Over 720 entries from across New Zealand are contesting the North Island sheepdog trial championships in four divisions on Mt Te Ahu Ahu, near Ohaeawai in the Far North this week.
The two heading and two hunt events will be contested on four separate courses on each face of the mountain, commentator and triallist Merv Cameron said.
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He said the long head covered a distance of about 600m and required handlers to send their dog to gather three sheep from a fenced loop near the top of the mountain and bring them down to the starting point within 15 minutes.
However, the fastest time did not count as much as the quality of work shown by the dog during the run.
"Once behind the sheep the aim is to bring the sheep down the big hill in as straight a line as possible."
Other events include the short head and yard where the dog goes 300m up a steep hill to bring the sheep down, then drives them along a marked course into a 2m pen within the required 15 minutes; in the zig-zag and straight hunt events, a barking dog drives three sheep from the bottom of a hill through a designated course.
Northland sheepdogs expected to do well include Ken Whittaker's Doc (the current national long head champion), Scott McRae's Elle, Allen Nisbet's Maggie, Rhys Dacker's Speed, Murray Child's Dice and Ace, and Owen Finlayson's Lady.
Huntaways worth catching in action include John Nelley's Buster, Tony Comins' Shelley, and Murray Child's Frank, while Leo Jecentho's Pet and Cap and Storm from Te Paki Station are among a number of local dogs with the potential to record upsets.
The North Island champs started on Monday and ends Friday, with provision to run on Saturday if the weather packs up during the week.
Spectators are welcome at any time during the week-long champs; admission is free, with plenty of parking at the courses. Caterers are on site. The hosting Northland Sheepdog Centre headquarters is on Hariru Rd about 2km off SH1.