BOOKS: The Dogs of Windcutter Down
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2007:
The Dogs of Windcutter Down
by David Kennard
St. Martin’s Press (175 Fifth Ave., New York,
NY 10010), 2006. 277 pages, paperback. $24.95.
The Dogs of Windcutter Down is British sheep farmer David
Kennard’s sequel to his first book, A Shepherd’s Watch, which we
reviewed in the June 2006 edition of Animal People.
It is a nostalgic look at the vanishing traditional farming
lifestyle. Dog lovers will enjoy Kennard’s descriptions of sheep
dog trials, but the hardships of sheep farming may surprise many
readers. Besides long, arduous hours of working with sheep through
often miserable weather, Kennard laments the declining market value
of sheep, the intrusion of European Union bureaucracy at every
level, and the slaughter of millions of sheep and cattle in 2004 in
a failed government effort to halt the spread of hoof-and-mouth
disease without resorting to vaccination.
More than 60% of British farms have had to diversify to
survive, mostly into offering bed and breakfast service to urban
visitors. Kennard supplements his farming income by shearing sheep
on other farms, and by breeding and training sheep dogs.
One day someone suggested that he should open some of his
fields at Windcutter Down to visitors, and put his sheepdogs through
their paces for the pleasure of paying spectators. At first
sceptical, Kennard and his wife Debbie decided that they had nothing
to lose. The first few shows were not lucrative, but persistence
paid off. Eventually the performances attracted as many as 200 paid
visitors. Like their human companions, the Kennards’ working dogs
–Chris Mercer & Bev Pervan.