Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Need I say anything more? We're talking a theme park revolving around New Zealand's honorary national animal (officially it's the Kiwi but who are they kidding?).

The park itself includes the aforementioned sheep as well as a plethora of other animals ranging from alpacas to your standard miniature pony. But the the place is named SheepWorld for a reason and the highlight was the sheepdog show.

The show kicked off with a duck race that was memorable for the ducks' high couture and the speed in which they flew through the course. Once they got near the entrance it was like they went into a trance and were off and running. I was caught off guard by the ducks' fleetness, but I did get the early leader crashing and burning. As a lover of kitsch, this was certainly up there.

From there the sheep dog show began. In New Zealand, they use two types of dogs to do the herding: the eye dog (border collie-like looking dogs with border collie like tendencies; very high strung and loyal...evidently a cross between a border collie and a greyhound) and the hunt-away dog (more the muscle of the group; not the brightest tool in the shed...supposedly has border collie and lab and german shepards and other hounds and other things in it). The eye dog keeps the sheep in order while the hunt-away climbs up on and around the sheep to get them moving when a simple stare won't do. The herder used the two dogs to show up proper herding, doing almost all of the signals via whistle. Quite an impressive thing to see, especially after having seen some of the same from afar in the South Island.

After various herding activities, the herder showed us the patented shearing method (actually patented... only in New Zealand) in which a sheep can be sheared in 45 seconds or so. During the shearing demonstration though the personalities of the dogs showed; the hunt-away was asleep about three feet from the shearing while the eye dog was out the back of the stage staring intently at the remaining sheep, reading to pounce at a moment's notice. Kind of reminded of me of Becca there for a bit :-)

The show finished up with a chance to feed the various baby sheep which went over very well with the birthday party of 20 five year olds in attendance. For us though it was a good opportunity to see the life of a sheep herder up close. It isn't pretty but it's still a huge part of the New Zealand life.

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