Kiwis flock to see NZ Sheep Dog Trial Championships

A couple of generations back Kiwis would flock to their living rooms to watch one of the biggest spectacles on TV: sheep.

A Dog's Show might have wrapped in 1992, but the New Zealand Sheep Dog Trial Championships are still going strong, with competitors getting in behind it all this week.

The event is taking place just north of the Waikaka in Southland, and The Project went along to see what it takes to be the top dog in 2021.

"This is where we all put each other to the test and see who's going to be the winner at the end of the day," Phoebe Smailes, who is entering with her dog Buttercup, told The Project.

"I went to my first championship when I was 14 with Buttercup's mother, Sage. So that was my first championship I had ever been to and this is my third championship now."

Grant 'Disaster' McMaster, a past president of NZ Sheep Dog Trial Championships, says with 500 dogs, 300 competitors and around 1000 sheep per course "it's a big event".

"This is what farming people do. You need good dogs to look after your stock and this is just some way of showing how we can do that," he says.

Mervyn Gutschlad, secretary of the Greenvale Dog Trial Club, says the competition has a long and proud tradition.

"We've been going since 1932, my father was a founding member, and the courses have got better and better over the years, so this is coming up to nearly 90 years we've been running."

And despite the fierce competition, Smailes says the most important thing of all is to have fun.

"We all have a beer and a laugh at the end of the day, it's a real good social event," she says. 

"But it is where the best go against the best and at the end of the day there's going to be four real happy people and 24 other pretty damn satisfied people.

"Everyone will have highs and lows, but at the end of the day it is a competition but we all love each other at the end of it."