The West Fork Challenge

The West Fork Challenge looks forward every year to be in Cowtown at the Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering. Competitions for herding livestock has been around since the late 1800s. The courses for these competitions are designed to mimic real working conditions such as sorting and penning in order to do things like doctoring the livestock. The competition has evolved into King competitions such as the one being held in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Several top handlers from around the United States and their dogs have entered the West Fork Challenge to try for a chance at winning the gold buckle and the prize money that goes with it. 


You will see each of the handler and dog teams work 3 head of cattle through several obstacles and load them in a trailer to see who can achieve the fasted time. After all teams have completed the course a championship round taking the top 3 finalist that acquired the fasted times back for a showdown match. They will modify the course for the final round. These handlers and dogs are fascinating to watch and take some tough cattle and make the work look easy.  When you see a little 20 pound dog convince three 500 weight cattle to move through some tight places, through the course and then place them in a trailer with the handler never touching the cows and only his dog assisting, you will be amazed! Moving livestock in small groups is usually harder, because they feel more venerable than if in large herds. This will tend to make the livestock more flighty and tougher for the. dog to keep together.  In training these dogs they have few Commands but all are vital for a rancher to work his stock.

These dogs have a natural instinct to gather stock and that is where the training begins.  The trainers then add to that natural ability and teach the dogs to fetch and drive livestock that allows them to move the stock from place to place. The dogs learn a stop or lie down, right and left, along with a walk-up so the handler can maneuver and place the dog where it needs to be. Come watch and learn more about these beautiful animals during the Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering  and the West Fork Challenge.