ONLINE WORKING SHEEPDOGS - WED 15TH/THURS JULY 2020

Two new world record prices for young dogs set at Skipton’s first virtual online sale Kevin Evans’ Eve first lady on price at £12,550 Not one, but two new world-record prices for working sheep dogs at an official sale have again been established at Skipton Auction Mart – this time a staggering £12,000 for a dog under one-year-old, along with a heady £2,350 for an unbroken five-month-old pup


 

The first fell to Tynygraig Jet, a fully home-bred black and white bitch just ten-months-old -  so actually little more than a pup herself - from Welshman Dewi Jenkins, of Tal-y-bont in Ceredigion, the second to Jim, a black and white pup from Irishman, Donal Mullaney, of Letterkenny in Co. Donegal.

Both were selling their charges online at what was the North Yorkshire venue’s first-ever virtual timed two-day working sheep dog sale with real-time viewing, along with a live pre-sale conference facility. (Wed & Thurs, July 15 & 16)

The high-flying Jet shattered the previous centre record price of £7,035 for a Skipton-sold dog under 12 months. Also thought to be a world record at the time, it was set at the Spring 2018 sale by another well-bred bitch from Lancastrian Tony Birkett, of Carnforth.

Mr Jenkins, who for the past several years has produced some of the country’s most sought-after and top-selling working sheep dogs, many sold through Skipton, set the new world record price for a dog so young with his sole entry, who was reared by long-time partner Sara Lewis.

Tynygraig Jet is a daughter of Kemi Taff, sold by Mr Jenkins for top price of £7,980 at Bala last October, out of Fly, a full sister to his main stud dog Jock, who has been responsible for several other high price dogs, and with whom Mr Jenkins will be represented at next year’s rearranged World Sheep Dog Trials at Castle Howard Estate, near York. He is Welsh team captain.

Jet’s buyer was Philip Wood, who farms some 2,700 acres in partnership with his younger brother Michael and their respective families in the rolling Shropshire Hills AONB at Kinnerton Hall Farm, bang on the Welsh borders south of Shrewsbury.

His new acquisition will be used solely as a work dog on a mixed flock of up to 4,000 breeding ewes, among them ever-popular North of England Mules, along with a commercial suckler herd comprising some 480 beef breeding cattle. In fact, Mr Wood and his wife, Sue, had made a pre-sale journey purposely to see Mr Jenkins putting Jet through her paces at home.

Mightily impressed, both said they were determined to have her – and were over the moon when that dream became reality: “She’s a lovely bitch. In fact, we are convinced she found us because when we went to see her she actually jumped in our vehicle. Dewi said she had never done anything like that before!” said Mrs Wood.

Jet was bought as an eventual replacement for Mr Wood’s current ten-year-old work dog, Jeff. He also has an affinity with Skipton through another dog, Joe, bought there a dozen years ago, though now 14-years-old and relaxing at home in well-earned retirement. “All our dogs are part of the family,” added Mr Wood.

The previous centre record price at Skipton for an unbroken pup, also thought to be a world record at the time, was the £2,100 achieved in 2017 by an eight-month-old from one of the most recognised names in the working sheep dog world, Cotswolds farm manager and top triallist Dick Roper.

Three years later, it was bettered by Mr Mullaney’s record-breaking £2,350 Jim, who is by fellow Irishman Martin Feeney’s renowned trials dog Jack, a multiple Open trials winner, semi-finalist in the both the 2014 and 2017 World Sheep Dog Trials, finalist in two Supreme trials and placed in the Irish National team on no less than seven occasions.

Out of Mr Mullaney’s own Queen, herself a daughter of another Irish breeder Pat Byrne Lad, Jim was purchased by Stirling’s Jack Shaw on behalf of his good friend and fellow shepherd Kenneth Woods, of Witches Craig.

Both work as shepherds at Dumyat Farm in the Ochill Hills, though Mr Woods, having turned 60, says he is now enyoying semi-retirement and while using his new acquisition on the farm’s Scottish Blackface ewes,  he is also looking forward to resuming trialling with the highly promising Jim. Mr Woods has not trialled for some 20 years due to past work commitments, though he has twice represented the Scottish National team.

Mr Shaw himself bought another young unbroken Irish-bred dog, Roy, aged just seven months, from Co. Donegal’s M McHugh, though he picked up the promising all-rounder, whose sire finished third in the All Ireland Nursery final, for just £650.

