“And what is the test of their cleverness to which these shepherd-dogs have to submit?”
“You will soon see,” said my friend; “but roughly speaking, each dog has to drive three mountain sheep for a distance of about three-quarters of a mile over the broken ground of a steepish fell-side, round certain flags, and between others, and so into a pen or fold within a certain time; the time-limit to-day will, I think, be fifteen minutes. Of course, the dog in that time covers much more than a mile of ground. The shepherd stands in one place to give his directions to the dog by whistle or word or movement of his arm, and only leaves his position when the dog has brought the sheep down to the pen. The dog’s master is allowed to help the dog to do the actual ‘penning’ of course, otherwise the collie is unassisted.” (p. 135)….
[We] see a man chalk on a black board the words “Special,” and the number 8. We learn from a programme-card, which we get from a lad who is carrying them for sale, that this means: That the next dog trial will be made by Watch, black, white and tan, aged two years, belonging to William Allan, of Mill Riggs, who is No. 8 upon the list. Now looking across to the enclosure on the hillside opposite, we see a man emerge from a small tent, drop a flag, and at the same moment we see another man open a small pen 100 yards away and loose three sheep, while “Watch” springs up the fellside towards them and to the sound of a shrill sharp whistle, lies down—almost as if shot dead—and waits till his master shouts his next word of command. (p. 138)
Then began the most interesting sight it had been my lot to see for many a long day. There stood the solitary dark figure of the shepherd, and far away, up the Fellside’s breast, the mountain sheep went scampering; they separated and flew left and right, but the clever dog collected them at once. “Ga away hint,” shouted the shepherd, and the dog dashed back behind them; “Ga awa’ by!” and he sprang on in front. Then the shepherd whistled a chirrupy kind of sustained whistle, and the dog drove the sheep leisurely onward straight ahead. The whistle became more shrill and fierce, and the dog pressed the sheep more fiercely forward; the whistle was suddenly sharp and shrill and short, and instantly the dog fell to the ground and waited for further instructions. Sometimes the wind which was blowing freshly in the wrong direction quite forbade the voice of the shepherd or his whistle’s note to reach his listening and obedient servant. And it made one glow with pleasure to realize the intelligence of the four-footed friend of man, as one noted how at once the dog scampered off to a rising knoll to get sight of his master, and to watch for the lifting of his hand or the movement of his feet. For the shepherd just walked two or three paces in one direction and at once the collie knew his wishes, and went off up the hill in a similar direction, or the shepherd waved with his hands in another direction and the collie flew in answer to the point of the compass indicated. The sheep were thus swiftly but certainly driven round a distant flag upon the Fellside and brought down at a fine scamper over heather and rock, towards the lower ground. Now they would stand stock-still, for “Watch” had gone off for a drink at a beck; now they would walk leisurely forward. Ah, but they have missed the flag post, and have come just a yard this side of it! The shepherd sees, gives his pantomimic signs and pipes his shrill command; the dog heads them in a moment and takes them back and round the flag and sends them scurrying homeward. The interest of the spectator increases, for “Watch” has got five minutes to spare yet, and he must bring them along the level and drive the sheep to the pen, but this time he has got to bring them through a couple of flags, set only 12 yards apart. On the sheep come at a rattle, but the shepherd knows that, if they are hurried, it is ten chances to one they will take fright at the flags and swerve; so he sends a shout to his dog, and for the nonce the collie is as good as dead. The sheep come on unattended, and, as it were, walk naturally along the sharp track that gives guidance to the double flags. Then when they are evidently halting between two opinions, as to whether they shall come on through, or turn aside, a long fierce whistle is heard, and “Watch” springs out of the ground, as it were, gives the woolly travellers just the necessary shove forward, and so brings them safe between the flags and on to the little pen upon the mountain side. (pp. 139-141)
The crowd break out into applause, but “Watch” neither heeds nor cares, for now his real work begins. He has to play a game of hide-and-seek with these three mountain sheep, who are lovers of their hillside liberty, and are as determined as “Herdwicks” can be, that they will not enter their prison walls of hurdle to-day. He is to be helped in this game by his master, who comes running down to meet the sheep and begins to “how” them to the fold. (p. 141)
There they stand stock-still, before the door of the pen. “Watch” lies low on the far side, and the shepherd slowly moves, hat in hand, on the near side. Another three feet forward and the day is won. Another two feet! Ah, but the sheep seem to know their game is a waiting one; the fifteen minutes will soon be up, and with a spring they dash past the pen door and are off to the Fell. At that moment up springs “Watch” as if by magic, full in front of their noses, and back they come driven round and round the pen, till for sheer exhaustion they stand panting where they stood before, and again “Watch” retires and falls from sight into heather near by. But this time he has changed his position, and lies in wait just in the opposite direction; again the sheep break and again they are confronted. The hydra-headed watch-dog is too much for the silly noodles of the poor perplexed “Herdwicks,” and what with the dog in front and the master behind, and escape only possible by entry through the open door, they at length make virtue of necessity, and, on the last stroke of the fifteen minutes allowed, the sheep are safely penned, and the whole hillside of interested spectators breaks into a roar of praise and acclamation. (pp. 141-142)
(Life and Nature at the English Lakes, pp. 132-145)