Sheep Round-Up

Watching a shepherd and his four dogs round up the sheep, scramble over rocks, cut across bogs, run through the bracken and heather was like watching poetry of nature unfold in perfect harmony.
I remember as a child I used to love watching a T.V show about sheep dogs, competitions of timing how long it would take to get farmer to instruct his dog (or dogs) to get six sheep into a pen.
Now here on Erraid, last week we found ourselves part of the team sent out to assist the farmer in rounding up the sheep who graze all over this one square mile of rock, heather and grass. This time there were many more than the six I used to watch on T.V. and the terrain was a little more tricky than a green open field!
Sheep Dogs on Erraid
Because we had the children with us, we elected to be closer to the inside of the roundup row; imagine a bicycle wheel and we were close to the the axle, the idea being to stand with a couple of hundred yards between you and the next person in a line. The instructions were to never move forward beyond the person on your right. This proved to be quite tricky, when the couple of hundred yards between you was a big hill and steep rocks and the person on your right was nowhere in sight!
Meanwhile, the farmer and his dogs and a few fast runners were at the “Sweep” end of the line: imagine the bicycle wheel again and they were the outside rim and the tyre. Amazing to see them running and covering far much more terrain, taking the coastal route, trying to cover every gully, peninsular, valley and cove that the sheep could hide in.
Eventually the sheep were gathered, and we walked them back to the pens to get their jags, spray colours and the lambs gathered to be sent to market in Oban.
I thought about how we worked as a team, how sometimes the instructions were hard to hear, how we had to wait and wait for our next instructions (while a particular headland was covered by the dogs and other fast runners of the sweep end of the line) and yet, the walk home was deliciously satisfying, “to gather the flock” is a metaphor used in Christianity sometimes. I can see why. It’s not always easy, the sheep will scatter if you move too fast, and not move at all if you slow down too much. There were some very hard to reach places, we did miss three sheep who managed to get themselves onto a ledge. And for the rest of them, when they did come and start to move together, it is a wonderful sight and amazing feeling.

Sheep Gathered
What a privilege to watch the beauty of the man and dog connection, the wonder of and the flow of the flock as they gathered and moved, and resisted and eventually came back to the pens.