Tom Mullinix, a board member of the Maryland Sheep Breeders Association, says he and his family have shown sheep at the Howard County Fair for more than 50 years.
Raising and herding sheep on their small 8-acre Fulton farm was made possible with help from the family's dog, Annie – a border collie, also known as a sheep dog.
As he continues to show sheep at the 72nd annual Howard County Fair this week, Mullinix said lead demonstrator Nancy Starkey will show audiences how the intellectual sheep-herding helpers get the job done on Aug. 12 inside the contest arena.
Assistant demonstrator AJ Hesketh-Tutton will join the performance, which is scheduled at 11 a.m.
Starkey, another member of the MSBA, said while she's performed sheep dog demonstrations for several years, including many at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Saturday's demonstration will be the first at the Howard County Fair.
"Everyone seems to enjoy watching the dogs work and learning about how dogs can be an asset to folks at home," said Starkey, a Mt. Airy resident. "Most of what we do is show the practicality of the dog to someone with livestock at home who needs to manage the livestock."
Even without a whole lot of training, sheep dogs have a natural ability to get livestock where they need to go.
The demonstration will feature working sheep dogs as they herd the animals through various obstacles. Starkey and Hesketh-Tutton will use hair sheep, as opposed to wool sheep, due to the warm weather.
Demos are always well received in the community, Starkey said.
"A lot of people assume that sheep dog work is obedience on sheep, but a well-bred dog with talent and ability is an amazing thing," she said. "We don't have to tell them every step to take."
Mullinix, a Westminster resident, said one of the best parts of any sheep dog demonstration is watching the intelligence of a border collie and their ability to complete the work of 10 people.
"I've seen the demonstration thousands of times and I love it," he said. "It's a good activity and something that we can bring to the people that doesn't cost anything. We're trying to give them some entertainment at the fair and this is a perfect way for them to get to see some of the sheep."
Howard County Fair Association president Mickey Day said the event is bound to draw quite a crowd since the fair has never done it before.
"It's amazing what the dogs can do as far as helping farmers with herding their cattle," Day said. "It's an interesting demonstration."