A short History of the early Continental Championship in Sheep Herding 1985 – 2003
Author: Henk Verhoeven, Translation: Judith Herbers; CSC2017 compliments the makers of this article
The ISDS was founded in the United Kingdom in 1906. It has made improving the quality of handling livestock its primary task. Partially through better informing handler and public, but primarily through improving the qualities of the working sheepdog, the bordercollie. To meet these goals a Studbook was started and the trials that were held informally here and there, were organized in a trial structure with National trials in each region and the International trial all held yearly. At these trials the best dogs of the United Kingdom could compete with each other. Winning such a trial would bring renown to dog and handler. The winners of the past 98 years are famous dogs even today and their names can be found in the pedigrees of today’s winners.
Switzerland 1985: While there were sheepdog trials in the UK ever since 1873, it would be not be until 1985 that the Continental Championship sheep herding was held at the initiative of Mrs. Odette Lieber of Switzerland; Jim Easton was the jury. What took one hundred years to occur in the UK, happened in Europe right away, a female handler won the finals. Mrs. Gillian Hugo from France and her dog Snuff can call themselves the first Continental Champion sheep herding. Thierry Spriet placed second, and a sheep farmer from Texel (Netherlands) Jaap Zuidenwind with Fly placed third. Mrs. Hugo also won the first Lady Challenge, a price awarded by Ms. Barbara Carpenter from the UK. This must have really pleased Barbara for a extra reason, Snuff was a grandson of her own quite famous Brocken Robbie. The countries that participated decided at the meeting in Geneva to repeat this very successful event annually. So the initiative of Grand Old Lady Odette Lieber led to the new organisation called Organising Committee of the Continental Sheepdog Championship, the CCSC, which is responsible for the organisation of Continental. For many years Philip Henry of the ISDS was chairman of the CCSC, until Jim Easton took this over from him. Josephine de Jong from the Netherlands was secretary for many years. She passed away several years ago and Liesbeth Wijburg has been secretary since 2000. Currently 13 countries participate, the last country to join was the Faeröer Islands. The CCSC determines whether the level of trialling of a country requesting membership is high enough and if their trials are held according to ISDS rules. Initially only two combinations are allowed to compete at the Continental, their results determine whether more combinations are welcome the following year.
France 1986: After Switzerland it’s France’s turn. In 1986 this country organizes the Continental. Thousands of spectators come to Bernecourt for the trial. Again a Frenchman wins, Didier Gaillard with Recka. Judge N. Seamark placed two Dutchmen on second and third place, Jaap Zuidewind with Fly and Frans Cramer with Dave.
Netherlands 1987: The following year it’s the Netherlands turn to organise the trial, combining it with it’s ten year anniversary, as a location Barneveld is chosen. Once more Jaap Zuidewind keeps the honour for his country, he ends up with first place. His dog Fly shows some excellent driving. Jaap’s comments about this loyal dog: ”This dog had an excellent character, but was not easy to train. Once she knew something, then she would respond to every command. Once in a while she would have a bit too much ”eye”, but she never lacked power.” Jaap’s heavy sheep, Texelaren, must have been a help. The Dutch organisation made every single effort to make this an event not to be forgotten. Press and television camera’s were present. The broadcasting company, Tros, filmed some footage for it’s animal programs. Aside from herding the public that had shown up in droves, could enjoy all sorts of related activities. But in the end it all revolved around the sheepdog trial. Twenty eight teams from France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands participated. The qualifying rounds were particularly exciting. Before the finals were held there was a demonstration with other breeds still used for herding, called the interbreed competition. A number of Beaucerons, Pyrenean shepherds and a Briard had to drive 40 sheep along a course that had been set out. They had quite a difficult time doing so. Once again it is shown that nurturing those precious herding traits in a breed is no simple task. When breeding is not based on careful selection of herding traits, you often don’t get the true spirit, the alertness and sheep sense, as was shown in this demonstration. Anita van Ingen who participated with her working bordercollie, though not competing for a placing, showed what the other breeds had failed to do. After this part of the program the finals were held. It was a regular English course, not the double outrun course like we have nowadays. It remained an exciting competition up until the very end. It was soon clear that the only Dutch competitor who had made it to the finals, had not done bad at all. And at the end of the finals Jaap Zuidewind could call himself Continental champion.
Germany 1988: The Continental Championships of 1988 were held in Herborn, Germany. The German Club for British Herding dogs had taken on the responsibility for organizing it. And they did so with typical German ”grundlichkeit”. Jim Easton was the judge. The Dutch did not have an easy time at this competition, Johan de Jonge was the best of their team, but his 60 points were not enough for a first place. A Frenchman named Louis Gerber with his dog Vienici had a total score of 74 points and got first place. He once more wins the Continental Championships of 1989 Switzerland, which was held in Emmental.
