Man’s best friend is being put through his paces in what is the pinnacle of sport for shepherds across the country.
For the first time in nine years, Yorkshire is hosting the English National Sheepdog Trials.
Day one got underway yesterday in the grounds of Castle Howard and the grand expanses surrounding the stately home continues to play host to the highly competitive three-day event over the course of this weekend.
The contest sees some of the fittest and best-trained dogs as well as the biggest names in the sheepdog trialling world come together from across the country.
Up for grabs for the leading competitor is one of 15 places in the national team that will later this year go on to represent England in the International Trials held in Wales.
Ryedale-based working shepherd, Ian Murdoch, was hoping to get a good run with his two dogs, eight-year-old Bob and four-year-old Ben.
Mr Murdoch, who has qualified for the English national team on two previous occasions, said: “Both are capable of doing it.
“It’d be great to do it again, the last time was in 2000, and it’d be all the better to qualify here in Yorkshire amongst friends and family.”
Originating from the Yorkshire Dales, near Hawes, Mr Murdoch’s father competed locally, but it was not until Murdoch Junior became a full-time shepherd at Fridlington Farms Ltd near Malton 30 years ago that trialling became his number one passion.
Along with other members of the Ryedale Sheepdog Society, he is heavily involved in setting up the English National and is chief sheep steward for this weekend’s national showpiece.
The shepherd said: “I’ve got a lot of pleasure out of the job, so you’ve got to give something back.”
The event also incorporates family activities, crafts demonstrations and The Freedom of Spirit for Border Collies Trust will offer insight into the Border Collie breed.