Skipton is widely regarded as the UK’s leading working sheep dog sales venue, regularly achieving astronomical prices. At this year’s opening sale in February – the last before lockdown - Northumberland shepherdess Emma Gray set a new world price of £18,900 with her two-and-a-half-year-old black and white bitch, Megan,

However, at a more recent online sale in Wales, the virtual hammer fell at £18,525 for a black-and-white bitch owned by Brecon triallist David Evans, claimed once a 5% buyer’s premium was added – a procedure not adopted at Skipton - as a new world record price of £19,451.

Back at Skipton’s latest virtual sale, taking top call on day one and in the entire sale at £12,550 was Eve, one of two well-bred fully broken bitches from another renowned Welsh handler and triallist, Kevin Evans, who is based at Modrydd, Brecon, in Powys.

His 18-month-old Eve is by Mr Evans’ own Derwen Doug, a European Nursery Champion and dual Welsh and International Brace Champion, out of fellow Welsh breeder Andrew Green’s Preseli Queen, a full sister to Preseli Ci, twice International Supreme Champion in the hands of Mr Evans in 2016 and 2018.

The first lady both by name and on price fell to Carol Mellin, a familiar face at Skipton, who was buying Eve on behalf of her partner Colin Townson. The couple farm above Oakworth in West Yorkshire, running Swaledale and Herdwick hill sheep flocks on a mix of pasture, meadow and moorland rising from 1,000-1,500ft.

For many years, Carol has bred and trialled working dogs under the Moor Lodge prefix, having competed successfully at both national and international level. Her main dog, Moor Lodge Ben, an excellent work/trial dog, is, in fact, used to marshall the sheep at Skipton’s ‘live’ working sheep dog sales.

While partner Colin has only been trialling for a couple of years, he has high hopes that he may be able to progress to bigger and better things with Eve, who is seen as an excellent nursery prospect - ‘fingers crossed!’ he commented.

Mr Evans took his day’s earnings to almost £23,000 when his second dog, the two-year-old Kemi Floss, also sold well at third top call of £10,200. She is fully home-bred, being by Mr Evans’ Hybeck Blake, a Supreme Champion, out of his own Knockmaa Bec, herself an International Brace Champion.

Floss was bought by an American bidder, Dr Karen Thompson, a retired theologian from New Kent County in Virginia who has been working, training, and breeding Border Collies for more than 38 years. She has previously imported well-bred working dogs from Mr Evans for her Thompson’s Border Collies Farms, which is also home to Dorper hair, wool sheep and percentage Boer goats.

Dr Thompson, herself a well-known triallist in the 1970s and 1980s, served on the board of directors of the North American Sheepdogs, which eventually became The American International Sheepdog Society and now the American Border Collie Association. She is also a founding member of the Virginia Border Collie Association, herself staring the Virginia Statefair Sheepdogs Trials in 1979, which has in recent years evolved in to herding demonstrations.

Since 1979, Dr Thompson and her dogs have also been in demand by the US film industry, for the most part moving stock, but also in other on-set scenarios. Mick, another of her Kevin Evans imports, was used on the set of Turn, an American period drama television series.

Dr Thompson said: “I believe wholeheartedly in preserving the abilities of the Border Collie to both work and have a desire to please, striving to breed individuals with proven working stockdog bloodlines who themselves have the qualities that make the Border Collie unique within the realm of the dog world. I also strive to help people find the pup or dog who’ll be most suited to their particular lifestyle - companion and/or working dog.”

The Skipton sale attracted an entry of 47 working sheep dogs - 36 fully broken, six part-broken and five unbroken dogs.

The 22 from Scotland, England and Wales offered for sale online on the opening day saw other dogs achieve solid prices, including one at £5,200 from another Welsh handler, Dyfed Davies, from Sir Benfro in Pembrokeshire. His two-year-old fully trained black and white dog, Don, by JK Davies’ Roy, out of AI Rofe’s Maze, returned to Wales with John Tudor-Edwards, of Llantysilio, near Llangollen in Clwyd.

Day two was given over entirely to the solid entry of 25 working dogs from Ireland - vendors from across the Irish Sea are always well represented at Skipton – when the day’s top call of £5,050 fell to a stylish two-year-old black and white bitch, Meg, from Tom Daly, of Castlederg in Co. Tyrone.