France 1990: The Championships of 1990 were held in France in the town of Mouchant, and won by a Frenchman, Hubert Bernard with Ulysse. A Swiss named Rudolf Roth placed second and Serge van der Zweep of the Netherlands placed third with Ken.
Netherlands 1991: Judging that year was R.J.C. Montgomery from the UK. A bagpipe concert and a flock of sheep. These were the elements of the opening of the Continental Championships sheep herding on August 24th and 25th, 1991. It all happened in Leidschendam, the Netherlands, where the Dutch Border Collie Club had organized the event. The organizing committee including Paul Andreoli, Wilbert van Zeventer en Paul Rupert had worked for month to make this a memorable event. Just like at the International, it was custom that those who had ranked lowest in their own country would start the competition. Along the course of the day the level of competition would rise and better known handlers have their turn. This is how it was done in Leidschendam and it should have been logical that the performances would improve as the day goes on, but this did not happen. A lot of new faces had made it to the finals. It looked for a long time like the hosts would take the prizes, but the one but last team from France, Pascal Cacheux and his dog Droopy beat them to first place with the fantastic score of 95 points. Droopy ran a lot better than it’s name sounded. Tjitse Terpstra ended up second with Boy (90 points) and Johan de Jonge was third. Fourth place was for Serge van der Zweep.
Germany 1992: In 1992 the Continental Championships were held just over the border near Venlo, in the German town of Wesel. The quite famous Glynn Jones from Wales was invited to judge. Apparently, he did not have all that much faith in the abilities of the Continental competitors, so he insisted on shortening the outrun on the huge field down to 300 meters. A distance that was no big challenge for the Continental competitors, this effectively made the Championship of the same level as a regular class 3 trial. The Dutch speaking part of the Continentals was well represented in the final results. Serge van der Zweep placed fourth, on third place was Belgian Jo de Meyst with Moss, on the other end of the podium stood Geert Reinders with Gwyneth and in between on first place was Tjitse Terpstra with Boy.
Switzerland 1993: Serge became Continental champion in 1993 with Lyn. He showed in the mountains of Trutman in the canton of Wallis in Switzerland that a superb dog from a flat country can adjust to any circumstances.
France 1994: Lyn once again proved her qualities by become reserve Continental Champion in 1994 in France. On top of two Dutch titles and second at the Continental Championships, Serge also became Continental Champion with Ken. The entire UK saw this on television as it was brought to their attention in the English program One Man and his Dog. ”The finals have grown up”, are the words of Hans van der Zweep, who from now will chronicle the events at the Continental ”for it has a double outrun and a complicated shed of five marked sheep in a group of twenty”. The European Championship is now of the same level as the International held in the country where it all began.
Belgium 1995: In 1995 once again Lyn aims high and becomes Continental Champion.
Denmark 1996: The Kongenhus park, near Viborg was the location for Continental Championships that were held from September 6th through the 8th, 1996. ”No one, including myself, had even thought that Spot would become Continental Champion. I would have sooner thought Craig would do this, rather than Spot. It truly was a surprising outcome.”. These were the words of the new Continental Champion, Ron Rogaar after an incredibly exciting final. The shepherd from Assen proudly continues explaining ”The course in Denmark was truly a working course. A challenge for handler and dog. You could tell easily which dogs were used to the rough sloping heather fields. The area was very impressive, a true test for a Continental Champion. Speaking of putting to the test, the Gotland sheep and cross bred Gotland sheep knew exactly how to test the dogs. The dogs had to show power and that they were in charge, but also had to give the sheep their space whenever this was necessary.” The judge Alan Jones wanted to see calmness and control. And that is exactly what Spot showed.
Netherlands 1997: In 1997 a Belgian team became Continental Champion for the first time ever. Their names are shepherd Marc Morren and his dog Bwlch Jill. The trials were held in Holland, on the beautiful estate Marienweerd at Beesd in the Betuwe. It’s a lovely area with lots of conservation land along the brook the Linge which loops through the countryside. Marienweerd is occupied by a baron and a baroness and they still farm the estate the old way. This Continental top trial was combined with a large country fair so the sport of sheep herding was shown to the public in a great ambience. Thomas Longton was the judge. On third place there was a Norwegian named Jaran Knive and his dog named Jill. A man who would be heard from a lot in the years to come. Second place went to a female handler, Anja Holgerson and her dog Jas, from Sweden. And it was the Belgian Marc Morren who would take top honours. His really nice bitch Bwylch Jill left all her competitors behind her. Marc Morren is a professional shepherd in the Belgian Hoge Venen, a lovely and very rough conservation land estate.
Austria 1998: The Continental Championships of 1998 were held in Austria. A beautiful sloping course along with several natural obstacles ensured that it would be a lovely trial. The Norwegian Jon Sand and Mac won the final. Louise Liebenberg from Holland and Djan ended up as best female handler.
