Handlers from across the country will test their dogs this weekend at the sixth annual Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge in sheep-herding tasks including fetching, driving and shud, or the separation of an individual sheep from a group.

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Handlers from across the country will test their dogs this weekend at the sixth annual Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge in sheep-herding tasks including fetching, driving and shud, or the separation of an individual sheep from a group.

Local stock dog event a 'Super Bowl' precursor

Sixth annual Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge kicks off Saturday at the Stanko Ranch

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If you go

What: Sixth annual Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 5 to 7

Where: Stanko Ranch, about 3.5 miles from Bud Werner Memorial Library on Twentymile Road (Routt County Road 33).

Cost: Free

— About 65 dogs, mostly border collies, will compete in the sixth annual Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge this weekend.

The sheep herding trial is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 5 to 7 at the Stanko Ranch, about 3 1/2 miles from Bud Werner Memorial Library on Twentymile Road. The event is free for spectators.

The dogs, whose 45 handlers will travel to Steamboat Springs from across the country, will compete in two divisions, open and intermediate, event organizer Marianne Sasak said. The dogs will fetch (bring a herd of sheep back to their handlers from several hundred yards away), drive (take a herd of sheep away), and shud (separate individual sheep from the rest of the flock).

Sasak said the dogs will be judged based on how quietly and efficiently they perform each task. This year's event will be judged by Derek Fisher, an Idaho resident and past winner of the Meeker Classic.

Sheep trials have grown in popularity, and on sunny days, Sasak said, as many as 1,000 spectators have shown up to watch on the hill that overlooks the field where the dogs perform.

"There's no other trial like that in the U.S.," she said. "That's why our trial is one of the nicest ones going."

Victoria Long, vice president of the Mountain and Plains Border Collie Association near Denver, has been coming to the Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge for years. She said the event is a tune-up for the Meeker Classic, taking place Sept. 9 to 13.

"It's the last big trial before the Super Bowl of the border collie world," she said. "That's what we call Meeker."

Long added that the Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge is a great place for handlers from across the country to practice on Colorado sheep before Meeker.

It is very common to see border collies herding sheep on ranches in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho, Long said. She said border collies, which get their names from their origins along the borders of Scotland and England, were used to herd sheep beginning more than 100 years ago.

The Stock Dog Challenge also includes activities for children, including stations where they can make butter, paint T-shirts, inspect a sheep camp, examine livestock guard dogs and see different breeds of sheep. Lunch is available each day; roasted lamb will be served between 1 and 2 p.m. Sunday. A yard sale to be benefit the Routt County 4-H Scholarship Fund is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

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