It was one little sheep dog pup’s first day on the job, so no one knew how she would react when she was confronted with a flock. The puppy’s instincts appeared to kick in, however, since she started to herd the sheep right away. But when one rowdy ram proved hard to control, it looked like the collie was about to take a nasty headbutt.
For centuries, sheep farmers have used dogs to herd their flocks. However, over the years, one breed in particular has become associated with the job over practically all others: the border collie.
Indeed, border collies are perfect for herding thanks to their high energy levels and athleticism. Furthermore, they are also very obedient and extremely intelligent. In fact, some people claim that they are the smartest dog breed of all.
And one person who definitely knows how brainy border collies can be is Daire Byrne. In March 2017 Byrne – who hails from Roscommon in Ireland – had recently welcomed four adorable collie puppies into his family.
Then, one day, Byrne decided to test out his dogs’ instincts. “I took the four puppies out for some exercise on the paddock to see what their reaction to seeing the sheep would be,” he revealed to The Irish Sun in 2017.
At the time, Byrne’s dogs were just seven weeks old. Moreover, they had never seen a sheep before – much less herded one. So, it seemed unlikely that the pups would know what to do when confronted with an entire flock of the animals.
However, curiosity had already gotten the better of Byrne, and so he took his pups down to the field with an adult dog to teach them the ropes. And while he had no idea what was about to unfold, he started filming the scene anyway.
The resulting footage begins with the dogs loose on the farm. Almost immediately, though, one canine separates from the pack and begins to chase after a gigantic ram. Her name is Ciara, and it appears that she’s keen to establish herself as the bravest of her litter.
After much chasing, Ciara catches up to the sheep in question. The two animals then square up for a second before the ram makes another run for it. But the puppy is in hot pursuit once more – and within moments she has three sheep in particular in her sights.
And while the herd attempts to back away from the tiny dog, Ciara simply moves in closer. That’s when one large ram turns towards the puppy and lowers his head – looking as if he may be about to butt the border collie. Faced with an animal that’s several times her size, it seems as if that the dog is way out of her depth.
But, somehow, the little pup comes out of the showdown victorious. After a few tense seconds, the ram backs down and flees with the rest of his flock. And with the tables now turned in her favor, Ciara chases after them.
Relaying the events that took place in the paddock, Byrne later said to The Irish Sun, “[Ciara] went straight up to [the sheep]. She comes from a long line of brave dogs, and she is certainly the bravest of the litter.” He added, “Each of these sheep easily weigh 20 times what Ciara does, which is roughly 4 kilos (9 pounds).”
What’s particularly noticeable about little Ciara’s approach to shepherding, however, is her calm demeanor. And, indeed, sheep dogs tend not to use any aggression while herding. Instead, they are able to control the flock through sheer concentration.
Collies also rely on a movement known as “clapping,” in which they lower their stomachs to the grass while holding sheep in their stare. This helps the dog achieve a predatory look which may therefore scare the flock into submission.
After Ciara’s first taste of the job, meanwhile, Byrne decided to release the footage of her herding sheep online. And, before long, the clip went viral, clocking up over 340,000 views on YouTube and winning over plenty of people’s hearts in the process.
In fact, the comment section below the video was jam-packed with praise aimed at Ciara. “It’s not how big you are, it’s all about attitude,” one viewer wrote. Meanwhile, another individual added, “You can definitely see that the little pup has got the sheep dog instincts in him/her. Very cute.”
But while Ciara’s reaction may have impressed some, it wasn’t much of a surprise to an individual familiar with farm life like Byrne. “What she’s doing is on her own instinct, not through watching any other dogs,” he said.
And for Byrne, it may have been a complete joy to see Ciara acting in a similar manner to that of generations of border collies before her. It was clear, after all, that the little puppy was born to herd. “She looks in her element,” he added.
However, despite her clear talent for shepherding work, Byrne was keen for Ciara to enjoy her puppyhood. So, after her first run out in the paddock, the dog was allowed to return to her litter, ready to take up her duties at a later stage.
At the time, Byrne explained, “I won’t be taking her back until she’s a bit older, as I don’t want anything to happen to her. She can go back to playing with the other puppies in the garden before I get her to work on the farm.”