INDIANAPOLIS — It’s gone to the dogs. That is the perfect
way to sum up Jim Bob McEwen’s career of competing in sheepherding
In 1946, his spark for the sport was lit when he watched a
herding demonstration involving border collies at the Indiana State
McEwen noted that the idea of livestock producers using
sheep to watch over and shepherd their flocks originated in the hills of
“The sheep would eat their way downhill at the start of the
day,” he said, explaining that the animals would refuse to go back up the
mountain and, due to the geographic terrain of the area, the farmers wouldn’t
traverse the hillside to go down and get them either.
This is where the dogs came into play, McEwen said, adding
that the Scottish farmers would send their collies down to the bottom, where
they’d round up the sheep and herd them back to the top of the hill, so the
flock could graze its way back down all over again.
Although McEwen no longer travels around the world to
compete in national herding competitions, he still goes around the U.S., giving
sheepherding demonstrations at Scottish and Irish festivals with his buddy, a
border collie named Len.
One of the celebrations he participates in on an annual
basis is Indy Irish Fest.
“Irish Fest has been good to us and wonderful to work with,
At this year’s Irish festival, attendees had the opportunity
to watch Len in action as McEwen had her herd three Boer goats around the
He added that goats are great for training the younger
border collies because they move well and, unlike sheep, which flock together,
one never can tell exactly what a goat is going to do.
Besides goats, McEwen also uses ducks when trying to train
puppies how to herd because the birds move slower than sheep and are not nearly
as big as the wooly creatures in comparison to the nine-week-old border collies,
which, he added, is the ideal age to start working with them.
While border collies are known more in Great Britain for
their skills in helping farmers and other individuals involved in the
agriculture industry, the sheepherding expert noted that many sheep producers
here have begun to use the remarkable animals with their flocks because a
herding dog will run around working 15 miles to every one mile that their owner
“They work 365 days a year without worker’s comp, and they
just want a good bed, and food,” McEwen said, adding that recently he had a lady
purchase a collie from him and mentioned it took her 45 minutes every day to put
her sheep away and, a month after purchasing the dog, only took 45
The key to achieving maximum results from a herding dog, he
stressed, is proper training, and 10 minutes a day is plenty of time to turn out
a dog that at the end of a year’s time an individual won’t want to part
More information about sheepherding and McEwen’s border
collies can be found at www.mcewenbordercollies.com.