Monday, June 25, 2018

What The Video Did Not Show -- June 25, 2018


Later, 7:28 p.m. CDT: a reader is as tenacious as a bulldog. "Nelson" has his own website.

Original Post

 As mentioned earlier, my grandfather raised sheep in northwestern South Dakota. I remember vividly the one time when I was able to "participate" (mostly watch) a sheep shearing event. It's quite a big deal and for a five-year-old it's a bit scary. The sheep are bleating like crazy, and I thought the sheep were being badly hurt. In fact, they were simply getting a haircut after a very long, colder winter, and now the bare skin would make the hot South Dakota summer that much more tolerable.

The sheep were initially rounded up and brought close to the shearing barn. Then they were "funneled" through a lane to the shearing pen -- eventually moving from a flock of sheep entering the wide end of the funnel (the mouth end) to a one-by-one (very noisy) "procession" into the shearing pen where the shearer grabbed one sheep and had her sheared within a minute or two.

The high fence on either side of the narrow lane only allowed one sheep into the shearing pen at a time.

Overnight a reader sent me a video that could not be resisted (you can see it below, so you don't have to click on the link). I posted it almost as soon as I saw it. I loved it. I watched it many, many times.

But throughout the day, mostly during the long drives back and forth with the granddaughters, something about the video bothered me.

And then an epiphany. Scott Adams, I think, would have noticed the same thing. He often talks about what a video does not show. (It's the same problem law enforcement officers have with body cameras or dash cams.)

What the video does not show is what came just before the filming began. Obviously those sheep did not move into one little flock on their own. They would have been quite spread out, eating the grass, not really paying attention to each other as the flock spread out and spread apart.

Someone or something or some dog that had to get them into that flock, that little group.

The only thing I see in that video that could have herded that flock of sheep was that dog.

Now, that dog must have done something that sheep herding dogs seldom do, otherwise it would not have been uploaded to YouTube, nor would it have gone viral.

This is what the clever little dog did that other shepherding dogs do not do: get the sheep to run in single file and, not only that, but down a trail lined by trees on either side. Just like a narrow fenced-in funnel taking the sheep one-by-one to a shearing shed or to a truck to be loaded.

If you watch closely, about a third of the way into the video, it is obvious the little dog is not trying to herd the sheep back into a flock. He is looking them directly in the eye, challenging the alpha sheep to chase him (or her). And he does that over and over, stopping, looking back, staring them down, and then taking off, and before you know it, he has the sheep running in a single line. He can run them right up into a loading truck.

Here's the video again:

His method in impressively efficient. He doesn't have to keep running circles around the group or chase laggards. Eventually he just runs a straight line and they all follow. Like sheep do.

So, in summary, unlike most sheepdogs that have a single skill set -- shepherding sheep into a flock, this little dog has two skill sets: a) shepherding sheep into a flock (not seen on the video); and, b) getting the sheep to run in a single line -- either to be loaded unto a truck or into a shearing pen. 

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