The annual Hunterville Huntaway Festival is almost upon us, and the 20th Anniversary Event promises to be the most spectacular yet.

For those who haven't heard of the event, it may seem strange that the small Rangitikei township of some 430 people attracts 5000 to 8000 visitors to a huntaway dog trial.

However, the dog trial itself is but one event in an action-packed day whose main drawcard is the Shemozzle.

The Shemozzle was thought up over a bottle of wine by three Hunterville locals, Tony Theed, Richard Horrocks and Thomas Powell. Having found the Hunterville Village Fair to be failing in its aim to draw town and country together, they set about finding a replacement event.

Advertisement

After some to-ing and fro-ing the wine had run out but they had invented the Shemozzle -- a race for shepherds and their dogs, involving obstacles and "Mount Nigel, a pretty steep hill".

Te Moana Sidney and Fuzz from Otiwhiti Station make their way through the marsh at the 2012 Shemozzle. Photo/Bevan Conley
Te Moana Sidney and Fuzz from Otiwhiti Station make their way through the marsh at the 2012 Shemozzle. Photo/Bevan Conley

The race itself is a gruelling obstacle course, which must be completed with trusty huntaway dog at side. Shepherds don burlap sacks, throw themselves down muddy hillsides, pick up unmentionable parts of bulls with their teeth, and push their dogs down the street in wheelbarrows.

The man-and-dog team who cross the finish line first, and with all of the requirements completed, win the prestigious title and great prizes. Competitors come from as far as the South Island to this one-of-a-kind event, and it is a great family day out for spectators and participants alike.

The event has grown over the last 20 years, and there are now several categories: Family Shemozzle, Children's Shemozzle, Teens' Shemozzle and the main race of the day, the Shepherds' Shemozzle.

The festivities are complemented by Freestyle Motocross, the Shearing Contractors' Challenge and of course, the dog trial -- and there is a marquee with bar and band to finish off the day.

For the youngest visitors there are bouncy castles and face-painting; and for parents the Plunket Rooms will be open to provide a space for feeding and changing babies.

Entries opened on the 1st of August, and the Children's and Teens' events were sold out within days.

There are still a very few spots left for the Shepherds' Shemozzle however, so if you think you have what it takes -- and you can prove your dog is a Huntaway -- you can still be in it to win it.

The 20th Annual Hunterville Huntaway Festival takes place onOctober 28 from 11.30am, on Bruce St, Hunterville.

More information can be found at www.shemozzle.co.nz.