Extensive livestock is a breeding modality in which animals move through a natural area in search of pastures to feed on. This practice is usually carried out with native species (in our case sheep, cows or horses), and from natural resources management point of view, it is the most respectful with the environment.
But its productivity is low compare with intensive farms and its future viability is not very hopeful.
Fortunately, is still possible to find in the fields herds led by a shepherd, and accompanied by dogs that collaborate in their guidance.
As a result of the competitive spirit of men, over the years, competitions have been organized in historic grazing areas. An example of these has been carried out for 36 years in the Pyrenean village of Osseja, with the objective of all of them to give recognition to the best shepherd-dog binomial.
In our days these contests have also become a kind of arts and crafts exhibition, and in this sense, some shepherds take the opportunity to appear dressed in the traditional way.
In this year’s Osseja edition, 12 pastors participated. The contest consisted of two phases. In the first one, the 4 best ones were classified, and in the second the winner was decided. In both phases, exercises were carried out at the request of an expert jury, which would assess the actions.
In this type of competitions the jurors reward the ability of dogs to interpret the orders of their shepherd, as well as their effectiveness in carrying them out, getting the flock to move in a controlled manner and without disintegration of its members.
A fundamental element in these contests is the flock. Normally formed by a group of 10 sheep, and that is changed for the performance of each dog.
The control of the slice is established through a game of predation in which the dog adopts hunter forms, intimidating the group, and thereby making him move at will.
Especially important is the rapport between shepherd and dog. The communication of the orders is established by whistles, gestures and voices.
The shepherds who communicate by whistling, use a whistle that allow them to generate different types of sounds through blows and aspirations of different durations, wich correspond to the instructions for the dog.
The breed of dog that could be mostly seen was the border collie. With the only exception of this beautiful basque shepherd dog.
The border collie breed comes from the United Kingdom and is considered the best for sheep grazing. They are extraordinarily intelligent dogs and able to respond immediately to the instructions they receive.
One of the typical exercises consist in the dog approaching the herd to the shepherd in a way that allows him to catch one of the sheep.
Another tipical exercise consists in the dog getting the flock into a fence.
It is really nice to see, if you have the possibility to see any of these contests, do not miss the opportunity. For sure you will not be disappointed.