Sheepdog for sale: travels on farm bike and follows horse

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It was a nerve-wracking time for the flat-capped farmers waving crooks and calling the tune with whistles and shouts of "come by", as a select band of 45 working sheepdogs with names like Moss and Floss were put through their paces yesterday during the big sheepdog auction at Sheep '96.

While the dogs worked with gusto, more than 1,000 potential buyers scrutinised their every move in the main arena at Malvern, near Worcester.

The six Brecknock Hill Cheviots which the dogs were rounding up looked decidedly frisky. But auctioneer Mike Tompkinson remained cool as one dog chased a sheep out of the arena and then a keen young bitch bit a ewe in the flock. "The bitch is only being friendly," he told the crowd.

Talk among insiders was of how one Welsh farmer had just sold a top sheepdog for pounds 5,000 in a private sale. But Aubrey Hughes, 63, was content after his 18-month-old sheepdog Sam was knocked down to a Derbyshire farmer for pounds 1,110. Farmers see it as money well spent. "It would probably take four or five men to do a sheepdog's work," said Harcourt Lloyd, 55, from Trefeglwys, in Powys, whose dog Joe was third in the Welsh Open Championships this year.

The sale catalogue paid tribute to all the dogs, including four-year- old Fan, (sire: Spot, dam: Trim): "Outstanding farm bitch. Travels on farm bike and follows horse ... will move anything. Good breeder, should come into season soon. Eye-tested."