HUNTSVILLE -- The sheep may be taller, outweigh and outnumber the border collies, but don't tell the border collies.
One border collie after another scampered across 12 acres at Kelley Creek Farm Saturday, each herding four head of sheep through panels to see who was top dog.
The Kelley Creek Farm National Sheepdog Trial runs through Monday and features about 90 dogs and 35 handlers from California, Texas, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. The free event is sanctioned by the United States Border Collie Handlers Association and is also co-sponsored by Utah Stock Dog Association.
Deb Sussman, of Sandy, first competed five years ago. Now she spends almost every day training her two dogs and then traveling to the trial competitions.
Terri Nicolau of Sandia, Texas, put her first border collie, Brock, in a trial competition 41aN2-years ago.
Brock, a red-head, black saddle-back border collie, was at Saturday's event.
"We started together," Nicolau said.
Nicolau, who teaches biology at a community college, said when she decided this was something she could enjoy, she sold her home in Corpus Christi and she and her husband bought 107 acres in Sandia.
Now she is raising seven border collies and has a flock of 62 Gulf Coast sheep.
Patsy Dickens, who owns Kelley Creek Farm, said watching the border collies herd the sheep is never boring. And the people who come to the events are more than willing to help those who have never been learn.
The field where the dogs are competing this weekend is deceptive, she said.
The competitors take a first look and believe it is small, but then during the competition they learn there is a hill where the dogs and sheep disappear, "so they have to trust their dogs," Dickens said.
Don Helsley of Caldwell, Idaho, has been training border collies for 20 years.
He and his wife, Jeanie, brought 10 border collies to the competition. Taite was the dog he ran through trials on Saturday. "It's a process, you have to work to train them," Helsley said.
Helsley said everything can look really good when the dog is at home, "then you get to trials and everything falls apart."