MAKING a welcome return after a lengthy absence to the working sheep dog trials field at CCM Skipton Auction Mart, Welsh trialing legend Aled Owen, of Penyfed, Ty-Nant, Corwen, made an immediate impact when finishing top dog on price at 5,000gns (£5,250) with his December, 2022, black and white Nantmel Don.

While the Denbighshire breeder and handler has sold dogs online at Skipton in recent years, including one at £6,000 in 2020, his last live appearance of note was back in 2010 when Rex achieved 4,900gns joint top call, then a new world record price for a working dog sold at an official sale, though since well eclipsed on multiple occasions.

Aled’s latest frontrunner, Don, is a top-notch son of his home-bred Llangwm Bud, the 2022 Welsh National champion and Reserve Supreme champion the same year, since sold privately to South Korean handler Jaehoon Lee, from Namhae-gun in South Gyeongsang-do Province.

In fact, Mr Lee became the first-ever buyer from his country to acquire a dog sold through Skipton at an online-only sale in July, 2022, when paying £6,900 for a 15-month-old from a vendor based in Southern Finland.

Bud is himself a son of Llangwm Cap, a two times Welsh National champion and International Supreme champion, both dogs having solid bloodlines going back to two former kennel stars, Bob and Roy, dual World Sheepdog Trials champions in 2002 and 2008 for Aled, a well-known and long respected face on the international sheepdog circuit who runs a hill farm close to the Snowdonia National Park and a 500-strong flock of North Country Mules.

Out of a solid farm bitch, Denwyn Jen, the excellent nursery prospect is destined for a new home in the Netherlands after falling to a successful online bid from Dutchman Pim Visscher, who with wife Jolyn runs Sheepdog Services in Huis Ter Heide, Utrecht. The couple provide dog and obedience training, also running sheep herding masterclasses and workshops.

It was his first Skipton-bought dog. Pim commented: “I am really happy to be able to buy such a talented dog of great breeding. My plans are to get him ready for trials and see how far we can go together. I really hope we can make a good team.”

Again making an impact when selling a trio of young, up-and-coming January, 2023, bitches for a combined 11,200gns (£11,760) was Northern Ireland’s Michael McAlister, of Glenariffe. All were litter sisters by Braehead Lad, from fellow Irish breeder Patrick McGoldrick. Co. Donegal, out of the County Antrim handler’s own Lynn.

Doing best at second top call of 4,400gns and the highest priced bitch and young dog was Tess, already placed in six nurseries and a qualifier for the North of Ireland Nursery final. She was sold on the field after catching the eye of Gloucestershire’s Dick Roper, one of the most recognised names in the working sheep dog world and former national president of the International Sheepdog Society (ISDS).

The Cotswold farm manager is himself a top trialist, his multiple successes including three English National championships and in 2016 winner of the BBC’s ‘One Man and his Dog.’ In 2017 at Skipton Mr Roper sold an unbroken pup for a then world record price £2,100.

Having first seen Tess performing in an online video, he travelled to Skipton purposely to view her in the flesh, afterwards noting: “She has really nice breeding and I loved the way she handled herself on the trials field. I will see how she goes and likely breed from her myself.” While Mr Roper no longer trials personally, he said he had a great friend who might well take to the trials field with Tess.

Mr McAlister, a former National Hunt jump jockey and always a good man to follow at Skipton, followed up with further sales of 3,600gns and 3,200gns for the two other litter sisters, Jess and Jan.

A 4,000gns sale was achieved by Limavady, Northern Ireland, sheep and cattle farmer Loughlin Conn, with his March, 2021, black, white and mottled dog, Tom, by R Price’s Doc, out of TB Lane’s Fern. The buyer requested anonymity. Two other dogs from the same vendor also sold well at 2,900gns and 2,800gns, the former a two-year-old black and white bitch, Connie, the latter a January, 2021, black, white and tan dog, Rockface Tai.

Venue regulars, North Craven husband and wife, Shaun and Sue Richards, who run Pen-y-Borough Sheep Dogs, Eldroth, in the shadow of Pen-y-Ghent, also sold a trio at 3,600gns, 3,000gns and 2,350gns.

Doing best on price was a March, 2022, tri-coloured bitch, Dot, by JP McDaid’s Ben, out of A Canny’s Penny, followed by Pip, a March, 2021, black and white bitch by Welshman Ross Games' top trials dog, Roy, out of RP Watson’s Eden Valley, then a January, 2021, black and white dog, Spot, by Welshman Kevin Evans Derwen Doug, a European Nursery and dual Welsh and International Brace champion, out of A Spears’ Pip.

Top call of 900gns in the unbroken pen fell to another Northern Ireland regular, Willie Torrens, of Killen, Castlederg, County Tyrone, with his fully home-bred rising three-month-old bitch, Bell Blue, selling locally to Silsden’s Howard Metcalfe.

While the Spring fixture was anything but Spring-like, dogged by incessant heavy rain and near freezing temperatures, a total of 61 dogs and their handlers braved the elements, the majority with field –run dogs, with a good crowd also seen ringside. A total of eight dogs sold at 3,000gns and above, a further 11 at 2,000gns and more.

Averages: Registered broken dogs from 200gns to 5,000gns (av £2,594), registered broken bitches from 1,400gns to 4,400gns (av £3,089), registered part-broken dogs from 200gns to 500gns (av £315), registered part-broken bitches from 100gns to 2,200gns (av £1,053).