All you need to know about… One Man and His Dog

All the key facts about Britain's best-loved dog trials, plus sheepdog commands to practice at home, ahead of the contest on this Sunday's Countryfile.

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About the programme

1. One Man and His Dog was first aired on 17 February 1976 and ran for 23 years, attracting audiences of up to eight million viewers in its heyday in the 1980s.

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2. Phil Drabble, who presented the show until 1993, was awarded an OBE, and a pub near his former home in Bloxwich in the West Midlands is named after the programme in his honour.

3. The last regular series was aired on BBC Two in 1999, although a series of popular Christmas specials continued until 2011 with hosts including Clarissa Dickson Wright, Ben Fogle and Kate Humble.

4. The first woman to win One Man and His Dog was Katy Cropper in 1990. Her daughter Henrietta, went on to be the youngest handler to appear on the show in 2015, age 12.

5. One Man and His Dog merged with Countryfile in 2013 and was presented by Matt Baker, who had already been co-commentator from 2006. He was joined by Helen Skelton in 2014 and Ellie Harrison in 2015.

The Rules

1. There are four teams – England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

2. The event is to be

held in the grounds of Chirk Castle near Wrexham in north Wales.

3. Each team comprises two humans – a senior and junior partner – and two dogs.

4. Juniors go first, followed by the adults.

5. There are 100 points up for grabs in each round. Points are deducted for faults at the various stages around the course.

6. The course is 250 yards long – the size of two football pitches. There are a number of gates and pens to be negotiated.

7. The dog and handler are in charge of five sheep.

8. The course and all the tasks must be completed in under 12 minutes. Any tasks not done will be deducted from the final score.

9. There are two judges to score each of the challenges on the course.

10. Ireland has won the past two competitions.

Sheepdogs and their Shepherds

1. A “Border Collie” is so-called because the best working collies were drover dogs from the counties on the English-Scottish border.

2. Border Collies are gifted with the “eye” – an ability to control sheep with only a strong stare. 

A sheepdog working a few sheep in a dirt field.

3. Counting sheep was once carried out in a mix of Old English and Latin. Up until the Industrial Revolution “Yan, tan, tethera, pethera, pimp, sethera, lethera, hovera, covera, dik” could be heard on the moors and farms of Northern England.

4. Shepherds met for the first time in October 1873, in a field near Bala, Wales, to test their skills and compare their collies.

5. England’s first sheepdog trials were held in Alexandra Park in London in 1876 and resulted in noisy barking and general chaos as dogs lost control of their sheep.

6. With time on their hands, shepherds were traditionally excellent musicians, playing pipes made of sheep’s horns. They were often also expert knitters and woodcarvers and, until the 17th century, shepherds even officiated at weddings.

7. Sheepdog trials have become hugely popular worldwide, and in the United Kingdom alone, there are over 400 trials a year.

8. Born in 1893, a Border Collie named Old Hemp was famous for his ability to make sheep respond to his actions and is the ancestor of many of today’s sheepdogs. Wiston Cap (born 1963) can also be traced in the bloodlines of many modern collies.

9. Shepherds were often buried gripping a sprig of wool so that when they reached the pearly gates they could be forgiven for failing to attend Sunday church.

Essential sheepdog commands to practice at home

Come-Bye: circle the sheep in a clockwise direction

Away/Away to Me: circle the sheep in an anti-clockwise direction

Stand: stop, or slow down

Get back/get out: move back to give the sheep more room

In here: used during shedding to separate the sheep

Walk up/walk on: move straight towards the sheep calmly

Take time: slow down

That’ll do: stop and return to the shepherd

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Words by Agnes Davis