This is not your typical obstacle course.

These shepherds take on mudslides, rope swings and carry bull's testicles in their mouths, all with their trusty huntaway dogs at their sides.

Hunterville's Shepherds' Shemozzle has become such a drawcard that on Saturday more than 5000 people descended on the tiny Rangitikei township - population 429 - to cheer on the sweaty, smelly competitors and their four-legged companions.

The Shemozzle was so named because it all sounded like a bit of a mess when it was first dreamed up in the village pub.

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The grueling Shepherd's Shemozzle - dreamed up over a bottle of wine 20 years ago - now draws more than 5000 spectators to watch dog and man compete. Photo/Sarah Ivey
The grueling Shepherd's Shemozzle - dreamed up over a bottle of wine 20 years ago - now draws more than 5000 spectators to watch dog and man compete. Photo/Sarah Ivey

Over a bottle of wine, three locals decided to try to reinvigorate the village fair, which had failed to grab the imagination of Hunterville's farmers.

The resulting chaotic, muddy obstacle race is the stuff of legend and has become wildly popular, with competition spaces filling quickly each year.

At the 20th-anniversary event this weekend 100 male and female shepherds put their pooches through their paces.

Huntaways of all descriptions were wheeled down the street in wheelbarrows and slogged through swamps next to muddy shepherds swathed in burlap sacks.

A competitor and her huntaway emerge from the water marsh during the Shemozzle race at the Hunterville Huntaway Festival 2017. Photo/Sarah Ivey
A competitor and her huntaway emerge from the water marsh during the Shemozzle race at the Hunterville Huntaway Festival 2017. Photo/Sarah Ivey

Shepherd Angus McKelvie and his trusty dog were the overall winners in the gruelling competition. Hundreds of kids also joined the fun with a special youth version, and the festival also featured dog trials, a shearing competition and freestyle motocross.

Emma Prideaux, spokeswoman for show sponsor Black Hawk, said it was a wonderful if messy experience to watch the huntaways and their two-legged counterparts in action.

"With 100 shepherds competing this year, the Black Hawk Shepherds' Shemozzle brings together people from all over the region," she said.

"[It's] a celebration not only of New Zealand huntaways but of the camaraderie that can only be achieved through wading through sheep entrails together."