By Simon Cottrell’s Jim, a grandson of Belgian trialling legend Serge van der Sveep’s Gary, out of Mr Daly’s own Ash, the top price Irish dog didn’t have too far to travel when joining fellow Co. Tyrone handler Kevin McAleer in Carrickmore, near Omagh, where he runs a pedigree Blackface sheep flock comprising 200 ewes. Mr McAleer also owns a quarry and cement-making business and says he plans to use Meg as a potential trials dog, as well as for breeding.

Mr Daly also caught the eye with a second sale of £3,300 for his November, 2018, tri-coloured dog Shay (kennel name Taff), by Welsh handler Floyd Farthing’s Jack, out of S Byrne’s Fly, herself a daughter of James McCluskey’s Sweep. The buyers were W Richardson & Son in Appleby, Cumbria.

Back on the opening day, two further dogs each made £5,000. The first was lot number one, a November, 2017, tri-coloured bitch Foxridge Bet (Lace) from David Murray, of North Roe, Shetland. One of three Scottish entries, the daughter of Kevin Evans’ Ace, out of DW Edwards’ Tanhill Lilly, found a new home in Wales with Cardiff’s Robert Lewis.

The second 5,000gns dog was yet another Welsh entry, a 12-month-old black, white and mottled bitch, Sian, from Dewi Jones in Abergele, Conwy. By DT Edwards’ Ben, a full brother to Howells Nip, out of HL Pritchard’s Glan y Gors Gail – the dam’s line goes back to Michael Gallagher’s Cap and Richard Millichap’s Ben - Sian was bought by Simon Armstrong in Penrith.

Following close behind at £4,950 was the first Irish entry to go under the virtual hammer on day two, Spot, a young black and white dog born in May last year from L McKee, of Derryogue Sheepdogs in Kilkeel, Co. Down. By Mac, out of Mo, both from H McKee, Spot remained in Ireland when joining Sligo’s Martin Feeney.

Back with the Welsh dogs, another familiar face at Skipton, Emrys Jones, of Tal y Bont, Gwynedd, achieved a solid £4,400 with his August, 2018, black and white bitch Cwmhyfryd Fly, by AM Driscoll’s Aron, out of C Darlington’s Newton Kelly. The Lancastrian buyer was Trevor Smith, from Pilling, near Preston.

Donal Mullaney again caught the eye earlier in the sale when also making £3,950 with a second dog, his January, 2019-born black and white Jack, by fellow Irish handler Pat Byrne’s highly regarded Moss – bought out of Skipton several years ago for £9,660 – and like his new world record price pup out of his own Queen. Jack joined the Procter sheep and cattle farming family in Great Musgrave, Kirkby Stephen, regular Cumbrian buyers of Skipton-sold dogs.

Mr Mullaney is a sheep farmer who breeds his own working dogs with his wife Leanne and their six-year-old son, Daniel, who, says Mrs Mullaney, is the real boss in the family when it comes to anything and everything sheep dog-related!

“We attended out first sheep dog sale at Skipton in July last year and were really looking forward to returning this year. We were disappointed when it had to be called off because of Covid-19. However, the online sale was brilliant and so, so exciting,” she said.

Next best at £3,650 was Northern Ireland teenager and accomplished young triallist, Shannon Conn, from Limvady, with her three-year-old dog, Grip (Gyp), already placed third in this year’s North of Ireland Nursery Final and also with Open points to his name. He remained in Ireland when falling to a successful online bid from Gareth Sproule, of Castlederg in Co. Tyrone.

Making £3,400 was lot number 2, Nap, a March, 2018, black and white dog from Scotsman George Dey, of Balgownie, Aberdeen. The well-bred son of Ricky Hutchinson’s legendary Sweep became the second dog bound for the United States when falling to Victoria Yablonsky, from Solana Beach in California.

Two other dogs made £3,000, two more hitting £2,800, with others selling at three and four-figure prices, as Skipton once again proved its ability to offer plenty of opportunities for potential buyers to choose from a good cross-section of readily affordable dogs, both solid broken entries for work and up-and-coming youngsters to further bring on and run in trials.

A total of 37 dogs were successfully sold, as follows and with sale averages for age groups: 6 part-trained dogs under 12 months £1,416 (excludes Dewi Jenkins record price), 12 dogs 12-24 months £4,220, 18 dogs 24 months-plus £3,000.

Live working dog sales are still not able to be held under Covid-19 restrictions because of the large crowds they attract – hence the reason for online sales. The next at Skipton, again featuring live pre-sale conference viewing with Q&A sessions with individual vendors the evening prior to each sale day, is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, September 1 & 2. Virtual catalogue entries close on Friday, August 7.