A history of Sheepdog Trialling in Canberra


2022 Open Winner - John Perry's Bredbo Ash

The first sheepdog trial

“In 1870, at Forbes, NSW Mr Phil Myleharine walked onto pastures to judge the first sheepdog trial ever conducted, not only the first in Australia but also first in the world and thus was sowed the seed of enthusiasm in the hearts of sheepdog men.

Who could envisage that this was enthusiasm that would develop to such an extent that one day we would witness sheep men and their dogs travelling each year from all corners of the Commonwealth and New Zealand to compete in our greatest sheepdog trial, The National Championships at Canberra and that glaziers and breeders from all over the world would be seeking information about the results and breeding of the winners.”

From the George A Westcott Collection
National Library of Australia


2022 Open Winner - John Perry's Bredbo Ash

National sheepdog trials begin in Canberra

The National Sheepdog Trials began in 1943 when Mr George Westcott was approached by Legacy to raise money for the wives and families of fallen soldiers.

The first Trial was held at Manuka Oval and continued there for 20 years.

Manuka Oval in the 1940s

“We all feel we have made some life long friends and that one and all have played a major part in cementing that bond of friendship that is so universally known where ever Trial Workers meet…”

Excerpt from the 1951 NSDTA Annual Report

2022 Open Winner - John Perry's Bredbo Ash

George Westcott


The Duke of Gloucester Sash

Duke of Gloucester sash first presented

The Duke of Gloucester Sash was presented to the National Sheepdog Trial Association in 1945 by His Royal Highness, Prince Henry Duke of Gloucester, Governor General of Australia. The Sash is significant in Sheepdog Trialling history – a unique, historic, velvet, hand embroidered piece, 25cm wide and 115cm long. Over the years, the velvet has faded to a beautiful antique brown but the original colour was royal purple.

The replica sash
A replica sash is now presented to the winner. It has been restored to it’s original colour as a photographic art print on archival photo paper. The replica is mounted and framed in a similar way to the original, with a brass plaque for the name of the winner.


Johnny the Kelpie with his owner Athol Butler

5 time champion Johnny the kelpie scores 100

“There were two main reasons why good crowds came to Manuka Oval. The first was that it was central to all the southern suburbs and there wasn’t a lot of other entertainment, and secondly they came to see the kelpie Johnny perform over the 5 years he competed there…

He was a slightly built black and tan kelpie, who as I found out later, actually was at least one quarter collie (not generally known then). He was expertly handled by Athol Butler, who worked him by a continuous trilling whistle like a canary and won the National five times, all at Manuka Oval.

I saw Johnny work at Canberra, each year, but only remember his runs in his last two years including in the finals, culminating in him getting 100 in his last run in 1952 which all Trial men watching said was the right score.”

From the memoirs of Peter Welch,
January 2023

Competitors in those early days were as chalk and cheese compared to today, in that it was an almost totally male sport. One female competitor in that early era that I clearly remember was Jean Beatson who competed with her husband Bob. She won the Maiden Trial in 1955 with her home bred dog Firrhill Bob.

Peter Welch


Maisie Hudson

A family Affair – The Hudsons

“She was a towering example to us all of a woman of courage, conviction and vision, who was convinced that ordinary people working to a dream, could make the world a better place.”
Tribute from a friend at the time of Maisie’s death.

From “Pinchinara” Cobar, May Hudson, known to all as Maisie, was a pioneering member of the Country Women’s Association NSW and the first woman to ever judge at the National Sheepdog Trials. Maisie judged the Maiden Championships in 1957 (her husband, Archie Hudson, judged the Open Championships that year) and the Open/Improver Championships in 1960.

65 years later, in 2022, the winners of the Improver Championships were:

1st – Mick Hudson (Grandson)
2nd – Mick Hudson (Grandson)
3rd – Pip Hudson (Son)
4th – Harry Hudson (Great Grandson)

A great sheepdog trialling family and part of the proud history of the National Sheepdog Trial Championships.


The Royal visit

In 1970, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh attended the National on Finals day, Saturday 26th April. Her Majesty expressed great personal interest in the remarkable proficiency of the dogs and their owners and presented the Duke of Gloucester Sash to the winner of the National Open Trial, Mr Bob Ross and his dog Yulong Russ.


2022 Open Winner - John Perry's Bredbo Ash


The Silver Jubilee

In 1977 the National was honoured with permission to present a Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Commemorative Trophy.

The Trophy was first awarded to Mr John Elliott with his champion dog Olive Farm Banjo.

2022 Open Winner - John Perry's Bredbo Ash