Cottonwood Crossing Cow Dog Trial is unique to state of Kansas


Staff writer

Cattle dog competitions are popular in Texas and common in Oklahoma but were unheard of in Kansas until three years ago when Gordon and Pat Christiansen instituted an event at their farm west of Durham.

"The closest competition was in southern Oklahoma, and I wanted one closer," Gordon said. "With all the cattle that are raised in Kansas, it seemed foolish not to have one here."

The third Cottonwood Crossing Cowdog Trial and Futurity was held this past weekend. The weather was cool on Friday, hot on Saturday, and windy on Sunday. According to Gordon, Friday's cool weather was best for the cattle and the dogs.

Approximately 35 dogs and their handlers participated in one of two categories: futurity, which is geared to dogs two years old and younger; and open.

The dogs, mainly border collies, are trained by their owners or by people who specialize as trainers. Each dog has a name.

Some of the dogs are working ranch dogs, and some are trained specifically for competitions.

At the latest event, each of the dogs worked with three head of 600-pound feeder calves. Their ears were attuned to their handlers as they responded to verbal commands or whistles.

Nips at the heels often were rewarded with sharp kicks. Sometimes a dog turned somersaults to avoid a kick. Sometimes they nipped a calf's nose to get it to turn around and go another direction.

The eight-minute exercise included herding the cattle into a corral from a pasture and then herding them into three different sets of cattle panels, each with increasing difficulty. The final step was to herd the cattle into a cattle trailer.

It was a tough course and not many competitors were able to get the cattle as far as the trailer, much less get the cattle loaded.

The dogs and their handlers received points for each phase of the competition they completed in the eight-minute time frame.

Pat Christiansen used a loudspeaker system to announce events and monitor each competition.

Gordon oversaw the cattle. Fresh cattle were used every day.

Many of the competitors were from Oklahoma and Texas. One of the Texans said he had competed in 23 cattle dog competitions during the previous year.

Every participant paid a fee to enter the competition. According to Gordon, most of the money went back to the winners in each event.

To help defray the costs involved in putting on the event, the Christiansens seek sponsors. Local sponsors who contributed this year were G&R Implement, Durham, Country Haven Inn and Hillsboro Industries, Hillsboro, and Spur Ridge Vet Hospital, Florence.