It’s been almost 40 years since Bill Coburn trained his first border collie to help him herd cattle and sheep on his farm. That training led to competitions, giving lessons and judging that took Coburn all over the Southeast and beyond.
“It was one of the worst bites I ever had,” he says. “I couldn’t wait for the next weekend to go to another trial.”
At the age of 78, Coburn has slowed down a bit. He’s no longer competing or judging but he does do sheep herding dog demonstrations. Coburn will travel to the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE) in February with his border collies, ready to show the crowds how these dogs maneuver sheep into the barn, into a chute or onto a trailer.
The sheep herding dog demonstrations are a new addition to the 2018 festival, joining other popular dog events – the retriever demonstrations and the DockDogs® competition.
The one-hour sheep herding dog demonstrations will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday, February 16, 17 and 18, at Brittlebank Park.
In addition to SEWE, Coburn has done demonstrations at schools, hospitals, fairs and the Scottish Games and Highland Gathering. He’ll bring three or four of his dogs and about 10 sheep to show the crowds just what these dogs can do.
Coburn still maintains his 100-acre Windy Knolls Farm in the one-stoplight town of Hickory Tavern, S.C., about 30 miles southeast of Greenville. At one point he had 100 ewes, but now he’s down to 50 or 60 hair sheep, which are raised for their meat and do well in a warm climate.
He has four working dogs and one who’s retired. One dog, Coburn says, can manage up to 100 sheep on its own. Taking the place of three or four men, Coburn describes the dogs as “workaholics.”
Over the years, Coburn has raised 10 border collies and, like most pets, they become a part of the family. He’s enjoyed the process of training up a puppy to see just how well it can do as a herding dog.
And the public loves seeing the dogs in action.
“Most people who come to see the dogs will come back year after year to watch the dogs, just to see what they can do,” Coburn says.
Purchase tickets for SEWE 2018, February 16-18 at sewe.com to see the sheep herding dog demonstrations.