Boof, the six-year-old Kelpie, started the final week outside the top three, but by Sunday he’d stolen the title of Cobber Champion.
Living on the cusp of Lake Mardeduke in Winchelsea, Victoria, Boof is one of 12 working dogs around the nation that competed in the 2018 Cobber Challenge.
This three-week competition saw two dogs from each state wear GPS collars to track their daily work and score points.
Boof trailed in his first two weeks before clocking up the mileage in a final dash that put him neck-and-neck with runner-up Jess from NSW.
The competition’s dark horse ran an average of 51 km per day in the final week – the equivalent of seven consecutive marathons – and seized a narrow victory on the last day of the competition.
During the Cobber Challenge, Boof ran over 630km at 10.62km/h, even astounding owner Henry Lawrence.
“I found out that Boof covers a lot more ground than I thought he would. One morning when we were shifting a mob he covered around 40km, and then another time he clocked almost 70km for the day, so he really surprised me” said Henry.
“Boof’s a pretty great dog – he can work a mob of sheep through a mob of cattle or vice versa or go round them both if I want, he just seems to know what I’m after so it’s pretty special.”
The Victorian dog’s last-leg performance was one of many surprises in this year’s competition which featured a last-minute dog substitution and daily leaderboard shuffles.
“I didn’t think we’d get the win because the first couple of weeks of the Challenge coincided with the quietest time on the farm for us. Then everything picked up and we were calving and moving them back and lamb marking, so it turned out okay,” said Henry.
“The great thing about this year’s competition was just how close it was. We never knew who was going to win it, even until the last day. Even though we’re in the third year of the Cobber Challenge, I’m still astounded by how much these dogs put in,” said Marika O’Leary, competition organiser and Cobber Brand Manager.
By the end of the competition the 12 dogs had run over 3600km, the distance of Perth to Brisbane. Seven-year-old Kelpie, Jess, from Copmanhurst NSW narrowly lost out on first place whilst enduring a drought.
“The drought definitely impacted her average speed; the cattle are not as strong so we make sure we’re taking them very quietly. Congratulations to Henry and Boof for a really great job,” said Glenda Rogan, owner of runner-up Jess.
“I’m extremely proud of Jess. She always does her best for me and she has a really great work ethic. I found the competition very interesting. It just shows how many kilometres she really does in a day. It was great to compare how she did with other dogs in Australia.”
So, what’s next for Victorian winner Boof? There’s no rest for this victorious dog, who’s taking up a different challenge – fatherhood.
“We’re flat out into lamb marking now and Boof’s daughter is coming on so it’s time to put some more time into her. He’s my best lamb marking dog so he’ll be showing her the ropes,” said Henry.