny lot – some of them were even bidding from the privacy cars parked around the auctioneer’s van.

There’s much pressure on the dog’s performance in front of the crowd; when they come from a line of respected working dogs big things are expected of them though it’s oftenm hard for the younger dogs to concentrate, nerves might take over and suddenly their much vaunted ability or potential is in doubt; it’s not unusual for a seller to request a re-run on such occasions. Settling the dogs, they return to the field do it all again and secure higher bids.

A grand day out for families and their faithful friends!

The sale also presents an opportunity to do a bit of shopping at small stalls selling overalls, dog food and beautifully crafted sticks. I find Brian’s work is especially desirable.

Stickmaker Brian creates these beautiful works of art in his shed

I especially like the pedigree cow, Maude, and the beautiful black Welsh Cob.

Brian’s craft is a true labour of love; he finds the  whole process demanding yet relaxing. Sticks are made with many different woods including hazel and apple and the detailed creatures gracing the top of each stick require hours of painstaking care.

The skilled auctioneers operate from their elevated spot to keep the business of the day friendly, professional and often humorous

I especially appreciate the catering van – and applaud them for their china plates and mugs – so much more environmentally friendly than throw away equivalents. The Welsh dragon plate was a neat patriotic touch!

Welsh pride and a Danish pastry

The outcome of the sales is fascinating. Of the 49 dogs entered in the sale the highest prices paid were for two 23 month old  bitches; Jess went for 4,300 guineas and Cassie went for 4,000 guineas. The value of an excellent sheepdog cannot be underestimated. I have farmer friends in Swaledale, Yorkshire who breed pedigree sheep on inhospitable terrain; they vow that they would always choose a skilled working dog over a quad bike.

Always alert: sheepdog observing proceedings in the sale ring from the back of his master’s wagon


  1. Fabulous post Brigid! I love all the photos. I can’t wait to see the new book too. Is this a teaser for something in the book, I wonder???

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