Germany 1999: In 1999 it was Germany’s turn to take responsibility for the organisation. The location, Heimburg is a small village in what used to be East Germany. Tjitse Terpstra and Dan became Continental Champion. This dog was bred by Tjitse himself out of his own Megan and Orrin of Frans van Laer, chairman of the Belgian Border Collie Club.
Switzerland 2000: ”I now dare to say that any handler who has stood at the post at the Einsiedeln field, has stood on the finest trial field ever” was the comment of Hans van der Zweep in his coverage of the Continentals in 2000 in Switzerland. The sheep also contributed to the challenging nature of this trial. Every Handler got a packet of sheep consisting of ewes and a few lambs, which made the shedding nearly impossible. The mountainous terrain proved to be a handicap for people and dogs from lowlands. Dogs that are used to working in the mountains, automatically look for the sheep on the higher slopes while the Dutch, Belgian and Danish dogs simply stared in the distance looking for the sheep it is supposed to fetch. The double outrun of about 800 meters in the finals caused a lot of handlers to have to give extra commands, which would result in points lost for these combinations. The first place went to Norway, to Knive with Lyn, Serge van der Zweep placed second with Roy and the public’s favourite Anne Kruger placed third.
France 2001: It was hot at the Continental of 2001. Incredibly high temperatures of 33 to 35 degrees Celcius made it almost unbearable to be outside in the sun. Still the dogs in the French town of Rambouillet on the terrain of the Bergerie Nationale were asked to give their utmost of their capabilities. Is this still justified? This question was the subject of many discussions, both on the trial field and long afterwards. In Holland, trials and even the Dutch National Championship are moved to another date when temperatures not nearly as high as these were reached. The terrain was fortunately not huge, which can perhaps somewhat excuse the fact that the trial was still held and the organisation had put a large tub of water at the fetch gate where the dogs could cool off a bit. But what Border Collie willingly stops doing its work? Few dogs voluntarily stepped in the tub and many had to be coached by the handler to take the mandatory break before continuing just as fanatically along the course. Fortunately there were no casualties at this trial in Rambouillet, judge Frank Cashen from Ireland, winner of the 1997 British Internationals, saw some nice runs and managed to hand out pretty high scores. The dogs from the cooler regions performed the best despite the heat. A Belgian police officer Tom Wouters and his dog Maeglin Moss had qualified himself for the finals. This dog, bred by Raf de Winter is also competing in agility with Tom’s wife Patsy and is Belgian Agility Champion. So this is a truly dual purpose dog. Tom’s other dog Tcharro could not compete due to an injury, but would have had a good chance to do well. Torbjörn Jaran Knive was once more the best at the finals, with a very controlled course this Norwegian military showed his expertise. Sander Hindenes from Norway ended on second place and Ron Rogaar from the Netherlands placed third with Trish.
Sweden 2002: The continentals of 2002 were held in Stockholm, Sweden. The organisation was outstanding. The Scandinavians once more showed that they belong to the absolute top of the Continental continent. Torbjörn Jaran Knive from Norway took first place, followed by his fellow Norwegian Torkjel Solbakken with Pia. Serge van der Zweep from the Netherlands placed third with his dog Jim.
Belgium 2003: Ronny Houben and his team organized the Continental of 2003. The military terrain in Schaffen, Belgium is ideally suited for the big double outrun. On the place where normally paramilitaries perfect their parachuting technique, the Belgian course director laid out a magnificent course, with a high degree of difficulty for the finals. Holland had sent a strong team, but they couldn’t fulfill the expectations. Giant favourite Serge van der Zweep didn’t get into the finals. Roy seemed to start with an outstanding outrun in the qualification round, but saw a tricycle at the top of the hill for sheep and ended up somewhere far away with no sheep in sight. So his chance was gone. Other top handlers didn’t make the finals either and the one who did were quite different persons from what had been predicted by the bookmakers. There was a lot of speculation about this curious phenomena. In the finals many combinations had a hard time. A lot of dogs followed the natural lay out of the field, which meant they would end up in an area where there were no sheep. It required true skill to direct the dog away from this area. Swede Carl-Magnus Magnusson along with his dog Fleet managed to do this the best. They became Continental Champions 2003. Though favourite Serge van der Zweep did not get into the finals, he redeemed himself by winning the brace championship with Glen and Roy. There also was a junior handler competition for the first time in 2003, it was won by 13 year old Karin Mattsson from Sweden.
The Continental Championships have grown up. It grew out from a small event with a limited number of participating nations to an event that can truly size up to the famous Internationals in the UK. This is also clear from the participation at the Worlds Trial and those British trials that Continentals attend, now that the quarantine regulations have eased up. The sport is well on its way to attain an international character. That was also to be seen in 2004 Continental in Zwolle, Netherlands.