Dogs, sheep, and farmers at work

The Waimate Dog Trial Club has run its much-loved rural event for over a century in Waimate District. Farmers and their border collies and huntaways pit their skills against the cunning sheep and vie for prizes for getting the sheep yarded in the best time.


The hillsides are steep, and the variables are many - weather, fences, and temperament all play their part.

The dogs’ names, and the lingo that farmers use to speak to them, are legendary, and some are poetic, like Tokarahi Rose; popular names repeated over the years are Gem, Bruce, Roam, and Bully. 

The language of the trialists includes the commands ‘waylego’, ‘get away back’, and ‘come in, Bruce’. Sometimes it’s more colourful!

In the background, the women of the district spent days preparing food for the event. The menus of the 1960s are an insight on fantastic old-school catering: Morning tea was sandwiches, scones and pikelets; lunch was cold meat and salad, or mince and vegetables, or a stew, and lots of homemade pickles and preserves; afternoon tea was sandwiches and cake. There were endless cups of tea, and stronger refreshments later in the day, with lemonade for the ‘ladies’ and the children.

The event is smaller these days, as milk production is the main rural occupation on farms. However, the club trials, dinner and social are still a big event on the rural calendar.

Author and historian John Foley put it this way in his book ‘A Noble Pursuit’, celebrating a century of the club:

‘Bonded by an attachment to the land, sheep and dogs, members have met year by year to give practical expression to the breeding, training and running of sheep dogs.

‘Along the way they established a remarkable record of loyalty and family alliance to the club, an unspoken duty of generations to take up membership, to compete and support the trials.

‘Their club founded by the pioneers, endured war years, influenza, depression, floods and droughts, and through the years helped provide the fabric on which the community and district developed.’

Contact: Lucy Cameron (secretary) 03 689 3882
Waimate Dog Trial Club, Elephant Hill Road

Kate O'Connell